Sunday, August 18, 2019

August 18, 2019
Assumption Sunday
(Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10; Luke 1:39-56)
I want to start today with a little poem. I have had a printed out copy of this about a couple decades or so ago and it can easily be found on the net. It has nothing really to do with my sermon topic; it merely was in a packet of notes I was rustling through while searching for something I was looking for related to my sermon. I paused at it as if an inner voice was telling me to use it for today’s sermon. Maybe it is meant for a follower of mine on Facebook, who knows …. But here we go, relevant or not.
Two traveling angels stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family. The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansion's guest room. Instead the angels were given a small space in the cold basement.
As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it. When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied, 'Things aren't always what they seem.'
The next night the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife.  After sharing what little food they had the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good night's rest. When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field.
The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel how could you have let this happen? The first man had everything, yet you helped him, she accused. The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let the cow die.
'Things aren't always what they seem, the older angel replied. 'When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldn't find it.' 'Then last night as we slept in the farmers bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead.
Things aren't always what they seem.' Sometimes that is exactly what happens when things don't turn out the way they should. If you have faith, you just need to trust that every outcome is always to your advantage. You just might not know it until some time later..    
 Yesterday is history.
 Tomorrow a mystery.
 Today is a gift.
 That's why it's called the present!                
 Never take away anyone's hope, That may be all they have.
______________________________________________________________________________
Hopefully that helped whomever it was meant for. Okay, now on with the Assumption. Why is the Assumption important?
At the core of our faith is the belief, based on the biblical accounts, that Christ experienced a bodily resurrection from the dead and ascended, while still in bodily form, to heaven. The Assumption of Mary confirms that this extraordinary reversal of death is not limited only to Christ. If Mary can end up in heaven, body and soul, so can we who share in her humanity.
This isn’t something that should be surprising to you. Jesus’ message has many references in which he is telling us how we shall obtain eternal life, and thus, entry into paradise.
One of the peculiarities of the Old Testament, at least from a Christian perspective, is that it did not have a well-defined concept of heaven. When people died, even the righteous, they ended up in Sheol, the shadowy underworld that is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek Hades, and thought of as Gehenna in the Talmud. The ancient Israelites did understand that there was a heavenly temple from which God reigned. This is beautifully depicted in Isaiah’s vision. But they didn’t necessarily view heaven as a destination for saints. Enoch, Elijah, and Moses were exceptions to the rule.
The Assumption of Mary clarifies and confirms that the heaven of the New Testament is a place where the saints experience the presence of God. She is the first one to enter under the New Covenant. In a way, Mary opened up heaven for rest of the saints (aka believers), just as she opened up the earth to the fullness of God’s Incarnate presence.
The whole point of the dogma is its emphasis on Mary’s bodily assumption. Otherwise there would be no need for it. Arguing that Mary’s soul went to heaven at the end of her earthly life is to claim nothing different than what happens to every other person who died in a state of grace. Of course, those who aren’t “saints” would have to make a pit-stop in a state of cleansing, commonly known by Catholics as purgatory, before entering into the fullness of heaven, but still the overall point holds.
Mary shares in Christ’s mission. This is based upon her role as the New Eve to His New Adam, which is evident in Simeon’s prophecy and her presence at the crucifixion. Mary’s Assumption to heaven is the final reversal of the evils of sin and death unleashed by the Fall.
Mary’s assumption means that there are no bones or tombs of Our Lady to venerate. This means that, contrary to the Protestant accusations, Marian veneration is particularly Christo-centric. Thanks to the Assumption, it is impossible to think of her without thinking of her being in the fullness of Christ’s heavenly presence.
Some protestants go so far as to say there is no proof. I usually answer by saying, “Yes and no.”
First of all, while it is true that the early Christian writers do not explicitly mention the Assumption of Mary, there is an ancient and curious silence about her bodily remains that cries out for an explanation. Sometimes, it is said, "silence" can be "deafening."
We know from Tradition and apocryphal books that Joseph had died prior to Jesus’ ministry. We know that after the crucifixion Mary was cared for by the Apostle John (Jn 19:26-27). Early Christian writings say John went to live at Ephesus and that Mary accompanied him. There is some dispute about where she ended her life, whether in Ephesus or back at Jerusalem. Neither of these cities nor any other claimed her remains, although there are claims about possessing her (temporary) tomb. Why did no city claim the bones of Mary? Apparently because there were no bones to claim, and people knew it.
In the early Christian centuries, relics of saints were jealously guarded and highly prized. The bones of those martyred were quickly gathered up and preserved. There are many accounts of this in the biographies of those who gave up their lives for the Faith [for example, the bones of St. Peter and St. Paul were widely known to be preserved in Rome, and the sepulcher of David and the tomb of St. John the Baptist are both mentioned in Scripture]. Yet here was Mary, certainly the most privileged of all the saints ... but we have no record of her bodily remains being venerated anywhere.
Surely, as important as Mary was to the new movement, her relics would have been preciously guarded, if she had not been bodily taken into heaven.
Explicit mention of the Assumption of Mary begins to appear in the fourth century. We have an account of the event given by St. John Damascene in a copy of a letter he preserved from a fifth century Patriarch of Jerusalem named Juvenalius to the Byzantine Empress Pulcheria. The Empress had apparently asked for relics of the most Holy Virgin Mary. Patriarch Juvenalius replied that, in accordance with ancient tradition, the body of the Mother of God had been taken to Heaven upon her death, and he expressed surprise that the empress was unaware of this fact (implying that it must have been common knowledge in the Church at the time).
Juvenalius joined to this letter an account of how the Apostles had been assembled in miraculous fashion for the burial of the Mother of God, and how after the arrival of the Apostle St. Thomas, her tomb had been opened, and her body was not there, and how it had been revealed to the Apostles that she had been taken to Heaven, body and soul. Later, in the sixth century, belief in the Assumption was defended by St. Gregory of Tours, and no saint or father of the (Catholic) Church thereafter disputed the doctrine.
In fact, one can argue that the mystery of the Assumption is right in the very place we would most expect to find it if the doctrine were true: namely, in the writings of the Apostle St. John, the one into whose care our Lord placed His Mother at the hour of His death on the Cross, and especially in what may be the last of the New Testament books to be written, a book almost certainly written after Mary's earthly life was over, the Book of Revelation.
In his book Hail Holy Queen, Dr. Scott Hahn shows conclusively that the story of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth in St. Luke's Gospel, chapter one, bears numerous and remarkable similarities to the account in the Old Testament of King David bringing the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). The similarities are too many to be accidental: St. Luke is telling us that Mary herself is the new Ark of the Covenant. Just as the Ark in ancient Israel contained the tables of the Law, and some of the manna-bread from Heaven — signs of the Old Covenant — so Mary's womb contained the sign of the promise of the New Covenant and the true Bread of Life: Jesus our Savior Himself.
Thus, it was already believed by the Apostolic Church that Mary was the new Ark of the Covenant.
Now, keep in mind that the old Ark of the Covenant had been lost for many centuries, and none of the Jews knew where it could be found. (It remains missing to this very day). With that in mind, look what we find in today’s Epistle reading at the end of chapter 11 of the Book of Revelation:
“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm.”
What an audio-visual spectacular! The Ark had been found! But look what the Revelation tells us next:
“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child.... She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.”
Clearly, what St. John was shown in his vision, recorded here in the Book of Revelation, is that the (new) Ark of the Covenant is now in Heaven as a "woman clothed with the sun" whose child is the Messiah. In fact, several of the Church fathers saw this passage as a reference to Mary, the Mother of our Savior, including St. Ephrem the Syrian, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine, among others.
So, while all this may seem to be trivia to some, it is vitally important to Catholics. With Mary’s Assumption, we can feel confident of our own entry into paradise. We do well to remember Jesus’ words: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). It is Jesus who says if we, “shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” … we shall have our mansion in paradise, just as Mary has before us.
We do well to honor Mary. Everyone surely remembers the old joke (who knows, maybe it’s true?) of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s that I have repeated on occasion - One day our Blessed Lord was walking in his kingdom and he was noticing souls who seemed to have won entry into heaven quite easily. So, the Lord said to St. Peter, "How are all these people getting into heaven?" "Don't blame me, Lord" St. Peter says, "Every time I close a door, your Mother opens a window!" That she does, no joke or doubt about that!
Let us ask her to open one for each of us!
Let us Pray.
That Our Lady Mary, Mother of the Church, will guide and support all church leaders with maternal love. We pray to the Lord.
For all those who have left the practice of the faith, that through the intercession of the Queen of Heaven they receive the grace to return the Church and the Sacraments. We pray to the Lord.
That the Assumption of Mary into heaven will fill all Christians with an ardent desire for sanctity and the life of heaven. We pray to the Lord.
For an end to gun violence of all kinds in our country, and for victims and those who mourn them. We pray to the Lord.

For our parish and our entire parish family that we may always take an active role in caring for those in need and offer the hope that comes from Jesus Christ. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.                  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, you have raised up the Blessed Virgin Mary to share in your communion of love. Accept us into that holy embrace through the sacrifice of our prayers. Dear Father, we recognize that proclaiming your gospel is especially challenging at this time of cultural and social upheaval. We pray that we ourselves be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to proclaim and live your message proudly and with charity to those who would deny you. We ask all these prayers, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

August 11, 2019
Transfiguration Sunday
(2 Peter 1:16-19; Luke 9:28-36)
When Neil Armstrong hopped off the ladder of the lunar module Eagle and put the first footprint on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, the world became a very different place.
From that point on, generations of people would point to that event as the pinnacle of human achievement and subsequently wonder why everything isn’t easier by comparison.
If we can put a man on the moon, for example, then why can’t we cure cancer? End world hunger? Or keep certain individuals in leadership off of Twitter?
All are worthy, if not apparently impossible, goals, but we have to remember that every “moonshot” goal, as we now know them, began with a dream.
In their book The Moonshot Effect: Disrupting Business as Usual, Lisa Goldman and Kate Purmal define a moonshot goal as a big idea project that harnesses human aspirations. It’s a turn away from business as usual, and involves —
•new processes,
•audacious innovation
•and collaborative teamwork.
The value of such goals is often found in the aftereffects — elevating new and heroic leaders and enabling ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things.
Think of the massive numbers of steely-eyed missile men (and women) with slide rules and those first plucky astronauts at NASA who invested their lives in the Apollo 11 mission and its predecessors and you get the idea. As an example, three brilliant African-American women at NASA -- Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson -- serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. (There’s a great movie about these three women called, “Hidden Figures” I recommend it!) A moonshot goal looks impossible on the surface, but determined people with a clear vision can make what seems impossible become a reality.
The disciples of Jesus didn’t seem all that interested in going to the moon, but that didn’t stop them from having stars in their eyes and their own.
They had left behind their former occupations to follow an itinerant rabbi around Galilee because they were compelled by his vision of the kingdom of God. For first-century Jews, that vision was not the peaceable kingdom of Isaiah, but the social justice of an Amos or Joel. It was gritty and political. For many of them, moonshot thinking was the thought that someday their Roman occupiers would be overthrown, God’s anointed king and messiah set on the throne, and God’s presence returned to the temple.
It was a vision of freedom from oppression with peace and security for all. It seemed like an impossibility given the number of Roman spears and warhorses that patrolled the roads and streets. But then again, there was this Jesus who seemed to fit the mold of the kind of leader who could make it happen. He had performed amazing miracles, drawn huge crowds and become somewhat popular with the people. Maybe he was the one who could shoot the moon, reverse their fortunes and transform them from paupers into princes.
It didn’t take long for Jesus to correct them of that notion. His vision of the kingdom and how it would come to be was quite different than theirs.
In Matthew 16:13-16, Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was and Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus, however, would define the Messiah’s mission in far more graphic terms than Peter and his mates could have imagined. Before being fitted for a crown, Jesus would need to embrace a cross. It was an unimaginable scenario.
This is not moonshot thinking. This is moonbeam thinking.
Eight days later, Jesus pulls his executive team of Peter, James and John aside and takes them up on a mountain for a corporate retreat. It’s on this unnamed mountain that Jesus gives them a glimpse of his ultimate moonshot idea by revealing his own heavenly glory.
The high mountain in this passage has been surmised by historians as Tabor or Hermon, but probably no specific mountain was intended by the Luke. Its meaning is theological rather than geographical, possibly recalling the revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 24:12–18) and to Elijah at the same place.
While Jesus was praying, his face and clothes were transformed into a kind of heavenly brilliance. It’s an image that recalls a similar account of Moses’ meeting God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34). Moses’ face became so brilliant that he had to cover it with a veil afterward.
In Luke’s account, Moses is not only mentioned, but he actually shows up to converse with the glorified Jesus along with the prophet Elijah.
How did the disciples know it was Moses and Elijah? It wasn’t that they were wearing nametags like one would on a corporate retreat!
Instead, they knew their Scriptures and the tradition. According to Deuteronomy, Moses died and was buried by God before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, but some traditions had said that Moses hadn’t died at all and, like the prophet Elijah, had simply been taken up into heaven (Deuteronomy 34:1-8; 2 Kings 2). (There is also a Scripture from Jude 1:9 which indicates that St. Michael and Satan have a disagreement over Moses body, though it is not clear as to what specifically. Additionally, in a Jewish apocryphal, called the Assumption of Moses with reference similar.) Moses and Elijah, many believed, would someday return as forerunners of the Messiah. If Jesus was the real Messiah, as Peter had discerned, then it made sense that these two glorious figures should appear beside him in his glory, representing the Law and the Prophets.
The key here, however, is not so much the appearance of the two towering figures of the Old Testament, but the conversation. Luke says they were speaking of Jesus’ “departure” which would soon to take place in Jerusalem. The Greek word for “departure” is “exodus,” which puts Jesus’ mission into the larger context of the biblical story.
In the days of Moses, the Israelites were set free from slavery in Egypt — a moonshot vision for which they had prayed some 400 years. Their freedom was signified and subsequently remembered by the Passover meal and the blood of the sacrificed lamb that saved them from death and pointed the way to new life and a promised land.
Jesus was about to initiate a new exodus, but in this case, this exodus would deliver all of humanity from the enslaving power of sin and death itself. That deliverance would require a new Passover and a new once-for-all sacrifice as Jesus himself became the Paschal Lamb.
This was Jesus’ moonshot mission and destiny: the salvation of the whole world. All that Moses and Elijah represented, the witness of the Law and the Prophets, had been pointing to this goal.      
The sleepy disciples saw most of this dazzling vision, but it still didn’t sink in that Jesus was more than they imagined and his mission more comprehensive than a political coup.
Peter piped up with an idea: “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Luke adds that Peter didn’t really know what he was saying.
Peter’s construction plan essentially put Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah, which tells us that he still didn’t get who Jesus was. It took the cloud of God the Father’s own presence and glory and his voice to set Peter straight: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him!” It’s a moment that reminds us of the Father’s voice at Jesus’ baptism. The voice says, in effect, that this is the Son of God, not just another prophet. He is preeminent — not over and against the Law and the Prophets but as the one who interprets and fulfills them. He is the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant promises God made to Adam, to Abraham, to Moses and to David. He is the one who will crush the serpent’s head and the one through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
In this revelation of glory, we learn along with the disciples that the God who could rescue his Son from suffering confirms that his mission will nonetheless go through the cross. He will not go there because it is easy, but because it is hard, to borrow a phrase from John F. Kennedy. It is a challenge he is willing to accept out of love, one he is unwilling to postpone and one that he will win for all of us. It’s the ultimate moonshot, but one that will be accomplished by the very God who put the moon there in the first place!
The disciples still don’t get this right away. In the next scene, there is the dilemma about casting out a demon, which they can’t seem to accomplish. In the next, they are arguing cabinet positions in the coming administration. It will take the death and resurrection of Jesus to bring things into focus and help them realize that God’s project was more audacious than anything humans could ever conceive. God could have done something easier, but it would not have the impact we needed.
But it’s not just a moonshot goal that we admire as a historical reality. Like any great moonshot, its value is found in the aftereffect. To know that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again reminds us that anything is possible.
We are followers of the one who has beaten sin and death and given us the freedom not only to imagine God’s kingdom of ultimate peace, redemption and renewal, but to begin living it out in the present. When we look at the world as it currently is, with its constant cycle of bad news and what seems to be an increasingly broken way of life, we remember that this is not the way things will always be. We live and work in the present in light of the future made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
To that end, Jesus invites us to dream of our own moonshot goals for the places we live and serve. Often we have dreams, ideas and goals that are too small and too easily attainable — goals that look good on a stat sheet.
Jesus, however, invites us to dream of the transformation of the world and the community around us. A transfigurative experience empowered by moonshot thinking may take some cross bearing, sacrifice and commitment to make it happen.
We follow the ultimate visionary leader, however, who promises to be with us always and offers us the power of the Holy Spirit.
We humans have put a man on the moon.
God raised a man from the dead and “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named, not only in this age but in the age to come” (Ephesians 1:20-21).
This is the God-man, the Christ, the Son of the living God, about whom the voice on the mountain declared, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him” (v. 35).
When we follow Jesus, there is no moonshot too imaginative, too daring, too audacious for us to consider.
Let us pray.
That we commit ourselves to always meditate on the moonshot goal that Jesus accomplished for us, and to this end, we know and believe that all things are indeed possible through Christ our Lord. We pray to the Lord.
That we will see the transfigurative light waiting for us when Christ calls us home to him. We pray to the Lord.
For national and local leaders, may God’s wisdom inspire and guide them as they seek ways to confront, and eliminate, violence in our communities, and to ensure the safety of all people. We pray to the Lord.
For victims of gun violence throughout our country, especially all who were killed by the senseless and evil shootings (and stabbings) this week, may they rest in peace. May the family and friends left behind be comforted. We pray to the Lord.
That our governmental leaders stop the separation of immigrant children from their parents, and use more appropriate moral and ethical treatment of undocumented immigrants than what is currently being employed. We pray to the Lord.
That the two sisters from Israel studying at the University of Indiana who returned to their dorm to find two swastikas on the wall may find compassion and support and that religious tolerance be spread amongst all humankind. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.                  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Sovereign Lord, forgive us for choosing violence instead of grace. Give us the courage to trust that the cross is more powerful than the sword. We thank you for the assurance that, in the end, love wins. Help us to live without fear in the light of your promise. Holy God, we confess that we have betrayed the Good News by turning inward, serving ourselves first. We have not taken up our cross and we have been too quick to build up worldly possessions for ourselves. Forgive us for not helping to reveal Christ to the world. Forgive us for not living into Christ’s example and serving those in need before serving ourselves. Draw us back to the way of Christ, so that we might know the reign of God is drawing near – an everlasting moonshot goal! We ask all these things through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA
http://www.stfrancisucc.org/donate.html

Monday, August 5, 2019

August 4, 2019
The Seventh Sunday after Trinity
 (Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21)
Walk into your average middle school in America and you’ll encounter some of the most self-conscious people on the planet — eighth-graders.
These kids are a jangle of nerves and emotions. They’re on the cusp of high school and want desperately to know someone in high school. Eighth-graders are those kids with whom no self-respecting high schooler wants to hang out. They’re often arrogant, hateful and sometimes both. They’re emotionally sensitive. They eye roll a lot.
Eighth-graders are denizens, according to some, of Dante’s fifth circle of hell. There is a quote on the web, which I could not determine the author, that goes like this:  “A grotesque wasteland where underqualified teachers and posers alike turn defenseless 12-year-olds into vapid shells of their former selves. After about three years of this methodical torture, these poor souls are shipped to the sixth circle of hell, otherwise known as high school.”
A typical eighth-grader wakes up and goes to the closet to pick out clothes for the day believing that every fashion choice is a critical one. After all, everyone else is watching! A fashion faux pas can be humiliating, so it’s important to make a statement with what you wear. (It hits me too! Every time I prepare for Mass, I worry if my outfit will be just right! LOL)
But then imagine these same eighth-graders walking into an art class and noticing that their teacher has worn the same boring outfit day after day for months! Like, really? Aren’t art teachers supposed to be all colorful and stuff? Is she weird? Or has she been around tempera paint and hot glue a little too long?
Actually, she is one of the coolest teachers in the school, and her fashion statement really rubbed off on these adolescent consumers.
Meet Julia Mooney, an art teacher at William Allen Middle School in Moorestown, New Jersey. At the beginning of the 2018 school year, she put on a simple gray button-down dress and then wore it every school day for 100 days straight.
It wasn’t about being weird. For Mooney, it was about teaching her students about the growing “culture of excess” that has filled American closets to overflowing with cheap clothing that isn’t ethically sourced or manufactured and that, most of the time, eventually winds up in a landfill.
The typical American now buys 60 percent more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago and keeps them half as long. Mooney thinks this is a major problem on a lot of levels. “There’s no rule anywhere that says we have to wear a different thing every day,” says Julia. “Why do we ask this of each other? Why do we require that we each wear something different every day and buy more clothes and feed into this fashion culture?” (Talk about bursting my bubble with my Mass ensemble!)
Instead, Julia advocates for what she calls “sustainable fashion”: wearing clothing that’s made in an eco-friendly way; buying fewer, but better-made pieces of clothing; wearing the same clothes more often; and making sure they’re recycled when they are replaced or no longer needed. (I will have you know, I do not discard my Mass outfits! That’s just rude!)
And Julia’s not alone in her thinking. More and more clothing manufacturers are making clothing out of recycled materials and eschewing unsustainable products such as petroleum-based synthetic rubber for corn-based materials in things like shoes. Buying better-made products and wearing them longer is the new fashion statement!
Rather than rolling their eyes at her, Mooney’s students seem to be on board with the trend she set. Some of them began their own experiment of wearing the same clothes on consecutive days (though not for 100!), while some of their teachers got into the act as well. And, yes, in answer to the obvious question, Julia does wash her dress frequently! It’s not about hygiene — it’s about wearing something of quality for the long haul while making a difference in the world.
For Paul, however, this fashion isn’t so much about what disciples of Jesus put on their bodies but about how they clothe their “minds.” Because Christians have been “raised with Christ,” we should “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” It’s about a mindset that seeks to sustain the life that is “hidden with Christ in God” until Christ is revealed. For Paul, the only label that matters is the one put on us by the risen Christ!
Mooney bucked the trend of most of the world that seeks to wear whatever is trendy and expendable. We live in a culture where people seem to change their minds as much as they change their clothes. If you are what you wear, then Paul says that we are fast, cheap and easy when it comes to our spiritual clothing as well. If you’re going to live sustainably, then you have to be willing to first do a purge of whatever you’ve been hiding in the back of the closet. “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly…” says Paul. Get rid of the junk that you’ve been keeping that doesn’t fit anymore: “the old self with its practices” when you were living life apart from Christ. Dump things like “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.” These are the things that the rest of the world puts on and displays regularly as a way of comparing themselves to one another.
A new mindset, a sustainable mindset, begins with stripping off “the old self with its practices” and replacing your spiritual wardrobe with a new one — a “new self” that is “being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.”
In other words, the wardrobe we’re called to wear is the one we were given from the beginning when God created humans in God’s own image (Genesis 1:26-27). Remember that those first humans started out “naked and unashamed” and it was only after their sin that they began comparing themselves to one another and “knew that they were naked” (Genesis 2:25; 3:7). Paul reminds us that the character with which we were originally outfitted was the very character of God, which bears no shame. Christ, the perfect model of that divine character, enables us to put on our original wardrobe through his defeat of sin and death in his crucifixion and resurrection.
Unlike a few trend setters and designers in the fashion world who set the agenda for what the rest of the world buys, the renewed and sustainable wardrobe of the Christian, says Paul, is universal and designed to be worn by all kinds of people. Whether you’re a gentle soul who prefers to wear tweed or a slave to fashion or a teenage boy, what matters is not what you wear on the outside but what you’re wearing inside. “Christ is all and in all,” says Paul, and when Christ is in you, then your spiritual clothing and mindset will reflect him regardless of whether your outer clothes come from Walmart or Prada.
So, what does that sustainable spiritual wardrobe look like? It is in the verse immediately after the last line of our Epistle. Like most of our closets, it needs to have some basic pieces that are the foundation for everyday wear. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (v.12).
Notice that Paul says that we should clothe ourselves with these things, which means that they are a conscious choice. Just as a person stands in front of his or her closet every morning and wonders what to put on, Paul suggests that we who have been “raised with Christ” make a daily choice to put on his character for display to the rest of the world. We are to “bear with one another” and “forgive each other” as the Lord has forgiven us (v. 13).
But over all these things we are to put on love which is, “the bond of perfection” (v. 14). Love is the characteristic that completes the ensemble and marks us as belonging to the Jesus brand. It’s the article of our spiritual clothing that becomes more broken-in and comfortable with extended, everyday use. It never wears out, and it never goes out of style. We’ve been given the perfect pattern of love in Jesus, and when we let the “peace of Christ” rule in our hearts, we become “one body” that can influence the world to dress like we do and to become part of Jesus’ brand as well. Our teaching, our worship and our every word and deed are commercials that point to Christ.
Mooney understood that what we present to the world from our inner selves is far more important than what we drape over our outer selves. What really matters is that we are living to make a better world. It’s a daily choice to move away from the culture of excess to the culture of enough. (Okay, fine, but I am not giving up my plush Mickeys!)
When we make the daily choice to put on the character of Christ even before we put on our clothes, we make a fashion statement that the world can’t help but notice! “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (v. 17).
Brand Jesus is the only one that is sustainable forever!
Let us pray.
In all today’s readings, it is made clear to us the uselessness of pursuing material wealth in this life. We pray for the wisdom to recognize that life on this earth is short-lived and that our time is best spent in preparing for eternal happiness, in the presence of our God in the next. We pray to the Lord.
Lord, help us to realize when pride, covetousness and greed enter into our lives. We pray that we be freed from the unholy and unhelpful grip of selfishness and greed and that we recognize our Christian duty to look after those most in need. We pray to the Lord.
That those who devoted themselves to the pursuit of wealth and power know the fulfillment found in Jesus’ path of service and generosity. We pray to the Lord.
That we all listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd calling us to become rich in what matters to God. We pray to the Lord.
For victims who were murdered in the El Paso and Dayton shootings; may they rest in peace eternal. May the families and friends left behind be carried in the palm of God’s hand and be comforted. We pray to the Lord.
That legislators will wake up to the need and pass legislation that will help stop this endless bloodshed this country has been experiencing. We pray to the Lord.
That fervent devotion to the Eucharist will cause the church to grow in numbers and holiness. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.                  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, help us to put away the old self and to be renewed in spirit, recreated in righteousness and holiness of truth. God of life, you sent your son to lead us to you, our true treasure and source of all peace. Hear our prayers that we might be freed from the desire to always have more, and instead invest our time and resources in building the kingdom of God. Amen
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor - St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Sunday, July 28, 2019

July 28, 2019
The Sixth Sunday after Trinity
(Colossians 2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13)
If we really listen to what we are saying in the Lord's Prayer, we will no longer be able to "recite" it.
Let’s take a step back in time. The time is 1957. The place is Southside Elementary School. The scene is Miss Steele's second grade classroom. The school day is just beginning and students are putting away their books, settling into their desks, and whispering the latest news to nearby classmates. Talking is permitted until the tardy bell rings. The first bell signals that students can enter the building and make their way to the classrooms. The second bell means that you had better be in your desk and ready for prime time.
But first there is THE VOICE. THE VOICE comes to us over the intercom. THE VOICE belongs to the school principal, known only by name and never by sight (except by the unfortunate rule-breakers). It is THE VOICE that begins the daily routine. First, we stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, hand over heart, posture erect, facing the classroom flag. No sooner has "with liberty and justice for all" ceased its echo than we each would bow our head and recite in unison the Lord's Prayer. No one asks to leave the room; no one dares raise any objection; no one thinks twice about the appropriateness of this exercise.
Such was the culture in those latent days of innocence, especially in the Protestant South. The recitation of the Lord's Prayer was certainly not meant to offend anyone -- for whom could it have offended? Most of the people were either Baptist or Methodist with a few Presbyterians and Episcopalians thrown in for variety. There was a large Catholic church in our town, but no one recalls   knowing any Catholics. Jews were some historic people of the Old Testament, and one never even heard of Muslims. Since it was presumed that everyone was a Christian, who was there to object to the Lord's Prayer? Thus our secular educational experience and sectarian church experience was of one cloth -- a seamless cross-reference and mutual reinforcement.
What may arguably have been appropriate in an earlier era can just as arguably be seen as insensitively inappropriate today. The point here, however, is not to pick a fight with the tar baby of prayer in schools, but to evoke a memory of how many of us, early in our learning experience, encountered the Lord's Prayer.
In that earlier era, the Lord's Prayer, whether recited at school or at church, was for me just that -- a recitation -- a memorized script mumbled forth on cue. No thought as to its meaning, no reflection on its implication for my life, just a recitation. Its words were as familiar to all of us as those of the Pledge of Allegiance, but our understanding of it no more profound than our understanding, of liberty and justice for all, while knowing that the south was still unjustifiably segregated.
For many in the Boomer generation, this scenario is extremely familiar. Yet there are other ways to experience the Lord's Prayer. One is through the liturgy of worship. The scene goes something like this: Following an intercession for all of those present, the pastor says, " Instructed by the words of sacred Scripture and following the tradition of holy Church from of old, we now say:" and all of the congregants intone the words of the Lord's Prayer. Yet, even here, the prayer often comes forth as a memorized recitation rather than an expression of the heart. The only point of reflection is whether to recite the phrase "forgive us our debts," "forgive us our trespasses," or "forgive us our sins." I have heard of congregations where each phrase had its advocates and where the public recitation of the prayer was a theological battlefield as one group would try to "out-pray" the other. These competing theologies quickly gave way, however, to the desire by all not to be led into temptation.
Another way to encounter the Lord's Prayer is through a Bible study class. Here the Lord's Prayer becomes an object to be examined rather than a recitation to be memorized. In this setting one might learn of the intimate character of the term Abba, Father; the meaning of that strange word, "hallowed"; and the sorts of evil from which one ought to pray for deliverance. However it may have been learned, the truth remains that for many the prayer has been sent into semiretirement. It is no longer a liturgical component for worship, no longer an object of study, no longer a prayer with any meaningful relevance. Parents still insist that their children learn the prayer, but this is more out of cultural expediency than religious necessity -- more to prevent the embarrassment of ignorance, than to celebrate an element of faith. Hence why you have seen me add the responsorial prayers to the Mass, and the rosary and novenas to prior to the Mass over the years, all to help us to pray more.
Maybe it is time that the Lord's Prayer is dusted off and looked at again. With an attitude more seasoned; with eyes that have seen too much, yet want to see more; with a heart more tender and less rational, let's sit once again among these ancient words to hear them anew and afresh. In doing so, possibly something akin to what theologian Len Sweet would call a "faith-quake" will be experienced. The realization may come that in this prayer we had been standing on holy ground and did not have the good sense to remove our sandals. But more significantly, we might realize that the Lord's Prayer is a prayer we are not yet ready to pray.
In his book, The Lord and His Prayer, N.T. Wright points out that even though the word Abba is a word of intimacy, the real import of the idea of God as Father is to be found in an earlier reference. "The first occurrence in the Hebrew Bible of the idea of God as the Father comes when Moses marches in boldly to stand before Pharaoh, and says: "Thus says the Lord: Israel is my son, my firstborn. I said to you: Let my son go, that he may serve me.' (Exodus 4:22-23). For Israel to think of God as "Father,' then, was to hold on to the hope of liberty.... The very first words of the Lord's Prayer, therefore ... contains within it not just intimacy, but revolution."
To pray this prayer, therefore, indicates a desire to be set free from those ideas, those habits, and those attitudes that seek to hold us captive. The question is, "Are we at all certain that we want to be set free?" Our manner of behavior oftentimes belies our claim to faith. And having become comfortable in that behavior, seldom do we really want to undergo the discomfort associated with change.
I had to learn this. I allowed myself to fall out of the habit of daily structured prayer and lectio divina after moving here to California. I found my peace and spirituality slip away. I had to get back to my hour of prayer each morning, and evening breviary prayers to feel close my Lord again. Many say that our daily routine may not leave room for those things that nourish the soul, yet there is no willingness to make the hard choices that would be required to find space in our schedule for spiritual disciplines. We know that we are impatient, unforgiving, sarcastic or inattentive to those we love and who love us, and we really don't like being that way. But given the choice between exerting the energy to change or continuing to hurt others by our attitude, we too often choose the well-worn path of sameness. Or, to use Wright's analogy, we prefer to slave away in the house of the Pharaoh rather than embrace the implications of calling God "Father."
In short, we may need to be freed from our captivity to culture and comfort, but the haunting question is whether we want to be set free. If praying the Lord's Prayer -- if calling God "Father" -- is to acknowledge his liberating power and to confess our desire to participate in that liberating experience, then, maybe, the Lord's Prayer is a prayer that cannot yet be prayed.
In a past issue of Sojourners magazine, Stanley Hauerwas gives attention to another of the phrases in this prayer. Speaking of the petition, "Thy kingdom come," he reminds us that unlike earthly kingdoms with borders and boundaries, checkpoints and crossing guards, God's kingdom knows no boundaries.
Nationality? -- It doesn't matter.
Ethnicity? -- It doesn't matter.
Language? -- It doesn't matter.
Skin color? -- It doesn't matter.
Sexuality? -- It doesn’t matter.
Political affiliation? -- It doesn't matter.
Economic status? -- It doesn't matter.
Liberal? Conservative? -- It doesn't matter.
Theological position? -- It doesn't matter.
If this prayer is to be believed, Christians are bound by cords of grace to all persons who profess faith in Jesus as the Christ, for in God's kingdom there are no boundaries.
Now while all of this may theoretically sound like an "Amen" line, on a practical level the "deacon's bench" falls strangely silent. Society and experience have conditioned us to see the one who is our theological or political mirror image more as an enemy than a kingdom-mate. It is much easier and, quite frankly, much more self-justifying to swashbuckle against a theological nemesis than it is to embrace the person as a brother or sister in the kingdom of God. After all, we have our honor to protect and the integrity of the faith to defend. Our theological heritage, no less than our pride, insists that there be no concourse between ourselves and those whose Christian beliefs do not conform to our own.
Yet, along comes this prayer with the petition for the kingdom of God to come on earth -- a boundless and boundaryless kingdom to be established, not just on terra firma (dry ground), but in our own backyard, no less. A kingdom in which there are no opposing camps. A kingdom in which those differences that would divide are less important than the One whose kingdom it is. A kingdom where disarmament is a prerequisite for entrance. And we are supposed to seriously pray for this? Are we ready for a truce? Are we ready to embrace that one whose differences we find objectionable? Are we really ready to pray this prayer?
There's another reason why one might find this prayer difficult to pray, and that reason is bound up in the phrase, "Give us each day our daily bread." The problem here is twofold. First, "bread" speaks of basic necessity, the bare minimum one needs in order to survive. Implied in this petition is a satisfaction with the mere basics of life, but, if truth be told, our satisfaction requires more than just bread. Many of us have worked hard to surround ourselves with creature comforts -- nice home, nice cars, recreational toys, lines of credit - okay, well some of us, but you see my point. Now while all of this does not comprise the sum total of happiness, it is nevertheless true that we have developed a rather strong attachment to these symbols of success. The simple lifestyle may be okay for some folks, but most Christians are just not there yet. So how does one pray for "daily bread" when what is really wanted is bread pudding?
But secondly, how does one pray for one's own daily bread when there are so many others with no bread? N.T. Wright is correct when he says, "It is impossible truly to pray for our daily bread, or for tomorrow's bread today, without being horribly aware of the millions who didn't have bread yesterday, don't have any today, and in human terms are unlikely to have any tomorrow either."
It seems to be a cheap grace to pray, "give US OUR bread" when I know where MY bread is coming from, but I leave it up to God to figure out where YOU will get YOUR bread. Of what value is it to pray for bread for the breadless, when there is an unwillingness to contribute seriously to hunger relief or to advocate changes in policies, both locally and internationally, that keep people impoverished and hungry? How can your needs be included in my prayer when I am unwilling to be an instrument of God's use to help meet your needs? If someone sees hunger or knows of hunger and chooses not to respond in some way that implicates them in hunger relief, then maybe this is a prayer that is not ready to be prayed.
Things were so much simpler in Miss Steele's second grade class. We could stand with our classmates and recite the Lord's Prayer with a sincerity that comes only from innocence, and feel good for having done so. But now we cannot claim innocence. Now we know that we’re still not ready for prime time. We know too much about God, about the world, about ourselves. We now understand this prayer too well -- or at least well enough to realize that this is one prayer we are not ready to pray.
But then our Master comes and says, "When you pray, say ..." and those gentle words are compelling. For out of our humanness and shortcomings, we cannot give up praying. We desperately need to pray, and so we begin, “Lord, make us able to pray your prayer!”
Let us pray.
That God will banish violence from our midst and defend us against every evil. We pray to the Lord.
That God will bless and strengthen all families in faith, hope, and love. We pray to the Lord.
For those facing difficult decisions or stressful problems, that God will give them help and serenity. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to live with all humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another through Love. We pray to the Lord.
That those who suffer from hunger and poverty have their daily needs provided for. We pray to the Lord.
That all gathered here might persistently intercede for those on the outskirts and margins of our community. We pray to the Lord.
Lord, help us to understand that in our prayerful moments with you, we accept the importance of silence and of listening for your voice. We pray also for the gift of listening to others, so that we can bring love and peace to those in need of sympathy and understanding. We pray to the Lord.                  
Jesus advises those in need – Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. We pray today that those of us who are blessed with enough in our lives hear the cry of those in need and be generous in our response. We pray to the Lord.
For all who seek comfort that they may find it in God’s healing word; and that God may hear the intentions found in our parish prayer list. We pray to the Lord.                  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Father God, you are indeed our Abba Father. We know this from time eternal. We rest in this assurance. May your name be honored, cherished and pronounced with great reverence at all times. May your kingdom indeed come and give us new life in you that we may be made to conform to our created image that you originally desired us to be. In so doing, we can be more conformed to your will; the most holy and pure will in all the universe. In so, doing, we too will be in the fullness of joy. We desire you to not only supply our mortal nourishment, but also the bread of spiritual nourishment, so that we can be one with you at all times. Guide us in our ways that we may not sin, but when we do, come to us as a loving Father in your mercy and help us to see our errors and become the children you created us to be by forgiving anyone who caused us distress. For as we ask to be forgiven, so must we forgive others. Help us to persevere against sin and evil and be strong against Satan and his followers. May the time of trials at the end of days be no longer needed by those of us who live in your love. We ask all these things through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Sunday, July 21, 2019

July 21, 2019
The Fifth Sunday after Trinity
(Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42)
B.I.B.L.E. = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
Woody Allen once said that if Jesus could see what people have done in his name, he would “never stop throwing up!” I suspect he is correct.
Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, churches, both Protestant and Catholic, were pushing quite heavily a neoconservative political ideology calling it “conservative family values” while giving little to no voice to biblical community values. It seems that we have come full circle to this again in our day.
These same groups seem to support war, torture, oppose environmental protection, encourage racism and serving the rich while not relieving the poor from poverty. They speak of big government as being evil, while they increase the national debt at the same time. Big corporations get the tax breaks that the poor should get. They see the potential immigrant as evil and must be stopped at all costs, while children waste away in squalor. While pushing to completely eradicate abortion, they ignore the people who are homeless or living in poverty.
They will say that the LGBTQ “agenda” damages families and undermines (heterosexual) marriage. What an irony to equate the LGBTQ people wanting equal rights and having won the right to marry that such somehow causes heterosexual marriages to crumple without any help from anyone claiming to be LGBTQ. (Incidentally, the Pew Research Center states that statistics of divorce show no noticeable increase since 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples have the right to marry. So much for ruining family values!)
Females are finding themselves being pushed beneath men once again, while men can’t seem to keep their hands off of women who are not their wives. Muslims are increasingly on the offensive from being the scapegoats to what anything that is wrong in our country, the same country in which they are a minority. All this they seem to push, or condone, with their silence while considering themselves the true “Christians.”
If Jesus were to come back today, what would he call these “Christians” that push these “values?” Are they the modern day Pharisee? Jesus associated with many a people who were the pariah of the day and even cured, healed and helped them. Yet, we are back to denying Communion to a person because of a vote they made to a cause that is outside of the desired “Christian” equation. Have these modern “Pharisees” lost touch with the world that is not within their four walls?
Part of our problem, I think anyway, is that we have been attempting to rise up since the fall of Adam. Keep in mind that nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures is there a theological treaties on “Original Sin.” Now, I am not arguing that the theological teaching of “Original Sin” is wrong or that it isn’t real, however what I am saying is, that the Hebrew Scriptures do not address it. Much like the doctrine of the Trinity is not directly addressed, but we know it true.
That said, since Adam, our Heavenly Father has been trying to get his people on the correct path. Whether it be through Abraham, Moses, or David, the Father has been trying to get us on a path. During this path, we have learned some things and adapted to others. Certainly the non-Jewish people had some influence on the Jewish Old Testament practices and beliefs.
All this leads to Jesus. The Son of God comes to us from paradise to try and straighten this out and he has to address his people and teach them in ways that correct all the straying from the path of righteousness up to his time. The Law of God has been handed down, rewritten, reinterpreted and adapted to the needs of God and man. Jesus comes to try and get them back on track. To help people to see the Law as not one of restrictions, but one of generosity. So, we rise from the fall of man to the pinnacle of a pyramid, if you will. The Law got a bit watered down here, and a bit too complicated there. Jesus wanted us to learn to focus on smaller scales - to focus on our brother.
Then after Jesus Ascends, we start another fall of sorts. We have many Church Fathers, Saints and even Popes who have tried to keep us at the pinnacle, but all we seem to do is fall down the pyramid on the other side. We go from Original Sin to heresy to sacrilege. Theology to philosophy and back again. Once again, we have made the rules so difficult that left on our own, instead of God’s grace, we would never make it into heaven. We are probably no better off than where we started from. From one extreme to another I suppose.
Brian McLaren, in his book, A New Kind of Christianity (a book I highly recommend) puts it this way:
“God’s [Elohim’s] story, it seems to me, unfolds as a kind of compassionate coming-of-age story. Imagine that a father has a daughter whom he loves with all his heart. When she comes of age, Dad gives her a beautiful sports car. Dad tells her to drive safely and stay in her lane, but soon she crashes into a tree and totals her vehicle. Dad gives her a stern lecture, and a few months later replaces the sports car with a modest economy car, more of a starter car, you might say. Then she takes her new vehicle car off-road and gets stuck in a muddy field. Dad pulls her out and requires her to take a driver’s ed class before she can drive again. She finishes the class and then a few weeks later she speeds around a corner, recklessly loses control, and drives herself into a river, and the economy car is totaled. At this point, Dad decides she isn’t ready for a car and gives her a bicycle instead. Then she crashes her bike into a tower and breaks her arm. God [Dad] again comes to the rescue and rushes her to the ER. In each case, what does the father do in response to his daughter’s foolishness? Disown her? Lock her in the dungeon? Condemn her to eternal conscious torment? Not even close!”
McLaren uses this story to talk about mankind in the Book of Genesis. I liken it to the whole human history. If you think about it, you will know I am correct. Let’s face it, we do it for our children; we do it for the drug addicts; we do it philandering husband etc. At least, a small few do. And our Heavenly Father does it for us. The greater majority would turn a blind eye; say tough luck, too bad; prison is the best place for you; you don’t belong in our country. Much like our parable from last week’s Gospel about the Jewish man beat and robbed and left on the side of the road and the Priest and Levite pass on the other side of the road. But not God. Not only do we not learn, but we don’t even try to follow his mercy with mercy to others. “You’re going to Hell if you don’t change!” they say. I am glad the neoconservatives are not God, because they would have everyone condemned to eternal torment by now.
Many would say that the Bible has an answer for everything, and indeed it does to some degree, but not in the manner in which they mean, because it does not have direct and explicit answers to many of today’s issues. Abortion, Communism, Socialism, systemic racism, climate change, genetic science, pornography, sexual orientation or just-war theory, just to name a short few of many. True, we can take some of what the Bible does teach and try to translate it into ways to help these topics, and we do, it’s called theology. However, the problem here is using passages that are so out of context that we end up condemning instead of helping - instead of loving.
McLaren likens this to reading the Bible as if it were a “constitution.” We can use the Bible to condemn or sanction anything imaginable. Since we seem to be in a flux in our country over real and imaginative enemies, let’s use the Bible to tell us what we should do about our real and/or perceived “enemies.”
First, we are told to love them. Matthew 5:44 - “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”
We are told to do good towards them and not seek revenge. Romans 12:17-21 - “Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.”
We are told to endure the suffering they bring to us and be an example towards them. 1 Peter 3:13-17 - “Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.”
We are told to throw their children against the rocks. Psalm 137:9 - “Blessed the one who seizes your children and smashes them against the rock.” (The entire chapter must be read to understand the context of this one verse. But, that’s too much work, so off with the children! Ugh! I make a jest, but surely you get the point.)
We are told to hate them. Psalm 139:19 - “When you would destroy the wicked, O God, the bloodthirsty depart from me!” (Also must be read in its entire chapter for context.)
We are told to destroy them. Deuteronomy 7:1-6 - “When the Lord, your God, brings you into the land which you are about to enter to possess, and removes many nations before you—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful than you and when the Lord, your God, gives them over to you and you defeat them, you shall put them under the ban. Make no covenant with them and do not be gracious to them. You shall not intermarry with them, neither giving your daughters to their sons nor taking their daughters for your sons. For they would turn your sons from following me to serving other gods, and then the anger of the Lord would flare up against you and he would quickly destroy you. But this is how you must deal with them: Tear down their altars, smash their sacred pillars, chop down their asherahs, and destroy their idols by fire. For you are a people holy to the Lord, your God; the Lord, your God, has chosen you from all the peoples on the face of the earth to be a people specially his own.”
We are told to call fire down onto them. 1 Kings 18:38-40 - “The Lord’s fire came down and devoured the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust, and lapped up the water in the trench. Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!” Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Let none of them escape!” They seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon and there he slaughtered them.”
However, be careful because in Luke, we find condemnation for such kind of thinking. Luke 9:51-56 - “When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.”
There are a whole host of rules and laws on many topics. Yet, we need to keep in mind the context of which these writers wrote. They were writing for the people of their time, not for people 3,000 years and 4,000 miles removed from them. There were specific issues of their time that which God inspired them to write. Some of these issues are still prevalent and others not. Even the ones still prevalent have variables in modern time that were not then.
Also keep in mind that in Biblical eras, there was no “Bible.” In fact, the average person did not know how nor needed to know how to read. So, to McLaren’s point, the Bible we have was not written to be like a constitution, so much as a record of their understanding of God and his people. It is not even much of a history lesson, so much as a tool to guide God’s people. It has a lot of rules, but some really wouldn’t apply today, not that it stops the neo-conservatives from plucking one to use to suit their needs all the while ignoring another in the same paragraph.
Sadly, we are creeping into areas that we fought long and hard to change - the various social issues that we were making progress on, we are falling back into. Ideas such as anti-Semitism, chauvinism, homophobia, environmental havoc, apartheid, genocide, racism and maybe even witch burning. I wouldn’t put anything as too outlandish from the direction we seem to be headed.
The Bible is a great guide and it is our manuscript for what we believe, no doubt about that. But, it is not strictly meant to be used by churches to create doctrinal statements, so much as a textbook, of sorts, like we used in grade school and high school to prepare us for our lives ahead. It was meant more to give us a liberal arts style of learning of how to be people of God. We cannot apply all things literally, but neither can we live without its wisdom. To do so is to go down a road of demise. Demise of civilized humanity?
Let us review Job as an example. When you get to the later part of Job, what does God say? He says that what Job and his friends said was false and nonsense. But, wait a second here - isn’t the Bible completely and utterly inspired by God? And now God tells us that much of Job and his friend’s statements are false nonsense, what are we to think? Inspired does not mean written by the hand of God. It means that like anyone today, we receive inspiration to write or do something, but there are gray areas that we fill in with our human intellect and understanding of what we see and/or what we are proposing.
(We are not even certain how the writers of the Old Testament were inspired. The New Testament were witnesses - historical people who actually existed. Farther back in the Old Testament, however, it becomes a bit harder to ascertain who the writers were and how they were influenced. Here we rely on the oral Tradition handed done by the various Jewish leaders and Rabbis of old. We also relied on the Apostles of Jesus to hand down their understanding of the Jewish religion from that time.)
But, Job’s friends were quoting from Deuteronomy, someone will argue. So, to say that the first two-thirds of Job is nonsense, are we to say Deuteronomy is nonsense, or that God changed his mind, or that worse yet, there are two God’s? No, not hardly. Keep in mind that Job’s friends were doing the same we do today - picking verses out of large texts. Some of these texts were very probably used out of context, just as many are today, to justify the poor treatment of many groups of people.
As another example, we read in the Gospels that the “Jews” killed Jesus. Now I ask you - did the “Jews” literally kill Jesus? Did all the Jews in all of Jerusalem get together and vote on a ballot to kill this supposed God impersonator? Did all these supposed “Jews” carry Jesus to the cross and nail him on it? No! The Gospels used the term “Jews” as a representation of the High Priest, the members of the Sanhedrin, etc. These few men were responsible for convincing the powers to be - Pilate - that Jesus should be killed. Anti-Semitism has been a huge error and problem since this time as a classic example of reading the Bible and taking verses out of context. They say we should treat the Jews horribly because of what they did to our Lord! That is - I am sorry, but I must say it - down right idiotic! Yet, believe it or not, there are some who still push this errant view.
The Word of God is very much within the Scriptures, but we must be careful when we take a verse here and there and use it for our own intentions, because that might very well not be what was meant by the verse at all. As Catholics, we do not ascribe to the term “sola scriptura.” Scripture alone, ever since the reformers starting teaching this, it has gotten well-meaning people into difficult situations.
We Catholics do not believe the Bible was ever written, or intended to be used in this way. For that matter, I suspect most other non-Christian religions are similar, in that there is much theological background, understanding and oral Tradition that is handed down. Jewish and Christian faiths both have these. And even all these still will occasionally fall short. Did God answer all of Job’s questions? No. In fact, God asked Job a lot of questions without even providing the answers. To me, that tells us that God wants us to not only seek out the answers, but that he is less concerned with constitutional doctrine than he is with how we live out our lives with him and toward others.
However, all said, the Bible does not answer all questions we have, but it is a good collection of literary about God and his people and the interactions and conversations they have had. It is great library to help us get to the answers we need. Additionally, as you have heard me say before, the Bible is not about how Heaven goes - but about how to go to Heaven. It doesn’t have all the answers to all our questions, but it certainly is a good library to help. And don’t take what I say to the opposite extreme. The Bible is indeed a sacred collection and it is indeed the major force behind our faith. Never forget that. It does give us many rules and answers, when read correctly.
Suffice to say, we know the Scriptures were/are inspired by God, however we also need to accept the fact that human hands wrote them and sometimes the messiness of their lives had an influence on their outlook and thought process in regard to God. As an example, in some of the Old Testament passages we seem to see a God who loves violence and war. If human beings who produced those passages were violent in their own temperament of life, it is only natural that they would see God through that same lens. How many of these violent wars were really sanctioned by God versus how many were merely men who thought God wanted them to go to war and they, through good battle skills, fought and won? Does Nazi Germany and WW II mean God was mad at the Jews? Not even remotely.
Since Easter, and the announcement of my ascending to the chair of Presiding Bishop, I have been speaking a lot about a theme I want our denomination to have. A new way of believing, if you will or to use McLaren’s book title somewhat differently, a new kind of Catholicism. As we all know, we are part of the Liberal Catholic Rite Movement. Meaning, we are a Liberal Catholic Rite Church and thus we are Liberal Catholics. I want us to get past - and I want potential new members to get past - the “stigma” of the word Liberal. I want us to be progressive left leaning Liberals. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I boldly believe that this is exactly what Christ has wanted for his followers all along. Why? Because of another phrase I have been pushing the past couple of months - the radical love of Jesus!
The radical love of Jesus is indeed liberal. I know that might cause scandal to some, but it should not. We see in the Gospels the people Jesus would associate with, the outcasts, sinners, tax collectors and non-Jews. He turned no one away and dealt with the worst of people with compassion, mercy and love. We as a church must do the same. We must build a new name for ourselves and radically love too. It doesn’t mean that we believe “anything goes,” but it does mean we learn to live in the radical love of Jesus. We are careful to not use scripture out of context and that we know there is more than sola scriptura.
To wind down, in McLaren’s book, he speaks about St. Paul. He speaks on how St. Paul taught that the church - the believers - were the body or embodiment of Christ. St. Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 12:31, “Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. The Way of Love. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.” The speaking tongues or using of spiritual gifts; a radical concern for social justice or willingness to be martyred are all nothing without love. So, McLaren says that if St. Paul were here today, his letter might go something like this:
“Though I interpret the biblical text with state-of-the-art hermeneutics and preach sermons with flawless homiletics, though all my theologies are systematic, all my books, blogs, and podcasts scrupulously orthodox, and my books always best-sellers, without love I am static on a radio or an error message on a computer screen. Though I can show decadal church growth in the double digits and raise millions of dollars in building funds, though I have files full of testimonials from people saved, healed, delivered, and blessed through my ministry, without love I’m just another clever, two-bit purveyor of goods and services in religious-industrial complex. Though I have worldwide impact, traveling by private jet and broadcasting on cable, satellite, and the internet, though my budgets balance and my seminaries are bursting with beautiful and handsome valedictorians (all of whom are above average in every way), and though presidents invite me to the White House and consider me a “key person,” without love I am nothing.”
I will leave you with one last thought. I wrote this over a span of the week, but on Thursday morning during morning prayer, the Gospel reading for the day was from Matthew 11:28-30. I have always liked this passage. However, it can be applied to our branch of Catholicism specifically. It reads as follows: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
I like to think this particular passage is just as relevant today as it was when Jesus actually said it. As a Liberal Catholic church, our views on various teachings, dogma, etc. are a bit easier to swallow sometimes. The handed down oral explanation of this passage is broke down as follows.
Who labor and are burdened - are those who are burdened by the law as expounded by the scribes and Pharisees.
Take my yoke upon you - means in place of the yoke of the law, complicated by scribal interpretation, Jesus invites the burdened to take the yoke of obedience to his word, under which they will find rest.
For us, the modern equivalent, at least by some people’s estimation, these scribes and Pharisees would be neoconservative theologians, Roman Catholic bishops, or hellfire and brimstone Evangelical ministers. Not all, of course, but we could all name a few.
In some quadrants of the younger generation, they have left conservative branches of the church because of the modern day variation of the scribes and Pharisees. Although, they are certainly not the only generation, however. The point I am working toward is that some have left the Catholic Church as well as some Evangelical/Fundamentalist groups for teaching certain passages of Scripture in literal and absolute ways and or dogmas that are too restrictive. In our branch of Catholicism (Old Catholics, Liberal Catholics, etc. since the 1800’s), I feel we have taken Jesus’ example and focused more on the two greatest commandments. Our teachings and dogma tend to be derived from these. So, when we come across a passage of Scripture that seems like it would not apply either by Jesus’ example and/or the context it was written is not applicable for modern times, we teach it with what we believe is obedience to his word, not the yoke of the (old) law.
I like to think we Liberal Catholics don’t induce Theological Indigestion! There are just some theological topics that we tend to think are superfluous, and others more worthy of spending our energies on.
Therefore, like today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling us, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Let us focus on our Blessed Lord - especially in receiving him in the Holy Eucharist - and we shall not veer too far from the path. Many a miracle has taken place in regard to the Holy Eucharist. Let us open our hearts, minds and souls to the beauty of Christ as we receive him at Holy Communion today and each time we can. You might be surprised what may happen to you one time or more!
Let us pray.
Jesus reminds us that too often we worry and fret about many things which really don’t matter. We pray that we be more like Mary and that we choose to listen to the word of Jesus and follow his ways rather than those of the material and selfish world. We pray to the Lord.
That societies all over the world support education opportunities for all of their people regardless of race, gender, class, or disability. We pray to the Lord.
That those overcome by burdens and anxieties hear the voice of the Lord inviting them to rest in his love. We pray to the Lord.
That all gathered here might find time everyday to listen in contemplative silence to Jesus and his life-giving word.  We pray to the Lord.
That all the fallen away Catholics, those who stopped practicing their faith, or those who merely feel the Church has not caught up with the times, that they find our humble chapel where our Traditional Liturgy with modern understanding of Christ can make them reconnect with God. We pray to the Lord.
For those who perished in the devastating arson fire at Kyoto Animation studio in Kyoto Japan. May they rest in the peace of our Lord Christ and may the family and friends of these victims find some comfort after this tragic incident. We pray to the Lord.
For all who seek comfort that the Holy Spirit will surround them with love, peace and answers to their prayers; and that God may hear the intentions found in our parish prayer list. We pray to the Lord.                  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Gracious God, you have chosen to dwell among us in unexpected, surprising ways, most especially in the person of your own Son, Jesus. Give us open and fearless hearts and minds that we may welcome you however and whenever you appear. Lord, the design of your universe is one of flux, ebb and flow, birth and death, spring- time slipping into summer with the same, quiet inevitability that children come of age. Let us not run away from change or cast an apprehensive eye on things just because they’re new to us or strange. Let us see that standing still can be the start of stagnation. Let us be thankful for the twists and turns that make each day full of adventure. When we long for something steadfast and familiar, remind us that in this whirling world there is always for sure one place of total steadiness — You, Lord. We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor - St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA
http://www.stfrancisucc.org/donate.html

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

July 14, 2019
The Fourth Sunday after Trinity
(Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Luke 10:25-37)
Ever left your cell phone on a bus? Your wallet in a store or restaurant? If you have, you probably can relationally remember the sense of panic.
For a lot of us, our cell phones are a microcosmic representation of our whole lives. Think about all the phone numbers and contact information, pictures, calendared appointments and text messages you have stored in there. Granted, if you back it up often on your computer or with your wireless carrier, it shouldn’t be a big deal. But, given the fact that many people are too busy to make a backup plan or find phone insurance too expensive, losing one’s phone is still the equivalent of leaving one’s life on a subway seat.
There is a story on the web of a Defense Department analyst who was on his way home when he inadvertently dropped his cell phone on a Washington, D.C., street. When he discovered that his electronic life was missing, he frantically began dialing the cell’s number from another phone. He didn’t even know what time it was because, like a lot of 21st-century people, he kept time with his phone rather than a watch.
Finally, a voice answered. “Yeah, I got your phone,” said the voice. “But what’s it worth to you?”
“Twenty bucks,” said the frantic owner. It was all the cash he had on him at the time. “My phone is my life,” he says. “If I’d needed to, I would have paid a lot more.”
What’s it worth to you? That’s certainly not the first thing you want to hear out of a “good” Samaritan. Many of us assume there’s a kind of unwritten agreement between losers and finders, and when we’re on the finding end we get a special kind of rush when we’re able to unite someone with their lost valuables. The gushing gratitude of the recipient is enough reward for most of us.
But, clearly, not all of us. Some people look at the misfortune of others as an opportunity to make a quick buck. Call them “bad Samaritans.”
Bad Samaritans are focused primarily on maximizing their reward or, in some sense, recouping something of what they believe society owes them. Take the case of Los Angeles-based writer Andrew Cohn, who was cleaning up after a backyard party and found a wallet on the ground with $40 in it. “I’d just spent $500 on the party,” says Cohn. “I figured the money was the girl’s contribution.” He kept the money and left the wallet, with ID and credit cards, on the ground.
How did Cohn justify his actions? Well, he says, “If you expect someone’s going to return your wallet with all the cash, you’re probably a little delusional.” Davy Rothbart, who edits a magazine called Found, which features photos of lost objects, agrees with Cohn. “Really good Samaritans, if they find a wallet, they return it intact,” he says. “Some people find a wallet, take the money, but return the important stuff. That’s not evil.”
So, what does that make someone such as Cohn — a semi-good Samaritan? And what if you find a wallet but really need the money right now; does that make it okay to keep it as long as you give back the “important” stuff? Is “finders-keepers” an ethical escape clause?
I’m guessing that most people sitting in church on Sunday would probably — one hopes — say “no” to all of the above. After all, we’ve been schooled in Scriptures such as the Ten Commandments and Deuteronomy 22:1-4, which instruct the Israelites on precisely what to do when they find a stray sheep or ox: You take it back to the owner with no expectation of, or provision for, any kind of reward. Whether it’s sheep or cell phones, demanding a reward from a vulnerable person is nothing less than extortion.
The lesson here would seem to be obvious, particularly when we compare the behavior of bad Samaritans to the good Samaritan in Jesus’ famous parable. When we read this passage a little more closely, however, we begin to see that the story has an even deeper dimension to it than just the ethics of helping. It really has to do with how we view people and, more specifically, whether we believe in the kindness of strangers.
Psychologists say that how you perceive strangers is a microcosm of how you perceive the world. If you believe that most people are intrinsically unethical and that they’d put the screws to you if given a chance, then you’re much more likely to put the screws to someone else if, say, you find a wallet or a cell phone or, as in Jesus’ story, if you find him or her battered on the side of the road. People who see strangers as outsiders, as enemies or as something less than themselves will default to treating them that way, rather than as equals, or, to use Jesus’ term, as “neighbors.” (It brings to mind our immigration rhetoric in our government these days.)
The key to this parable is thus the question that prompts it. A lawyer asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is a question about ultimate rewards. For a first-century Jew, “eternal life” meant the life of the age to come, the ultimate covenant blessing that was in store for God’s chosen people. The lawyer perceived himself to be a member of the covenant community who, like many of his people at the time, held clear ideas about who was within the covenant boundaries set by the Torah and who was outside — who were friends and who were strangers.
Jesus questions him about the Torah law, and the lawyer gives the right answer — the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:5, which was about love for God, and its companion piece from Leviticus 19:18 about loving one’s “neighbor” as oneself. The definition of neighbor is the sticking point for this lawyer, so he presses Jesus for a legal opinion. Luke says the lawyer wanted to “justify” himself, which is a way of saying he was concerned about defining his “neighbors” as follows: “My neighbor is a fellow Jew, i.e., someone who lives within the covenant boundaries of Judaism.”
Asking Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” was like saying, “You’re talking about our own people, right?” Like many of the people of Jesus’ day (even today), the lawyer apparently had big issues with strangers.
Jesus responds with this story, one that has become so familiar to us that we miss the scandalous implications of it for people such as the lawyer. A man is on his way down the wilderness road from Jerusalem to Jericho, which implies that he is a Jew, when he gets set upon by robbers who beat him and leave him for dead. A priest and a Levite, who should be obvious “neighbors” to their fellow Jew, both pass by on the opposite side of the road and refuse to help. The implication is they were on the same side, but exaggerated their lack of concern by crossing to the other side of the road to pass by. Maybe they had good reasons; for example, their involvement with a battered body might make them ritually unclean to work in the temple. Although Jesus doesn’t elaborate on their reasons for not wanting to get involved, the fact that these two are representatives of the Torah and its covenant rituals and boundaries is very significant. The priest and the Levite — and, by association, the Torah and the sacrificial system — fail to act in order to save one of their own.
Who does stop to help? A Samaritan, a stranger and an enemy of Israel. To most first-century Jews, “good Samaritan” would have been a laughable contradiction, as these half-breed people with their own temple were considered pariahs. However, this Samaritan stops, renders aid and takes care of the Jewish victim’s expenses. He does what the victim’s “own people” would not do for him.
Although we most often read and preach this story from the perspective of the Samaritan who helps, Jesus hammers home the point from the perspective of the victim in answering the lawyer’s question with a question of his own. “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?” The stunning answer was, of course, that the Jew in the ditch discovered that the Samaritan was his neighbor and that the others — those geographically, ethnically and religiously similar — were not.
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The lawyer’s question was the same as that of the rich young man in Luke 18:18-25, and Jesus’ answer is essentially the same: You must learn a new way to be God’s covenant people and a new way of understanding God’s kingdom. And, for starters, you must redefine your definition of “neighbor” to include the stranger and the outsider. Jesus would live that out by spending time with the outcasts and, interestingly, the tax collectors who made their living essentially by extortion! Following Jesus means we are called to “go and do likewise.” We are called to see others not as good or bad Samaritans but as people who deserve our presence and our help. We are to go into the world with the same radical love of Jesus!
God’s people are never to play “finders-keepers,” nor are they to see themselves as being more deserving or better than anyone else. When it comes to the kindness of strangers, we tend to get what we expect. If we’re kind and helpful to people we don’t know or who are in trouble, in every circumstance, then we’re more likely to see that kindness returned. Even if we don’t receive reciprocal care and help, we know that God has called us to love the stranger regardless. That’s what it means to be God’s people.
Things do have a way of coming back around to justice eventually. Take Andrew Cohn who found the wallet while cleaning up after a party, for example. A few hours after he replaced the now cash-poor wallet back on the ground, the owner knocked on his door. Cohn opened the door to find a drop-dead gorgeous woman standing on his porch. Although she was sad her money was gone, she was glad to have her wallet and credit cards back. She was so glad, thought Cohn, that maybe she’d agree to go out with him.
Problem is, he didn’t get her number, and a mutual friend wouldn’t give it to him. The friend’s reason? “You can’t ask out a girl if you just took her money.”
You think?
Maybe this guy will someday get a life, find eternal life and be a good neighbor.
Let us pray.
That the trend of increasing “bad neighbors” be reversed and outpaced by “good neighbors” in a world so desperately in need of them. We pray to the Lord.
That the Church and the media recognize and lift up the loving deeds of all people of good will. We pray to the Lord.
That we spread, teach and live in example of the radical love that Jesus showed to all, sinner and saint alike, and asks us each to now show toward all whom we meet. We pray to the Lord.
That God will help us recognize our neighbor in the refugee, the homeless person, and in the members of other cultures, and inspire us in responding to their needs. We pray to the Lord.
That wars and divisions cease as people look on each other with empathy. We pray to the Lord.
That the victims of crimes and all those who feel forgotten and abandoned experience the love of God and the care of their fellow human beings. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for the volunteers in our communities who commit themselves to the care and welfare of those who are less well off in our society – the sick, the poor, the homeless, the suicidal and the lonely. We pray to the Lord that he give them the energy and commitment to continue in this work and that he justly rewards them when he welcomes them into his kingdom. We pray to the Lord.                
We pray for those who misunderstand, misrepresent or are hostile to the church of Christ. We pray that they come to an understanding that Jesus requires just one commitment from his church, that they love one another and their neighbor as themselves, not to come expecting perfection amongst imperfect people. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for our priests, particularly those who suffer abuse and hostility. We pray that all who proclaim the message of Christ experience an end to prejudice and intolerance in our society. We pray to the Lord.
For all who seek comfort that they may find it in God’s healing word; and that God may hear the intentions found in our parish prayer list. We pray to the Lord.                  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Merciful God, throughout history you have showered your mercy upon your people. Help us to follow the example of the Good Samaritan in our struggles from day to day. Merciful Savior, daily we are given opportunities to be a good Samaritan — to show kindness, to express praise, to offer encouragement, to affirm the worth of our fellow human beings. And daily we fail to be the heart and hands of Jesus Christ. We avoid making eye contact with a homeless person, we are impatient with the slow movement of the elderly, we tune out the curious questions of young children. We make excuses for our rude driving, our short tempers and our self- indulgences. We fail to see that in doing these things, we are leaving those in need stranded along the roadside, refusing to reach out with compassion and bind their wounds. We stand convicted of our attitudes of self-importance and disregard. Forgive us, Lord, we pray, and remove our sin from us so we may walk in newness of life. Help us to be examples of the radical love of Jesus! We ask all these things through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You+++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor - St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Sunday, July 7, 2019

July 7, 2019
The Third Sunday after Trinity
(Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20)
How many people can play on a team? Baseball uses nine players on defense, and one at a time on offense, with the possibility of other players on base. But, teams are much larger than that. For example, it’s not enough to have only nine players. There needs to be more in case some are injured, or to give others a rest. A baseball team with only one pitcher will not win many games in a row. Teams need back-up players.
And what about football? Each team has eleven players on a field at a time. But there are offensive, defensive, and special teams squads. The players on a college football team sometimes number more than a hundred. In NFL, teams may have fifty-three players, but only forty-five can suit up for a game.
During the ministry of Jesus there were many on the team as well; crowds, disciples, Apostles, and a special few. In the Gospel of Matthew there are only twelve disciples, and there were also the twelve Apostles. (Most commonly, the Apostles were the “twelve” chosen by Jesus as his inner group, and disciples are those outside of that “twelve” who were followers of Jesus and even some of the Apostles after Jesus’ death. Some scholars have used the two terms interchangeably, but it is generally believed that while Jesus was alive they were differentiated as I just described.)
But Luke has a much more expansive view of discipleship. In fact, in Acts, he invents the feminine form of the word to mention Tabitha, a female disciple (9:36). And in today’s gospel we have the mission of the seventy-two! In Luke there were many, many disciples. Nearly anyone could be on the team! (However, some scholars hold that tradition of information handed down from the Apostles was that these seventy-two were the equivalent of today’s monks and priests. We may never know for certain.)
And this simple lesson Luke gives should give us great hope today. According to Luke, men, women, the Twelve, the seventy-two, and many more were in a special relationship with Jesus, chosen to follow and chosen also to be sent by him. In this gospel there were not such tight boundaries around who could or could not be a disciple. Instead, the situation seems to have been more fluid or dynamic. And that’s more likely a more accurate reflection of the situation around Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Aside from the story in Luke, we never hear of the seventy-two again. But surely these people were likely some of the early evangelizers after the Resurrection. It all gives us a brief inkling into the situation of the early Church. Though it might be easier to imagine the Twelve with Peter at the head, knowing who is “on the team” and who isn’t, today’s gospel reading invites us to consider a much more complex picture.
Many of us like to draw boundaries, establishing membership and determining limits. But life is not often like that. Our lived realities are much more complex, and maybe that is the reason we seek to create order. (Not to mention that we were created in the image of God, and He created order out of chaos! So, we are here trying to master our own version of that!)
The mission of the seventy-two gives us a peek into the greater discipleship ministry of Jesus. They go to the places Jesus intends to visit. We might ask ourselves who are the “seventy-two” today? And are we part of that large group sent to places where Jesus intends to visit? These seventy-two were critical to the ministry of Jesus. They prepared the way for him. In looking to a New Testament example of our call in life, there is something worthy of emulation here.
In last week’s gospel we heard of a Samaritan village that would not welcome Jesus because his final destination was Jerusalem. (How similar to the treatment of Israel from the rest of the Middle East in modern times!) And so, this week as well, Jesus’ disciples are sent ahead of Jesus to “every town and place he intended to visit.” Jesus acknowledges that they might find welcome or they might not, but everywhere they venture they are first to say, “Peace to this household.”
Much like John the Baptist at the beginning of Luke’s gospel, these seventy-two are to additionally proclaim, “The kingdom of God is at hand” and to call the people, communally and individually, to repentance. This account of the mission of the seventy-two reveals to us Jesus’ method in ministry. He calls other to help him in spreading the good news of God’s kingdom and he sends them to minister in pairs. The Christian mission is not to be undertaken as a solitary endeavor. If Jesus continually called on others to help him establish the kingdom of God, how much more do we, modern-day “disciples,” need to rely on co-laborers in ministry?
There is an urgency to the seventy-two’s task and because of this Jesus tells them to not be encumbered by material things. They are to bring “no money bag, no sack, no sandals” (can you imagine not having any of these today?!) and even more than that they are to “greet no one along the way.” It may seem odd that they are to greet no one along the way, but nothing must dissuade them from this mission, the mission of announcing the kingdom of God.
The people of that time were caught up in waiting for the kingdom of God to arrive. They longed for the time when there would be no more war, illness, hunger, oppression, hatred, or enmity, and would live in peace and abundance. The message to them and to us is that the kingdom is already here. All it requires is for us to claim our places as citizens of the kingdom of God. If only everyone would do so, as this world would be a far better place!
What would the world be like if we all truly believed the bold proclamation of Jesus that the kingdom of God is at hand? We are kingdom people and when we act as kingdom people, just as the saints throughout history have shown us, the kingdom breaks out all around us. The hungry are fed, the grieving are comforted, and building lasting peace becomes more important than preparing for war. This urgent message proclaimed by the disciples on the road to Jerusalem is passed on to us today. The kingdom of God is at hand, we must merely grasp it and live it.
Let us pray.
In today’s gospel Jesus tells the disciples he is sending them out like lambs among wolves. We likewise, as followers of Christ, so often face a hostile and uncaring world. We pray to the Spirit for the courage and strength to be loyal and true witnesses to Christ’s message by word and example. We pray to the Lord.  
For our United States: that God will guide us in achieving the ideals on which this nation was founded: respect for life, maintenance of liberty, and establishment of justice for all. We pray to the Lord.
For those who carry the Gospel in the face of danger: for missionaries, chaplains and Christians living under persecution. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace to embrace the cross: that we may accept the sufferings of body, mind and spirit that will transform us into new creations in Christ. We pray to the Lord.
And for all who seek comfort, that they may find it in God’s healing word; and that God may hear the intentions found in our parish prayer list. We pray to the Lord.                  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
God of abundance, you sent your Son Jesus to reveal to us the fullness of life in your kingdom. Hear our prayers that we might labor to build up the kingdom of God in all that we say and do. We ask these things through Christ, our Lord. God who nurtures and protects us, we ask you to be with us as we practice discipleship in our lives. Give us the courage to spread Jesus’ word by our words and actions, even though we do not know how we will be received. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor - St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA