Archive for the ‘24th Sunday’ Category

The Church Downstairs 9-12-2021

Monday, September 13th, 2021

The pastor calls it the “church downstairs”. They have a good
problem: they need more chairs.
For years, Alcoholic Anonymous has met in the church hall every
day of the week, sometimes twice a day. The supportive pastor started
thinking of those meetings as the “church downstairs” after a new
parishioner told him how she came to join the parish after first going
“downstairs” for several months.
The priest occasionally sits in on the meetings and it has helped
him understand what it means to be “church”. Three things about AA
have struck him:
First, there is a “genuine and low-key sense” of welcoming. But it
is not simply a matter of a designated greeter shaking every new hand.
In fact, “AA is at its most hospitable after the meeting is over. No one is
bolting for the door when the last word is pronounced. Instead, people
stay around for another cup of coffee, especially if someone new has
joined them”. The second thing the pastor has noticed is how the “church
downstairs” rallies around the weak, the powerless, and the hurting.
“Even those some might relegate to the social fringe are met with
acceptance in the group, not least because a common denominator—We
are all powerless over alcohol—remains central”.
And the third thing that Alcoholics Anonymous groups
demonstrate so well, the pastor admires, is “the belief that everyone has
a story to tell and a right to be heard. This belief is essential not only to
the Twelve Steps, but to the sense of commonality and communion that
is generated in the group. Everyone can learn something from another
person’s story…”
Welcoming strangers. Lifting up the weak and struggling.
Listening to what everyone has to say. Maybe that’s why they need
more chairs at the “church downstairs”.
This is what Christ calls us to be a church: a community that
readily takes up our own crosses in order to help others bear up theirs; a
family of brothers and sisters who instinctively put aside their own individual needs and hurts to bring healing and hope to the other members of the family. In being members of such a faith community,
we answer the question that Jesus poses in today’s Gospel; every
decision we make, every action we take, proclaims who we believe this
Jesus is and what his Gospel means to us. Sometimes our answering
that question demands that we put aside our own concerns, needs and
fears, to say to ourselves and confess to the world: You are the Christ;
You are the Anointed One God has sent to teach us his way of humble
gratitude, joyful service, and just peace.

The Once and Future Hoarder 9-13-2020

Friday, September 11th, 2020

If you’ve been to a grocery store since March, chances are you had
this experience or something similar to it:
You were looking for a particular brand or product that the store just
could not keep in stock: staples like milk, eggs, tuna fish, soap – and
who will ever forget the Great Toilet Paper Crisis of 2020? Part of the
problem was the supply chain could not keep up with the new demands
of so many people suddenly being home all day – but a big part of the
problem were the “hoarders”: people who stockpiled many of these
staples, managing to snap them up as soon as clerks could re-stock the
shelves.
So you complained – too loudly and angrily, perhaps – to the
manager of the store. You went through the entire litany: how you have
been a loyal customer of this store for years, that this pandemic has been
difficult for you and your family, that it’s unfair that a few people should
be able to snap up everything, etc. The manager listened politely and
apologized profusely. Maybe he or she would save you a roll of TP or a
dozen eggs. Then, the next time you shopped, you found a product that had been
out of stock for weeks. Your heart leapt for joy! Never could you
imagine that hand sanitizer could be the cause of such elation; you
grabbed the tomato soup as if you had found the Holy Grail. You
resolved that you would not do without this again, so you filled your cart
with as many cans or boxes or bags of the product as you could push.
Did it ever dawn on you that someone else would now do without
because of your “stocking up”?
Or you may have experienced this: You’re at the bank to conduct
some business and the customer ahead of you seems to be renegotiating
the debt of a small European country; he or she has managed to tie up
not just one but several tellers and an assistant manager while you and
others wait. It’s finally your turn and, without realizing it, you take up
more than your fair share of their time with One more thing, Before I
forget, and As long as I’m here…….
Or you’re looking for help at the hardware store or home center and
you wait and wait while another customer has collared a clerk in search of the right nut and bolt. Finally, finally! – it’s your turn. And you
found that you had more questions about your project than you thought – as other customers waited. You had become the kind of shopper you
had complained about, the would-be-do-it-yourselfer who needed more
help than you realized.
It’s not much of a leap from being the forgiver to the forgiven. The
servant’s cruel treatment of his fellow servant begins with his forgetting
that he was once indebted and forgiven. Such forgiveness does not
come easily: it requires overcoming our own anger and outrage at the
hurt we have suffered and re-focusing our concern, instead, on the
person who wronged us; it means possessing the humility to face the
hurt we have inflicted on others as a result of our insensitivity and self-
centeredness. But only in such forgiving and seeking forgiveness are we
able to realize the possibility of bringing healing and new life to a pained
and grieving situation. Christ calls us to create within our families and
communities that king of environment in which forgiveness is joyfully
offered and humbly but confidently sought. It begins by recognizing our
own indebtedness, our own failings that divide and hurt – often without
our realizing it.

Be A Stand In For God 9-15-2019

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

If an alien was to walk in to our church today and say, “Ok you
Church people, describe God to me.”
I wonder what our answer would be. I believe one of the most
powerful descriptions of God is contained in the 2 stories we just
heard in Luke’s Gospel.
A. These images of God, too many people, don’t make any sense.
When the sinner is found. Mercy, love and forgiveness are
freely offered. No charge; no strings attached; no, “I told you
so;” no finger pointing. Just, “Welcome Home.”
B. No matter how far we wander or stray from God, and we all do
it at times, no matter how terrible our sins might be, God’s arms
are always open to us. Jesus never approves of the sin, but he
always embraces the sinner.
C. I could just hear a few of the people, when Jesus was telling his
stories, making a few side comments like:
i. These stories are crazy!
ii. This God is ridiculous!
iii. Leave 99 good sheep to go after one stupid stray?
iv. That’s not very good business sense.
v. If I were the father I would stick it to that son.
vi. I would make him crawl back.
vii. This God doesn’t make any sense.
These people were right; our God doesn’t make any sense when it
comes to loving us.
D. A final point, very important, comes from a quote by the
director of Covenant House, a shelter for runaway kids in many
large cities in the U.S. She says, “The kids we work with have a
lot of questions…
‘Can I have something to eat? I haven’t had a good thing
to eat in days,’ a 17-year-old boy asked me last night. ‘Can I
sleep here? Where can I sleep?’ another kid asked an hour later.
I think she may have been twelve. These questions come easy
to them. They are the questions that a street kid asks every day,
minute to minute. But what gets to me is the question they
don’t ask. The one that hides deep in the eyes they turn away
from you, the one that shows in nervous fingers. This is the
question that comes from living a lifetime of days when you
can’t seem to do anything right. It is, ‘Does God still love me?
– Will God forgive me?’ The kids would never say that out
loud. Very few of them ever talk about God. They don’t know
enough yet, and their minds and mouths are too preoccupied
with the other questions: ‘Is it safe here?’ ‘Can I have
something to eat?’ ‘Where can I sleep?’ But their hearts have
only one question: ‘Does God still love me? – Will God forgive
me?’ And their hearts look to me and to other adults at
Covenant House for the answer to that question. I don’t think
the kids think much about the theological idea that God lives in
every one of us. With them it’s more instinctive. All I know is
that when they look at me and I see that question, I feel the
incredible burden of standing in for our Lord. And I know our
Lord is counting on me to say, ‘Yes! Heavens, yes! I love
you!’ to those scraggly, hungry, angry children of the streets.”
I Close:
God is counting on all of us to be “Stand In’s” for the Lord, with
each other. To make real Isaiah 55:7, “Turn to the Lord for mercy; to
our God, who is generous in forgiving.”