June 19, 2016
The Fourth Sunday after Trinity
This was a topic I wasn’t going to preach on today. The news, media, blogs, etc. have all discussed it to finite degree. I just didn’t think it would be necessary. However, I was wrong. I have been asked so many questions and asked for my thoughts on the matter so many times and given severity of the topic, I decided maybe I should. I will try to make it short, but you all know how I sometimes get onto a rant. I couldn’t possibly put all my thoughts together in such a short time anyway, so, here is my feeble attempt.
By now, we have all heard of the tragic events in Orlando. It would seem the terror took place prior to most of us being in this chapel last Sunday. I had not heard anything of it until late Sunday night. I guess I do not turn on the news or log into Facebook often enough to know the events that happen outside of our city.
It was horrific news, to be sure. It never ceases to amaze me how this country seems to be spiraling out of control with shootings. Many are quick to point out that it is the “Islamics”. And by so doing, we are classifying a group of people into a lump implying they are all the same. So much hate in the world. So much hate.
Did you know Christians are overzealous prudish fanatics that don’t do anything fun and only want to kill “Islamics?” Well, that is how Christians are viewed by non-Christians in various parts of the world. Would it be true? I imagine there are a couple here and there, but hardly all of us.
That’s okay; did you know all priests are child molesters? Yup! Every one of us! I apparently, missed that memo too.
My point is, it only takes 2% of a given demographic and population to ruin it for the other 98%.
In the Quran, some argue that the second half of the book is more militant in direction. Yes, that would be relatively true, because at the time that Mohamad wrote this section; his tribe was in war with his own people. So, of course it reflects this, but it cannot be taken as a whole or out of context.
Infidels, as mentioned in the Quran, were specific enemies who have long been dead. A call for Jihad was not a general direction toward invaders in general, but of invaders who threated a Muslim home in particular. Killings of innocents and self have always been prohibited by true Islamic teaching.
Like the bible, interpretation is what makes the difference between a saint and a savage. As an example, we read in Psalm 137:9, “How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.” Does this mean any of us in the Christian world run out with our first born and throw them against the rocks? Of course not. Everything is about context.
“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Deuteronomy 13:6-10) This passage is from our Christian Bible. Are we any different or better than that of Islam?
There are some idiot pastors out there – yes, I said idiot! – who are saying this whole thing is a punishment from God towards the gays in that night club! According to one pastor, "The good news is that there's 50 less pedophiles in this world, because, you know these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles."
Ooookay then! I wish he would tell us how he really feels. (No, I am not telling you who said it, but suffice to say, he wasn’t alone.) These are the jokers that give a bad name to Christianity and certainly do not teach the same Jesus I know.
Apparently, they need to go back to Bible school and relearn who and what God is. In the person of Jesus Christ, violence is never advocated. It only goes to show that even we Christians have some people out there who are radical and do not form the whole. Maybe we do not carry out as many terrorist acts in the modern age, but a few hundred years ago we did. We are not guilt free.
Can you hear Jesus crying and weeping over the grave crime that has happened here? Can you just hear Him weep for all His children? I can. In my soul and my own tears or sorrow.
Of course, this begs the question of how and why God allows evil in the world, of which I mentioned to you all a few weeks back, I would be doing a series of sermons on said topic later this year - early next. Free-will comes into play here, but it will take more time than one sermon to explain, so I will stay on topic. However, for the moment we have to trust in God’s providence and His desire to allow humans the freedom to choose Him freely. Problem is some people get in the way of those who are not choosing Him and get caught in the acts of terrorism they perpetrate.
And so, today, on Father’s Day, we have many who will not be celebrating with smiles, but with tears. Father’s do not know sexuality, race, nationality, religion or social classes. No, fathers only know them as their children. Someone’s child has been taken away from them in a very cruel way.
As a country, we cannot agree on what it will take to achieve peace. We all have our ideas and we are sometimes very vocal about them. We cannot agree on how we should stop the innocents from dying in these horrific ways. Facebook is loaded with people’s opinions on what will stop the seemingly non-stop murderous rampages that have been taking place. Given all the theories and information being found about this man who committed this heinous crime, we can’t even agree on what caused him to carry out such an act.
One source says that 125 additional people have died since the Orlando shootings due to guns. We can’t even agree on who or when someone should be able to possess a gun (or what type), but certainly there is a problem here!
However, there are some things we can and should be able to agree on in this time of need. We have to be a voice to those around us – to be good Christians and examples to others. We do not have to agree on theology, but we can agree on the mercy and love of God. We can agree that Jesus calls all of humanity to love one another – even in disagreement.
We need to be advocates that know anger which leads to violence, is never an appropriate response. In fact, even verbal violence is wrong. We all get caught in that trap. We should be people of peace who renounce violence of any kind.
We need to remember that we live in a civilized world and we are civilized people and should act as such and never have a lack of respect for people different from ourselves -- whether because of political affiliation, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, religion, or handicap. Hate is a very negative and harmful emotion that needs to be checked in us all from time to time. I despise some four lettered words, and “hate” is one of them. We all should.
It will serve us well to know that to proactively initiate an act of kindness to someone who's radically different from us will bless both the giver and the receiver. Remember that Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:43-45). Never does Jesus say to harm or kill your enemies.
We would all do well to let God be the judge of other people and stop presuming we know the mind and heart of God in these matters. We should learn to work peacefully with people who may hold opinions and positions quite different from our own. Sometimes, compromise is better for the greater good.
Let’s face it; our life here on earth will never perfectly fit into our vision of what it should be. We can be obstacles against this in our own right. Our view point, frankly, is merely our own and not necessarily what others may ascribe to.
Today, Jesus still weeps with the many family and friends of those lost on that terrible day. Jesus wept and said, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes" (Luke 19:42.)
Oh, how true. Many seek vengeance, but that is not the answer and it will only make for more violence. Vengeance is mine, said the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35).
We do not know the mind of the man who did this. We have many ideas from the many resources we have today in which we have information at our fingertips, but regardless, he is now gone too. He is in the Lord’s hands to deal with as He sees fit; may He have mercy on his soul. We do well now to be instruments of comfort and instruments of change.
This country does need some change. No matter how small of a group we are, we can still be an instrument of change. Let's stop doing whatever might be hurtful and start doing whatever might be healing. Let's do it now.
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him'" (Lamentations 3:22-24).
Now, instead of a prayer like one I normally give, I have here the list of names of those who died that horrible day and I ask that our Lord to grant peace eternal unto them. Though I will not read them out loud, let us all offer a moment of silence for each of these souls remembered here today. My heart and prayers go out to all these families this day. And may fathers everywhere cherish their children, whomever or whatever they may be.
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Juan Ramon Guerroro, 22
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Kimberly Morris, 37
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Amanda Alvear, 25
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Cory James Connell, 21
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Frank Hernandez, 27
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Let us remember the additional 125 people gunned down this week, as well as little Lane Graves taken by an alligator at the Disney World resort. May they all be in paradise with Jesus this day.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.