Archive for the ‘6th Sunday’ Category

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?

No Back-Up Plan 6-2-2019

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019
There is an ancient legend about the ascension of Jesus into
heaven. According to the legend, when Jesus reached heaven, his body
still showed the wounds of his crucifixion.
His hands and feet still bore the prints from the nails. His side
bore the mark from the spear. His back bore the stripes from the whip,
and his head bore the wounds from the thorns.
When the people in heaven saw these marks, they were astounded
to see how much he had suffered. Then the angel Gabriel rose up and
said to Jesus;
“Lord, how greatly you suffered on earth! Do all the people on
earth know and appreciate how much you went through for them and
how much you love them?”
Jesus replied; “Oh, no! Only a handful of people in Palestine know
that, the rest haven’t even heard of me.” They don’t know who I am.
They don’t know how much I suffered, and how much I love them.”

Gabriel was shocked to hear this. Then he said to Jesus:
“How will the rest of the people on earth ever learn about your
suffering and your love?” Jesus said; “Just before I left, I told Peter,
James, and John, and a few of their friends to tell the rest of the world
for me. They will tell as many people as they can. Those people in turn,
will tell other people. In that way, the whole world will eventually learn
about my love for them.”
Gabriel looked even more confused now. He knew how fickle
people are. He knew how forgetful they are. He knew how prone to
doubt they are. So he turned to Jesus and said:
“But Lord, what if Peter, James and John grow tired and
frustrated? What if they forget about you? What if they begin to have
doubts about you? Didn’t you take these things into account? Don’t you
have a back-up plan just in case?”
Jesus answered: “I did take all these things into account, but I
decided against a back-up plan. This is the only plan I have. I’m
counting on Peter, James, and John not to let me down.”
Many centuries later, Jesus still has no other plan. He counted on
Peter, James and John and they didn’t let him down. He counted on the
people they told, and they didn’t let him down. And now Jesus counts
on us.
In his book “The Song of the Bird”, Anthony de Mello tells this
story. He puts it in the first person to give it added impact. He says:
On the street I saw a small girl cold and shivering in a dress,
with little hope for a decent meal. I became angry and said to
God, ‘Why did you permit this?’
For a while God said nothing. That night he replied quite
suddenly, “I certainly did something about it. I made you, I made
you!”
Let’s close with a prayer:
Lord Jesus, on this feast of your ascension into heaven,
give us new eyes to see your face
in the faces of those who are in need.
Give us new ears to hear your voice
in the voices of those who cry out in pain.
Give us a new tongue to tell your story
to those who have never heard it.
Give us new hearts to share your love
with those who have not yet experienced it.
And Lord thank you for counting on us.
We will try our best!