No “Yeah, buts”

Exodus 14:19-31; Psalm 114; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

“Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

When I was kid, my Dad had a saying that he would sometimes use – rather abruptly, I thought – to end arguments, usually when he had already said “no” to something we kids wanted and we were coming up with reasons why he should say “yes.” It was a very short phrase: “No ‘yeah buts’.” I don’t remember the exact genesis of that, but I’m sure it grew out of the fact that my brother and sisters and I would inevitably use the phrase “Yeah, but…” to introduce our disagreement, looking for a loophole in what we had been told.

Today’s Gospel follows immediately from last Sunday’s and continues with Peter asking for…clarification. Like last week, this passage is about dealings between members of the community. We need to approach the two readings as a single conversation.

In last week’s Gospel, Jesus set out a communal process that includes naming the sin, repentance, forgiveness, and support of the victim if necessary.

But after being given the process reconciliation should follow between believers, Peter says “Well, how many times do I have to forgive someone who sins against me?”

Considering what has just been said, Peter is saying. “Yeah, but…”. Something we do all the time. It seems we can always come up with a “Yeah, but…”. We want loopholes. Peter is looking for a loophole.

Peter asks “How many times must I forgive? Seven times?” After all, seven in Jewish numerology is the number of completion, the perfect number. That should be enough, right?

Jesus answers “No, seventy-seven times.” Some translations make it “Seventy times seven.” Either way, it’s a lot more forgiveness than Peter had counted on. And who is actually going to keep count of a number that high?

Effectively, Jesus is saying “You must forgive every time.”

Then he follows up with a parable.

In the parable, a servant owes his lord some money. The size of the debt that the servant owes his lord is significant, to say the least. Ten thousand talents in the idiom of the time meant something like “the largest amount of money you could ever imagine.” A ridiculously large debt, one that a servant couldn’t possibly accrue over a lifetime. We might think in terms of a debt of billions of dollars. Remember that Jesus’ parables often use ridiculous situations to make a point. As we shall see in a moment, this huge amount is critical to the parable. We should also note that selling a debtor and his family into slavery was forbidden by Torah, but was perfectly legal under Roman law. The disciples would have seen this immediately. The lord in the story is not a “good guy.”

But he does relent when his servant begs for mercy. He not only relents, he forgives the debt! Ridiculous!

So all is well, and good, right? Not quite. The forgiven servant is owed money by one of his fellow servants. It’s much smaller amount, but he can’t pay up either.

A denarius was basically a day’s wages for a common laborer, so 100 denarii might be around 3 month’s wages. Maybe a few thousand dollars today. A pretty small debt compared to 10,000 talents! The comparison in size of debts is ludicrous, and is meant to be. Jesus used this kind of hyperbole a lot – comparing something tiny to something huge. Straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel. Take the log out of your own eye before you try to take the speck out of your brothers. A camel going through the eye of a needle.

But the forgiven servant refuses to forgive his fellow and has him thrown into prison. And word gets back to the lord, who is NOT pleased. He takes drastic action.

You see, the lord’s forgiveness, while it didn’t have to be earned, did impose some responsibility on the servant.  The servant was forgiven a huge debt. It was his responsibility to forgive a much smaller debt.

In the same way, God’s grace — God’s forgiveness – is free, yes. But free grace doesn’t mean that there is no response necessary from us. Gifts in the Mediterranean world of the time tended to be like that. Even when freely given, they assumed a responsibility on the part of the person receiving the gift. They formed a bond between giver and receiver.

God’s grace forms a bond with us. Yes, grace and forgiveness are freely given, but when we accept, we enter into a covenant with Him — an agreement that we will show the same grace to others that He has shown to us. And there is no loophole. No “Yeah, buts” are allowed. We must forgive.

How often does God forgive us?  Every time.

How often must WE forgive each other? Every time.

What does God forgive? Everything.

What must we forgive? Everything.

Now, forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. Nor does it mean standing meekly by when the behavior is repeated. Nor does it mean that we can ignore evils done to others. The scriptures are very clear that we must always come down on the side of justice, on the side of the oppressed. If we see an injustice, we are bound to speak out, to work to see that justice is done.

But Peter and Jesus aren’t talking about that kind of situation. They are continuing the conversation from last week, about the sins we commit against each other within the Christian community. Peter says “If another member of the church sins against me…”. And the parable states right out that if we do not forgive others, we leave ourselves ope to judgment.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we just say it’s OK that they did that to us. What forgiveness means is that we will not seek retribution for what someone might have done. We will not seek revenge. We will no longer put any emotional resources into what has happened in the past. We set the other person free from that, and we set ourselves free.

In forgiving, we relinquish any control the incident has over our own lives. Punishment may still happen to the other person, but we don’t seek it. And we don’t take pleasure in it happening. The Germans have word for that: Schadenfreude. It literally means “harm-joy.” It’s a feeling of happiness when something bad happens to someone else – usually someone we don’t like. When we forgive, we give up Schadenfreude.

We set ourselves free from all of that. We will not hold that person to account. EVER.

By extension, the matter no longer has any hold over the community. We forgive for the good of the person we are forgiving, for our own good, and for the good of the church.

How often does God forgive us? Every time.

How often must WE forgive each other? Every time.

What does God forgive? Everything.

What must WE forgive? Everything.

To be a Christian is to forgive, as God forgives us. Forgive everything, every time.

Thomas Merton said

In the end, it comes down to the old story that we are sinners, but that this is our hope because sinners are the ones who attract to themselves the infinite compassion of God. To be a sinner, to want to be pure, to remain in patient expectation of the divine mercy and above all to forgive and love others, as best we can, this is what makes us Christians. 

My Dad might add, “And no ‘yeah buts’.”

Those People

Sometimes the lectionary hands you a gift. This is one of those days. About two years ago, we were in Year B in the 3-year lectionary cycle, when we mostly read the Gospel According to Mark. On September 22, I preached on Mark’s version of the story that we encounter today in Matthew. Occasions like this give you a chance to revisit your thoughts and spend more time contemplating the scripture and what it means. I hope that I have a couple of new insights since then.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is in “the district of Tyre and Sidon.” This area is northwest of Galilee, near along the coast. A woman runs up to Jesus and the disciples and shouts at them, asking for help. The scripture says her daughter is tormented by a demon. I won’t go into whether it’s really a demon or if there is some psychological problem, but in the long run it really doesn’t matter. The daughter needs help, and the mother is desperate.

Matthew describes the woman as a “Canaanite.” Mark calls her a “Syro-Phoenician.” The main point is that she isn’t a Jew. Maybe she was one of those Gentiles known as “God-fearers,” who actively worshiped the God of the Jews but did not take the steps to convert fully to Judaism.

The disciples want to get rid of her, and Jesus seems to go along with them. He tells her, basically, that she’s a dog and he came strictly for the Jews. I’ve seen commentators who say the Greek word that’s translated “dog” here really means “puppy,” This may be true – my Greek isn’t that good. But I’m not sure it makes a difference. I kind of feel that they’re assuming that people at the time felt the same way about puppies that we do, inserting their own cultural bias into the reading. I think it was still an insult. Maybe Jesus was tired and hungry. Maybe his blood sugar was low. He was human, after all. Tyre and Sidon would have been out of his normal territory, so maybe he was hoping for some rest and relaxation. Mark, in fact, says this was the situation. On the other hand, maybe Jesus was trying to shock the woman to get her attention. I don’t know. The scripture doesn’t say.

Whatever the reason for Jesus’ barb, the woman doesn’t miss a beat. She bounces right back.

“Even the dogs get to eat what’s left over from the meal.”

“I may not be a Jew,” she says in essence, “but I still matter.

This woman may not know that she is speaking to the Son of God, but she obviously knows she is speaking to someone with a great deal of power, someone with the power to cast out demons, and yet she throws his slur right back at him, a mother pleading for her child in the face of a powerful man who has dismissed her as not worthy of his attention.

And Jesus…relents.

He tells her that her refusal to be marginalized by his cruel words has saved her daughter. 

The woman refuses to accept Jesus’ apparent dismissal, and her daughter is healed.

Jesus relented. How often do we relent after we dismiss those in need?

I mean, we really don’t like to help “those people.” Oh, we may dress our attitude up in righteousness. Those people don’t need our help, we tell ourselves. Not really. They could help themselves. There are others who need help, too. We’ll go help them first. Strangely, we never seem to help them either.

Even worse, we think “Those people don’t deserve our help.”

You see it’s easy to dehumanize people that aren’t like us. When a Jew referred to a Gentile as a dog, he was in effect saying, “You’re not even human.” And when someone isn’t human, you can treat them like an animal. Civilizations throughout time have done it. There are ancient records of people referring to those outside the pale of their civilization as “beasts.” There is always a group we can call “those people.”

For the Greeks and Romans, it was the “barbarians.”

For Second Temple Jews, it was the Gentiles. And the Samaritans.

Later, for many Gentile Christians, it became the Jews. In the Epistle reading for today Paul is writing specifically to the Gentile Christians in Rome, explaining to them that God has not rejected his chosen people. Paul first proudly claims his own Judaism, then goes on to explain that God doesn’t break covenants. As he says, “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Who is it for us? Who do we consider “those people?”

How often do we react to someone’s need by placing them in a group and judging them all together? How often do we look at a person’s color or religion or social class or politics and use that as a basis to decide whether or not we will help them? How often do we dismiss and marginalize those whose experience is different from ours?

If only they didn’t dress that way.

If only they’d behave the way we think they should.

If only they believed the same things we do.

If only they voted the way we think they should.

If only they were more like us.

Then they would be human.

Then we could help them.

Of course we do it. People have always done it. Sometimes our attitudes are so automatic that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Sometimes we have to honestly, painfully examine our motivations to see that we’ve done it.  I’ve done it. I still do it, though I know I shouldn’t. And when I realize that I’ve treated anyone as less…I’m ashamed. Of course, we don’t like to feel ashamed, so we tend not to examine our motivations too closely, afraid of what we will find.

Even Jesus did it. Whatever his motivation, Jesus told this woman, full of need, that she was less than human. And when that she stood up to him, he rewarded her for it.

If we are being completely honest with ourselves, we all do it. But we can try not to.

In our Baptismal Covenant, we are asked “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons?

Not all persons that look like we do.

Not all persons that dress like we do.

Not all people that were born in the same country as we were.

Not all persons in the same political party as we are.

Not all persons that believe the same as we do.

Not all persons that think like we do.

All persons. Period.

Can we seek and serve Christ in all persons? Can we stop making excuses for ourselves? Can we look past the clothes, the color, the religion, the politics…and see the face of Christ? 

Can we?

When we’re asked that question in the Vows, we respond, “I will, with God’s help.” Because we can’t do it, not by ourselves. Only with God’s help can we begin to break through our human desire to segregate, to label people not like us as “other”.

Whenever someone is in need, we can help them, no matter how different the are from us, with God’s help.

With God’s help, we can see Christ in everyone, and serve them as we would serve him.

Amen.

The Bits in the Middle

Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

So many parables today. In today’s Gospel we get no fewer than six parables that have to do with the kingdom of heaven, several of them a single sentence. Most of the sermons given today will likely focus on one or two, but I’d like to take a larger view:

“The kingdom of heaven is like…”; “the kingdom of heaven is like…”; “the kingdom of heaven is like…”.

Jesus seems to think it’s important to talk about the kingdom of heaven, which is also referred to elsewhere as the kingdom of God. I’m going to use both terms.

Many people listen to music when they jog or walk. I don’t. Instead, I listen to audiobooks. It’s a convenient way of getting in at least part of the hour a day of study required by the Dominican Rule. My current listen is “How God Became King” by N.T. Wright. In it, Wright addresses what he sees as a deficiency in most modern Christianity – that we have elevated the creeds over the Gospels. He doesn’t downplay the importance of the creeds, far from it. Saying clearly what we believe about the nature of the Trinity is critically important. But when the creeds talk about Jesus, they start with his miraculous conception and birth, and then go straight to his crucifixion and death. They skip right over his life and teachings! They speak of what we say about Jesus, and hardly at all about what he said and taught.

This is not surprising, since the creeds were written at times in the church when the statements they make were being debated. But, Wright says, we have, over the course of time, turned them into a kind of “syllabus,” an outline that says “here’s all the important stuff about Jesus.” And we sometimes ignore what Jesus actually said and did between his birth and his death: as Wright calls them, “the bits in the middle.” The parts where Jesus did the work of God here on earth.

Bishop Wright certainly does not advocate doing away with the creeds in any way. But those “bits in the middle” are hugely important, because what Jesus did during that time was show us and tell us how the kingdom of heaven works. In the words of theologian Karl Barth, “In the man Jesus Christ, God himself has become visible and active on earth. He is the goal of the history of Israel and the starting point of the church. The whole work of God lives and moves in this one person” (Dogmatics in Outline, 39). Wright makes a good point in saying that it is exactly for this reason that he lived as he did – to begin the building of the kingdom of God. Through Jesus, God becomes King.

But we have problems with the kingdom of God, because the way Jesus describes it doesn’t fit in with the way we’ve come to expect things to work. You might think that after 2,000 years Christians, at least, would get used to the idea that God being King would turn all our carefully constructed conceptions of society upside-down. And this idea didn’t start with Jesus. It’s a thread that runs through the Hebrew scriptures. As an example, look at 1 Samuel 2:8, part of the song Hannah sings when she discovers that she is pregnant with the child who will become the prophet Samuel:

He raises the poor from the dust,

He lifts the needy from the ash heap

To make them sit with nobles,

And inherit a seat of honor;

Fast forward to not long after Jesus is conceived. In Luke, Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. While there, she sings the Magnificat, a song that is an echo of Hanna’s:

He has shown the strength of his arm,

He has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich He has sent away empty.

That’s a fairly subversive message, and that subversion of the normal order continues in the Gospel today:

A tiny mustard seed grows into a huge bush.

A small amount yeast leavens a ridiculous amount of flour.

A man finds a treasure in a field, covers it back up, then sells everything else and buys the field.

A merchant finds a single gem that is so wonderful he sells everything else and buys it.

Fisherman go fishing and have to sort the good fish from the bad.

Pretty much every one of these has something in it that would leave a first-century Jew standing confused, wondering what was going on. Why would a woman be mixing up a whole bushel of flour? That’s what the “three measures” comes to. It would have made somewhere around 60 pounds of dough! Why didn’t the man who found the treasure tell the owner of the field? That would have been the honest thing to do.

And here’s the thing about the merchant: After he sold everything to buy the pearl, the merchant…suddenly couldn’t be a merchant any more! He would have had no money left and nothing to sell. All he had was the pearl. That’s crazy! I can picture Jesus’ listeners scratching their heads. Who would be insane enough to give up their livelihood for one pearl?

Like the pearl, the kingdom of God is something so wonderful that we have to be willing to literally give up everything else we have in order to gain it. I’m not saying that’s THE meaning of the parable, but it could be a meaning. When we look at these parables, let’s remember that God’s priorities are not our priorities. What they say may seem crazy to us. In establishing His kingdom on earth, God wants to overturn our precious ways of living in the world. He wants us to be ruled by Him instead.

In his book, Bishop Wright uses the term “theocracy” unashamedly, but in its exact meaning. We tend to use the “theocracy” in a political way, to mean “rule by religion,” and we consider it (rightly, in my opinion) a bad thing. But its precise meaning is “rule by God”; rule by God, with no people getting in the way. And that is what we really hope for: Rule by God. When Christ returns and makes all Creation new, we will live under the rule of God – not the religious right, not the religious left, no politics involved, living under no one’s agenda but God’s — the way Creation was originally intended to be. Through Jesus, we already know how to live that way.

God sent His son to teach us what his kingdom is like, and how to live in it, even when the renewal of Creation hasn’t happened yet. But that renewal is coming, and it’s more urgent than ever that we learn from Jesus’ life and teachings – those “bits in the middle” – how the kingdom of God works.

We should be living as if it has already come. We should be living as if God is our King now and every day.

Amen.

Hope

Genesis 28:10-19a; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Boy, do we need some hope right now. 2020 seems to be the gift that just keeps on giving. The world has had pandemic and natural disasters. Our country has faced both protest and backlash. Our parish has lost our rector. We had to close our doors to worship.  And after all that’s gone before in this almost unbelievable year, just about when we thought we MIGHT be able to finally hold a Eucharistic service, the rug is pulled out and we are closed again. We can have groups up to 10, but only for the purposes of live-streaming services, the food pantry, or administrative work.

This is not what we had hoped.

The Epistle to the Romans is the last of Paul’s authentic letters, and it’s addressed to a Church that he had no direct experience with. It was probably written about 57 or 58 C.E., at which time Paul had been a Christian for somewhere around 25 to 26 years. During all that time, Paul had been expecting Jesus to return at any moment. But he hadn’t, and Paul was beginning to face the fact that Jesus might not return before his own death. Spoiler alert: He didn’t.

This was not what Paul had hoped.

Paul could have given up. He could have said, “Well, I’m picking up my toys and going home. I don’t have time for this anymore.”

But he didn’t. He kept going. And out of the realization that he might have been wrong about WHEN Jesus was coming back comes his message of hope. We can’t see WHEN what we hope for – Jesus’ return and the remaking of all creation – will actually arrive. If we could see it, we wouldn’t NEED hope. That kind of thing is what hope is for. And don’t mistake Paul’s “hope” for “wish.” For Paul, “hope” is a knowledge that something WILL happen. The only question is when.

Like Paul we have hope that things WILL get better. It will happen. But we can’t see it. So, we have to live in hope, and that’s difficult. Sometimes we may believe it’s impossible, throw away hope, and give in to anger and despair. Hope has to be cultivated. It must be tended, fed, and watered to stay alive.

But how do we cultivate the hope that Paul says we have? It’s all well and good to SAY we have hope, but what can we do in our everyday lives to keep that  hope alive and growing? My Dominican brother, Jason Gaboury, dropped a blog post on on July 4 that made writing this sermon a LOT easier. It’s titled “I’m Scared – Cultivating Hope in an Anxious Time,” and he has graciously allowed me to include some of that material here. Jason offers a list of four practices that allow us to LIVE our hope, even as things get worse: Take Sabbath, Hold Jesus’ Words, Pray Daily, and Pursue Justice.

Take Sabbath – Taking Sabbath doesn’t mean going to church. It means rest. We need rest. In the Torah, God COMMANDS the Children of Israel to take a day of rest every week on the Sabbath. Not a day for household chores. A day of REST. Especially in the middle of crises, we don’t function well without rest, as anyone who has had a sleepless night knows. Sabbath is just as necessary for our spiritual health as sleep is for our physical health. How often do WE take Sabbath, just kick back and REST? I know I’m very bad at this, because I like to be busy, and I feel guilty if I’m not. There is just so much to do. But working constantly wears you down. Taking Sabbath helps to give us the mental and spiritual energy to go on.

Hold Jesus’ Words – In Marks’s gospel, the 4th chapter, Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee and Jesus…takes a nap. A storm comes up, and it’s a bad one, so the disciples wake Jesus up. “Do something! Don’t you care that we’re going to sink and drown?” Jesus stops the storm, but then dresses down the disciples with “Why are you afraid? Do you STILL have no faith?”

From Brother Jason: “Like the disciples in the passage above, we default to fear and anxiety when we’re not holding onto the words of Jesus.  Jesus’ words are good news.  They speak of justice and mercy, of forgiveness and holiness, of compassion and wisdom.  Meditating on the words and work of Jesus has the ability to reshape our perspective, increase our hope, and inspire joy.” 

I would extend this to meditating on Paul’s words in the Epistle reading for today:But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” We can’t see yet what’s on the other side of this. This why faith and hope exist. And if the words of Jesus really ARE good news, we should be holding on to them so tightly that NOTHING can pry us loose.

Pray Daily – Sometimes I worry that I may sound like a broken record when I urge you all to get into the habit of daily prayer. It seems like I say it almost every other sermon, but that’s because I believe it is the single most important practice any Christian can cultivate. I think the biggest change in my own outlook came from building the habit of saying the Daily Office, Morning and Evening, every day. It does wonders for your world view.

But maybe the Office doesn’t suit you. That’s OK. There are other ways of praying. The FORM is not the important part. The important part is just that you do it regularly. We don’t have to make up fancy prayers. Maybe you just sit and tell God the things you’re worried about. You don’t have to be GOOD at it, just persistent. And there are plenty of resources out there to help. My Brother Jason says, “If prayer is difficult for you, and it is for many of us, try simply repeating a scripture like, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing! (Matthew 8:25)”. It can be as simple as that.

Praying morning and evening really gives us a frame for our day. It moves our minds away from the world “out there” and refocuses us on God. We begin the day with God, and we end the day with God. Somehow, dealing with the stuff in between seems just a little easier.

Pursue Justice – The first three of these ways to hope are all about us personally. This one is about how we act in the world. If there is one lesson that we should be learning during this pandemic, it’s that we MUST take care of each other.

Fear makes us selfish. We are afraid, so we pull into ourselves. It’s a natural reaction, it’s a way of protecting ourselves. Unfortunately, this often results in us focusing more and more on our fear. We become more and more isolated from those around us.

Jason says, “Pursuing justice turns us outward, forcing us to consider not only our own wellbeing, but the interest and wellbeing of others.” And it doesn’t need to be in big ways, especially not to start. Simply turn your attention outside yourself, to the people in your neighborhood, in your town. What needs to THEY have that are not being met. How are THEY feeling right now? What might justice look like to THEM? Once you begin to care, you may find that your care grows beyond your local area.

We must, like Paul, live in hope. Living in hope means both taking care of ourselves: our bodies and minds, by keeping Sabbath; our spirits, by holding Jesus words and praying daily; and taking care of others, by pursuing justice. Doing these things will help us keep our focus on where it needs to be: on God.

I am going to ask Parker to put a link to Brother Jason’s essay on our website. It is very much worth reading. In the meantime, remember these four things to live in hope:

Take Sabbath

Hold Jesus’ Words

Pray Daily

Pursue Justice

Let us pray.

Almighty God, give us such a vision of your purpose and such an assurance of your love and power, that we may ever hold fast the hope which is in Jesus Christ our Lord who is alive with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen.

Playing the Game

Sermon for Proper 9, Year A, July 5, 2020

Scriptures: Genesis 24:34-38; Psalm 45:11-18; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19,25-30

“Jesus said to the crowd, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

I need to tell you a secret about preaching: sometimes you don’t preach the sermon you’d LIKE to preach. There will be a lot of sermons today on the last part of the Gospel – you know, the part that ends “…you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” That’s a nice scripture. It’s easy. It’s comforting. But sometimes the easy, comforting stuff is not what grabs you. Sometimes you start writing one sermon and end up with something completely different. And that’s part of the burden of preaching. 

So instead, I’m going to talk about the first part of the Gospel. The part that’s a bit less comfortable. The part where Jesus is upbraiding the crowd for wanting him to follow their whims.

Jesus seems to be a bit put out by the way people see him – and the way they saw John the Baptist. Jesus describes the crowd as being children playing a game, each group wanting the other to play by their rules.

John was an ascetic, so he must have had a demon. Jesus is not an ascetic, so he must be a drunkard and glutton. No matter which way Jesus behaved, they could find a way to put him in the wrong. He was, in words of the stock phrase, “damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.”

The thing is, we like our religious figures to be…domesticated. We like them to play by the rules. We like them neat and pretty — certainly not hairy, wearing camel hides, and eating bugs, like John. Or telling us things we don’t want to hear, like Jesus. So we gloss over the parts we don’t like, the parts that make us uncomfortable. We focus on the nice bits, like the last couple of verses of today’s Gospel. And that’s why I think it’s important to talk about this first bit.

See, John and Jesus didn’t play the game.

Now, I will fully admit I don’t like to be made to feel uncomfortable. It might be listening to someone talk about some topic that I really need to pay attention to you — a matter of conscience, a matter of justice, something I really need to listen to. Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like people to make me feel uncomfortable. Then I notice that the person saying it isn’t perfect. They have flaws in their characters. Now I have an excuse to discount what they say.

Very often we know we should be listening. We actually want to listen. But those little voices and doubts creep in. “Hey, that guy sounds like a socialist.” “But what about this other thing he said?” “Who does he think he is?” We ignore the message and find fault with the messenger. Sometimes we have to work really hard to find reasons we shouldn’t listen, but we seem to be willing to make the effort. It helps keep things tame and comfortable.

The problem is, there’s a lot of stuff in the Bible that should make us uncomfortable, if we’re honest with ourselves. All that stuff about “love your enemies” and such. That makes me uncomfortable because it means I have to actually care about their welfare. And believe me, with some people it is hard. But it’s one of those bits of scripture we just can’t seem to tame.

In C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia”, the great lion Aslan, who is actually Christ in the Land of Narnia, is often described with the words “He’s not a tame lion, you know.”

We need to stop insisting that Jesus be tame, that he’ll “play the game.” Because I’ll let you in on another secret: he isn’t going to, no matter how hard we try. And by trying to tame him, we’re only stunting our own spiritual growth.

We can always find excuses not to do things we don’t want to do, not to listen to ideas that are uncomfortable to us, whether they’re coming from scripture or by someone else. Especially when they’re things we know we should do, things we should pay attention to. The we can take the safe, tame path.

But Jesus is not tame. He’s not safe. And when we follow him – really follow him, we may end up doing quite a few not-so-tame and not-so-safe things ourselves. And that is where the Kingdom of Heaven is. 

What urgings of the Spirit are we ignoring because they don’t seem safe? Because they don’t fit into the rules of the game? Because they’re too wild?

Becoming a Dominican did not seem safe or tame to me, raised as a Southern Baptist. In fact, it felt incredibly wild and scary. I wasn’t totally sure what I was getting myself into. It kind of meant becoming a religious fanatic. I’ve always been a churchgoer, it was how I was raised,  but…structure my entire life around my faith? That’s crazy! It’s not playing the game! At my age I should focus on my career and heading toward retirement, not starting a new life of praying and preaching!

The strange thing is, once you give in to those wild, crazy things the Spirit is prompting you to do, you do get a reward. Once I had made the decision to approach the Dominicans, all the doubts vanished and I felt peace. I have a friend in Montana who used to be a verger. She is now a deacon. When I told her of my final decision to become a Dominican postulant, she said something to the effect of “You feel better now, don’t you?” Evidently something similar happened to her when she made the decision to work toward ordination.

Let’s not play the game. Let’s not be what people expect. Let’s be those “crazy Christians” that Presiding Bishop Curry talks about in his book. Let’s be the ones who listen to what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us. Let’s be the ones who always follow Christ instead of playing the game. Let’s be the ones who speak up for the poor and the oppressed. Let’s be the ones who don’t seem to worry about what the neighbors think.

Let’s not be tame lions.

What Will We Do?

Sermon for Proper 7, Year A, June 21, 2020

Scriptures: Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”

This past Friday was Juneteenth.  It’s a day many people outside black communities were unaware of until recently, but there is now a push to make it a national holiday. On June 19, 1865, a Union general in Texas declared all slaves to be free. The Civil War had actually been over since April and the Emancipation Proclamation, which only freed slaves in states that were “in rebellion,” was 2 years old. People in Texas hadn’t heard that the war was over. Now, by military fiat, all were free.

It’s a reason to celebrate. There have been others. Later on, Brown vs. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 were certainly leaps forward. All reasons to celebrate.

But as we look back on what was gained they are also…reasons to reflect.

Over the years, we have become complacent.

Our Parish was once a church that took the lead in pushing for racial justice. This church was instrumental in getting the city pool desegregated, playing such a well-known role that someone actually snuck in and put a snake in the pulpit as a warning.

I’ve heard people tell about this and sound rightfully proud of it. But it’s not enough. It was a long time ago.

I can hear God saying ”But what have you done for me lately?”

Losing focus is like that is pretty common. We have some victories, we accomplish a short-term goal or two, and we think the job is done. We rest on our laurels. We get comfortable. Surely the fight is over.

But the fight isn’t over. When I told a black Episcopalian friend my plans for this sermon, she responded, “would you like to know how many times I’ve asked, “…but where is the church?”

Where IS the church?

It’s pretty obvious these days that the job ISN’T done. And we can’t base our reputation – or our opinion of ourselves — on something our church did a half-century ago.

It was explained to me during my postulancy that becoming a Dominican gives one a platform to speak out. Dominicans are, after all, preachers first and foremost. Preaching is our charism, the spiritual gift upon which we center our lives. But more than just a platform, becoming Dominican gives us a responsibility to speak out.

It makes me feel good that a Dominican – Antonio Montesino — preached in 1511 what was likely the first sermon in the New World on social justice, protesting the mistreatment of the indigenous people by Diego Columbus – Christopher’s son – and the Spanish settlers who had engaged in multiple atrocities including enslavement, rape, and murder.

But I can’t rest on what Dominicans did in 1511. Like many of us, I have been silent too long. I have been complacent. I have been complicit. Sure, I’ve celebrated all the advances made during my lifetime. There are many. I was in junior high school in Georgia just as the schools there were being desegregated. But somewhere along the line I stopped recognizing the grave injustices that still occur on a daily basis.

A few weeks ago we all had our nose rubbed in it. A black man was killed because he may have used a counterfeit $20 bill – something that could happen to any of us. It’s hard – no, it’s pretty much impossible to believe that a white man would have died in the same situation.

There was nothing that deserved the death penalty. And yet George Floyd died.

Others have died too. It’s painful to list their names, but I’m going to do it anyway, because we need to look this evil square in the face:

Emmett Till

Eric Garner

Michael Brown

Laquan MacDonald

Tamir Rice

Trayvon Martin

Breonna Taylor

Ahmaud Arberry

Botham Jean

Philando Castiile

Dominique Clayton

George Floyd

It’s painful to read those names, and I’m sure it’s painful to hear them. But this is only a fraction of the names we could list.

So, in the words of my friend, “Where is the Church?”

Are we out working toward justice, demanding justice? Are we taking a stand?

Or are we sitting comfortably at home watching demonstrations and wondering why people don’t behave better, why they can’t just get over it?

Or are we staying home because we’re afraid of what our friends would think?

Speaking out is hard. It’s hard for me. It rarely makes you any friends among those that need to listen. I’m lucky in that my family thinks the same way I do, but it’s not true for everyone:

“For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”

It’s hard to speak out. That sermon preached back in 1511? Let’s just say that the Spanish settlers were not amused.

We are followers of Christ. We are called to something higher. In the words of our Baptismal Covenant, “Will we strive for justice and peace and promote the dignity of EVERY human being?”

In Isaiah, in the 58th chapter, we read:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
 if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.

Our brothers and sisters are still under the yoke of injustice. Will OUR light “break forth like the dawn” and “rise in the darkness?” Will we “proclaim it from the housetops?”

What will we do?

Meditation for Good Friday

Today is Good Friday. It has come at last. We have gone through the wilderness of Lent and have arrived…where?

Jesus is tried, condemned, and forced to carry the instrument of his own death to his place of crucifixion. He is nailed to the cross and the cross placed upright. Jesus hangs there for hours. And spite of all his power, Jesus dies. The disciples are in hiding, figuring they will be next. They are left heartbroken, not knowing what to do, where to go.

How can we continue? What do we do now?

In his book The Day the Revolution Began, Bishop N.T. Wright says that the early Christians were convinced that the world, at Jesus’ death, was somehow…changed. It was suddenly not the same world they were born into. Before Jesus died, Sin ruled the world. But Jesus, by his death, changed the world so that we are no longer slaves to Sin. We are free. And that is a message of hope.

Something new had come into the world in the late afternoon of Good Friday, and that new thing was Hope.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic, the like of which has not been seen for 100 years. With COVID-19 spreading through the world, we desperately need Hope. We are frightened, both for our own well-being and for the well-being of those we love. We’re not sure where to turn or what to do.

Like the disciples.

But we have an advantage the disciples did not have. We know what comes next. We know how the story ends.

We know that Christ conquered Sin. But we also know that he conquered Death.

So where do we find Hope? We find it in the same place early Christians found it:

In the fact that when Jesus died, he took on Sin and Death, and defeated them, once and for all.

In the fact that death is not the end.

In the fact that Christ is always with us.

Christ has died, yes, and we still have to live in the wilderness of Lent for a while longer.

But Hope has been born.

And Easter is coming.

Let us pray:

O Lord Jesus Christ, as we deal with pandemic and with the wilderness of Good Friday, help us to avoid despair, to keep faith, to recall that we will be resurrected with you. Help us to hope. Amen.

Kirkin’ of the Tartans, 9 November 2019

Readings: Isaiah 58:6-11; John 15:9-17

 

Many of you might recognize me, but not in this getup. I’ve been the verger for this service for several years now, but my life has taken a distinct turn, which I will be glad to discuss with you in a different setting. If you’re really interested, come to the 10:30 Eucharist tomorrow and plan to stay after for coffee. I’m doing a talk then.

When Bob first asked me to give this “sermon,” I will admit to being slightly apprehensive. It’s a tough service for someone who, like myself, has committed his life to a preaching and teaching ministry. One of the prime directives of preaching is “know your audience.” Now, I know my home parish very well, and I like to think that I am beginning to know St. James pretty well, but I’m willing to bet that most of you do NOT attend church here and most of you are not even Episcopalian. So, I’m up here flying blind. I’m going to assumethat the greater part of you are some flavor of Christian. And if you are not, please walk with me for a few minutes anyway. You may still find something of value.

SO…why do we have a Kirkin’ of the Tartans at all?

We could go into the folklore of the English suppression of the wearing of the tartan and people hiding their tartans under cloaks as they went to the church to get them blessed. Or we could go to the actual history of the service’s creation in the 1940s by Rev. Peter Marshall, as Fr. Tim has done in the past. But the question remains, why do we still do it?

Well, it’s become a tradition, right? Do something once, it’s a change do something three times, it’s a tradition. At least, it seems that way in Episcopal churches.

But what’s so great about tradition? It’s just doing stuff somebody else did before, right? Is that a good enough reason to do this? Or is it just an excuse for a party (not that there’s anything wrong with a party)?

I think tradition is more than just an excuse.

At last year’s in conference in Denver of the Vergers’ Guild of the Episcopal Church, the Reverend Canon Broderick Greer was giving us an talk on the possibility of reform of the Book of Common Prayer – the book that contains our Episcopalian forms of worship and much of our theology. The question of tradition was brought up. “Why do we bother with tradition?”  “Tradition,” Canon Greer said, “is giving the dead a vote.”

Tradition is our connection to what has gone on before. By honoring tradition, we give the dead a vote in how we live our lives. Because remembering is important. It reminds us of who we are, of where we came from. If we forget what has gone before, we are rootless. Most of you are probably not aware that I was raised Southern Baptist, a denomination that does not in general set a great store by tradition. Now that I am Episcopalian, I have become more and more aware of its importance.

Since we have been coming to the Kirkin’, my wife has been researching our respective family trees. I had always thought my heritage was almost all Irish and Welsh, but she has discovered that I have roots in Clan McLeod, Clan Buchanan,  Clan Stewart, and others. I could wear a lot of different tartans, but I will likely settle on just one. By choosing one, I will be intentionally connecting with those ancestors, honoring them, as flawed and imperfect as many – if not all – of them were. Because…well…tradition.

This past Sunday, at my home parish in Poplar Bluff, we celebrated the Feast of All Saints, which is all about tradition. Remembering and honoring tradition, especially as exemplified by the Saints, is important. But it is just as important to understand how that tradition applies to our personal lives. Because if it doesn’t, if we don’t give that tradition meaning, we’re just playing. Putting on costumes, going through the motions, having a good time, but not much else.

How do we live out our lives as followers of God – however we conceive Him — within our shared heritage and tradition? Well, let’s take a look at a good example from Scottish tradition: St. Margaret of Scotland, whom we are celebrating this evening.

Margaret was the daughter of an English prince and granddaughter of a king. She was born in exile in Hungary in 1045, but through many adventures she ended up in Scotland, where she eventually married the widowed king, Malcom III, in 1070.

For many rulers, the ancient sources disagree on whether they were good or bad, but there doesn’t seem to be any disagreement about Margaret. She is consistently referred to as “strong, pure, and noble.”

Among other things, Margaret used her influence with her husband and his heir, her youngest son David, to work toward just rule. Every day, according to the chronicles, she served orphans and washed the feet of the poor before she ate anything. She established monasteries, assisted pilgrims, and interceded for the release of Englishmen who had been put into serfdom by the Normans. In private, she spent much of her time in prayer and reading.

The Gospel reading for our celebration of All Saints last week was the Beatitudes as found in Luke. There are things that are different about this passage in Luke that are different than the similar passage found in Matthew. Where Matthew’s Jesus speaks of spiritual well-being, Luke’s Jesus is much more concerned with immediate physical needs. Like Margaret.

Luke also has Jesus include a set of challenges to this of us who have resources – who are not poor, or hungry, or downtrodden. His message is “You will be like those poor folks over there one day.”

St. Margaret of Scotland gave us a tradition of bringing the Beatitudes into reality. And she isn’t alone. St. Damien the Leper, St. Martin des Porres, St. Teresa of Kolkata – none of them Scots, unfortunately — also show us the way. That is what we need to look at when we honor our traditions.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

St. Margaret did not die for others, but she most certainly did dedicate her life to them. Can we not do the same? Can we, like Margaret, care for the poor and needy, and work to see that those who rule do so justly?

In an alternate Gospel reading tonight for the Feast of St. Margaret, Jesus says “Every Scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.

What is old is…our traditions. What is new is what we do with them.And both are a treasure.

So, by all means let us uphold our traditions. They are important, and we need to remember. But rather than blindly following and going through the motions, let us work to be what many of our forebears, like Margaret, also worked to be.

The light of the world.

The salt of the earth.

Let’s be Scottish saints.

Amen.

Beyond the Blessings

Note: The Propers for All Saints Day can be found here: Lectionary Page — All Saints Day

You would think that writing a sermon for All Saints’ would be a piece of cake.

I mean, it’s not Trinity Sunday, is it? Trinity is traditionally the Sunday that rectors go on vacation and leave the sermon to an associate, curate, deacon, or lay preacher, who then spends sleepless nights trying to thread the need between saying something profound but orthodox and something heretical. Let’s face it: Try to delve into the meaning of the Trinity and it’s pretty much impossible not to commit one heresy or another.

Come to think of it, my very first sermon was on Trinity Sunday. Hmmm…

But All Saints’ should be easy! No tricky theology! No danger of putting a foot wrong and being taken to task! It’s just honoring those who have gone on before!  But I had a lot more trouble with this than you might think. After all, what can you say about these readings that’s new?

Let’s take a look..

The first two are great! Daniel says “the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever—for ever and ever.”

Hooray, we’ll possess kingdom! We win!

St. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus “you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints…”

Yay! Inheritance from God, we win again!

Then there’s the Gospel reading.

The Gospel today is the Beatitudes, as found in Luke. These are found both in Mathew and Luke, part of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke – even the Gospel writers couldn’t agree on where it took place.

Now, at first glance, it seems like another “Yay! We’re gonna finally get what we deserve!” passage. But congratulating ourselves is NOT what the Beatitudes are about. Especially in Luke. They’re about encouragement and a challenge. For Luke especially, they’re rules for self-examination.

If you read the version from Matthew, you will get “Blessed are the poor in spirit… and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness...” Luke’s concerns aren’t really focused on spiritual well-being. They’re physical and immediate.  And in Luke, unlike in Matthew, Jesus adds some warnings, commonly known as the “woes,” because they all begin “woe to you…”.  What does the world expect us to strive for strive for? Do we work to be rich? To be well fed? To make ourselves happy? To gain the approval of others?  But these things we work so hard for are only temporary.  Jesus says, “if you’re comfortable now, good for you. Enjoy it. It won’t last, and then you’ll be like those less fortunate folks over there.”

Which do we need to hear? The blessings? Or the woes?

The Beatitudes are often considered words of comfort, and they are comforting to those of us going through hard times. But they are also words of challenge to those of us who have resources. If we see someone who needs the comfort described, what do we do? Do we try to provide money, food, or consolation? Do we actually show them the Kingdom of God? Or do we just tell them to buck up, that things will be better…someday? Do we help them when it’s convenient, when we have a few extra bucks or maybe an hour or two to spare?

The Beatitudes have always had a special meaning for Dominicans.

The Greek word that both Luke and Matthew use in this speech, μακάριοι, can mean “blessed” or “rich”, but it can also mean “happy,” and the early Dominicans took the “happy” part seriously. So seriously, in fact, that they were often criticized by the monastic orders for being too…happy. Having now spent two Chapters with the Anglican Dominicans and several days with the Roman Catholic Dominicans in St. Louis, I can say with some certainty that Dominicans still consider the “happy” part really important. But Dominicans consider the challenge of the Beatitudes just as important. It’s how you share your joy with others.

Today, November the Third, is also the feast day of St. Martin de Porres, who just happens to be a Dominican saint. There is a shrine to him in Memphis that you can visit. Normally we would push the feast off to Monday, since Sunday always takes precedence over a saint, but since we’re celebrating All Saints today, brought forward from November 1 (yeah, the rules can be complicated) I think it’s appropriate to mention him, since he is one of the saints we’re celebrating. He’s a wonderful example of the Beatitudes in action.

Martin was the son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed black slave, born in Lima, Peru, in 1579. Because he was, in the terms of the time, a “mulatto,” he was barred by law from becoming a full member of any religious order. At the age of 15 he was received as a servant at the Dominican Convent of the Rosary, in Lima. When Martin was 24 the prior — having grown quite familiar with Martin’s devotion — essentially ignored the law and allowed Martin to become a lay brother.

Martin was always ready to put others’ needs over his own. When the convent was in financial need, he suggested that they sell him. He worked in the infirmary from the time he took vows until his death, and when an epidemic struck, he went to the quarantined parts of the convent to server the sick novices there.

He ministered to everyone who needed his help: to African slaves and to the Spanish nobility. He made no distinctions. He begged enough money to feed about 160 people every day and still hand out money to the poor. He even defied his own prior! The story is told of Martin finding an Indian with a knife wound and taking him to his own room in the convent until he could move him to a hospice, something that was not allowed. You simply did not bring outsiders into your room. The Prior reprimanded him, but Martin said “Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity.” After that, the prior – wisely —  allowed him to follow his conscience.

So go figure. He was poor, and yet he gave money and food away. He took care of everyone. That, my friends, is how the Kingdom of God breaks in. That is how people see it.

Jesus was never one to tell people to sit back and watch or to tell others to sit back and watch. In order to come true, the Beatitudes must be put into action. The popular sentiment “Let go and let God” just doesn’t jibe with Jesus’ message unless it’s amended to “Let go and Let God use you in service of His kingdom.” In order to make the Beatitudes real, we are the ones who should going out to people in need and relieving that need. Just reading the blessings and sitting back thinking “oh, how nice” doesn’t cut the mustard.

But what if we could do even better than helping those in need? Could we change the conditions that put these people in need in the first place?  Could those of us who enjoy privilege, who have resources, change things? In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “We need to stop pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

We might never reach the point where no one is hungry, no one is poor, but shouldn’t we at least try?

Because that trying is also how the Kingdom of God breaks in. People will see it. And the cool thing is, the people who work toward the Kingdom of God are some of the happiest people you will ever meet. They are…blessed.

Amen.

 

Good Friday and Earth Day

I posted this about 8 years ago on Facebook. — on Good Friday, 2011. I just reread it yesterday and decided it still holds up, so I wanted to get it on my blog. It’s just as pertinent today as it was then, if not more so. I’ve edited it a bit, because over the 8 years I’ve become better at writing this sort of thing.


 

I’ve been thinking a lot the last few days about the number of Facebook posts I’ve seen talking about how awesome God (or Jesus) is, and how great it is to just praise him.  How only Jesus can save the world.  The confluence today of Good Friday and Earth Day got me thinking even more.  I’ve seen posts where people say that instead of thinking about Earth Day they’re going to spend the day remembering Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  People even seem upset that something as secular as Earth Day would be scheduled on Good Friday.  The nerve!

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to focus on Christ’s sacrifice today, but…

Two questions come to mind.

The first is, “Why don’t you remember that every day?”  We’ll let that pass, because I celebrate holy days, too.  Today is a special remembrance, beyond what we do every day.  It’s appropriate.  As human beings, special remembrances are important to us.

But the second thought is, “Why do you have to choose?”

Christ was very clear on what it takes to please him.  Check out Matthew 25:31- 46, the parable of the sheep and the goats.  It’s a pretty uncomfortable story for us, because the people who get into heaven (the sheep) are the ones who did something, not the ones who just said “I believe.”  It’s clear that Jesus is interested in action.

Matthew 7:21 also comes to mind. In the NIV, it reads “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  It would seem that just praising God isn’t enough.  It would seem that Jesus wants more.

Again, in his Epistle James says “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James 2:14-18, NIV)

You don’t have to choose between faith and deeds. Why would you have to choose between praising God and caring for His Creation? The environment we have been systematically trashing for many, many years was God’s gift to us.  Does ignoring it while praising Jesus make sense? I don’t think so.

Luckily, you don’t have to stop thinking of Christ on the Cross to think about doing something to help preserve the environment that God created for us.  As long as we’re contemplating Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for our sins, maybe we should think, “What can I do to honor that sacrifice?”  Maybe we can do something today, no matter how small, to help preserve the Earth and the future generations that he died for.  Something as simple as cleaning or changing your furnace filter — five, ten minutes, tops.  Something as simple as recycling that aluminum can — a few seconds  Something as simple as turning down the temperature on the hot water heater –thirty seconds at the most.  Something as simple as not driving somewhere just because you can.  Save the trip for when you really need to go, or walk, or don’t go at all. It doesn’t have to be anything huge.  Just intentional.  Take the moment to do something.

I don’t want to speak for God, but I have a hunch he’ll be pleased.

Good Friday, 2011