As we approach the end of the year, both liturgically and really, the readings seem to get ominous and in a sense scary as they talk about the end of the world. None of us likes to think of our own mortality or the world around us falling apart or ending. Realistically, thinking of our death or the end of the world, isn’t really a wise thing to do or a wise way to start a day or to plan ahead. What is really wise is not to plan our departure but rather plan the present moment, the waiting as well. As Christians, we know that with Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension, and his sending of his Spirit, that God’s kingdom is now. We are called to be present to others, to be Christians, to give, to share, to care. These are the things that last and benefit the kingdom. God’s kingdom is now, in our own lifetime. What we see and share and believe is only a preparation for what will be in another time and place. God’s presence is now and always. Many speak of wasting time as they rush through their daily schedule. Perhaps the rushing is the waste if we neglect interaction and caring along the way. How many people, friend or not do we rush by? How often do we step aside to pray? Or to just appreciate God’s gift of the world around us, a scenic place, or a sunset or sunrise? Or to embrace and appreciate the family and friends we have?
All the above is important because death or the end of the world is not an end for us or God’s kingdom. Life will not end but change. That change is told to us by God but what it entails we don’t know. We do know that all who have died will rise and God will embrace all who are to be in his kingdom. But we as Christians are already in his kingdom if we are living as Christ asked us to do our passage should be a reunion of all those we have known and those we will come to know.
Two distraught, downtrodden, defeated men were walking to Emmaus. A stranger joined them and their conversation came alive and something was different, but what they didn’t know. A shared dinner was about to begin when the Stranger broke the bread, they recognized Jesus but then he was gone. The question I have for you today is, do you even see the people who come into your life. In church, every time we gather, we break the same bread, we share the same blood. Jesus is here he comes to us, we share his body and his blood. Can you feel and believe that presence here and now? Yes, this is my Body, this is my blood given for you. He is here, not only on the altar, but among us and in every one of us intimately sharing the Holy Spirit with us. Remember how often he reminded us that he is in everyone? How can we forget that he said what the least you do to anyone, you do it to me? His love, his life calls out to us in so many ways for us to respond. In the history of the Jews, God prepared them for the coming of his Son, but how little were they prepared to recognize him because they had their own selfish expectations of who and what the Messiah would be. What they wanted or expected was an earthly ruler along the lines of David or greater. This is a great lesson here, for how often do we pray for one thing or another. How often do we presume to ask for exactly our need as we want it, literally not really knowing what is best for us. What we must learn is to know and accept that God cares and gives what is best for us, not always what we expect or sometimes even want. His love is such he knows what is good and most importantly what we need. He knows and understands disappointment, pain, and even suffering. None of these, even in their difficulties can remove a certain inner peace and strength born of our faith and the presence of the risen Lord and his Spirit.
Let us remember, his presence is real and all around us. He should enliven our hearts and our actions to all we meet and come across each day. In this we can find joy and fulfillment.
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.