Monday, December 9, 2019

December 8, 2019
The Second Sunday of Advent
(Isaiah 11:1-10; Matthew 3:1-12)
Although The New Interpreter’s Bible says “Few texts in biblical literature are better known or loved” than Isaiah 11:1-10, it’s unlikely that this reading has left you quivering with excitement. In fact, you could argue that it’s a ridiculous exaggeration. At most, you probably simply remember as being one of the passages most often read during the Advent and/or Christmas season.
There are a few texts that are surely “better known or loved” than this obscure text in Isaiah, like say:
• Psalm 23
• The story of creation
• Moses and the parting of the Red Sea
• The Ten Commandments
• David and Bathsheba
• David and Goliath
• The story of Ruth
• The story of Jericho
• The nativity story in Luke 2
• To name a few!
So, what’s to be done with this text? People today probably don’t care that Jesus came from the stump of Jesse.
But some people care about stumps. George Kenny of Allyn, Washington, for example.  
Kenny is an artist, but to see his work, you may want to put on a pair of hiking boots. That’s because his “brush” is a chainsaw and his canvases are tree stumps and trunks.
About a year ago, Kenny spent a day at Columbia Springs, a 100-acre environmental center in Vancouver, Washington. He’d been invited by the center’s executive director to make art of some of the stumps and trunks in the site’s forest. Using his chainsaw as a carving tool, Kenny spent the day making seven chunks of dead cedar into eagles, owls, herons, salmon and other figures, all of which remain on site in the woods.
Figuratively, at least, the dead wood comes alive again.
I recall some years ago when I would go to the San Diego Zoo at Christmas time for their annual “Jungle Bells” program. They had these two talented ladies that would use chainsaws to cut gigantic blocks of ice into various animals. They would do the performances in entertaining ways and had a knack for managing to create them in such a way as to keep you guessing until nearly the end.
In the Isaiah text, there’s a dead tree stump or gigantic block of ice as well, but the prophet tells us that God is going to do some awesome art with it … messianic art.
Isaiah’s message here is basically this, that Isaiah’s words about the next king were to say, “Here’s our immediate hope,” and his words about the peaceable future were to say, “Here’s our ultimate hope.”
Congregations are not that different from the Hebrews of Isaiah’s day when it comes down to it.
• Assyria is long gone, but terrorists abound.
• The United States is not under a king, but its political system, with its vicious partisanship, can, at best, be described as gridlocked. (Although, our current president wants to be treated as a king.)
• Few people these days see government as a very effective apparatus for the common good.
• Each day, there’s more bad news. Millions of people don’t even follow the news anymore, and many who do refuse to check the news before going to bed so their sleep is not disturbed.
Our hopes are raised periodically by the promises from new and rising political stars. But then our hopes are crushed by the reality that follows elections.
Like the ancient people of Judah, we can benefit from being reminded of the ultimate hope.
After Jesus was crucified and resurrected, the Apostles read Isaiah through a new lens. They looked at the first part of this passage and saw not Ahaz’s successor, Hezekiah, who was a better man and a better king than Ahaz — although even he eventually disappointed Isaiah by becoming too friendly with the Babylonians.
No, they argued that the only one who really fulfilled this text was much further down Jesse’s line, Jesus Christ. Thus Paul, preaching to fellow Jews on one of his missionary trips, referred to their common history and said, “God made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘Then he removed him and raised up David as their king; of him he testified, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish.’ From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus...” (Acts 13:22-23).
The lineage from Jesse, which is not very important to us today, was super-important to the Jews of Jesus’ day because it was a reference to Isaiah. The savior to come, Isaiah said, would be from Jesse’s line. So, as people began to suspect that Jesus was the messiah, the fact that he was “of the house and lineage of David” was huge!
Isaiah went on to say that when this new “shoot” from Jesse reigns, “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat ... They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord.” Clearly, this is a world quite unlike today’s world. And that’s exactly right: it’s another world altogether, another kingdom entirely.
But this is the nature of hope, isn’t it? Biblically speaking, hope, along with faith and love, make up the “big three” of Christianity. They are the things that the apostle Paul said remain, and have enduring quality, when all else fails. “And now faith, hope and love abide,” is how he put it, and he meant that when looking for the qualities that are distilled from the experience of the believing life together, these three things — faith, hope and love — are the solid footing on which to stand, even if seen only darkly as through a distorting glass.
Real hope is not some sort of wishful thinking that those with strong enough gumption muster up from some inner core. No, it is rather an ultimate belief that when all else fails, when every other support gives way, our lives remain in God’s hands.
And so we wait. And this can be difficult. I know some of you were questioning my belief in hope in 2017 and again this year in regard to the rectory. It can be quite difficult, and sometimes even the best of us flinch in hope. Let me be clear …. Being positive or negative is indeed a state of mind, however one is never truly “negative” unless he has given up hope in Christ. Regardless of negativities in regard to say our government, a particular person or situation, one can still be a positive person and even have hope. To have no hope is give up on life and the blessings God can grace us with.
Debie Thomas, director of children's and family ministries at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, California makes this point: “The Biblical pattern for God’s people is a pattern of waiting. Adam waited for a partner, Noah waited for the flood waters to recede, Abraham waited for a son, Jacob waited to marry Rachel, Hannah waited for children, the Israelites waited for deliverance… the list goes on and on. ... In my church, we ‘proclaim the mystery of faith’ every Sunday morning: ‘Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.’ We rightfully pin our hopes on that last claim, and yet, in our humanness, we grow weary of waiting.”
Like Kenny in Washington, working on his stump, it takes time before the image emerges, but in time it does.
What we see in Scripture is an emerging picture of Jesus of Nazareth, our ultimate hope.
And this hope gives a perspective from which to view the threats and worries of life. Isaiah’s words remind us that those things are never the last word. Our hope is anchored in Jesus, the living art from the stump of Jesse.
Let’s take that hope and use it to sustain ourselves when the threats and worries of life rage or stump us.
Let us pray.
In today’s Gospel we read of John the Baptist – A Voice Cries in the Wilderness, Prepare a way for the Lord, Make His paths straight. In today’s world this message is also an appeal to us. We pray that we be not silent onlookers but that we have the faith and strength to be true and active witnesses to his Word. We pray to the Lord.                
In today’s Second Reading, St Paul calls for tolerance and asks us to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated us. We pray for an end to racism and the language of racism in our society. We pray to the Lord.                    
On Tuesday next, December 10th, the world celebrates International Human Rights Day. We pray for a world that will respect the God-given rights of all, especially those who suffer from hatred, discrimination, poverty and war. We pray to the Lord.                    
Tomorrow, Monday, we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We pray that we, like Mary, listen to the word of our God and happily do his Holy Will. We pray to the Lord.                      
We pray for those who struggle with depression at this time of year. May they find comfort, love and medical support to ease their journey through their difficulties. 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.
Father God, how do we see for the first time a story we've read so many times? Give us new perspective. Help us not to assume we know all there is to know, but to open our hearts and minds to your Spirit and the new truth you may be teaching us today. Perhaps the truth will not be new, but a lesson we've heard and simply need to be reminded of again. Wherever it is you are leading, let us be willing to follow. Whatever it is you want to teach, let us be open to listening and obeying. We confess to you, O God, that we have fallen asleep. We often go through the motions and live our daily lives without much thought outside of ourselves. Forgive us for our shortsightedness. Forgive us for not being awake to the wonders and signs that you are doing something new in our world and in our lives. Help us to seek you in the face of others. Call us into your ways of love and justice, so that we might be fully awake, watching and waiting for your return in our world and in our lives in a new way. Help us to live in hope! 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, December 2, 2019

December 1, 2019
Advent Sunday
(Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 27:37-44)
Imagine this -- It's been a long, exhausting day filled with work, obligations, meetings, errands and responsibilities. You were up early and plowed through your "to do" list at work, then you got the kids to their activities and threw some sandwiches together to eat on the run. Eventually, you made it home only to find more chores to do. Finally, the day comes to an end, and what do you want to do? Fall into bed, relax as your eyes get heavy, and gently slip into a deep, refreshing sleep. It's Serta time!

But wait! Sound the alarm! Jesus says in our text today, "Stay awake!" Even as we struggle to keep our eyes open for one more moment, Jesus seems to scoff at sleep as he commands us to keep alert and to be ready. Jesus seems to be telling us to be "insomniac disciples." He says, "Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."

Apparently, there is no rest for the weary. What is a sleep-deprived Christian supposed to do?

How are we meant to stay awake when we already live in one of the most sleep-hungry nations in the world? Our 24/7 society with its endless supply of news, social media and entertainment on-demand allows us to stay up way past our bedtimes as we enjoy games on our phones or watch endless videos on YouTube/Netflix. The lack of sleep is taking a toll. Employers in the United States complain about workers who doze off in front of their computers or who even fall asleep while operating machinery, which endangers them and everyone around them. Job performance is suffering because workers show up overtired. And now Jesus wants us to "stay awake" even longer?! How are we supposed to do that?

We could turn to Toimi Soini in Hamina, Finland who was in the Guinness Book of World Records. She stayed awake 276 hours. In 1989, The Guinness Book of World Records deleted Toimi's record and the "sleep deprivation" category from its record-keeping because of the concern that lack of sleep can cause real harm.

Two hundred and seventy-six hours is about 11-and-a-half days! Most of us are getting weary after 11-and-a-half hours. Which is a good thing, because scientists tell us that sleep is a vital component of overall good health for humans. Although scientists don't know exactly why sleep is good for us, they know why the lack of it is bad for us. Skipping sleep can lead to loss of memory, high blood pressure, obesity, slurred speech, impaired decision-making ability, and an increased risk of heart attacks. (Hmmm, I should be dead.)

So why is Jesus telling us to stay awake?

Well, okay. We know that Jesus is not literally commanding a lack of pillow time. Instead, Jesus is saying, "Wake up! Look around! Be aware!"

He wants us to not go through life like a sleepwalker, without seeing or noticing what's going on all around us. It's time for us to open not only our eyes, but also our spirits so that we can be aware of how God is moving and guiding us through our lives.

Jesus is warning against being "asleep at the switch," an expression that originated in the railroad industry. It refers to someone who has missed something important, has not noticed some critical detail or who might be placing themselves or others in danger because of a lack of attention. If an engineer dozes off while tending the switches (controls) that guide the train, it could easily cause a crash. It's vital to "stay awake."

Jesus calls us to attention with his urgent message, "Stay awake!" so that we will be ready to respond to the needs around us. We need to stay alert so that we can notice God at work in our midst. Advent is a time to wake up our spirits so that we can be aware of God's presence in our lives.

Maybe Jesus is not so much telling us to never shut our eyes as to avoid closing down our spirits. We can easily move through our day as though in a dream. We can interact with screens from morning to night while completely avoiding any interaction with another human being, not to mention the Holy One. We can be plugged into one device or another and fill our eyes and minds with news and images, never leaving room for a whisper of the Spirit or a nudge from a guiding and loving God. We can be lulled into complacency by watching endless loops of music videos or reruns of our favorite TV shows. We immerse ourselves in an ocean of blogs that invite us to click from one link to another. Minutes and even hours can go by before we realize that this was perhaps not the best use of our time. In an age when it is possible to have your eyes glued to some screen or another almost 24/7, it may be time to wake up to other possibilities.

Jesus commands us to be watchful and to expect the unexpected. Jesus talks about a God who will surprise us by coming when we're not looking or arriving in a guise that we do not expect. This powerful Advent passage reminds us to be aware that the God who came into the world as a baby so many years ago still wishes to enter our lives today. Too often we find ourselves with the innkeepers who turn away the Christ with the words, "no room." Our minds are full, our calendars are packed, our expectations are low, so we're not actively looking and seeking for the living Christ in our midst. We're too busy and our minds are too occupied; without even noticing we push Jesus away.

Advent comes with the invitation to open our hearts and minds to the arrival of the Christ. If Jesus knocks on the door of our lives, we want to be awake enough to invite him inside. Churches often get lulled into the complacency of "we have always done it that way." Are we going through life the same way? Are we actively looking for the Christ in the person that we greet at the store or on the street or even in our home? Will we be alert enough to recognize the surprising Christ who arrived not in a palace but in a tucked-away manger? How will the Christ come to us, and will we recognize him when he does? What can we do during Advent to be more intentional about welcoming the Christ into our lives?

Just as employers implore their workers to make changes in their lives so that they can be more alert during office hours, Jesus calls us to be aware of the changes we need to make in our lives.

What miracles are we missing simply because we are too distracted to notice? What blessings are we passing by because our minds are consumed with endless details? Are we blindly stumbling through our lives unaware of God's presence all around us?

Jesus is nudging our souls awake and asking us to open our eyes to what is true -- God is breaking into the world. Advent reminds us of the Emmanuel, the Good News that God is with us. Advent can be a time of increased awareness.

We aren't college students -- Jesus isn't telling us to break out the coffee, energy drinks and NoDoz so that we can pull an all-nighter. He is instead calling us and inviting us to be aware both of the needs all around us and of the presence of the living God to help us offer support to those in need. It is a call to action today – to wake up -- now instead of tomorrow. Let's not sleep our lives away but instead roll up our sleeves and answer the call to share the hope of God-with-us.

The extraordinary good news of Advent is that God chooses to be with us. God enters into our world desiring a relationship with us. The bad news is that we are often unaware of this miracle. The season of Advent can be a time when we take Jesus' call to "wake up" to heart. We can turn off our computer and tear ourselves away from email so that we can look for God in the people and the places all around us.

Here is a plan for Advent: Be ready, be awake and look for the God who promises to come to us.
Let us pray.
We are reminded by Jesus in today’s gospel that we should always be awake, for we never know when our loving Father will call us to Him. We pray, Lord, that in our busy lives we always remain alert and be prepared to listen to Your voice and carry out Your holy will. We pray to the Lord.                      
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, reminding us that preparation should begin for Christmas. We pray that our preparation be a spiritual one and that our real joy be in celebrating the coming of Christ, our Savior. We pray to the Lord.                    
As we enter into the season of Advent, we look forward in Hope to the birth of our Savior, that he, through his coming, will offer us the means of salvation and life everlasting. We pray to the Lord.                        
Lord Jesus, during Advent, in hope and confidence we pray that you grant us the wisdom, the time, energy and foresight to review how we each live our life – with our family, our friends, our community, our work and most importantly, with our God.  We pray to the Lord.                      
As we enter a new season for our Church, we pray for those who have been disillusioned through scandal, disappointment or indifference, that their relationship with our loving Savior be renewed afresh. We pray to the Lord.                      
During this Week of Witness, we pray for Christians throughout the world who continue to be attacked, displaced and murdered for their faith. We pray that they be comforted in their daily lives with Christ’s gift of courage, the grace of witness and the promise of salvation. We pray to the Lord.
For the poor and hungry, who often are neglected during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that they may be cared for and provided for throughout the year. 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.
Merciful God, we long for and need the presence of Christ in our lives. We long for a holy visitation but confess that we are too distracted to notice when it arrives. We long for peace but confess that we will not be still long enough to greet it. We long for the joy of new babies and angelic choirs but confess that we are too frantic to stop and look and listen. Forgive us, Lord. Forgive our misplaced priorities that crowd you out of our Advent worship and our lives. Renew in us a desire for you above all else. You call us to prepare, gracious Savior -- to prepare to entertain angels, to be alert to wait and watch, to be awake for the coming of glory, to receive your presence in our lives. Send your Spirit upon us, we pray, that we might be made ready to open our hearts and lives with gladness. Fill us with the joy of anticipation and make our waiting a sweet time of communion with you. 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, November 24, 2019

November 24, 2019
The Sunday Next before Advent
(Christ the King Sunday)
(Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43)
The rapper Eminem has a song, “Kings Never Die,” inspired by the movie Southpaw about boxer, Billy "The Great" Hope. The somg ends with the words, Here to stay / Even when I’m gone / When I close my eyes / Through the passage of time / Kings never die.
But he’s wrong. Kings do indeed die. Kings die. All the time.
But what if they were able to avoid such tragic ends?
The Atlantic magazine last year asked the question: “Whose untimely death would you most like to reverse?” If you could turn back time and save a great leader, who would you pick? And what difference would it make?
Elvis Presley was the “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll,” and he died at age 42 from cardiac arrest. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by an assassin at age 39. Jesus was described as “King of the Jews,” and died on a cross in his early 30s.
Buddy Holly wasn’t the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll, but is often described as the Father of Rock ‘N’ Roll. His great songs — including “That’ll Be the Day,” “Rave On,” and “Peggy Sue” — make you wonder how many other classics he would have written and recorded if he had not died in a plane crash at age 22.
Although not a true king, Robert F. Kennedy was a member of a family considered to be political royalty. Author Thomas Cahill wonders what America would look like today had he not died in 1968.
Actor Ashley Eckstein would like to reverse Walt Disney’s death. “Disney changed the world,” she writes. “Imagine how much more happiness and magic he could have spread had he not passed away early.”
And producer Alison Sweeney writes that “Abraham Lincoln’s assassination changed the trajectory of the United States. We’ll never know what could have been if he’d been able to finish his second term.”
Elvis. MLK. Buddy Holly. RFK. Walt Disney. Abraham Lincoln. All were kings in their respective fields, and the world would certainly be different if they had not suffered untimely deaths.
And Jesus? Luke tells the story of the death of Jesus on the cross. A sign over the head of Jesus reads, “This is the King of the Jews,” and soldiers mock him, saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” Even one of the criminals crucified next to Jesus said, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
The crucifixion was an excruciating and humiliating way for a king to die. And in the case of Jesus, it was an unjust sentence. The criminal on the other side of Jesus rebuked his fellow criminal, saying, “We indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Jesus was killed for crimes he did not commit.
So what if the untimely death of Jesus had been reversed? What if Jesus the King had gone on to live a long and happy life? Would the world be a better place?
You have to wonder. Since the crucifixion of Jesus was such an abomination, it is tempting to think that the world would certainly have improved if his death sentence had been overturned. But sometimes, terribly shocking tragedies can have unexpectedly good results.
Think back to November 1963, 56 years ago, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This killing was a hinge point in history, on par with Pearl Harbor and 9-11. It pivoted America from the calm of the 1950s to the upheaval of the 1960s.
Initially, reaction to Kennedy’s assassination was nationwide shock and sorrow. Then the American people rallied around his vision of putting a man on the moon by supporting the Apollo program. JFK’s call for civil rights was amplified by his successor Lyndon B. Johnson, who invoked Kennedy’s memory as he advocated for the Civil Rights Act.
In the end, the death of JFK was not only a tragedy but a catalyst. His murder led to advances that might have become bogged down, or not occurred at all.
We’ll never know if Kennedy would have been effective in a full presidential term — or two. In the same way, we’ll never know if Jesus would have expanded his ministry beyond Israel, although he always was quite clear that his kingdom was “not from this world.” As the great Christian thinker Henri Nouwen observed, “For Jesus, there are no countries to be conquered, no ideologies to be imposed, no people to be dominated. There are only children, women and men to be loved.”
All we know for sure is that the earthly ministry of Jesus ended on a cross. And because he died and then rose on Easter, we followers of Jesus Christ now make up the world’s largest religious group, with more than two and a half billion adherents. We accept the tragic death of Jesus as part of our religious history, and we understand — in a variety of ways — that the evil that was done to him eventually resulted in great good.

On a practical level, Christians are motivated to fight injustice because it was a completely innocent Jesus who was nailed to a cross with criminals on either side of him. Across the country, people are now working with the Innocence Project to exonerate wrongly convicted individuals.
In South Africa, after the apartheid era, Christians such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which allowed victims and perpetrators to speak in public hearings and move toward reconciliation. Such a Christian focus on forgiveness comes from what Jesus said about his killers from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Could such enormous good have been done without the cross? Certainly, for God is all powerful. But the crucifixion of Jesus, like the assassination of JFK, is both a shock and a stimulus. Kennedy’s death motivated the American people to work for progress, while the crucifixion inspires Christians to fight injustice and do the hard work of forgiveness and reconciliation. Both tragedies point us toward the possibility that death is not the end, and that good can come out of evil. The mystery of why God chose this method for something good to come from it, we may never know.
The death of Jesus also forces us to confront our own mortality and to prepare for eternal life with God. After the second criminal defends Jesus from the cross, he says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
No earthly king can make this kind of promise, because no earthly king can offer us forgiveness and eternal life. But Jesus the King is both human and divine, so his words give us the assurance that we will be with him in paradise. The struggles of this world will be over, and we will be forgiven and made whole, eternally united with God and with each other.
Each of us is going to come to the end of our life with feelings of guilt and regret. We will have done some evil things that we should not have done, and we will have failed to do some good things that we should have done.
And if we haven’t done anything stupendously evil, then surely we’ve done some spectacularly stupid things we now regret.
Even if we work hard to fight injustice and do the hard work of reconciliation, we are going to make bad choices and crazy, stupid mistakes. Life is chaotic and complicated, and no one can live it without sin. Some of us will even feel as guilty as the criminal on the cross, who said to his fellow lawbreaker, “We indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds.” My first mistake is getting out of bed in the morning sometimes.
But if we trust in Jesus, we can be given forgiveness and eternal life. The criminal shows his trust by saying, “Jesus, remember me,” and Jesus rewards this trust by saying, “today you will be with me in Paradise.” The criminal can do nothing from the cross to change his past. All he can do is put his faith in Jesus to be his Savior, completely relying on God’s grace. And fortunately, that is enough.
Enough for him, and enough for us.
The criminal believes that King Jesus is going to continue to live and to come into his kingdom. And more than anything else, the man wants to be with him. He teaches us to accept that our lives are going to end, and that we can be given forgiveness and eternal life by a king who continues to rule from heaven.
So maybe Eminem is right after all. Jesus is Here to stay / Even when I’m gone / When I close my eyes / Through the passage of time / Kings never die.
Let us pray.
For the Church, that we may work joyfully and selflessly in building God’s kingdom. We pray to the Lord.
That world leaders may look to the Lord as a model of the way they should treat their citizens, especially those most in need. We pray to the Lord.
That the arrival of the season of Advent will see the world at peace, ready to prepare the way for the kingdom of God. We pray to the Lord.
For criminals, that they may feel remorse for their crimes and realize God’s promise of forgiveness. We pray to the Lord.
For an end to the death penalty, and for a growing realization of the dignity of the human person and the unlimited possibility of redemption. We pray to the Lord.
For all of us in our parish family, that we may be instruments of God’s mercy, forgiving those who have hurt us and caring for those who turn to us for help. 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.
God of Eternity, we stand with the courage of those who insisted, even in perilous times, that not even the most powerful rulers of this earth hold our eternal destiny in their hands. We are secure in Christ, whose reign is just, whose power is endless, and whose love is unfathomable. God of Eternity, we join the chorus of saints who continue to declare that Christ is our King. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Sunday, November 17, 2019

November 17, 2019
The Twenty-Second Sunday after Easter
(2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19)
It’s the “Age of the App!” These mini-programs are now found everywhere in the digital world: on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. They tell us the weather, order our lunch, arrange our dating partners and even answer our doorbells. Although, I am confident my dog is a better doorbell! I am old and stubborn, so there are just some things an app cannot replace.
So, you download an app — let’s say “Two-Dots,” a game app rated highly for 2019 — and you’re all set. Or so you thought. You’re now staring at a window on your device with a teeny check-box, beside which are the words: “I have read and accept the terms and conditions for the use of this product.”
Out of curiosity, you may scroll down and peruse pages of fine-print legalese, but you are eager to enjoy your new app, so you simply mark the “I agree” option and move on.
Of course, you are not the only one who does this. These “terms and conditions” (T&C) paragraphs and privacy policies on average are more than 2,500 words long! Reading 250 words a minute, it would take most people at least 10 minutes to read through these conditions.
Who does that? Let’s be honest - very few.
And given the fact that you’re likely to use more than 1,400 websites and apps a year, you would need to devote 25 days annually to reading these policies.
Who does that? No one does that.
Yet, in checking that little box, you agree to the terms of a contract that could have serious implications concerning your rights and privileges, and, since you have made an overt act of assent, courts have generally held that it is legally binding.
A quick online search reveals that enterprising attorneys have established a cottage industry engaged in writing these statements. These websites offer a cornucopia of options for the prospective vendor to include in these T&C. These often restrict your use of the product, your ability to share it with friends or family members, and your ability to obtain redress should it harm you or your equipment. There is truly a lot at stake here. In marking “I agree,” you may be getting a lot more than you bargained for.

Maybe, when we sign on with Jesus, we’re getting more than we bargained for. One would hope that’s a good thing. Both the Epistle and the Gospel hint at something good, but it is the in-between – or the waiting AKA the T & C that causes pause sometimes.
But the going can sometimes be tough. One has to wonder whether the disciples of Jesus understood for what they were signing up. Did they accept the T&C without actually reading the fine print? Were they so excited about getting to use this new app called “The Messiah,” that they threw caution to the winds?
“We’re in,” says Peter, speaking for himself and his fishermen friends.
The Christians of the church in Thessalonica is to whom Paul is writing in today’s epistle reading. Did they know the T&C of the faith they had embraced? At some point in time, they must have been offered an “accept” or “decline” option. They checked the “accept” box and now here they were: a religious minority in Thessalonica with a misunderstanding about something really, really major: The second coming of Jesus Christ.
They thought he was coming soon — like any moment now type of time. The return was imminent, they thought. They might not have time to clear the breakfast dishes.
They “accepted” the T&C of the “Christian faith” app which they assumed promised them deliverance and a future in a glorious new world, a kingdom of another world completely.
Paul’s correspondence with the churches of Thessalonica reflected a transition in the life of the developing Christian community. Most scholars agree that Jesus’ ministry emerged in a time of apocalyptic excitement. Something was about to happen — and it would happen very soon.
After all, if God was going to intervene in history, there was no better time than the present. After two centuries of fairly benign rule, Rome was becoming increasingly engaged in the lives of the Hebrew population.
Many Jews believed that God could not allow the present situation to continue much longer; the Lord was about to intervene, and, after the death of John, they saw the ministry of Jesus as God’s opening act.
What if Jesus did not make a timely return? What if the church was forced to reorient its thinking to a longer-term, more-sustainable situation?
This is the situation in this morning’s text. Jesus has not yet made his triumphant return. The battle anticipated has not yet occurred. And the church is forced to deal with this unexpected situation.
It has to learn to live in the world of the “not yet.”
But this is not what everyone had signed up for. When they checked “accept,” they expected results. So they had a hard time “accepting” this change in plans. Some members of the community were still living from the labors of others and not contributing to the ongoing common support. As Paul’s letter put it, they were “living in idleness.”
Thus Paul instructed the community: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”
He’s referring to those who — to their credit — actually believed the return of Christ was imminent. These were true believers. And their so-called idleness was a testimony to their fervent belief, however misguided, that Jesus was coming, like, any moment!
The takeaway for this Epistle could be whether we accept or decline the T&C Jesus Christ lays out before us, and whether we fully understand those conditions.
In Matthew (4:19), for example, Jesus invites Simon and Andrew with the words, “Follow me,” and the writer reports that “immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
This call apparently came without the trigger warnings that we expect today. There was no statement of the potential side effects of such an action, no disclaimer of consequences and no limitations of liability. There was simply the command, “Follow me.”
Maybe the “idlers” in today’s Epistle reading had received just such a summons, and they accepted it without looking at the fine print. Maybe, like Simon and Andrew, they left their nets and followed Jesus. That made sense, since Jesus was bringing in the kingdom of God. It was only a matter of time — a brief one, or so it seemed — before they would all be in the “great light.”
But there was more to this bargain, wasn’t there? Jesus did not simply ask his disciples to follow him; he warned them, saying, “If any want to become my disciples, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
There were consequences to clicking “I Accept” on Jesus’ “app,” and those consequences were frighteningly real.
A cross is involved. The social and political cost of identifying with Christ was real, and the injunction to “take up your cross” was no mere metaphor. Even in today’s social climate, it can be difficult.  
In any event, for the believers in Thessalonica, a community under siege, there was no place for those who were unwilling to carry their share of the load. Paul pressed them to contribute to the task, not only for the sake of others, but their own. There was work to be done; a prize to be won.
In his criticism of those who hang on, but do not contribute, he could have been echoing the words of Jesus: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Matthew 16:24-26).
After all, that same Jesus is the one who said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
There’s a truism that says that you can do anything you want if you’re willing to pay the price.
The problem is that often we do not know the price.
We can do this, but do we accept the terms and conditions? Do we know what they are? And if we do, are we still willing to follow, surrender all and not count the cost?
Let us pray.
For the families, friends and fellow students of the two teens shot and killed by another team in a Santa Clarita school this week. May the two deceased rest in peace eternal; and may all those who have experienced violence in their lives, may God provide consolation through the support of caregivers as they recover from their physical and emotional wounds. May the Holy Spirit be with them all during this time of pain. We pray to the Lord.
For all those affected by natural disasters and environmental tragedies, especially those affected by the wild fires in California, that they may be assisted in rebuilding their lives and restoring what they have lost. We pray to the Lord.
For peace throughout the world: that injustice and hatred will be replaced by a spirit of mercy and brotherhood. We pray to the Lord.
For the Church: that we may firmly believe in the promises of Christ and be vigilant in keeping ourselves ready for His return. We pray to the Lord.
For courage to face the future: confident that God makes all things work together, we may approach the future, with both its joy and sorrows, aware that God is always with us and desires to give us fullness of life. 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.
Father God, you bring us together in this place. We come to be fed, to be renewed, to seek understanding. You challenge us in this place. We embrace the challenge, trusting that through challenge we grow in faith. As we worship in this place, refresh, and renew us so that we would see your awesomeness. May we not grow weary in doing good. Keep us from idleness, that we may not be busybodies. Enable us to do our work quietly in a manner that pleases you.
We confess to each other and to you, our Creator, that we fall short of being what we have been created to be, what we have committed ourselves to be, disciples of the kingdom. We often seek out the easiest paths; paths of least involvement in places where we might be uncomfortable, or paths of self-centeredness. Forgive us for getting so caught up in the world’s trappings and its false messages of hope that we lose sight of the hope of the kingdom, which brings healing and peace to a world in turmoil.
And lastly, Father God, Most Merciful Father, we ask for some resilience in our lives due to the incessant shootings and senseless murders that have plagued our country. It is in these times that we question our faith; help all involved to not lose their faith, but to come to you openly. Lord, we pray for those who have been devastated by recent tragedies. We remember those who have lost their lives so suddenly. We hold in our hearts the families forever changed by grief and loss. Bring them consolation and comfort. Surround them with our prayers for strength. Bless those who have survived and heal their memories of trauma and devastation. May they have the courage to face the days ahead.
Help everyone close to these victims to respond with generosity in prayer, in assistance, and in comfort to the best of their abilities. We ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

November 10, 2019
The Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity
(2 Thessalonians 2:13 – 3:5; Luke 20:27-38)
We are being bombarded in the media about the happenings in the White House. A constant back and forth of allegations, resignations, firings, quid pro quo’s, harassments, lies, fake news, denials, cover-ups, threats, and ad nauseam. Depending upon one’s point of view, party affiliation and a plethora of any number of things, we are challenged to find the truth. Of course, we are mostly challenge to either believe the current person in the oval office is either a lunatic, or merely a victim. Are the Democrats correct, or are the Republicans? It appears the country is divided and most of you already know my opinion.
Our modern situation isn’t really a lot different than what has been experienced since the creation of the world. In fact, we see in today’s Gospel reading, it can take place in many forms and topics. In the time of Jesus, there were a variation of Democrats and Republicans – in the religious world that is – the Sadducees and the Pharisees.
The Sadducees and Pharisees were the major sects in Judaism at the time of Jesus. We know that Jesus grew up in the ways and teachings of the Pharisees, so he is very familiar with the sect from the inside, much like one who works in the administration of the White House.
In Luke’s Gospel we’ve heard a lot about the Pharisees and most of it hasn’t been positive. They accuse Jesus of blasphemy, complain when he eats with sinners, and reproach him for breaking the law when he heals on the Sabbath. Jesus in turn paints the Pharisees as hypocrites and lovers of money. By contrast we read about the Sadducees only once. With this inequality of attention, it may come as a surprise that the Pharisees enjoyed the support of the common people, like fishermen and townspeople that Jesus spent most of his time with, while the aristocratic Sadducees weren’t popular.
The Sadducees don’t seem to take any notice of Jesus until the very end of his life when he is in Jerusalem where they are. They begin to worry that he will start a revolt against their own authority and against the Roman Empire. In the Gospel passage today, the Sadducees aren’t concerned about implications of marriage and the resurrection. Nope, that is all fake news! Their intent is to undermine Jesus’ message. They want to expose the improbably absurd notion of life after death.
The Sadducees pose a ridiculous scenario to Jesus in the hopes to trip him up. But Jesus cuts through the heart of the question about the resurrection of the dead. Do we really believe that God has authority over life and earth and the ability to bring life from death? Jesus is about to live his certainty in the resurrection by submitting to death. He knows, as he tells the Sadducees, that God is the God of the living – there is no death in him.
Theological sophistication is on display today when Jesus responds to the derogatory trick question about resurrection. While Jesus is in the Jerusalem temple after making his lengthy journey, he faces a question from a powerful party of religious leaders. The Sadducees did not accept resurrection, as they focused squarely on Mosaic Law, the first five books of the Bible. And in those books the word resurrection is not mentioned. Instead, it is a term more closely associated with the book of Daniel or even 2 Maccabees, which are not accepted by the Sadducees as authoritative.
So, the question the Sadducees pose to Jesus is meant to illustrate how ridiculous the concept of resurrection is. This is reminder that not all Jews of Jesus’ day had similar beliefs. There were differences in understanding and applying the Jewish faith, much as there are differences among Jews today – and apparently, Democrats and Republicans. For that matter there are differences among the different Catholic churches, and then again between Catholic and Protestant churches and Christians in general.
But the question allows Jesus the chance to correct their misunderstanding, using Mosaic Law, something they would have accepted as authoritative. Jesus’ words indicate there is no marriage in the afterlife, thereby undercutting the foundation of their question. His answer wasn’t meant to say that if your spouse dies and goes on to heaven and then you also die and go to heaven that your spouse will not longer want you or love you, because surely, they will. This answer wasn’t meant to touch on that, but on resurrection itself.
Jesus’ response was dealing with resurrection - that resurrection was not for all, but only for those deemed worthy. This reflects a common understanding at that time by those who believed in resurrection. They held that only the just were raised as a reward for their right conduct. In later centuries Christians wondered if the unjust would be raised also, if only to be punished eternally. But that is not the question that Jesus faced. For him, the question was a literal understanding of resurrection to such a degree that it involved marriage in the afterlife. Jesus continues his counterargument by citing Mosaic Law and the words of Moses, who spoke of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all of whom died centuries before Moses.
As God is the God of the living, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must be alive. This is a clever twist on a familiar passage, and it demonstrates the theological sophistication of this Jew from the backwaters of Galilee. He was in Jerusalem now, arguing with the learned in the Temple. His audience was most likely growing, and after this encounter so too was the opposition he faced.
Jesus is not alone in believing in the resurrection of the dead. In 2 Maccabees 7 we hear the martyrdom of a mother and her seven sons. Rather than profane their ancestral beliefs, the brothers willingly submit to execution, each first stating complete trust that “the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.” The question of resurrection is one that divided the two main Jewish religious groups of Jesus’ day, hence why the Sadducees asked him the question, knowing that his upbringing was Pharisaic. In his preaching and teaching Jesus seems to offer a challenge and an invitation to everyone he meets. He calls the tax collectors to repentance, the self-righteous to humility, and the complacent to continue to delve into the mystery of God.
Today’s Gospel is one of the few stories where we hear Jesus’ thoughts on the question of resurrection. Of course, one of the reasons it’s so interesting is that we know he will experience resurrection after a humiliating public death less than a week later. Though resurrection is a central element of the Christian faith, it continues to be debated through the centuries. Even St. Paul had issues with preaching the resurrection, as the longest chapter in any of his letters – 1 Corinthians 15 – deals entirely with the topic, while some of the pastoral letters indicate that other Christians continued to misunderstand resurrection. The Apostolic Fathers also address the issue, as do many others in every century including our own.
So, even as we struggle to grasp what is the truth in our day, we usually can all agree that we are Americans, even if we hold different political views. In the end, we choices to make – to choose truth or to choose fake. Throughout his ministry Jesus calls people away from boxes in which they have placed God. He preaches and reveals a God beyond human comprehension. In the Sadducees and the Pharisees, Jesus is talking to the religious people of his day, the ones who faithfully visited the Temple and studied in the synagogue. The ones that felt they had the most claim on Judaism of the time. There is a lesson here for us also. Like the Sadducees do we try to control God, or to claim that we understand who God is and what God can do? If so, Jesus tells us, “Look again.” This is called faith!
Let us pray.
In today’s gospel Jesus confirms that although the body may die, we ourselves are children of the resurrection, who become as angels, sons and daughters of our God. We pray that we never lose sight of our ultimate destination and the promise of eternal life in the glorious presence of the Father who loves us with an everlasting love. We pray to the Lord.
In this month of November, we remember our dead in a very special way. Let us today celebrate the lives of our beloved ones and members of our community who have departed this life and pray that they may enjoy the blessings of God’s compassion and love eternally. We pray to the Lord.                  
We pray for all those who have recently lost loved ones and are in mourning. We pray that they may find real hope and consolation in Christ’s promise of everlasting life and in that the spirit of their loved one is ever present in their lives. We pray to the Lord.                
We pray for those who are sick and unwell, particularly those with cancer and for those currently undergoing treatment. We pray for their recovery and that in their darkest moments the care of friends and neighbors may bring them hope and peace. We pray to the Lord.
That those elected to political office will serve their people with honesty, and in their policies show care for those deprived of justice. We pray to the Lord.
That the rectory be completed quickly, under budget, with honestly, integrity and according to plan. We pray to the Lord.
For all veterans, that they may know God’s presence in their hearts, be healed of trauma and painful memories, and be blessed with health and well-being. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace of sacrificial love, that we may be open to all the ways God calls us to lay down our lives in witness to the truth and in loving service of others. 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.
Father help us to show our love of thee by serving you and loving others with generous hearts and willing hands. Loving God, your Son taught us that you are God of the living and that for you, all are alive. Trusting in that hope, we ask you to care for all those who have died and listen to these prayers. God of everlasting life keep us hopeful in what lies beyond, while we struggle to live life fully each and every day. Help us to be people of faith and hope, who encourage those who have lost hope. We ask this through 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

Sunday, November 3, 2019

November 3, 2019
All Saints/All Souls Sunday
(Romans 5:5-11; John 6:37-40)
On the feast of All Saints the Church assigns the Beatitudes of the Gospel of Matthew. I sometimes wonder what a life of Christ would look like in a different age or culture, or from different perspectives. For this, we have the Saints. Each Saint takes as a keynote the life and mission of Jesus and transforms it into something of his or her own expression of the Christian life.
St. Francis of Assisi showed us how it was done in the thirteenth-century Italy. St. Ignatius of Loyola showed how this is done in Reformation Spain. Mother Teresa showed us how it was done in the late twentieth-century. Our task is do this in our own place and time.
The Gospel for All Saints begins with Jesus ascending the mountain, sitting down, and issuing these Beatitudes which comes across like an echo of the Sinai covenant when God issued the Law to Moses. It gives the feeling, to the reader, that Matthew is saying this teaching of Jesus is the new Law. In fact, chapters 5 through 7 are referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, opened by the Beatitudes. The three chapters could very well be considered the new “Law” to his followers.
These Beatitudes have a significant importance not only to All Saints Day, of which this reading is assigned, but also for All Souls day. The nine Beatitudes that Matthew gives us are translated as “Happy” as in “Happy are the poor in spirit.” These Beatitudes express a different way of approaching the world. The poor in spirit in Jesus’ day were certainly not considered “blessed” or “happy,” but for Jesus theirs was the kingdom of heaven. For Jesus those mourning would be comforted and the meek would inherit the earth. A reversal was in order to be brought by God himself. The kingdoms of this world do not alleviate all poverty and mourning. But God will! This doesn’t mean we don’t work to alleviate suffering, poverty, and the like, but it will happen once and for all with God himself as King.
As the Beatitudes are often considered a self-portrait of Jesus, we might apply them to ourselves as a modern variation of disciples. The disciples, like Jesus himself, are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. They are merciful, clean of heart, and peacemakers. Though God will bring about his kingdom in the end, that does not excuse us from doing the work of justice or bringing about peace.
The examples of the saints shows us what the Christian life, the self-portrait of Jesus, looks like throughout history.  We have many examples, from whom we should emulate, so as we live the Beatitudes in our time and place.
On All Saints, we celebrate those heroes of the faith who have gone before us as exemplars, and there are thousands. These are the ones who have been “officially” proclaimed by the Church as saints. But we know there are many more saints than those. Even St. Paul addressed his letters to the “saints” in the various locales to which he wrote. The meaning behind Paul’s usage of “saints” is that of one who is set apart for the service of God. Many of whom may have led exceptional lives in a service to God, but were not given the formal title of “Saint.”
Those who did not obtain a formal title are likely those members of our family who have gone before us in faith. Such as, our parents, grandparents, friends with all their siblings and extended families as well. Christianity is a faith that is passed down through storytelling, one person telling what God has done through Christ. Many stories are in the Bible, but after two thousand years we have many more stories of heroic figures of faith to tell. And these heroes of faith extend to those we have known and loved.
The Gospel reading today reminds us that Jesus does not reject anyone who comes to him. In our denomination we teach this without prejudice, because many churches will claim this, however they will inhibit the Eucharist from those they deem not worthy. (Think of the incident in the news this past week about Presidential Candidate Joe Biden being denied Communion by a priest, because of Biden’s view on abortion. Joe Biden would be welcomed to our altar! The Eucharist is not a tool or weapon to make the faithful toe a line or teaching. It is a gift and supernatural grace given to us freely!) Shy of you committing murder front and center here in the church before me while about to administer communion to you, I (we) presume nothing about your soul, nor will any race or other factor, make you unworthy in our eyes. And this, we believe, is how Christ viewed it. We teach in his example.
Nor does Jesus lose anything given to him. On the last day he will raise them up! This hope of eternal life and reconnecting with those we love who have gone before us is an essential element of Christian faith. We have this hope precisely because Jesus himself rose from the dead and promised he would do the same for those who come to him.
As the weather is turning cooler and we make a month and a half approach to winter, it seems an appropriate time to recall those who have gone before us. All lived lives of Christian hope built on the promise of Jesus to raise them up on the last day. This is our hope too, inspired by that same promise. And there will be Christians who will come after us who might be remembering us too. We are in a long line of those who believe in Jesus, the one sent by the Father. And with that belief comes eternal life. Our own personal death is not the end, and Jesus’ own death was not the end for him. Resurrection and new life await. This is not a restoration of the old, but something new and transformative when we will all be united in him, generations past and those still to come.
This is the Paschal mystery where dying leads to new life. One end leads to a beginning, and the tomb opens to the resurrection. With the Beatitudes as our new “Law” and guide from Jesus, we have hope. Happy are we who have hope. On these days of commemoration of all the Saints and the faithful departed, let us celebrate their lives by sharing stories of faith, enkindling in us that Christian Hope which inspires. When darkness and cold increase, our Christian hope in eternal life remains resilient and ever present.
Let us pray.
That the Church be a beacon of blessing within the darkness and chaos of the world. We pray to the Lord.
That all people will come to know the blessedness, happiness and beauty of living a life faithful to the beatitudes. We pray to the Lord.
That all those oppressed by grief and persecution may find hope and comfort. We pray to the Lord.
That all gathered here, inspired by the lives of the saints, might persevere in the life of faith. We pray to the Lord.
That strengthened by the faith of countless followers of Christ throughout the ages, the Church might grow in holiness and fidelity to the Lord’s will. We pray to the Lord.
That those grieving the loss of a loved one, especially those killed this week in the multiple shootings, may be comforted by the Lord of everlasting Life. 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.
Holy God, throughout the ages you have called holy men, women and children to live lives of peace, beauty, and blessing. Hear our prayers that we might answer your call to holiness within our own lives. Loving Father, we long to share the communion of charity that the Saints in heaven have with you. Make us holy, deepen our desire for sanctity, and let that desire govern everything we say and do. Further, God of eternal life, you desire to raise all souls to the abundance of heaven. Hear our prayers that we, and all people, might lead lives of holiness and peace. Most merciful Father help us to still and quiet ourselves, confident in your unfailing mercy. 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 USA

Monday, October 28, 2019

October 27, 2019
The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
(2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14)
One afternoon a carpet layer had just finished installing carpet for a lady. He stepped out for a smoke, only to realize that he had lost his cigarettes. After a quick, but fruitless search, he noticed that in the middle of the room, under the carpet that he had just installed, was a bump. His cigarettes!
“No sense pulling up the entire floor for one pack of smokes,” the carpet layer said to himself. So, he got out his mallet and flattened the bump.
Not long after, as he was cleaning up, the lady came in. “Here,” she said, handing him his pack of cigarettes. “I found them in the hallway. Now,” she said, “if only I could find my parakeet.”
Oops. My bad. Although I haven’t heard it used as much lately, “My Bad” is a recent younger generational slang for, “My Error/Mistake.” I caught myself saying it the other day.
Sometimes we know when we’ve made a mistake. Sometimes we don’t.
It’s the ones we don’t see that can really be the problem.
History has had some interesting mistakes. Let’s look at three.
The mistake that burned down London. On the night of September 1, 1666, the oven of the royal baker to the king of England sparked a fire. It wasn’t a spectacular conflagration, and it seemed like no big deal at first, but the fire burned for five days. In the end, it wiped out 13,000 homes and leveled 80 percent of the city. (With a year with those numbers, is there any wonder that something like this could happen??)
The mistake that sobered America up. Prohibition in the United States lasted from 1920 to 1933, and during this period it was illegal to manufacture, transport and sell alcoholic beverages. It seemed like a great idea at the time — outlaw liquor, and you eliminate a whole range of alcohol-related social ills. But Americans like to have a drink or two, and Prohibition opened our eyes to the ways in which organized crime will meet this demand in profitable, violent and destructive ways.
The mistake that killed John Wayne. Much of the filming for the movie The Conqueror was done in Utah’s Snow Canyon, which is located about 150 miles downwind from a nuclear testing facility. At least 91 of the 220 people who worked on the movie contracted cancer, and more than half of them died — including John Wayne. (Wayne himself, however, blamed it on his six pack a day cigarette smoking.)
A spark jumps out of an oven, and a baker fails to snuff it. A well-intentioned ban is placed on alcohol. A movie is filmed downwind from a nuke facility. These are small oversights, errors and miscalculations that we do not tend to see as major mistakes, until the aftermath happens.
But secret problems can hurt us. They can quickly get out of control and kill us. They should drive us to our knees, cause us to do some searching self-examination, and lead us to confess what the Bible calls “hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12).
In other words, they should cause us to admit to God, “My bad.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, addressing it to people who feel self-righteous, and regard others with contempt.
In other words, he is speaking to us — average people who tend to see themselves as better than average. Studies show that nine in 10 managers rate themselves as superior to their average colleagues, as do nine in 10 college professors. According to professor of psychology David Myers, most drivers — even those who have been hospitalized after accidents — believe themselves to be safer and more skilled than the average driver.
“The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background,” notes comedian Dave Barry, “is that deep down inside, we all believe that we are above average drivers.”
Jesus says that two men go up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and one a tax collector. The natural assumption made by anyone hearing this story is that the Pharisee is the devout person — the good driver! The tax collector, on the other hand, is the sinner, the bad driver.
Sure enough, the Pharisee steps away from the crowd in order to maintain his purity before God, and launches into a list of all his religious accomplishments: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” He does everything right, according to the standards of the day, obeying all the religious rules of the road. In terms of keeping God’s commandments, he is way above average.
Then the tax collector bows his head, beats his breast, and says, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” He’s feeling so ashamed that he cannot even raise his hands and look up to heaven, which is the standard position for first-century prayer. The tax collector doesn’t make any boasts or excuses — he simply asks for God’s mercy.
There’s no reason to assume that this tax collector is a particularly spectacular sinner. If he were a thief, a rogue or an adulterer, Jesus would say so. It’s much more likely that he is confessing a set of secret, hidden faults — a collection of oversights, errors and miscalculations that only he would know.
So, the above-average Pharisee boasts, while the sin-sick tax collector says, “My bad.”
They both make a connection with God, right?
Wrong!
In a surprising twist, Jesus concludes the parable by saying, “I tell you, the latter [the tax collector] went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The tax collector restores his relationship with God by asking for forgiveness, while the Pharisee moves farther away from God by boasting of his righteousness.
This isn’t what the hearers of the parable expect. They’ve been taught that good behavior draws you closer to God, while bad behavior drives you away. But Jesus is insisting that unless we are aware of our secret faults, and humble enough to know that we need forgiveness, we’re going to discover that our minor mistakes can get out of control and destroy us.
Think again of the historical mistakes that seemed so small at first, but then caused enormous problems. Prohibition may have been a noble idea, and a spark from a baker’s oven may have seemed like no big deal, but both turned out to be huge problems. In the same way, the Pharisee’s fasting and tithing seemed noble at first, and his pride in his good behavior seemed to be a minor mistake, but together these factors created a disaster. Without humility, there was no way for him to be right with God!
When you trust God, you get God. But when you trust only yourself, you get … only yourself.
So, what are the mistakes we make, sometimes without knowing it? It’s time for us to do some searching self-examination, confess our hidden faults, and say to God, “My bad.”
One mistake that can really bite us is our failure to see the image of God in the people around us. Step into a subway car, and you tend to see differences — different skin colors, hairstyles, tattoos, piercings, body shapes and makeup choices. Some of these differences repel you and you step back, just like the Pharisee moved away from the crowd, not wanting to associate with unclean people. But these differences are all superficial, and most don’t reflect the true nature of a person. The really deep truth about a crowd of people in a subway car is that they are children of God, created in the image and likeness of God. That is what we ought to be looking at. Racial tensions are at an especially high level currently, not helped by someone in the oval office.
Another mistake is to judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves. Think of the times you have felt your temperature rising as the line at the post office moves at a glacial pace, and then, when you get to the counter, the clerk messes up your transaction. You want to lash out, saying, “Pay attention and get it right!” We’re quick to judge others, but slow to judge ourselves — in our own daily work, we go easy on ourselves because we know how hard it is to focus when we are ill or tired or distracted by a personal problem. Like the Pharisee in the parable, we see sin in thieves, rogues, and adulterers, but not in ourselves. And this leads others to see us as judgmental and hypocritical — which is not always far from the truth.
Finally, we err when we are not honest with God — or honest with ourselves — about our need for forgiveness. The tax collector saw himself clearly, and he confessed his sinfulness, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Unfortunately, God is probably getting tired of hearing me tell him of my sins.)
All of this begs the question: How do I get to a place where I see the image of God in others, show mercy instead of judgment, recognize my own need for forgiveness?
On the basis of this text, the answer lies in this simple prayer - we should pray it — regularly. How can you fail to see God in others around you when you’ve started your day? My suggestion is by praying to God in the following or similar words: “God, please show your mercy and grace to me today because I realize I am needy and must rely on your help”?
Pray that prayer every morning and you’ll be less critical of others, you’ll look at yourself more honestly and at others with more compassion.
Each of us needs to be forgiven, whether we acknowledge it or not, just as the Pharisee needed to be cleansed of the sin of pride when he said, “O God, I thank you that I am not like other people.” It’s time to get honest — honest with God, and honest with ourselves. We cannot go home justified, restored to right relationship with God and one another, unless we admit that we need to be forgiven.
The opportunity comes to us here, just as it came to the Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple — the opportunity to see our mistakes, confess our hidden faults, and ask for the gift of forgiveness.
It all begins with two words, honestly spoken: “My bad.”
Let us pray.
That the Spirit teach us how to pray so that we may deepen our dependency upon God and open us to the length and breadth of God’s merciful kindness. We pray to the Lord.
That we may come before God honestly, surrendering our pride, and recognizing the limits of strengths and abilities. We pray to the Lord.
That we may recognize all our gifts, possessions and opportunities as gifts from God and place each of them in the service of God. We pray to the Lord.
For all leaders of government, nationally, regionally, and municipally; that they may be mindful of their responsibilities to act in the best interests of the people who depend on them for just policies and integrity in office. We pray to the Lord.
For those who are undergoing or trying to recover from hardship or tragedy, that they may be consoled. We pray to the Lord.
For our farmers and ranchers: that God will protect and sustain them and their families in this time of distress and uncertainty. 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.
Merciful God, you hear the cry of those who humble themselves before your majesty. You have set forth the way of life for us in Jesus of Nazareth. We confess that we have been slow to learn from his example. You have spoken to us and called us, and we have not followed. Your beauty has been expressed in the world around us, and we have been blind. You have stretched out your hands to us through our brothers and sisters, and we have passed by. We have taken great benefit with little thanks. We have been unworthy of your self-giving love. Forgive us, O God, and grant that we may be more faithful and constant in our love and service. We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA USA

Monday, October 21, 2019

October 20, 2019
The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
(2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8)
She was an elderly woman. About 50 years old. Moderately well-preserved, although a bit dried out. Not likely to attract much attention.
Granted, 50 is not so old - unless you're living 3,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. This 50-year-old woman was found in 2000 in burial chamber TT-95 in the Egyptian necropolis at Thebes-West. For someone who'd been buried for three millennia, she looked remarkably well-preserved. Yet even to archaeologists, she was not likely to attract attention because she appeared to be an average, everyday, garden-variety mummy ... until someone noticed the odd-looking big toe on her right foot. It was totally artificial.
It consisted of three pieces of carved wood fitted onto her foot with leather straps, making it the world's oldest known prosthesis. The wooden toe still looked ready for use, still lashed to the patient's mummified toe by a textile lace.
For paleo-pathologists around the world, this big toe was big news. X-rays revealed that the Egyptian woman's actual toe had been surgically removed, perhaps because artery disease had cut off circulation to the toe. Soft tissue and skin had overgrown the site where the toe had been taken off, and then the prosthetic toe had been added.
She must've been a persistent woman to go to all the trouble! Evidence shows that the device must've worked. Scuff marks on the toe's underside indicate that the artificial toe had assisted the woman for some time while she was alive. Without it, she would have had a very difficult time walking like an Egyptian.
Two millennia ago, there was another persistent woman of record, who evidently didn't have trouble getting around like Mummy did. Say what you want, but she was persistent. A pain. A pest. And Jesus uses her for an instructive lesson. Like a terrier at your cuff, she sunk in her teeth, snarling to the judge handling her case: "Render a just decision for me against my adversary."
Finally, the judge couldn't stand it anymore. "I neither fear God," he admitted to himself. He even confessed that he didn't care for people. "because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her." He simply wanted to get her out of his hair, because she was wearing him out with her continual griping. The widow's pleas were like a big wooden toe, one that kept jabbing and jabbing and jabbing away.
"Enough!" shouted the judge. "I get the point!" And, in a sense, so does God. "Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?" asks Jesus. "Will he be slow to answer them?" Of course not! "I tell you," Jesus insists, "he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily." Jesus is saying that if a corrupt and uncaring judge responds to persistent pleas, then certainly a holy and loving Lord will do the same.
Yet Jesus adds a nuance here easily overlooked. Whereas the earthly judge delays, God will act quickly. God does not need to be browbeaten into submission before he hears our prayers. Ask and it shall be given. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.
As I have stated a few times in the past, prayer was never meant to be a way to manipulate God into doing what we want God to do. Prayer isn’t about changing God; we pray to change ourselves. We are always looking for God to rescue us from our problems, but God doesn’t always rescue. God doesn’t rescue us from every problem or suffering. Rather, God walks with us in the darkness. However, saying this, we must still pray in faith, because Christ made it clear that we not only should pray, but that we should pray in faith that God will indeed grant our desire. That is the point of the parable in today’s Gospel.
That's why prayer is not a prosthesis, a kind of a crutch for people to lean on as they try to keep their faith from falling over. Prayer might be the big toe of faith, but there's nothing artificial about it, and we don't need to use it to be kicking God in the shins trying to get his attention. Prayer is rather the critical stabilizing faculty that keeps our faith upright, that keeps us in the game, that positions us to receive from God what he wants us to have.
Prayer is a practice that connects us to a power that is much greater than ourselves, a power that can fill us and change us and strengthen us and guide us. Prayer is a practice that is perfected by persistence - by disciplined determination to be in an ongoing conversation with God.
Prayer is like the movement of a wave in harmony with the great ocean that supports it and sustains it. Individual waves can make a splash now and then, and even beat themselves against the rocks - but they are most majestic and powerful when they are rolling in harmony with the ocean that creates them, day after day after day.
Kevin Burke, a social worker from here in California, was not a religious person, and he was discouraged from discussing religion in the hospital where he worked. But at San Francisco General Hospital in the early 1980s, he saw several patients who seemed to fare better because of their spirituality.
Now, years later, Burke has studied the effects of religion and spirituality on mental health and found a distinctive result: Those who say they feel "closeness to God," which Burke defines as spirituality, fare much better according to a standard research tool, the Rand Medical Outcome Survey.
Burke traces his research to his days in San Francisco. He remembers one patient, an undocumented worker from Central America, who was suffering from spinal cancer. Because Burke could speak Spanish, the man went to him for help. Burke brought the man a prayer card.
"He thanked me profusely," Burke recalls. "He just started talking about how important it was to pray. All I did was listen." Before the man died, his pain lessened. He required less medication. Doctors asked Burke what he had done. Burke became known as the prayer-card counselor.
The people he interviewed for his doctoral study were in similarly poor health. "All of these people had a number of chronic conditions. Physically, they were very sick people," Burke says. "Persons who were close to God tended to have very high mental health scores, independent of how bad they were physically. They tended to cope much better."
Here prayer is reduced to pain-killing, mood-enhancing theological Prozac dispensed at the hands of a "prayer-card counselor." Is this what feeling close to God is all about? Take a little prayer in the morning, get some rest and call me in the morning?
There's no question that the person who walks with God, the big toe of faith functioning as it should, is in a stronger position to endure the calamities of life than one of little faith. But you don't ignore God all your life, and then take a prayer card and slip it under the door of heaven asking for help.
Get serious. The faith walk of the Christian is strenuous and demanding. We need strong legs, and healthy feet for the journey. Without a muscular faith that has been well-conditioned, we'll be reduced to someone who thinks he's okay if he has a bed pan and a prayer card handy.
St. Augustine has said this regarding prayer, and it is so true. He said: “Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it) but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told: Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers.”
Ever since I returned to my daily prayer of an hour a day, I feel better emotionally, even though the physical and other things are not where I would like them to be. I can’t recommend it enough to set some time aside each day and spend it with our heavenly Father. You will be glad you did. I can’t wait to have my private chapel and my tiny tabernacle with the Body of Christ set up again like I used to have in Louisiana – I was more at peace then. I have years to make, but I take it one day at a time. So, get praying!
Jesus had great respect for the feisty woman in our Gospel reading. She knew how to walk the talk and talk the walk. Her persistence was rewarded. She was no wave lapping up on the shore of Existence; she didn't need a prayer card. She had what she needed.
May her tribe increase! Even Jesus wondered whether "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
It's a good question.
Will he find, in each of us, the Big Toe of Faith?
Let us pray.
That we may persistently call upon God in our times of need and remain open to be changed by His love. We pray to the Lord.
For our families where there is loss of faith, division or struggles: that God’s loving care will embrace and unite them. We pray to the Lord.
That all will defend true justice and the common good in order to shape society according to God’s wisdom and order. We pray to the Lord.
That all who have abandoned the practice of faith, that the grace of Christ will soften their hearts and move them to cry out to God. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to persevere in prayer, confident that God hears and answers us. 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 God, we place our offerings in these plates, we place our faith in you, we place our confidence in the Spirit's power, and we place our hope in the ongoing work of Christ's church. Father, we thank you for the power of prayer, which is simply the power of your love. Give us the joy of knowing that love all the days of our lives. Help each of us to pray more fervently and frequently. Help us to experience you more deeply during our prayer times with you. Help us to know that we do not need to be like celebrated saints who were mystics in order to feel your presence, we merely need to make a discipline in our lives to draw close to you, and you will do the rest. We ask all these things in Jesus' name. Amen
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Sunday, October 13, 2019

October 13, 2019
The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
(2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19)
Leaf peepers are a fairly recent invention by the tourist industry and small businesses located in picturesque locales which are particularly dependent upon the dollars of seasonal visitors. Festivals, parades, harvest-themed fairs are all timed to coincide with nature's annual blaze into the rich, warm colors of autumn's turning leaves.
But the beauty of fall is fragile; it only takes a single hard frost and a cold rain to drop all that brilliant foliage to the forest floor, creating a colorful, if soggy, carpet underfoot. What was the focus of all eyes and cameras one day becomes an annoying mess under our feet the next. What was enjoyed as ethereally beautiful is now cursed for the work of raking, piling, scooping and bagging it represents. When fall leaves are still on the trees, they are treasured. Above our heads they are sacred; under our feet they are profane. When they fall to the ground, they are dirt.
Alas, it seems that in postmodern culture, dirt is the order of the day! Everywhere we see evidence that there is a gluttonous desire for more and more grease, more and more grime, more and more gossip.
How many tabloid trash magazines dish the dirt in our faces as we stand in the check-out line?
How many entertainment/celebrity gossip shows fill our TV screens each day?
How many new Web sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., appear online with electronic immediacy to offer the "real" story behind still breaking headlines?
How many careers have been started and ended by an individual's infamy in gossip?
How many Wall Street fortunes have been made and lost on the dirt of rumor and innuendo?
We are so inundated by this kind of self-pollution that we require far more grace than poet Dorothy Parker's self-deprecating epitaph at her death: "Excuse my dust." What a few years ago we would never have even said in polite conversations has today become the vernacular. This new explicitness is making us all into Beavises and Buttheads.
The Christian tradition provides us with a phrase and prayer that is much needed to protect us from all this sludgy seep of profanity into every nook and cranny of our lives. The Latin phrase Asperges me, Domine ("Wash me, Lord") was common in Jesus' day because the highway was very dirty, making constant foot-washing a necessity. Postmodern culture has brought us back to the first century. It, too, is extremely dirty. Our sandaled feet spirits need this prayer: Asperges me, Domine.
Each one of you has flaking skin that needs washing off. Scientists estimate that the human body is made up of around 10 trillion cells in total. Your skin makes up about 16 percent of your body weight, which means you have roughly 1.6 trillion skin cells. Of course, this estimate can vary tremendously according to a person's size. The important thing is that you have a lot of skin cells. Of those billions of skin cells, between 30,000 and 40,000 of them fall off every hour. Over a 24-hour period, you lose almost a million skin cells. In one year, you'll shed more than 8 pounds of dead skin. But more than that, we accumulate from the highway of life many more pounds of crud and dirt on our souls that need cleansing if we are to be whole and well and alive to God.
But as the morning's reading has taught us, our "quest" for cleansing, our rituals of washing, are incomplete without that return to the source of our healing for a final, cleansing exercise: giving thanks. Without the integration of gratitude into our lives, there can be no lasting wholeness or wellness, health or holiness. From a biblical perspective, to say Asperges Me, Domine is incomplete without celebrating those who made our newness and wellness possible.
Viktor Frankl, the eminent psychologist and founder of the so-called Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy (Logotherapy), provides a revealing example of what it means to express gratitude for wholeness and wellness. Frankl, who died in 1997 at the age of 91, was a prisoner in the concentration camps during World War II. Dr. Gordon Allport, in his preface to Frankl's significant work, Man's Search for Meaning, says that "there he found himself stripped to a literally naked existence. His father, mother, brother and his wife died in the camps or were sent to the gas ovens, so that except for his sister, his entire family perished in these camps. How could he -- every possession lost, every value destroyed, suffering from hunger, cold and brutality, hourly expecting extermination -- how could he find life worth preserving? A psychiatrist who personally has faced such extremity is a psychiatrist worth listening to."
Frankl answers Allport's question when he recounts his experience immediately following his liberation from the camps:
"One day, a few days after the liberation, I walked through the country, past flowering meadows, for miles and miles, toward the market town near the camp. Larks rose to the sky and I could hear their joyous song. There was no one to be seen for miles around; there was nothing but the wide earth and sky and the larks' jubilation and the freedom of space. I stopped, looked around and up to the sky -- and then I went down on my knees. At that moment there was very little I knew of myself or of the world -- I had but one sentence in mind -- always the same: "I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and he answered me in the freedom of space."
"How long I knelt there and repeated this sentence, memory can no longer recall. But I know that on that day, in that hour, my new life started. Step for step I progressed until I again became a human being."
Frankl, released from arguably the most "leprous" episode in the history of humankind, could do nothing but kneel before his Creator in a posture of overwhelming gratitude. From that point of thanksgiving, he marked his renewal as a human being. Likewise, our wellness, our wholeness, our very healing and health, our becoming wholly human depend on our being able to celebrate and give thanks for the "freedom of space," for the liberation and cleansing God has brought to us, often mediated by influential people we love and the people who love us.
When Jesus touches and cleanses us, releasing us from the prisons of grease, grime and gossip, how does he do it? Through people. Through relationships which have changed us. Unfortunately, we often forget to go back and offer our gratitude to these God-inspired and enabled persons who have changed our lives.
Sue Bender, in her book Everyday Sacred, describes how she began to develop an attitude of gratitude. It had, she says, something to do with an exploding turkey:
Last month my husband Richard and I decided, at age 60 and 63, it was finally time to be grown-up and responsible. Neither of us is practical about business or financial matters. We went to a lawyer and started the process of making a will and a living trust for our sons.
"What would you like to do in case there's an 'exploding turkey?'" the lawyer asked.
"Exploding turkey?" I asked.
"What if the whole family was together at Thanksgiving and the turkey exploded?" he asked. "If the four of you were killed at that moment, who would you want to have your worldly goods?"
That turned out to be a terrific assignment. A chance to think about the people in our lives, a chance to be grateful and express our gratitude.
I decided to create a new ritual. I would stop at the end of the day, even a particularly difficult day, and make a list: a gratitude list. Who or what do I have to be grateful for today.
Like Frankl and Bender, we too should find something or someone to be thankful for. As we go about our upcoming week, let us all think of something that brings thanks. Maybe with some practice and repetition, we can be more thankful people by Thanksgiving next month.
Let us pray.
Jesus reminds us of the importance of gratitude and so we thank the Father who gives us life, the Son for his great love and example, and the Holy Spirit for the wisdom and enlightenment bestowed on us in our daily lives. We pray to the Lord.                      
We thank God, Our Father, for the greatest gift which he has bestowed on us, his own Son, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist. We pray that we, like the cured leper, will never take this great gift for granted and never cease to thank him for his enormous generosity. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace to begin again: that we may grasp the opportunities to start anew when God opens new doors and opportunities in our lives. We pray to the Lord.
That the Supreme Court in the cases they took up this week will rule in favor of those who have lost employment due to being transgendered and/or their sexual orientation. We pray to the Lord.
For doctors, nurses, paramedics, and all who help to heal our injuries and illnesses, that they may know the gratitude of the people they touch. We pray to the Lord.
For Native Americans and other indigenous peoples, that they may be treated with respect and dignity. We pray to the Lord.
That during this Respect Life Month our hope in Christ’s resurrection will strengthen us in protecting the gift of human life. 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.
God of love and power, we come to you for healing and reconciliation. Where relationships are full of stress and unkind words shatter the spirit, grant reconciliation and renewal. When the load seems too heavy and our backs are tight with pressure, place on us your yoke, which is easy, and your burden, which is light. In wounded places of our hearts, our faith and our globe, God, heal as you know how; lead your people as they seek reconciliation, healing, justice and peace. God of love and power, you are the healer who came to us in Jesus Christ. We know you are near when people are healed and the poor hear good news. Be known among us in healing power, for we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who was and is, and is to come. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Sunday, October 6, 2019

September 29, 2019
St. Michael and All Angels Sunday
(Revelation 12:7-12; John 1:47-51)
Today I am doing one of my infamous “Bible Study Lessons.” I know; you are all thrilled beyond belief. Try to restrain yourselves! So, sit back and get out your toothpicks for those drooping eyelids!
War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
War broke out in heaven: At the mid-point of the great tribulation, God will turn the tide against Satan – first in heaven, then on earth. A battle will take place that will deny Satan access to heaven.
Michael and his angels: Some individuals and groups (such as the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses) believe that Michael is actually Jesus. Generally, all other Christians teach this is wrong on every count.
Some say Michael must be Jesus, because he has his angels. But if Satan – a fallen angelic being – has his (own) angels, can’t Michael – an unfallen angelic being – have his (own) angels? The logical conclusion is that if Satan had “his” own angels, then it becomes obvious that there are other angels, and clearly by this passage, Michael appears to be the leader of these other angels.
Some say Michael must be Jesus, because his name means One like God. But if this were a title of Jesus, it could be argued against His deity, not for it – because it would say that Jesus is like God, not actually God. We know – and it is a firm doctrine of Christianity – that Jesus is indeed God in the representation as the Second Person of the Trinity.
Some say Michael must be Jesus, because he is called the archangel, which means leader or prince among the angels, and they say that only Jesus is the leader of the angels. But we know from Daniel 10:13, 10:20-21 that Michael is one angelic prince among others.
Daniel 10:12-13 reads: “Do not fear, Daniel,” he continued; “from the first day you made up your mind to acquire understanding and humble yourself before God, your prayer was heard. Because of it I started out, but the prince of the kingdom of Persia[e] stood in my way for twenty-one days, until finally Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” The one speaking is the Angel that had began to speak to Daniel at the beginning of the chapter. One might surmise that the angel is Daniel’s guardian angel.
Daniel 10:20-21 again confirms Michael’s status: “’Do you know,’ he asked, ‘why I have come to you? Soon I must fight the prince of Persia again. When I leave, the prince of Greece will come; but I shall tell you what is written in the book of truth. No one supports me against these except Michael, your prince, and in the first year of Darius the Mede I stood to strengthen him and be his refuge.’” (“Book of Truth” - a heavenly book in which future events are already recorded.)
Also, Paul refers to an archangel in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 in a way that presupposes other archangels. “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” Keep in mind that Paul was a devout Jew and to make a statement about an angel as “archangel” is significant. It shows that even in ancient Judaic times, the believe in angels/archangels was a commonly held belief.
Some say that Michael must be Jesus, because Paul says that at the rapture, the Lord will call His people with the voice of an archangel. But Jesus can use an angel to call out for His people without being that angel, just as much as God can use a trumpet to sound out a call without being the trumpet.
Additionally, in Jude 9 we read; “Yet the archangel Michael, when he argued with the devil in a dispute over the body of Moses, did not venture to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him but said, “May the Lord rebuke you!”
Here we read that Michael would not rebuke or accuse Satan on His own authority, but only say “May the Lord rebuke you.” This shows that Michael isn’t Jesus, because Jesus often rebuked Satan and demons in His own authority (Matthew 17:18, Mark 1:25, 9:25, Luke 4:8, 4:35). Even though he cannot rebuke Satan on his own, being an Angel Prince, he does speak in the name of the Lord, much like a priest does when he is acting in persona Christi. Given that angels are higher than earth bound humans, we can be assured of Michael’s word being nearly equal to God, especially if he is speaking on God’s behalf just as when we read about Archangel Gabriel in the Nativity narratives.
Michael and his angels battled against the dragon; The dragon and its angels fought back: This is a dramatic scene of battle between good angels and bad angels.; faithful angels and fallen angels.
This is truly a battle between equals. The dragon represents Satan, and Satan is not the counterpart of God – God has no counterpart. If anyone, Satan is the counterpart of Michael, who seems to be the chief angel opposite this chief of fallen angels. Though, I suspect those angels still loyal to God are instilled with greater power from God. God would never allow Satan to win.
Why is the battle fought? In a previous scene of conflict between Michael and Satan (Jude 9), Satan wanted to prevent the resurrection and glorification of Moses, because he knew God had plans for the resurrected and glorified Moses (Luke 9:30-31). This is another occasion where Satan wants to get in the way of God’s plan for the end-times.
When is this battle fought? This battle occurs at the mid-point of the seven-year period, as described by Daniel.” At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since the nation began until that time. At that time your people shall escape.” (Daniel 12:1)
How is this battle fought? We know this is a real fight; but is it a material or a spiritual battle? Our battle with Satan and his demons is spiritual, fought on the battleground of truth and deception, of fear and faith (Ephesians 6:12). In regard to material attacks against the believer, Satan and his demons were disarmed at the cross (Colossians 2:15). Satan can only win against us in this spiritual realm if we allow his entry into us. (Evil cannot enter your house or your person without being “invited” in.) Among angels, it is possible that there is a material battle to be fought in a way we can only imagine. In his classic work Paradise Lost, the great poet John Milton imagined this battle:
“Michael bid sound Th' Arch-Angel trumpet; through the vast of Heaven it sounded, and the faithful Armies rung Hosanna to the Highest: nor stood at gaze The adverse Legions, nor less hideous joyn'd the horrid shock: now storming furie rose, And clamour such as heard in Heav'n till now Was never, Arms on Armour clashing bray'd Horrible discord, and the madding wheeles of brazen Chariots rag'd; dire was the noise Of conflict; over head the dismal hiss Of fiery Darts in flaming volies flew, And flying vaulted either Host with fire. So, under fierie Cope together rush'd Both Battels maine, with ruinous assault and inextinguishable rage; all Heav'n Resounded, and had Earth bin then, all Earth Had to her Center shook.”
The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven: This shows us that up until this happens, Satan does have access to heaven, where he accuses God’s people before the throne (Job 1:6-12, Revelation 12:10).
It troubles some to think that Satan has access to heaven, but the Bible clearly says that while Satan appears on earth (Luke 4:1-13), and describes him as the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), it also says that Satan has access to heaven, where he accuses God’s people before the throne (Job 1:6-12). However, there is no longer any place for him in heaven, so he lost access.
The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth: This single verse uses many different titles for our spiritual enemy, including Dragon, serpent of old, the Devil, Satan, and he who deceives the whole world. These titles describe Satan as vicious, an accuser, an adversary, and a deceiver.
The term “Devil” is from the Greek diabolos, from the verb diaballo, which has the meaning of ‘defaming’ or ‘slandering.’ He is the master accuser of the brethren.”
The Bible describes four different falls of Satan. Revelation 12:9 describes the second of these four falls.
· From glorified to profane (Ezekiel 28:14-16).
· From having access to heaven (Job 1:12, 1 Kings 22:21, Zechariah 3:1) to restriction to the earth (Revelation 12).
· From the earth to bondage in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years (Revelation 20).
· From the pit to the lake of fire (Revelation 20).
Additionally, in Luke 10:18, Jesus said “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
Its angels were thrown down with it: This indicates that demonic spirits are indeed fallen angels, those who joined with Satan in His rebellion against God. These are “his angels,” those angels I mentioned earlier.
These angels are also the same as the third of the stars of heaven described in Revelation 12:4. Since Satan only drew a third of the stars of heaven, it means that two-thirds of the angels remained faithful to God. It’s comforting to know that faithful angels outnumber fallen angels two to one.
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time.”
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: Whoever is behind this loud voice, it would seem to be some representative of redeemed humanity – not an angel or God – because the voice speaks of the accuser of our “brethren.”
For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night: Satan’s work of accusing only ends here, when he is cast out from his access to heaven.
They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death: This tells us three keys to the saint’s victory over Satan.
They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb: The blood overcomes Satan’s accusations. Those accusations mean nothing against us because Jesus has already paid the penalty our sins deserved. We may be even worse than Satan’s accusations, but we are still made righteous by the work of Jesus on the cross (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, and Hebrews 9:14).
The blood of Jesus heals our troubled conscience, because we know that by His death our sin is atoned for (Hebrews 9:14).
It works because the work of Jesus on the cross for us is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love (Romans 5:8), and a constant remembrance of the blood of the Lamb assures us that every fear Satan whispers into our mind is a lie.
Therefore, we use the blood of the Lamb in spiritual warfare – not as a Christian “abracadabra,” as if chanting “The blood of Jesus, the blood of Jesus” could keep Satan away like garlic is said to keep away vampires. Rather, our understanding, our apprehension, our focus with the death of Jesus on the cross as our substitute wins the battle.
They conquered him … by the word of their testimony: The word of their testimony overcomes Satan’s deception. Knowing and remembering the work of God in their life protects them against Satan’s deceptions. As faithful witnesses, they have a testimony to bear – and because they know what they have seen and heard and experienced from God, they cannot be deceived by Satan’s lies telling them it isn’t true.
They conquered him … love for life did not deter them from death: Loving not their lives overcomes Satan’s violence. If they do not cling to their own earthly lives, then there really is no threat Satan can bring against them. If they believe to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21), then Satan’s violence against them be ineffectual.
The ancient Greek word for love here is agape, which speaks of a self-sacrificing, decision-based love. It is up to each one of us to choose: Will we love our lives to the death? Will our physical lives be the most precious thing to us, or will we find our life by losing it for Jesus? (Mark 8:35)
Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time; Satan may have deceived even himself into thinking that he has a chance, but because of Christ, he hasn’t a chance – well – in hell!
Let us pray.
That we understand that the devil is real, and thus we must always be diligent to not listen to his lies. We pray to the Lord.
That St. Michael, our Guardian Angels and the host of heaven deliver us from all evil, who turn to them with confidence and enable us by their gracious protection to serve God more and more faithfully every day. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for those who work for ecological justice and peace in the world, that they may inspire in others a love for creation and a reverential care for our common home on this earth. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for a Spirit of hope in our country and throughout the world and that all who are overwhelmed by life may find new reasons to live this day and be gifted with a vision of a better tomorrow. We pray to the Lord.
For our Jewish brothers and sisters, who celebrate the beginning of a new year this week. We pray to the Lord.
For the sick, that they, through the Archangel Raphael, be comforted and healed according to God’s will. We pray to the Lord.
For those who suffer from cancer, that Saint Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer patients, come to them in their suffering and be an advocate for their healing. 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.
O, Creator past all telling, You have appointed from the treasure of your wisdom the hierarchies of angels, disposing them in wondrous order above the bright heavens, and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe. You we call the true fount of wisdom and the noble origin of all things. Be pleased to shed on the darkness of mind in which we were born, the two-fold beam of your light and warmth to dispel our ignorance and sin. You make eloquent the tongues of children. Then instruct our speech and touch our lips with graciousness. Make us keen to understand, quick to learn, able to remember; make us delicate to interpret and ready to speak. Guide our going in and going forward; lead home our going forth. You are true God and true man, and live for ever and ever. Amen.
(Paraphrased from St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA
http://www.stfrancisucc.org/donate.html