Archive for the ‘5th Sunday’ Category

You Come Back Now. 4-28-2024

Friday, April 26th, 2024

Sam is a great kid, but Sam is the only kid he knows that goes to
church. But Mom insists.
Mom is a writer. In Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith,
Mom explains why she wants her poor little Presbyterian church to be
part of her son’s life:
“I want to give him what I found in the world, a path and a little
light to see by. Most of the people I know who have what I want—
which is to say, purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy—are people with
a deep sense of spirituality. They are people in community, who pray,
or practice their faith…They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of
their own candle.”
“When I was at the end of my rope, the people of St. Andrew tied a
knot in it for me and helped me to hold on. The church became my
home. They let me in. They even said: You come back now.”
Sam was welcomed and prayed for at St. Andrew’s seven months
before he was born. When I announced during worship that I was
pregnant, people cheered. All these old people, raised in Bible-
thumping homes in the Deep South, clapped. Even the women whose
grown-up boys had been or were doing time in jails or prisons rejoiced
for me…Women [who] live pretty close to the bone financially on small
Social Security checks…routinely came up to me and stuffed bills in my
pockets—tens and twenties…And then, almost immediately they set
about providing for us. They bought clothes. They brought me
casseroles to keep in the freezer. They brought me assurance that this
baby was going to be part of the family.
“I was usually filled with a sense of something like shame, until
I’d remember that wonderful line of Blake’s—that we are here to learn
to endure the beams of love—and I would take a long breath and force
these words out of my strangled throat: Thank you.”
Today’s Gospel calls us to realize the connections between Christ
and us and between us and one another. On the night before he died (the
setting of today’s Gospel) Jesus reminds his disciples of every time and
place that, in his love, we are “grafted” to one another in ways we do not
completely realize or understand. As branches of Christ the vine, we are
part of something greater than ourselves, something which transforms
and transcends the fragileness of our lives. May our families,
communities and parishes become extended branches for all of us who
struggle to realize our own harvests of joy and discovery, of grace and
I close – “When I was at the end of my rope, the people of St.
Andrew/the people of san carlos tied a knot in it for me and helped
me to hold on. The church became my home. They let me in. They
even said: You come back now.”

Death before Birthday Cake 3-17-2024

Friday, February 23rd, 2024

In a Peanuts episode, Linus enters to find his older and perpetually crabby
sister Lucy crying bitterly.
“Mom promised me a birthday party and now she says I can’t have one,” Lucy
Linus, in his quiet, wise way, offers this advice: “You’re not using the right
strategy. Why not go up to Mom and say to her, ‘I’m sorry, dear mother, I admit I
have been bad. You were right to cancel my party. But from now on I will try to
be good.”
Lucy thinks about it. She prepares her speech for her mother. Then she
thinks about it some more. Finally, in the last panel, the stubborn Lucy cries, “I’d
rather die!”
Lucy cannot bring herself to embrace the faith of the Gospel grain of wheat.
To transform our lives in order to become the people we are meant to be begins by
dying to our own self-centeredness and obtuseness to the needs of others. Today’s
Gospel asks us what values and purposes do we want to center our lives on in
order to make them what we pray they will be; what we are willing to let “die” in
our lives in order that what we seek in the depths of our hearts “to live” might
grow and blossom; what we will put aside and bury in order that the justice and
peace of God may be established here and now. Jesus readily acknowledges that
such change is hard; the struggle to change is, in its own way, an experience of
dying—but such transformation can be an experience of resurrection, as well. The
Gospel of the grain of wheat is Christ’s assurance of the great things we can do
and the powerful works we can accomplish by dying to self and rising to the love
and compassion of Jesus, the Servant Redeemer.

Demons 2-4-2024

Monday, January 29th, 2024

At the crack of dawn while the village slept, they made their way to the
place where Jesus was visiting. Some came with paper bags on their heads. Others
had on phony noses and fake mustaches. Yes, some of the men even came
disguised in women’s dresses while some of the women had shoulder pads on
under their sweaters and wore trousers so they’d look like men. Each had come
alone because no one wanted anyone to know the reason for the visit. So, what a
surprise it was to discover themselves in the courtyard of the home where Jesus
was staying.
“Oh no!” One man gasped as he took the paper bag off his head and looked
at the woman sitting across from him as she removed her beehive wig. “You mean
you have a demon too?” “But you’re my wife!” “
And you’re my husband! You never told me you had a demon?” She
exclaimed. The man next to her took off his fake beard and stared in disbelief at his wife
sitting across from him as she took off her fake beard as well. Together they asked,
“Have we both got demons?” And together they answered, “I guess we do.” All over the room people who had come in various sizes and disguises had
surprises as they bumped into neighbors, friends, relatives, and associates. Over
and over they found themselves saying, “You have to be kidding!” “You have a
demon too?” Well I never would have guessed it. How many times had we eaten
together and not once did we suspect one another of having a demon.
Without knowing they would all be together, they had come intending to
have Jesus expel their demons. As they waited in awkward silence for Jesus to
appear, one lady spoke up. “Since now we know we all have demons, we might as
well talk about them more openly to one another. After all, we have time. He can’t
really take off our demons all at once.” So, as they sat there waiting, gradually they began to describe the demons
that possessed them. One potbellied man started out very quietly as he looked
straight forward above the head of the woman across from him. He said he thought
his demon was the suicidal thoughts that came into his head from time to time. He
hadn’t wanted to tell anyone he had that demon because he was afraid they would
think he was crazy.
A woman in floral patterned house dress checked to see if the man who had
just spoken had finished and then she cleared her throat. “I get so depressed. I don’t feel like talking or walking. I just want to sleep all the time, and when I’m not sleeping, I eat donuts. So depression and overeating are my demons but I wouldn’t
tell anyone because I’m afraid people would think I was really off the wall.”
“I get depressed too,” a young boy chimed in. “It is good to know someone
else feels that way,” he said with relief. “I’m afraid to tell my friends because they’d
think I was a wimp.” Well, I have to be strong so my family can lean on me and I don’t feel very
strong a lot of time,” a huge man with big hands and muscular arms and legs said
softly. “My weakness is my demon and I’d be afraid to tell the other fellas that.”
At first, the conversation stopped and started, lapsing into long silences, but
as one, then two, then three villagers spoke up, more and more people wanted to
speak. Husbands and wives shard their demons with one another: fathers and sons,
mothers and sons, brothers and sisters. As one revealed his or her demons and the
fear of speaking about them due to what others might think, everyone else listened
with an understanding heart. Their understanding arose from having many of the
same demons and fears themselves. As they spoke, they gradually readjusted their chairs so they could see and
hear one another more clearly. The potbellied man said, “I’m not as afraid as I was.
I don’t feel so anxious. I wonder if my demon has fallen asleep. And the woman who ate so many donuts said, “I’m not as afraid as I was  either. I think my demon must have gone out to lunch.”
“My demon must have gone with yours,” added the man with the big
muscles. From all over the circle others talked about how they were less fearful.
Then the door opened and there in the archway stood: the one for whom they
had been waiting. He had a warm smile on his face and they all smiled back,
expecting him to call them one by one. But he did not. He surprised them by telling
them they could go home because they had already been exorcised. Their demons
had been expelled and sent on their way.
“How can that be?” Was he kidding them? He motioned them to be quiet as he said, “Think back for a moment about
what had just happened. Many of you have known one another for years. In some
instances you have shared the same bed, the same office or table or playing field.
Yet, you were unaware that each of you had your own special demon. And why
was that? Because of your own fear of admitting what you were going through.
And that is the real demon! That is the demon which had paralyzed and cut you off
from one another. That is the reason the demon has controlled you and had you in his power. The exorcism I have to offer, you have already experienced because you have come together and listened to one another as you have never done before.
Your demon no longer controls you.”
Then he told them that he had lots of work to do that day. They could all go,
and as they left they could drop their disguises in the waste basket near the door.
After all, they no longer had any need of disguises. Their demons had gone.