Archive for the ‘4th Sunday’ Category

The Good Shepherd 4-25-2021

Friday, April 30th, 2021

Introduction
For most of us I think it is safe to say this image of the Shepherd is not
something we see very much everyday. It was a very common scene in
the early Church: – it is a common scene in the Middle East. People in
the early Church could really understand what was involved in being a
shepherd. It was very real and earthy to them. The Biblical figure of the
Shepherd – has been romanticized a lot in paintings, pictures, Holy
Cards, “rosy cheeked young men – among pure white fluffy sheep on
beautiful green hillsides – very serene and peaceful.”
I did a little research into what Shepherds were like in the Time of
Jesus. It was a very lonely, dirty, dangerous job – that could not be
managed from a distance. Shepherds lived among the sheep in the filth
and stench – the lives of the sheep were their primary concern. A sheep
sometimes wandered far off from the others – when it got lost and could
not find its way back, it would simply lie down where it was and refuse
to budge – the shepherd would search out for the lost sheep – carefully
pick it up and carry it home. There was a personal relationship between
the Shepherd and each individual sheep. They were not just numbers.
I believe this image of the Shepherd points us to God. God is
not squeamish; God will not run away when things get messy in our
lives; – God’s hands are dirty (not lily white); God’s clothes are stained
with waste, mud and blood – the waste, mud and blood of our roller
coaster lives. This God gets in the middle of the mess with us.
Does the mess magically disappear? Not most of the time; but
there is a sense we are not alone and that helps us get through it. A key
question for us; Are we afraid to share our messes with God?
How does this shepherding image of God come alive? Become real to
people – Today –
I believe most of the time thru people – we are called to be shepherds
for each other. We are responsible to pick each other up when we are
down.
“I thought just priests and ministers were shepherds – no we all are if
we call ourselves Christian and mean it.”
“Don’t we need special skill and talents – training to do this? No! We
need a caring heart, a little common sense and a few less excuses.
“What about when you don’t have the answers or solutions to people’s
problems? You don’t know what to say or do. Just listen and just be
there for them.
I close with a story I am sure we all have heard;
A man dreamed he died and went to heaven and there was met
by Jesus. The man had lived a long Christian life, but it had not been
without some time of great trial and tribulation as well as those times
of joy and victory. As he met with Christ, the man was given a
panoramic review of his life – all the highlights and low periods. In
the review of his life one of the things that continued throughout were
his footsteps along the sands of time.

The man noticed that at those times in his life when it had really
been rough there was only one set of footprints – not two as in the
good times. The man turned to the Lord and said, “Lord, I don’t
understand. You promised to be with me always. But when I look
back now, I see that in those really rough times there was only one set
of footprints. Lord, why did you leave me then?”
The Lord looked at him, smiled and said, ‘Leave you? I didn’t
leave you at all. Dear friend, if you look at the one set of footprints
carefully, you’ll notice they are a little deeper than the others. Those
were the time I was carrying you.”

We are all Nicodemus 3-14-2021

Friday, March 12th, 2021

Nicodemus is one of us. This Jesus has struck a nerve in this
teacher and “ruler” of the Jewish establishment. He has questions – but,
given his position, he has to stay under the radar, so he comes to meet
Jesus privately, late at night.
Jesus talks about God in ways that Nicodemus has never thought
of: a God of compassion rather than a God of order and law; a God of
forgiveness rather than a God of condemnation; a God of light who
illuminates the darkness; a God who constantly calls us back to him; a
God who is Father of all.
Nicodemus’ reaction to all of this is not recorded – but something
clicks. When the Jewish council plots to condemn Jesus, Nicodemus
will protest and defend Jesus; on Good Friday, when the body of Jesus is
taken down from the cross, Nicodemus will be there, with myrrh and
aloes (not an inexpensive contribution) to bury Jesus.
Slowly, Nicodemus moves from the edge of faith to the center
where the Spirit of God dwells. For Nicodemus, Jesus’ image of God is no longer just an ideal but a powerful sign of compassion and mercy
dwelling in our midst.
Nicodemus struggles with Jesus – as we all do. But he possesses
the grace of an open heart and mind and so comes to find God. He seeks
God – and finds God. And so can we.
We are all Nicodemus: We struggle to make sense of Jesus; we
wrestle with trying to reconcile his Gospel with the demands of our
world. In his questioning and confusion, in his fears and doubts,
Nicodemus is welcomed by Jesus with understanding and compassion.
Like Nicodemus, we are all seekers and Christ has assured us of his
company on our journey; like Nicodemus, we find ourselves coming to
Jesus in the middle of our darkest nights, seeking hope and consolation,
direction and comfort – and Jesus neither rejects us nor admonishes us,
but welcomes us. We discover the God that Nicodemus discovers: a
God of light who transforms our despair into hope; a God of wisdom
who enables us to re-create our Good Friday deaths into Easter
resurrections; a God of compassion who heals our broken spirits into hearts made whole. We are all Nicodemus. Amen

Leave Us Alone 1-31-2021

Sunday, January 31st, 2021

As Jesus was preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, a
poor crazy man created a scene. He cried out, “What do you want
with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” In
effect what the man was saying was, “Leave me alone! I’m no
good. I’m evil. I’m not worthy of love or care.”
It’s a cry we hear more than once in the Gospel from people
who believed they were possessed by devils. “Don’t meddle with
us. Leave us alone. Don’t try to change us”. They recognized that
change is painful. Whether they were actually possessed by devils
we do not know. But what we do know is that they were sick,
broken, isolated, unloved people, who had no dignity and whose
self-worth was nil.
There are many such people in our world today – in our
prisons, in our psychiatric hospitals, and on the street. Any of us
can be caught in some desperate situation. At least the man in the
synagogue didn’t try to hide how he was. He came to Jesus. Jesus wasn’t put off by his desperate cry. In the cry, “Leave me alone!”
Jesus heard a cry for help. And he cured him. People find it hard
to admit that they can’t manage their problems. Pride tells them: I
should be able to handle my own problems. Recognition that there
is a problem is the first step towards rehabilitation. The
acknowledgement of our weakness and need would open the way
to recovery. It’s the courageous ones that ask for help.
Psychologists tell us that sometimes people don’t really want
to be cured. Why is this? Because a cure can be painful – it
involves a process which requires a lot of change, and all change is
painful. The idea of recovery can even be terrifying.
Often we are afraid to talk about something that is hurting us.
We keep it locked up inside us where it festers. We may not say,
“Leave me alone”, but that is what it amounts to: “You wouldn’t
know, you couldn’t possibly understand.” Unvoiced suffering is
more harrowing than suffering that cries aloud.
Shortly after the birth of her son a young mother discovered that he was blind. She called her family together and said, “I don’t want my child to know that he is blind.” She insisted that from
that point on everyone should avoid using words such as ‘light’,
‘color’, and ‘sight’. The child grew up believing that he was like
everyone else until one day a strange girl jumped over the garden
wall and used all the forbidden words.
The story symbolizes much of our behavior. Many of us
seek to hide what is strange and painful, and to act as if things are
normal. We act as if we had no problems, no abnormalities, no
pains, no wounds, and no failures. The urge to hide is very
powerful, and can be more harmful than what it tries to conceal.
I close, when we have the courage to face our problems, new
creative energies became available to us. Fear, shame, and guilt
often make us stay in isolation. It is by showing our wounds, by
allowing ourselves to touch and be touched that we are healed. It
is in our brokenness, our woundedness, that God the Holy can heal
us – if we give God a chance. Will we give God a chance?