As you can see this morning, we are all set up for a baptism. This can be a reminder to all of us of our own baptism and our own call to Faith and Love and service. All of us do this in our own unique way. One thing I have found in Cacina is the readiness and the actual participation of everyone in their own way in the works of the church. This is especially good in a small church. Attached to the bulletin today, and in copies in the back you received copies of Bishop Ron’s letter regarding vocation to the deaconate and priesthood. I would encourage you to read it to better understand how we get our clergy in Cacina. Basically, we have been blessed with parishioners coming forth and serving after undergoing a course of preparation. I know as I think back this week of my anniversary of many long agonizing hours torn apart as to what the priesthood was and what would be a lifetime of living basically alone. But a clerical vocation is not a selfish choice, but rather to choose a different form of service. Just let me say when the thought first comes, everybody says not me. But like the Apostles, Jesus doesn’t answer to why but only says follow me. To accept and do that is and act of faith, an act of giving without knowing the result. Surely in life we all make similar or life committing decisions, but are aware of the gravity of them. In answering our own particular call, there is always a peace and serenity around it. Having said that, I invite your consideration and most importantly your prayers for men and women to come forward to continue the work and mission of Cacina going forward and hopefully Growing. and hopefully growing.
22nd Sun Ord time, 9-3-17
Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalm: 63:2-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27
Our readings today could easily be titled: The Four Steps of Attitude Adjustment. Let me explain what I mean. We start with The Prophet Jeremiah in our first reading. This is step one. Like most of us when we are compelled to do something we don’t want to do, Jeremiah is whining. He blames God; he says he was “duped”/ “seduced”/ “misled”. Jeremiah wants God to know that he is doing this job as a prophet against his will. He is frightened by the threats made against him. He is tired of being ridiculed. He himself thinks the message God has given him to share with the people is a message of violence; he is disguised with himself for delivering the message.
So why does he continue to be a prophet for God? Jeremiah has tried to stop. He promised himself he would stop. But then the message “becomes like a fire burning in my heart”; he says he cannot hold the words in, he feels weak and out of control. The way Jeremiah describes his situation is almost like compulsive behavior or addiction; he is full of negativity and resistance.
The next situation, step two, starts off well. We look at is the apostle Simon Peter in the Gospel. Peter has just been given the name of “Peter”, or the solid, stone foundation for the Church. Peter is given the keys to heaven, and great authority; it seems impressive. But then, in just a few moments, it goes from ideal to awful. Jesus begins to talk about suffering and being killed. What had sounded glorious has turned grisly.
Peter is so full of himself that he tries to set Jesus straight; he says Jesus is wrong, mistaken. Surely the Son of God will not allow himself to be victimized by the chief priests, of all people! Peter had been thinking that he was strong enough to stand in his own power, but that illusion is swept away. Jesus calls him the Devil. Ouch!! Jesus persists, saying that Peter must expect to take up his cross!! Had Peter signed up for crucifixion?? He would lose his life? OMG!
Step 3 starts off badly, with our Psalmist saying, “my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.” He clearly is not in control of his situation, either. He sounds like a guy in real trouble. But he is actually seeking greater power than himself. Suddenly it changes; everything changes. He looks into the temple and sees a vision of the power and glory of God. He sees kindness so intense it is a greater good than life itself.
Praise for God comes out of his mouth without thinking – he blesses God, lifts up his hands in worship and calls out for God. He is no longer hungry or thirsty – he feels as if he is at the richest and most abundant of banquets, where every possible desire for food and drink will be satisfied. He feels sheltered; he clings to God as a steady and reliable force for his life and is filled with joy.
Finally, we read from St. Paul, who has already suffered a stoning and beatings for teaching the Good News of Jesus. He does not even consider his own strength or power. He offers instead the “mercies of God.” He tells us the attitude of success is one of offering our self to God, like a living sacrifice, and offering worship to God. Paul adds that we do not need to behave like the people around us, but rather our attitude needs to tune into God, changing and renewing us, enabling us to know the will of God. Then we will understand what really is good and pleasing to God. Instead of trying to control a situation, or bend a situation to our desires and benefit, we should choose to be molded into a new direction, a different understanding, where we can begin to understand how to be loving and just and true.
Jeremiah wanted life to be easy and pleasant. He just wants to fit in, have some buddies, and go with the flow. He is very conflicted; God is cramping his style.
Peter is a good man. Power and authority also sound good to him, but only if he’s on the winning side. He loves Jesus; but he’s hoping for maybe a little upward mobility? He wants God to defeat the Roman army and take charge.
Next our Psalm writer is looking for God, even in the midst of thirst and hunger. He goes to the temple, and finds a spirit of glory and kindness. Without one bite of food, he feels filled and satisfied. Without any power of his own, he feels safe and joyful with God.
Last is Paul, who can open himself fully to God’s plan, and wants to conform to God’s ways; he is ready, and urges us, to commit – body, soul, and mind.
This is not a process that necessarily comes from intelligence, maturity, experience or background. It is not a program where you just follow 4 easy steps. It is a gift of the Spirit which we can choose to nurture and follow. For each person, the path is unique; ironically blissful and demanding at the same time. Yes, the retirement plan is outstanding, but living the Godly life is unexpectedly and deeply rewarding.
My friends, keep up the good work.
Who do you say that I am? One Apostle replied, the one who spoke out and answered for all. His words were words of faith, words of belief in Christ, the Son of the living God. This faith was praised by Jesus and in fact he made it the foundation, the rock on which the faith and church have been built. To Peter and to the Apostles came the charge to be the Rabbis of Christ’s church, to watch over and mediate and bind and loose disputes in the name of Christ and his church. We can see Christ’s intent in how the early church and the apostles went about spreading and expanding the church. When major decisions were made, we see the apostles and their successors come together to collaborate and decide what was the way to go in Christ’s name. As time passed and the church grew, the structure changed and seemingly the way things were decided also changed, but still the coming together of the bishops(the successors of the apostles) still remains a key in the foundational faith of the church and the power of dispensing God’s love and mercy to the faithful. Certainly, in an institution made up of men, Christ ‘s admonition of binding and loosing comes through the many councils of the church with the inspiration of the Spirit over the ages. Christianity has failed in some respects as divisions and disagreements over the centuries has led to numerous divisions. Yet, Christ remains before the world and his word is present to that world in many ways. While as Christians we would like to see unity, recognition of Jesus as Lord and following him has always got to be paramount as we move forward to a union in a life ahead. Peter and the Apostles answered that call today, and so are we called to answer, to embrace the Son of the Living God and live out his message.
19th Sunday Ordinary time, 8-13-17; 1 Kings 19:9a-13a; Ps 85; Rom 9:1-5; Matt 14:22-33.
As I read these scriptures this week, a single word stood out: “Anguish.” This week is a counterpoint to last week’s glorious Transfiguration. Paul uses the word “Anguish” in our reading from his Letter to the Romans. As you probably know, Paul was a Jewish Pharisee before he converted to “The Way” of Jesus and became an evangelist of the Good News. Paul is thinking about “the great sorrow and constant anguish” in his heart for the Jews, his people. Their rejection of Jesus as Messiah and Savior was tragic. It was the Jews who had watchfully awaited the Messiah, who had passed the expectation from generation to generation. It was the Jews who had been given the law and commandments; the Jews who had made the covenant with God, and it was from the line of David that Jesus was born. While Paul offers praise to God for this marvelous gift of the Messiah, he does it with a heavy heart.
Elijah’s heart was more anguished than Paul’s. Elijah had the kind of stress that can kill people. When Ahab had become King of Israel, “he did more to anger God than any of the other kings of Israel before him” (1Kings 16:33). He worshiped idols and he built altars to them. His wife, Jezebel, focused killing all the prophets of God, particularly Elijah. Finally, Elijah went to King Ahab and demanded a showdown. It was Elijah for God vs. 450 prophets for the idols. Each side built an altar and called for fire to come down and consume a sacrifice. The prophets of the idols called out, danced, and cut themselves with knifes for hours to no effect. Elijah flooded his altar with water, said a short prayer, and fire came down and consumed the sacrifice, the water, the wood, even the stones. Then he ran.
For a full day, Elijah fled from Jezebel’s wrath, until he collapsed in fear, exhaustion, and anguish over the entire situation. He prayed for death to take him. Instead, an angel provided food for him until he was able to continue to the mountains. God asked him why he was in hiding. Elijah responded, “I have given everything I had, and more, for you, God. But the people have turned away from you, your places of worship have been destroyed, and all your prophets are dead. I am alone and there is nothing else I can do.” That is the voice of anguish. God arrives with a “tiny whispering sound”, the gentleness we need when we are in such emotional pain. God protects Elijah, has him anoint a new king and a new prophet, and then brings Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind on a flaming chariot.
Even our Psalm today is a lament. The people are in anguish, feeling abandoned by God and afraid God will be angry with them forever. They want God’s love and glory to return. They imagine kindness and truth meeting. When someone asks if their new clothes make them look fat, we find that kindness and truth do not always meet. Truth does not always spring from us on earth, and we would often prefer mercy rather than justice from heaven. Being holy people is difficult.
So, we move to the Gospel, and things aren’t going very well there, either. Jesus has just heard the news that his dear cousin John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod as part of an obscene power-play at an outlandish party! It was just too revolting and horrendous, and Jesus withdrew to a quiet place by himself in grief. But people continued to seek him out, and a crowd of some 5,000 people gathered, begging for healing and needing food. Setting aside his own anguish over John, he attended to their needs. Afterward, still needing time to himself, he sends the disciples ahead in the boat, and Jesus goes up the mountain to pray.
Jesus walking on water is one of the beloved stories of the faith, and I’m sure you know it. A heavy storm broke over the lake. Jesus, knowing, that the disciples’ faith was still as little as a new-born baby, goes to them. They are so panicked, so anguished, that they react even to Jesus with fear and doubt. There it is again, “Do not be afraid.” If I ever get a tattoo, that’s what it should be. As Jesus calmed the storm and got into the boat, the disciples worship him as The Divine One he is.
What did we learn?
1. We all have to rely on God, especially when it seems that evil or tragedy has the upper hand. Elijah shows us that trust is not just a sheer act of the will, not simply a blind decision, but a quiet emergence of God’s faithful love. Faith works best when we don’t confuse it with our own powers or efforts.
2. Like Paul, every Christian experiences anguish because our failures and our experiences can seem so hard to reconcile with the promises of God. Yet those promises are eternal. Our faith has its ups and downs and it is often very difficult to see our life in the big picture.
3. “Lord, let us see your kindness”, our Psalmist said. Let us see God’s kindness in all the people who follow God, carrying their crosses of daily sacrifice and suffering.
4. Knowing that Jesus experienced loss and grief, we know he will not abandon us. We too can be healed by time spent with God in prayer and meditation. After getting back into the boat, Peter would have told us that sometimes Jesus will calm the storm, and sometimes Jesus will calm you in the storm. But we are never beyond God’s reach and never have too little faith to call out to him, for God is with us.
Today’s readings are about food, manna in the desert and Jesus’ flesh and blood as food for us. Our food we call the Eucharist or communion, that is we come together as a community to celebrate Christ’s life and passion and death and resurrection and are fed his body and blood. John tells us today that whoever eats Christ’s body and drinks his blood will have Christ in him and will be able to have eternal life. As manna was meant for the Israelites as a people escaping slavery and without food and a need to reconnect not only with God but also with each other as a community and nation bound together. This need of coming together and acting as a nation is a strong reason why they remained in the desert for forty years as they bonded their lives together and became once again God’s people. So it is for us, that Christ’s body and blood binds us to him not only individually as he comes to us, but also a community that is bound together to look out for each other and to bring Christ’s Word to the world. It is a principle act of the church which brings us together frequently so as to be prepared to live out and proclaim our faith and love to the world. As our body craves and needs food, so does our soul need Christ’s special food which keeps us ready for the journey that we walk together. And so in this special way, Christ is present and comes to us and remains with us as he has remained with the church throughout the ages. His love is ever-present and remains in us.