Archive for the ‘6th Sunday’ Category

GOD’s Absolute Love 2-14-2021

Friday, February 12th, 2021

I remember some years ago Bishop Fulton had a prime time
TV show opposite Milton Berle every Wednesday night. One
night he told about his visit to an African leper colony. He had
brought along a supply of little silver crucifixes so he would have
something special to give to each of the 500 lepers in the camp.
The first leper he met had only the stumps of his left arm. And his
right arm and hand were covered with ugly, open sores. Sheen
took one of the little crucifixes, held it a few inches above the
leper’s hand, and then let it drop into him palm.
In a flash, he was struck by what he’d done. “All at once”,
he said, “I realized there were 501 lepers in the camp, and the most
leprous of them all was myself. I had given a crucifix—the
symbol of God’s absolute love for all of us—but then I had pulled
back and closed my eyes to what the symbol implied for me. So I
looked again very hard at that little crucifix, and I knew what I had
to do. I pressed by hand to the leper’s hand with the symbol of love between us, and then I proceeded to do that for all of the
remaining 499 lepers”!
None of us, thank God, are lepers. But there’s not one of us,
if we are honest, whose heart hasn’t been wounded or even broken
many times, not one of us who doesn’t need healing. So it is to all
of us that Jesus is speaking by his actions in Sunday’s gospel. In
stretching out his hand, touching that leper and healing him, Jesus
is telling us—once again—that God does love us all no matter how
damaged or broken we are. He’s telling us that no matter how bad
we have been, our God will always be there for us, always be
waiting for us to open our hearts so God can heal us.
That’s the first half of Jesus’ message, but there’s more. In
addition to what God wants to do for us, there’s the matter of what
God wants us to do for one another. And it turns out to be exactly
the same thing; we are to become healers too, healers of one
another. That sounds wonderful, but how do ordinary, wounded
people like us become healers? Very simply by remembering how our own wounds feel and remembering what we need when we are broken. What we would like, of course, is a quick fix for our
wounds, but what we need is a friend who will reach out just as
Jesus did, take us by the hand, when our hand isn’t looking so
good, and walk through the darkness with us and not let go of us
halfway!
If that is what we need as we try to walk through our hurts
and losses, it is also exactly what our brothers and sisters need.
And it is something each of us can give.
Here is a real life example of what I am talking about.
Some years ago, an old man collapsed on a busy street corner
in downtown Brooklyn. Within minutes an ambulance rushed him
to Kings County Hospital. There he kept calling his son.
A nurse found a dog-eared letter in the man’s wallet. From it
she learned that his son was a marine stationed in North Carolina.
That night an anxious marine showed up at the hospital.
Immediately, the nurse took him to the old man’s bedside.
The man was heavily sedated. And so the nurse had to tell him several times, “Your son is here! Your son is here!” Finally, the old man opened his eyes. He could barely make
out his son, but he recognized his marine uniform. At that point,
the son took his father’s hand and held it lovingly.
For the rest of that night, the marine sat at the man’s bedside.
Occasionally, he patted the man’s hand and spoke to him tenderly.
Several times the nurse urged the marine to take a break and
get something to eat or drink. But he refused.
Toward dawn, the old man died.
When the nurse extended her sympathy to the young man, the
marine said, “Who was that man?”
“Wasn’t he your father?” the nurse asked.
“No, he wasn’t”, said the marine. “I never saw him before in
my life”.
“Why didn’t you say something?” said the nurse.
“I would have”, said the marine, “but I could see that he was
too sick to realize I wasn’t his son. I could also see that he was
slipping fast and needed a son. So, I decided to become that son”. Ordinary—wounded people can do things like this marine
did for the old man. Extend a hand of friendship and help someone
walk through the darkness to a new day.
Jesus did it—this marine did—we are asked to do the same.
Lord Help Us!
Toward dawn, the old man died.
When the nurse extended her sympathy to the young man, the
marine said, “Who was that man?”
“Wasn’t he your father?” the nurse asked.
“No, he wasn’t”, said the marine. “I never saw him before in
my life”.
“Why didn’t you say something?” said the nurse.
“I would have”, said the marine, “but I could see that he was
too sick to realize I wasn’t his son. I could also see that he was
slipping fast and needed a son. So, I decided to become that son”

God the Cheerleader 5-17-2020

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

Most people like to get gifts. In today’s Gospel Jesus says that
he’ll ask the Father and the Father will give us a gift, something called a
paraclete. You are now the proud owner of a paraclete. However,
sometimes you get a gift from a friend and you’re not sure of what it is,
even after you open it, one might rightly wonder (what this paraclete is).
Breaking the word down into its parts helps. “Paraclete” is a
Greek word and the “clete” part of it means to call out or yell. The
“para” means vigorously. So “paraclete” means to call out vigorously.
Now in some Bibles the word paraclete is translated into advocate or
consoler. Those words are good, but somewhat churchy and really not
earthy, the way that paraclete is in the original language. I think the
closest English word we have for paraclete is “cheerleader.”
If you’ve ever played on a basketball or football team, you
know that there’s such a thing as home field or court advantage – when
you are on your home turf and when the stands are full of your fans
cheering and screaming for you, you’re much more likely to play you best game and give it your best shot.
Today’s Gospel presents a stunning and delicious picture of God –
God the cheerleader. Your biggest fan, according to scripture, is God.
God shouting for you; God standing up and cheering when you do
something well; God going into agony when you fall into the mud or get
beaten; God calling and pushing onward; God telling you – you can do it
– God the cheerleader.
There’s an important difference between God the cheerleader and
human cheerleaders. When you and I are cheering for people form the
stands, we might get so caught up in the excitement of the game we wish
we could go right down there on the field and do something concrete to
help. When I’m at a 49’er game and the 49’ers are behind I sometimes
get carried away and would love a chance to stand next to whatever
quarterback they have and help him throw the football. Well, you and I
can’t do that, but God can. God does not remain an impassive observer
in the stands while you and I make our way through the game of life.
God gets so carried away that in a fit of enthusiasm he leaves the stands
and becomes a member of the team. That’s the mystery of Jesus – Jesus our brother, Jesus a member of the human race, Jesus walking with us
toward eternal life.
And as if that weren’t enough, Jesus says that he’s going to ask the
Father and we’ll be given still another paraclete, still another cheerleader
–the Holy Spirit, a little energy, something inside us that urges us on.
Imagine it! Three cheerleaders totally full of love and concern for you,
cheering you onward—God the Creator, cheering you from the distance,
calling you forward; God the Son, cheering you as your brother; walking
next to you; and God the Holy Spirit, cheering you from inside, kicking
you in the rear when you need it, pulling you, pushing you, tugging you,
congratulating you, forgiving you, telling you to keep on going and you
can do it.
And if we believe in this cheerleading God, there’s only one thing
for us to do – and that is to become cheerleaders ourselves. The vision
of Jesus is for husbands to cheer wives and wives to cheer husbands; for
old people to cheer young people and young people to cheer old people;
for single people to cheer their friends and friends to cheer single people; for parishioners to sometimes cheer their Pastor, for all of us to cheer each other and forgive each other and lift each other up into new
life.
I close. Today the scripture invites you to consider the delicious
picture of God the cheerleader, God who is your best fan, God who is
the one urging you onward. There are already enough boo s in this
world – that’s the voice of the world telling you, you can’t be any better,
you’re just you. You’re stuck in that rut and that’s it. The world telling
you to lie down and die. But stronger than the voice of the world, strong
enough to bounce from one side of the galaxy to the other, is the strong
and silent word of God coming to you from the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit. The voice of the cheerleader that says “You’re Terrific. I know
you can do it. Get up – you’ll make it. HALLELUJHA!!”

Billy, Billy, Billy 2-16-2020

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

Not very long ago, I was having dinner at some friend’s house, and
got a chance to sit next to….Billy. Billy is somewhere between one and
two, probably closer to two, and has strong opinions about what he likes
and what he doesn’t like. No matter if mamma is telling him in a sweet
voice how nummy-nummy the mashed peas are, no matter if dad ends
up eating half of the loathsome vegetables himself in order to show him
how mmm-mmm good they are—if he doesn’t like them, he starts
throwing. He threw the spoon, he threw the cup, he threw the bowl…and
finally, in an unguarded moment, he threw the Gerber’s jar and the
peas…right at me.
Billy is young. He hasn’t had a chance to learn yet how to respect
things. He doesn’t know that when you throw things, they sometimes
get dinged or cracked or broken. He’ll learn. In fact, that is one of life’s
great accomplishments…learning respect. It’s a life-long process. I
remember comparing how my cousins and I used to do dishes, compared
to the way my grandmother did, for instance. As teenagers we tore into those dishes as quickly as we could, they went flying. There was always
at least one fatality, quite often an old cup or plate. We were a little
better than Billy, but we had a way to go. Things still got dinged and
cracked and broken.
And then there was Grandma. Perhaps she was like most old
people. She handled the dishes slowly, with a sort of reverence. Her
wrinkled old hands took hold of each platter and glass as if it were a
special old friend. I don’t remember her ever breaking anything. She
had learned respect. She knew how easily things can get dinged and
cracked and broken. She knew how to respect food and clothes, and
pencils and pens….and people.
Because if unimportant things get dinged and cracked and broken
when they are not respected enough, so can people. If people are abused
or roughed up or overlooked and banged around often enough…they get
dinged and cracked and broken.
It isn’t enough, Jesus says, not to murder. You have to show
respect to everyone. Not harbor anger against them. Not use abusive
language against them or hold them in contempt. It isn’t enough, Jesus says, to avoid the actual act of adultery with
someone. What is needed, is respect for someone else and their
relationship, and respect for yourself, that you don’t even entertain the
thought.
It isn’t enough, Jesus says, to avoid swearing to things that are
false. What is needed is so much respect for the people around you that
you don’t swear at all, you just say yes when its yes and no when its no.
We Americans are just now learning how important it is to respect
things instead of wasting them; respecting the environment, the rivers
and streams, the soil and air, instead of abusing them.
And we need to grow in respect for ourselves and for each other.
This means, not having to dominate every conversation. Not having our
own way. Not inflicting our moods so freely on each other. Respect is
one of the most basic types of love.
And why should we show ourselves and each other so much
respect? Because God has shown complete respect to us!
1. Do I show respect to myself?
2. Is there someone close to me that I am disrespecting?