Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday Sermon

 October 18, 2020

The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

(Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; Matthew 22:15-21)

There is at least one word in the English language that has the power to elect politicians to high office, finance battleships, cause economic hardship, and get you to pull hair out of your head – if you have any hair to pull. One word. Wars have been fought over this word, nations established, and people sent to jail for not taking heed when this word was spoken. The word is taxes!

We have all heard the saying, that are only two things that we can be certain of in life, and they are death and taxes. As Christians, we know that Jesus conquered the first. But what of the second odious one we face? The Gospel seems to indicate that we are on our own and that Jesus expects us to pay. “Render therefore to Cesar the things that are Cesar’s,” says Jesus, “and to God the things that are God’s.” Had Matthew who wrote this Gospel and happened to have been a tax collector, been whispering in Jesus’ ear?

One might ask, just who started these taxes anyway? I suspect since nearly the beginning of human inhabitants on the planet, there has been some sort of taxation. Of course, they were not part of God’s order of things. Nowhere in Genesis do we read “and God levied taxes on Adam and Eve, and He saw that it was good.” Nor was Moses given a tablet of stone with the inscription, “Thou shalt pay taxes.” Taxes were levied and taxes were collected, but from the beginning they were a human invention for the necessity of human rulers, the building of temporal roads (with lots of potholes) and aqueducts, and the financing of battles of the flesh, not of the spirit. We never could seem to get along, and one wonders why our nation is in turmoil?! Anyway, back to the topic ….

Yet, God has always required a rightful share for the work of God’s dominion. The first fruits of every harvest were set aside by the early people of Israel for the Lord. (Does God even need to eat?? If He doesn’t, I would say that He is missing out on all these great fruits He created.) Even a temple tax was established and gathered by the priests for the maintenance of the religion. (I bet you thought that was just a modern invention by priests?) Is all this why Jesus seems to support taxes?

Maybe it has something to do with His birth. As God would have it, seemingly not coincidental, the Savior of the world was born where He was born because of a decree issued by Cesar Augustus “that all the world should be taxed (Luke 2:1).” If God wanted to be certain to enter the world clearly at its center, there could be no better time than at the taking of a census for the purposes of taxation. (Of course, our government posits that it is for proper representation, but I think it is taxes! After all, they must play golf!) Joseph went to be enrolled with Mary, and thus obedient subjects of Roman rule place the Christ child’s birth where God ordained and the prophets of old have promised: in Bethlehem.

Our Gospel lesson picks up where the enrollment left off, with a conversation some thirty years later that all three of the synoptic gospels record, suggesting just how significant it was. On the surface, we have a simple story. A plan devised by the Pharisees and Herodians would trap the popular rabbi from galilee. (The collaboration of the Pharisees and Herodians – representing opposite political views [something we wouldn’t know about in the modern age, would we??!!] – reveals the extreme measures taken to eliminate Jesus.) Should Jesus advise paying taxes, many Jews would consider Him a collaborator to the Roman powers. But, non-payment would be dangerous, since followers of Herod would accuse Him of sedition.

With a coin, Jesus appears to foil His enemies on both sides. Taxes are for Cesar, but those imprinted with God’s image are for God. In one master stroke, Jesus is saved from both pious accusation and political self-incrimination.

But, for those who would hear it, the Man for Others is not interested in a crafty escape from the hands of His foes. He is mindful rather of their escape from the snares of this world. As our Lord reveals again and again in His life and words, His is not a preoccupation with self but with the life of His listener. He is forever waiting and watchful for the moments of grace when He can restore us to our rightful relationship with our Creator.

The master teacher does this skillfully wherever He finds us, revealing the eternal life that is ours in the simple things of each day’s journey, be it birds in the air, wandering sheep, or kernels of grain. He lifts them up and reveals their secrets, for in them are hidden all the answers we seek. He points to rocky soil, a city on a hill, or a fisherman’s net and tells us who we are or what we can become. And today, He does it with the Roman forged coin of a day’s wage.

“Show me the money of the tax,” He says. “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” “Cesar’s” they reply. “Render therefore Cesar the things that are Cesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Our Lord isn’t telling us what we already know, that our taxes ought to be paid. He is not telling us that payment to God is due. He is revealing to us who we are, what we are, and what can be with a coin. This is what we work for. We have come to believe that this coin is the measure of our value, the symbol of our worth.

But the true measure of value has to do with the likeness and inscription borne on our bodies and souls. As Cesar cast the denarius in his image, God has cast each of us in God’s image. All people, not merely those of specific criteria. As Cesar sends out as wage and calls back in tax, God also sends out the bearers of God’s likeness to be the golden coinage of a heavenly realm. But God also calls us back, demanding for God’s own self the sum of our lives.

Jesus is gatherer of this tax, God’s collector of souls stamped with the Divine image and inscribed with God’s name. Come to me, He says. By your following, you will find your true self. In My words I will show you the way to the One who has made you. On My cross I will settle your debts. Lost coins are we all, and in Jesus has God invited us back to the eternal treasury.

Let us pray.

Jesus reminds us of our obligation to pay our fair share to ensure we have good government and that those less well off in our country are properly cared for. We pray that all in our society be honest and responsible in their affairs and fairly meet their obligations as citizens. We pray to the Lord.

That we realize we aren’t “owners” of anything but merely “stewards” of the gifts God has given us. We pray to the Lord.

We pray that we, as followers of Christ, recognize that we are missionaries and must promote His message with friends, family and neighbors through our words and actions. We pray to the Lord.

That the church may find ways to both preach the word and serve our neighbor, especially during this time of separation and crisis. We pray to the Lord.

For all who are on the frontlines of this COVID-19 pandemic, especially our health care workers and first responders, for all who are unable to stay at home, but must work to provide for their families, may God continue to protect them and keep them in good health. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and 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, you are deserving of the very best we have to offer -- the devotion of our hearts, the place of honor in our priorities and the first fruits of our labors. We enter this place and space of worship, asking you to be in our midst, to speak your message of love and mercy, conviction and challenge to us. We welcome your Spirit, knowing that in so doing, we abandon control and open ourselves in faith and trust to your purposes and plan, rather than our own. Come, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, we pray and may our worship be acceptable in your sight. 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

We are beggars – These turbulent times are economically difficult for many, and as such, non-profits see reductions of donations to keep ministries open. We ask, if you are able, to donate and help us keep our progressive voice active in our community. God Bless You +++


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sunday Sermon

 October 11, 2020

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

(Isaiah 25:6-10; Matthew 22:1-14)

Basically, in today's Gospel Jesus is retelling the parable of the vineyard but in the context of a wedding banquet. Why is He going over this again? Maybe He focus-grouped the vineyard parable and got some feedback about folks being put off by the concept of land ownership. Maybe Peter pulled Him aside and said, “Teacher, John's having a real hard time staying off the sauce. Can we maybe not talk so much about vineyards?” Or maybe we simply need to remember that He’s God and knows better than we do and we nick-pick readers should stop criticizing.

Have all those people who talk about Jesus being super-love-hippy-dippy-flower-power-buddy-Jesus ever read this parable? It's some really dark stuff. People get murdered in this one. Towns get destroyed. People are thrown out of parties. This isn't exactly Sunday school material.

The whole thing sounds a lot like Game of Thrones. And you just thought the parable of the vineyard was juicy?! This one has a feast, a king, a murder, burning whole towns, weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Just what is gnashing of teeth anyway?)

God-made the nation of Israel His chosen people, but they repeatedly rejected Him. Like the first folks invited to the wedding feast in the parable, the Israelites just couldn’t seem to be bothered with God's invitation. Maybe His mother needed to prod Him into making more wine.

We want to hear a nice story about God throwing the party open to everyone. We want to be ‘inclusive,’ to let everyone in. (Of course, I am using “inclusive” a little differently in this context, from that of how it is commonly used today.) We don't want to know about judgement on the wicked or about demanding standards of holiness or about weeping and gnashing of teeth. Some of us might have really enjoyed watching Game of Thrones, but we don’t seriously want that in reality. Doesn't the Bible say that God will wipe away every tear from every eye?

Yes, it does, but you have to see it in its proper setting to understand it. It doesn't mean that God will act like a soothing parent settling a child back to sleep after a nightmare. God wants us to be grown up, and part of being grown up is that we learn that actions have consequences, that moral choices matter, and that real human life isn't like a game of chess where even if we do badly the pieces get put back in the box at the end of the day and we can start again tomorrow. The great deep mystery of God's forgiveness isn't the same as saying that whatever we do isn't really important because it will all work out somehow.

The parable we hear today follows straight from a devastating story of the wicked tenant farmers from chapter 21 and rams the point home. Everyone would know what a story about a landowner with a vineyard was referring to. Equally everyone in Jesus' day would know the point of a story about a king throwing a party for his son. This story is about the coming of God's Kingdom and in particular the arrival of the Messiah. The people of Israel had been waiting for this for centuries.

Israel's leaders in Jesus' day, and the many people who followed them, were like guests invited to a wedding - God's wedding party, the party He was throwing for His Son. But they had refused. Galilee had refused, for the most part. Think back to Jesus’ sad warnings. Now Jerusalem was refusing the invitation is well. God is planning the great party for which they had waited so long. The Messiah was here, and they didn't want to know. They abused and killed the prophets who tried to tell them about it and the result was their city would be destroyed. (Think 70 A.D.)

But now for the good news - though it wasn't good news for the people who were originally invited. God was sending out new messengers to the ‘wrong’ parts of town to tell everyone and anyone to come to the party. (‘Wrong’ parts of town, at least as far as the Pharisees and scribes were concerned!) And they came in droves. We don't have to look far in Matthew's Gospel to see who they were. The tax collectors, the prostitutes, the riffraff, the nobodies, the blind, and the lame, the people who thought they've been forgotten. All the low-life type of people (at least according to self-proclaimed entitled people were concerned). They were thrilled that God's message was for them after all. Truly ‘inclusive’!

But there was a difference between this wide-open invitation and the message so many want to hear today. We want to hear that everyone is all right exactly as they are, that God loves us as we are, and doesn't want us to change. People often say this when they want to justify particular types of behavior, but the argument simply doesn't work. When the blind and lame came to Jesus, He didn't say, ‘You're all right as you are’. He healed them. They wouldn't have been satisfied with anything less. When the prostitutes and extortioners came to Jesus, he didn't say, ‘You’re all right as you are’. His love reached them where they were, but His love refused to let them stay as they were. Love wants the best for the beloved. Their lives were transformed, healed and changed.

Actually, nobody really believes that God wants everyoneto stay exactly as they are. God loves serial killers and child molesters; God loves ruthless and arrogant businessman; God loves manipulative mothers who damage their children's emotions for life. But the point of God's love is that He wants them to change. He hates what they are doing and the affect it has on everyone else and themselves, too. Ultimately, if He is a good God, He cannot allow this sort of behavior, and that sort of person, if they do not change, remain forever in the party He’s throwing for His Son.

That is the point of the end of this story, which is otherwise very puzzling. Of course, within the story itself it sounds quite arbitrary. Where did all these other guests get their wedding costumes from? If the servants just herded them in, how did they have time to change their clothes? Why should this one man be thrown out because he didn't have the right thing to wear? Isn't that just a sort of social exclusion that the Gospel rejects?

Yes, of course, at that level. But that's not how parables work. The point of the story is that Jesus is telling the truth, the truth that political and religious leaders often like to hide; the truth that God's Kingdom is a Kingdom in which love and Justice and truth and mercy and holiness reign unhindered. They are the clothes you need to wear for the wedding. And if you refuse to put them on, you are saying you don't want to stay at the party. That is the reality. If we don't have the courage to say so, we are deceiving ourselves, and everyone who listens.

So, the moral of the parable is simple. God loves everyone, even those we think He shouldn’t. He wants those who treat others poorly or in evil ways to stop and come to know His love. We are all invited to the banquet of His love, but we can’t live Game of Thrones style of living. We must live in the radical love of Jesus. Yes, we believe Jesus is a super-love-hippy-dippy-flower-power-buddy, but we can’t wear the clothes of rapists, murderers, arrogant businessmen, etc. We must wear clothes of mercy, compassion and love. Now Jesus, turn some water into wine already; we’re ready for the banquet! (Make mine root beer, please.)

Let us pray.

We pray for the grace to be always worthy of the invitation of the kingdom of God and enjoy life everlasting at the table of his heavenly banquet. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who reject the Word of God, that the goodness and wonder of our Loving Father be revealed to them. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for ourselves, that with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we may discern what particular mission God is inviting us to, as baptized members of the People of God. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the vulnerable in our society, particularly the sick and the elderly who continue to experience fear, loneliness and isolation during this pandemic crisis. We pray that they receive the care, support and encouragement which they need to protect their health at this difficult period. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all in our country, that they show consideration and care for themselves and for others and abide strictly by the guidelines which our governments and healthcare professionals recommend to defeat the very contagious Covid-19 virus at this time. We pray to the Lord.

For a greater respect for human life. For children who are neglected or abused. For all people who confront prejudice or racism every day. For a deeper concern for those who are marginalized by society. For those who identify as LGBTQ that they may be accepted and treated the same as those who are not. For the aged and the terminally ill. May we appreciate the dignity and sacredness of every part of human life. We pray to the Lord.

For an increase of vocations for our small denomination. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and 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 our Father, strengthen our awareness and commitment to the mission which we have inherited through your gift of Baptism. Merciful Savior, the parable of the wedding banquet reminds us of your ever-gracious invitation to be part of your family, to receive the gift of your salvation, to respond to your call to follow you.

We confess that far too often we act like ungrateful guests. We allow other priorities to crowd you out. Our addiction to busyness leaves us no time to celebrate with you. We erect other gods that require our attention and loyalty. In our vain attempts to look "successful" we polish the veneer of our lives without attending to our deepest needs and longings, including our need and longing for you. Sometimes we get caught in Game of Thrones type of lives; help us to know that You are always beckoning us and will always welcome regardless of what we have done, because You love all your children and are ready to forgive us and lead us on a brighter path. Forgive us, we pray, and restore us to health and wholeness. May we always wear the clothes for the banquet of love. 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

We are beggars – These turbulent times are economically difficult for many, and as such, non-profits see reductions of donations to keep ministries open. We ask, if you are able, to donate and help us keep our progressive voice active in our community. God Bless You +++


Sunday, October 4, 2020

St. Francis Sunday

 October 4, 2020

St. Francis Sunday

(St. Michael and All Angels)

(Revelation 12:7-12; John 1:47-51)

St. Francis of Assisi is a familiar saint for most Catholics today. How he lived his life is a worthy example to emulate. He was a radical in his time and this certainly holds appeal for the modern Catholic. It is important to remember that St. Francis’ life was one that is in radical conformity and in deep union with the sacrificial life of Christ. His life was a faithful imitation of Christ, particularly, the crucified Christ. So much so, was this, that St. Francis was marked with the stigmata of Christ that he might emulate Him completely.

How do we, as modern Catholics, follow his example of radical conformity? Christ was central in St. Francis’ life. So, too, must we make Christ central in our lives. We must put our priorities in order. The radical imitation of Christ in our daily lives should compel us to make Christ as the root or the basis of all our many decisions, big and small, every day and every moment, whether it is in our personal, public or professional lives.

Therein lies a problem - today’s society has spoiled most of us into a life of comfort, shying away from any form of pain, or selfless sacrifice. St. Francis shows us in very concrete ways how to overcome this: by embracing poverty, practicing humility, and obedience to Jesus. We must cultivate a sense of detachment from worldly possessions and attachments that push Christ out of the center of our lives.

Let me put forth some thought provoking questions – questions that would certainly be in line with Francis’ love for all of creation – in his imitation of what I frequently call the radical love of Jesus.

Do we spend too much time on the internet, social media or TV that we neglect daily prayer time with God? Are we too busy or lazy (YES, I said it!) to honor the (Christian) Sabbath and go to Mass on Sundays? Are we too busy to do corporal and spiritual acts of mercy? Are we too wimpy or self-absorbed to offer our trials and transform them to redemptive suffering by uniting these inconveniences and trials to Christ?

St. Francis’ intense and intimate union with Christ fired his missionary zeal to evangelize and save souls. He was willing to face persecution and martyrdom to share the Good News to those who have not heard or accepted God’s salvation. How willing are we to go out of our comfort zones to invite someone to attend Mass with us or share our Catholic faith? Does our lives attract or repel others to know Christ more intimately? Do we witness our Catholic faith to others with humility, love and joy as St. Francis did? How willing are we to proclaim and defend our form of the Catholic faith even if it means facing ridicule and accusations of bigotry? St. Francis received Christ’s stigmata which he bore to his dying day. Do we bear the mark of Christ with how we lead our lives and with the choices we make in every aspect of our lives, whether in private or in public? Do we have the courage of St. Francis in bearing the stigmata, the mark of Christ in our lives, in the face of pain and rejection? Are we willing and do we take a stand on social issues today – especially that of our progressive views that would seem to be out of line with our more conservative Christian brothers and sisters and support those whom they prefer to “convert” rather than accept as a fully human Christian?

St. Francis is known for his love of nature. He saw nature as God’s creation that reveals Divine glory and beauty. Do we make use of God’s creation as a means to glorify God? Do we respect nature as God’s gift to be used responsibly and for the good of others? Or do we waste or take for granted the resources we have? Do we treat our God given body as a temple of the Holy Spirit?

As we try to answer these challenging questions with humility and honesty, we realize how difficult, and yes, truly radical, the imitation of Christ is. But as St. Francis has shown us by his example, the imitation of Christ is a daily commitment that is possible only with God’s grace. All we need to do is open our hearts and invite Him to fill it with His Divine Grace, so we, too, like St. Francis, can share the Good News and renew Christ’s Church, one soul at a time.

Early writings about St. Francis tells of one of his closest companions, Brother Leo, who would get discouraged at times. Brother Leo asked Francis to write something for him that would lift up his spirits.

When Brother Leo died, a small parchment was found in his habit and is preserved to this day in Assisi. Francis wrote:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his face and bring you peace.

The Lord bless you, Leo.

This blessing was so comforting to Leo because it reminded him of God’s presence in his life, and the peace that comes from that presence. This gift is for all of us, too.

Francis was known as the person who most patterned his life after that of Christ’s.

It was his joy to follow the poor and humble Christ. Francis was known to practice the virtue of poverty to a high degree, owning no property, living very simply, begging for his food, living among and caring for those who were ostracized from society. He treasured Holy Poverty and guarded it carefully because he wanted nothing to get in the way of the greatest possession of all – God.

Even though we are not called to follow his example to that extent, we, too, should never forget that God is and will always be our greatest possession.

Francis spent his life serving others after the example of Jesus, who said: “I have come to serve, not to be served.” He freely gave to those in need from whatever he had.

Every human life is a gift. Each of us is a gift. The world is a gift. ALL is a gift from the one primal source, God, the giver of all good gifts.

A way to honor his memory is to reach out to those in need with the gift of your time or treasure. To take on his spirit today is to see each individual you encounter as your brother or sister, with inherent dignity, created by God and deserving of your respect and loving concern.

Let us emulate St. Francis, the patron of our humble chapel, and show the radical love of Jesus as often as we can.

Before we move on to our responsorial prayers, let us recite together the Canticle of Creation which is attributed to St. Francis. (Copy is in your bulletin.)

Most High, all powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong, and no man is worthy to mention Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him.

And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather through which You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us and who produces varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no living man can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those who will find Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.

Let us pray.

For the church and for world leaders. May we produce a rich, fruitful harvest of justice, compassion, mercy and forgiveness in the vineyard of this world. We pray to the Lord.

For all who have suffered rejection or violence. For those who have been hurt in any way by this pandemic and all who are depressed, suicidal or addicted. Heal our wounds; give us hope and courage. We pray to the Lord.

For a deeper spirit of gratitude for God’s many gifts. May we recognize in each other all that is truthful, just, honorable, pure, gracious and lovely. May we be people of peace. We pray to the Lord.

Instill in all people a greater respect for human life from the womb to the tomb. For an end to late term unnecessary abortion, the death penalty and all types of hatred and systemic prejudice. May we learn how to care more deeply for all human life, hear the cries of the poor, the homeless and the starving. Welcome immigrant families and children, and allow and listen to the protests of those treated unjustly. We pray to the Lord.

That we may emulate the example of St. Francis and care for all of God’s creation and greater tolerance of those different from us. We pray to the Lord.

For our government leaders who have become ill with Covid-19, that they recover promptly and have a new respect for dealing this horrible disease. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and 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.

Amazing God of the universe, As St. Francis learned and Your Angels know, You have called us from different walks of life. From our diverse backgrounds, You have weaved us into a family of faith and discipleship. We pray that even as You have accepted us as we are, we can learn even more how to accept and love others whose ways are different from our own.

As we open our hearts to You, show us the way to open our hearts to others. We pray, O God, that You would even challenge us to love all humankind — those we do not like and especially our “enemies.” In Your presence here, O God, may we worship together without exclusion and rejoice together always.

During this trying and challenging time, we ask that You be ever present with each of us and guide us with Your spirit, so that we do not lose hope. As we meander through life, give us direction and purpose. We ask all these things, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

God Love You +++

We are beggars – These turbulent times are economically difficult for many, and as such, non-profits see reductions of donations to keep ministries open. We ask, if you are able, to donate and help us keep our progressive voice active in our community. God Bless You +++


Sunday, September 27, 2020

September 27, 2020

 September 27, 2020

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

(Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32)

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A teenage daughter said she was staying out late and not to expect her home until midnight. Her parents told her to be home by ten to which she replied, ‘Whatever.’ Later that night, around five minutes to ten, she came home. The parents were a bit puzzled and said, ‘Home already?’ She replied, ‘Well you said be home by ten.’ There is a difference between saying and doing, as reflected in today's Gospel.

Our Gospel reading today reminds me of our dear deacon. Lots of talk and promises; little follow through. Not intentionally, unlike our Gospel, of course. We all know he is a little spaz, but we love him anyway. Sometimes, we make promises, but the busyness of the day gets the better of us and we simply forget. No bad intentions. Life just happens. But on a serious note, what did Jesus have in mind in His parable today?

With today's Gospel we enter the last week of Jesus' earthly life as he speaks with his disciples, preaches to the crowds, and spars with the chief priests and elders. These events take place in Jerusalem and the surrounding area just before and during the feast of Passover. Today Jesus confronts the chief priests and elders about their inability to change their position even after hearing the preaching of John the Baptist. By remaining entrenched in their own way of doing things, they are missing the work of God in their midst. It seems there is good news in today's parable as well, however, even if one originally refuses a request of God, there's still time to turn to Him and do what is just.

Today's parable about the two sons should make us all squirm a little. How many times have we found it easier to tell someone what he or she wanted to hear with no intention of following through rather than entering into a difficult conversation? We could think of tired parents who tell her child, “I'll play with you after dinner,” only to have that time come and be ready with another excuse. Or children who promised to clean their room, never intending to keep their word and hoping their parents will become distracted by something else.

In today's Gospel there are two sons and neither is perfect. One refuses his father's request but then does it; the other accepts the request but doesn't follow through. In the end, it seems that virtuous actions are more important than virtuous words. In our daily lives people make many requests of us. Some are important, and others we could probably politely refuse. One meaning for today's parable might be the importance of knowing our limits and being honest about what we can and cannot (or will and will not) do.

The parable points to something else though - our relationship with God and our commitment to the life of discipleship. God has asked us to work in his vineyard caring for the poor, working for Justice, and bringing peace to others. As Christians, we are called to love God and others, not simply through the words we say, but more importantly, in the ways we give of ourselves for the good of all.

The first son, who rudely tells his father he doesn't feel like working today, but then does after all, stands for the tax collectors and the prostitutes. Their daily life seemed to be saying ‘no’ to God; but when they heard John they changed their mind and their lifestyle (in other words, they ‘repented’). The second son, who politely tells his father he will indeed go to work, but then doesn't, stands for the Temple hierarchy and other leaders. They look as though they’re doing God's will, worshiping in the Temple and keeping up appearances; but they refused to believe in John's message, not only about repentance but also about the Messiah who was standing unknown in their midst. Now the Messiah Himself is here to call them to account. Not surprisingly, they don’t like it.

The challenge of this passage for today is partly this; to make sure we are responding to Jesus, allowing Him to confront us at any point where we have been like the second son and said ‘yes’ to God while in fact going off in another direction. That's important, but it's not the only important thing. What we should also be asking is this. What should Jesus' followers be doing today that would challenge the powers of the present world with the news that He is indeed its rightful Lord? What should we be doing that would make people ask, ‘By what right are you doing that?’, to which the proper answer would be to tell stories of Jesus Himself. By Jesus’ teaching and example we do these things!

The parable Jesus utters today is in the Jerusalem Temple in the context of a dialogue, or verbal jousting match really, between Jesus and the chief priests and elders of the people. In the story we are approaching Holy Week, though liturgically we are still in the time after Trinity. This section the Gospel is the first of three parables, which we will read in successive weeks.

We can understand this parable in numerous ways and this is precisely why the device of the parable is so effective as a teaching tool. One apparent meaning is a favorite Matthean theme of doing versus saying. Matthew’s contention throughout the Gospel is not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father, which is to act mercifully particularly to those in need.

It's unfortunate that throughout history even into the present day, there are many adherents of religion (this is not limited to Jews or Christians) who talk a good game, but their actions indicate something else. We have many phrases in English that speak to this: “Actions speak louder than words,” “By their actions you shall know them,” “I don't believe what you say. I believe what you do,” “People lie, actions don't.” All of these maxims get at one of the fundamental meanings of this parable. We seem to hear and see a lot of this in our own nation currently.

It is true our words and actions should match one another. But as Jesus makes clear, our actions - most especially how we care for those on the margins - matter much more than our good intentions.

However, not all intentions are bad. Have you ever met a flatterer or a people pleaser? Those who say what you want to hear but have no intention of following through? Or those who over-promise and under deliver? It can be a challenging to hear the words of Jesus in the parable today about such behaviors. Despite our best intentions, it is our actions that truly mean more than words. Without actions, our words are a “clanging gong,” to use a term of Saint Paul. There are many reasons why we might over promise, but we reminded of another saying in the Gospels: “Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ At some level this is simply good advice from Jesus the teacher.

As we go about our lives let us make an effort to think carefully before we commit ourselves or say we will do something. Simply modifying a comment with the words “I intend to …” or “I’ll make my best effort to …” may be all we need to temper expectations. By avoiding the trap of being people pleaser, or flatterer, or one who over-promises, and instead of being a person of action and doing on behalf of others, we will be living the Gospel.

Let us pray.

In today’s gospel Jesus makes it clear that we are judged by our actions rather than by our words. We pray that we may show our faith and love of Christ by being generous and unselfish on behalf of others, particularly the poor, the homeless and marginalized. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for a greater sharing of the wealth of the world, so that those suffering from poverty and hunger may also enjoy the fruits bestowed on us by our Loving Father. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for refugees and all those who flee war, hunger and poverty that they may travel safely and be received generously by those who are blessed with peace, prosperity and a better life. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have suffered the trauma of abuse. May they experience healing in their lives, and grow in self-esteem and confidence in others. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those with the responsibility of protecting our children and vulnerable adults. We pray that they have the full support of government, church and community in their most important mission. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for international co-operation and an effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic and for a common effort to find vaccines and extend their benefits to all. We pray to the Lord.

We pray that our legislators will govern with pure motives and pure hearts and follow the needs of their constituents and not that of their own. We pray to the Lord.

For the sick, for all who are on the frontlines of this COVID-19 pandemic, especially our health care workers and first responders, for all who are unable to stay at home, but must work to provide for their families, may God continue to protect them and keep them in good health. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and 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, help us to be people of actions and not just words. Help us to commit to what we can do and do what we commit to. Help us to be people who under-promise, but over-deliver. Help us to know our limits and be open about them. Especially show us how to be gracious but honest when we simply cannot act.

You, gracious God, are love itself, and perfect love casts out fear. Come to us in merciful patience, we pray, to love us from fear to trust, from anger to grace, from doubt to faith. Love us from our self-centeredness to hearts that willingly give themselves in selfless sacrifice and service. Love us out of our scarcity to hearts overflowing with generosity. Love us from brokenness to wholeness, from resentments and forgiveness withheld to forgiveness freely offered just as it has been freely offered to us. Come to us, Lord, overwhelming us with your love that we might love as you first loved us. Amen.

God Love You +++

++The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

We are beggars – These turbulent times are economically difficult for many, and as such, non-profits see reductions of donations to keep ministries open. We ask, if you are able, to donate and help us keep our progressive voice active in our community. God Bless You +++

http://www.stfrancisucc.org/donate.html

Monday, September 14, 2020

September 13, 2020

 September 13, 2020

The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

(Romans 14:7-9; Matthew 18:21-35)

How do you envision in your minds the passage we have just heard? Do you visualize Jesus and His disciples sitting on a mountain side conversing with one another and asking our Lord questions? Are they sitting around a bonfire, or maybe huddled in someone’s home? Are they conversing about the day’s events? Or maybe they are in awe over the many miracles their Lord has performed and thus transfixed on Jesus wondering who He really is? Many a theologian and historian have wondered if these men ever worked after meeting Jesus and just how their means of living were supplied if so.

College students tend to like to gather in groups and discuss life and things like philosophy. Of course, if they have their room and board paid for and don’t have a job, one could suppose they have ample time between meager work-study hours and what little studying they think they need to make a high-B in their classes. They have time to ask big questions about life, sitting around on the lawn in front of the campus and merely pulling them out of the air and discussing in length.

Of course, our disciples were not hashing out topics after leaving their Philosophy 101 class. These men were men who did hard work and have done so most of their lives. Labor intensive jobs that most likely showed with crusty dirty hands and feet. So, academic like questions surely didn’t occur to them. Their questions were most likely based on some aspect or factor in their lives. These men gave up everything to follow Jesus. To do something so seemingly rash shows just how much faith they have in this man Jesus.

Think a little of the scene we have before us. Peter wants to know how often he must forgive someone. Based on our translation, he says brother. How many times must he forgive his “brother?” We are not certain if he meant his brother Andrew, whom he probably bullied while they were kids, or simply metaphorical “brother.” Maybe Andrew took the last piece of fish the night before and frequently does, and Peter wants to know if has to continually forgive him. Typical brothers.

One can only imagine Jesus rolling His eyes. Here is Jesus, God in human form, here to save mankind and he has a bunch of men that makes one want to shake their head at. I suppose we have to understand the hiring pool was probably slim, and Indeed and Zip Recruiter was not available then. After all, God decided to come to earth in this particular part of the world for reasons we may never know, so surely He knew what He was in for.

However, I think this is exactly the point. Our Lord wanted to get in deep with the average person. The hard working everyday Jewish person of the day. If He were to come today, I could see Him picking 12 people from different walks of Christianity (maybe even some other faiths). He would want what He wanted then, the average person and our life experiences. He understands human nature – probably better than we do!

Jesus knows the ups and downs we go through. He knows when we feel slighted or wronged. He knows that in most instances our slights are not Darth Vader level, but that we may feel they are sometimes. He understands that many of our hurts are small in reality, but seem large to ourselves. But, He knows no matter how small, the hurts are real.

Regardless whether our hurt is large or small, Christ is calling us to forgive …. and forgive ….. and forgive. He wants us to turn the other cheek and love our enemy. He knows this is difficult for human beings. He knows that being unforgiving eats away at us. Just as the hurt may feel large, even if the act that caused the hurt may be small, so is the damage caused by unforgiveness. The unforgiveness eats at us worse than the original hurt sometimes. Subconsciously we hold onto the unforgiveness as if to cause damage to the one who caused the hurt.

In so far as we hold onto the hurt and thus unforgiveness, the good news is that God’s forgiveness is beyond human comprehension. He not only forgives, He forgives immediately, completely and forever. But, this forgiveness comes with a caveat – that we reflect and work on our forgiveness toward those who have hurt us.

It is interesting that we have this message on this Sunday, merely two days after the nineteenth anniversary of 9/11. This is one of those big, enormous hurts. Not some petty hurt we may do to one another. This is one of those hurts our Lord knows we struggle to forgive.

This past Friday, reflection on the events from nineteen years ago was everywhere you look. The tag-line, “Never Forget” was prominent. And these words, in my mind, are the best choice of words. Our Lord knows that we will struggle to forget and forgive the hurts caused us. However, truth be told, in human psychology, sometimes we can indeed forgive, but we will never forget. We will interact with someone who has hurt us and even carry on as if they have not, but it does remain in our minds sometimes even if it does not affect our relationship any longer.

We indeed are called to forgive, but notice our Lord did not say “forget.” I think He knows that part is nearly impossible. For God, all things are possible, but not for us. When God forgives, He also forgets. He knows humans cannot. When he says to us to turn the other cheek, essentially allowing someone to hurt us again, I do not believe He intended this as a form of setting ourselves up for failure, so much as learning to forgive no matter how many times we are hurt – even by the same person.

No, I think He is very much with us when something like this happens. We indeed should not forget. He would expect us to do all we can to prevent another attack and loss of human lives. But, in so doing, He doesn’t want us to label a group of people in such a way that prejudices and allows discrimination to set in.

Jesus is calling us today to forgive individuals in our lives. Individuals who have lied to us, treated us poorly, forgotten us, ignored us, stole from us, cheated on us and any possible plethora of things. It is hard, to be sure. But, as the Father forgives us, so must we forgive others.

This entire week’s readings from Scripture (we may not celebrate daily Mass in our chapel, however I do still read the daily assigned readings) were focused on forgiveness. It is that important to our Lord. During the week I reflected on someone who has been the epitome of following this teaching of Christ, and that of our own Archbishop Bekken. Over the years, some fellow bishops, have not been the most receptive of him and even been downright nasty to him, yet each and every time, he continued to treat them with love and charity. He forgave better than anyone I know.

So, on this weekend of the anniversary of the horrible terrorist attacks 19 years ago, let us reflect on what our Lord has asked of us. Let us search for a way to forgive those of this heinous act, but also to look into our personal lives and try to be more forgiving and even seek to be forgiven. It is hard, but if you ask the Holy Spirit to help you, I assure you, you will receive great grace.

Let us pray.

For the Church, that the Gospel's call to forgiveness may bridge divisions, heal wounds, and foster peace in our world. We pray to the Lord.

For those in positions of authority, that their service may be marked by integrity and directed toward promoting the common good. We pray to the Lord.

For those suffering from the devastating wildfires here in California and the entire west coast, that God may restore prosperity and speed the assistance to those who have lost loved ones, homes and businesses. We pray to the Lord.

For those who are struggling with the mistaken doubt that they cannot be forgiven: that they may come to experience in their hearts God’s unconditional and eternal promise of mercy and forgiveness. We pray to the Lord.

For the sick, the lonely, the grieving, and for the continued suffering of those related to Covid-19 that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.

For our deceased loved ones: that they may share in the joys of eternal 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, how often we call out to You, O Lord, yet we do not incline an ear to the words spoken in the still quiet of our souls. We distance ourselves from Your love and healing touch. Break the stubborn arrogance of our hearts, that we would embrace Your unchanging word and know true peace that only comes from total submission to Your will.

Creator God, protect all whose lives are being upended by wildfires and all who are risking their life to fight them. Break our selfish indifference to the cries of the Earth and the cries of the poor, who are most vulnerable to ecological disaster.

We come to you and ask for your help. We know that we are to forgive others as You have forgiven us, but we find it so hard to do. Our minds and hearts are full of anger for the things that have been said and done. At times it seems as though the ones that inflict pain and wounds are unrepentant...that they escape judgment. We are angry for what they have taken from us and for the pain they have caused us. Lord, we ask that You help us to see with Your eyes for your help in forgiving them so we can be set free of the pain and hurt.

Loving Father, listen to the prayers of your faithful, and instill in us the ways of forgiveness that we may reach out in love to all people. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

We are beggars …. We have finally been allowed to reopen, but as you may know, there are attendance limits and some do feel safe to be in a gathering environment yet, and so donations have been greatly reduced. We still need generous donors to help us to reverse the deficit and overdue expenses so we can continue our ministry in a hurting world. Please consider donating if you can!

http://www.stfrancisucc.org/donate.html

God Bless You and thank you! +++

Sunday, August 23, 2020

 August 23, 2020

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

(Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20)

Though I have heard this explanation previously, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn wrote about the infinity of God that I think is appropriate for today’s Epistle reading. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” Anyone who takes some time out of their busy life and allows their mind to wander freely and tries to think about God and who He is, this Epistle passage is very apropos. So, today rather than something to motivate you or teach you about something, this will merely be one of those just fun to think about type of sermons. 

Some of you have heard me remark that the Bible is not about how heaven goes, but how to go to heaven. Think about that a second and let it sink in. No human has been to heaven and been able to come back and write about it (at least proven and aside from Jesus), from a Biblical point of view. However, humans, by interaction from God (and Jesus, who also is God), have been able to write how to get there – how we are to conduct ourselves to get there. Here we are on our learner’s permit, and upon death, we receive our license to heaven – we hope!

Now, let’s get more confusing. 

God is one. And God is three. Mathematically speaking, it doesn’t seem to work. One can never equal three and three can never equal one. 

One plus one plus one equals three. One divided by three equals one-third, not one.

However, maybe we have the wrong equation. God is infinite. You can’t use that which is finite to comprehend the infinite. 

So, if we use the first equation and add the symbol of infinity next to each number, then what happens? (Okay, so if mathematics was your bad subject and I lost you with the first equation, much less with this, I am sorry. Wait for next week’s message.) 

So, now we have one infinity plus one infinity plus one infinity equals three infinities. How big is three infinities? It’s infinity. Three infinities equal one infinity – So three equals one!

For the second equation, using the same infinity symbol addition, one infinity divided by three equals one-third of infinity. What is one-third of infinity? Infinity! 

When we speak of God, we speak of the infinite. And one infinity and three infinities are equal. One-third infinity and one infinity are also equal. 

So, in the realm of God, the realm of the infinite, one does equal three and three equals one. You can never fit the infinite into the finite, and you can never get God inside of your understanding. If you could, then He wouldn’t be God. Then your understanding would be God. But God, by definition, must be greater than your understanding. (It’s why no one can explain the Trinity or how many Angels sit on the head of a pin!)

This should set us all free. We don’t have to figure God out. But there is a way that the finite can understand the infinite. How you ask? Believe! Have faith! 

We can never fully understand or know God, but we do not need to. Jesus made it clear that the fulfillment of the law was complete within Him. His death and resurrection fulfilled all of the law of the prophets. We need not do anything else except – wait for it – Believe in Jesus. What did Jesus say? Love the Lord your God (Matthew 22:37). What else? Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). And believe in Him (John 3:16).

So, we have a one∞ plus one∞ plus one∞ equals ∞ (infinity). Meaning, love of God (1) plus love of your neighbor (1) plus belief in Jesus (1) equals infinity, or eternal life in heaven.

We have all we need right in that equation. 

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

We are beggars …. As we know, in many areas such as ours, places of worship are still restricted from opening due to Covid-19. However, keeping the various expenses, utilities, insurances and the like, remain active and necessary. So, we ask that you keep us in your prayers, but also in your donations if you can. With doors shut, many do not give because they are not physically worshipping, or have limited access to give online, and many other reasons, so please help if you can! You will be in our prayers! God Bless You +++

Sunday, August 16, 2020

August 16, 2020

 August 16, 2020

Assumption of our Lady

(Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10; Luke 1:39-56)

Today we honor our Lady Mary with the Catholic view that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. It is one of those teachings or dogmas that can be strange to non-Catholics. With that said, I thought I would share some thoughts from an apologetic point of view to help us understand why we believe this to be true.

The feast of the Assumption has been a bone of contention between Catholics and non-Catholic traditions for many centuries. From a non-Catholic point of view, if it isn’t in the Bible, then it simply isn’t true. Because this teaching is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament, non-Catholics cannot accept any teachings about God taking our Lady Mary directly into heaven.

The Assumption of Mary teaching states that Mary was taken body and soul into heaven upon her death, with no long period of “sleeping,” nor a grave like others. The feast has been celebrated since the fourth century. 

Sixteenth-century Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, included this feast on a list of liturgical celebrations that should, in his words, “be observed among Evangelical Catholics as a sign of continuity and order.” Martin Luther, considered the founder of the Lutheran Church, left the Catholic Church by nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church in Germany, thus starting the Protestant Reformation and starting the schism of the time.

While non-Catholics generally accept the assumption of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) and that of the penitent thief (Luke 23:43), since both of these are directly mentioned in the Bible, they shy away from or even oppose suggestions that God also made it possible for Mary, Mother of our Lord, to be taken up to heaven to be with Him.

Cardinal John Henry Newman made four important points appealing to reason for the acceptance of the Assumption of our Lady.

First, he notes that Mary’s Divine Son loved her too much to let her body remain in the grave.

Second, since she was not only dear to our Lord as a mother is dear to a son but also transcendently holy and so overflowing with grace that though she died for a brief time as did our Lord Himself; yet, like Him and by His almighty power, she was raised again from the grave.

Third, the ancient Church records contain no notes of a tomb of Mary. (Meaning the Apostles did not relate verbal Tradition of an actual tomb. Most notably John, whom Jesus places His Mother as John’s mother and in his care – a precursor of Mary becoming the mother of us all.) The early Church was very conscious of the tombs of the Saints; for example, St. Mark speaks of the tomb of St. John the Baptist, St. Peter talks about the sepulcher of David, and great attention is given to the burial spots of Sts. Stephen, Mark, Barnabas, Peter, and Paul. If the Church was that concerned with burial spots of the Saints, how much more would it be concerned with the body of the Mother of our Lord? Evidently, there was no permanent burial and therefore no body.

Fourth, is that since other servants of God have been raised from the grave by the power of God, we can’t suppose our Lord would have granted that privilege to anyone else without also granting it to His own Mother.

Now, I have another thought for you. I will try to make this short, but still clear. 

As Christians, most of us agree with the doctrine of the Trinity (which, I might add, is a word/title of God not actually in the Bible either). We agree in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We agree that the Word became man (Jesus – Son). I think most of us would also agree that God is so pure that we humans could not be in His presence and actually live (this is actually in the Bible!). Therefore, if God, in the second person of the Son, was to be born of a human being as He actually did, then the vessel that He would inhabit during the normal human pregnancy process needed to be pure, or else that chosen human woman would die instantly upon the moment of the Holy Spirit entering her and her being conceived in this way! So, Mary was especially chosen (probably at the beginning of time) to be this vessel and therefore was made pure (I will avoid the topic of Original Sin here, that is another topic) at her conception and Tradition says she remained pure throughout her life (again semi-obvious if God was to enter into her). 

Now, all this said, if God made her so pure – beyond that of any other human except Jesus Himself – then it stands to reason, He would not allow His vessel – His Mother – experience corruption of burial after death. If we can see Elijah and Moses at the Transfiguration of Jesus, both human beings and certainly not pure enough to bear Jesus (gender aside), and thus realize they must be in heaven, then surely His own Mother would enjoy the same!

Saint John Damascene, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke out with powerful eloquence when he [said], “It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption…. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow…should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”…

In the life of our Lady, it is natural that her death should not be like that of other humans, since she was accorded a special honor and thus no average human being. Mary died even as our Lord and Savior died, but through the merits of her Son, she also had been saved from the grave.

Therefore, hopefully we can gather all Christians to celebrate Mary’s Assumption into heaven with her Son. 

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

Services are canceled, but someone failed to tell that to expenses that still need to be paid, and so we remain beggars. Donate if you can. May God richly bless you for it!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

August 9, 2020

 August 9, 2020

Transfiguration Sunday

(Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Matthew 17:1-9)

Things are not always as they seem. Sometimes, maybe, yes. But not always. The old adage to take time to smell the roses/flowers is something that we should still do today. Too many of us do not do enough of this. Either we are too busy (so we think) or simply do not care. We need experience what is beyond what we see.

Think of our relationships, or actually the lack thereof, of the myriad of people we pass or come in contact with each day. Do we take time to smell the roses of these people – do we take time to learn about them, not just what we see? If we are honest with ourselves and each other, we merely judge the book by the cover, we don’t take time to really see the person as they really are.

In the Middle East desert, one can still view desert dwellers. They will still use tents similar to Old Testament periods. The Tent of Meeting, the tent of the Tabernacle would have looked very similar, probably made of badger’s skin as it was commonly done. Most likely plain and dull appearance from the outside. 

However, once you stepped inside, everything would have appeared much different. The first chamber was called the holy place. In that portion there would be the table of the presence, the altar of incense, and the seven-branched menorah, each of gold and of inestimable value. 

The next chamber would be the holy of holies with the Ark of the Covenant which held the tablets of the Ten Commandments (you know – those things we learned in Sunday school [maybe] and probably can no longer name all ten!). On top of the Ark was the glory of God. God hovered over the Ark. No one could actually touch the Ark and live, because the holy presence of God was too pure for our sinful human touch.

All of this was hidden from the outside and could only be seen if you took the time to go in. So what looked plain, dull, unattractive, and of little worth on the outside turned out to contain the greatest of treasures on the inside. 

Sometimes, in our modern world, we like to be pretentious and make things appear more impressive and attractive on the outside and on the surface than what is really on the inside. The reality is less than the appearance. Those who are humble, or merely being themselves, are less pretentious and maybe not as appealing on the outside and are much more likely to be more beautiful inside. 

We like to experience things that look nice, and sometimes are disappointed. While, we avoid that which does not marvel us on the outside is the greatest treasure that we will miss.

But with God and the ways of righteousness, it’s very different. On the outside and on the surface it tends to look hard and unattractive. So, the way to the cross and of sacrifice, on the outside, looks hard. But the deeper you go, the more beautiful it becomes. The deeper you go, the more treasures you find. 

So too, the deeper you go into prayer and worship, the more awesome it becomes. The deeper you go into His presence, the more glorious it becomes. The deeper you go into the love of God, the more golden it becomes. 

Was it any different for Jesus? In today’s Gospel we read of His transfiguration. The three Apostles with Him must really been in awe of what they were seeing. We can tell this by Peter’s response. He is almost delirious. Keep in mind that prior to this, they have only seen Jesus on the outside! 

Think of a typical man in the Middle East and the dress of the time. We might find it appalling, compared to our “modern” way of dressing. But, that is how Jesus (think God) was dressed while visiting us as a man. The various religious leaders of the time saw Him as nothing more than an average man. Even the disciples to some extent. 

So, here was Jesus transfigured. They get to see Jesus as He truly is on the inside and outside! Remember what Nathanael said? “What good can come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46) However, Jesus was Jesus inside and out all the time, but they refused to see Him, because of their disbelief. His disciples slowly realized who He really is. But many simply closed their minds. We would do the same if we encountered a fellow human being who implied he was the Messiah.

How often do we do the same in our daily lives. Like I mentioned at the beginning, we simply do not take time to smell the roses. We see this magnified in systemic racism. We do the same as we do with the tents - with Jesus. Anyone knows (or should) that skin color, the way we dress, what we live in, or what we drive, yada, yada, yada …. is not the entire picture of a person. It is not what is inside. We should take time to learn what is inside. We will discover some great beauty as well as see we are different, yet the same!

Therefore, we need to go deeper. We need to go inside. We need to go beyond the surface, beyond the appearance, beyond the tent of skins. Both with our fellow humans, but especially with God! When we do, we will discover the treasures and the glory that await only those who dare to go inside! Like our tiny chapel – come inside and be surprised, and worship God while here! Go inside and you will find a treasure.

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

Services are canceled, but someone failed to tell that to expenses that still need to be paid, and so we remain beggars. Donate if you can. May God richly bless you for it!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

August 2, 2020

August 2, 2020
The Eighth Sunday after Trinity
(Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21)
http://www.stfrancisucc.org/donate.html
I wasn’t going to do a “traditional” sermon today, given we are still on shut down due to Covid-19, but I ran across some stories that I liked and felt like I wanted to twist it into a sermon anyway. Besides, in times like these, we need a little boost of faith in miracles.
A couple of years ago there was a headline that read: “Arkansas woman texted father’s number every day after he died; she got a response four years later”?
Although the headline sounded like an outreach from the other side of the grave, the actual story was far less sensational.
For four years, Chastity Patterson, of Newport, Arkansas, had been mourning the death of Jason Ligons, who, while not her biological father, had been so much like a father to her that she called him Dad.
After he died, Chastity continued to text his phone every day to update him about her life. While she didn’t expect a response, the daily texting was a way of dealing with her grief. In her message on October 25, the night before the fourth anniversary of Ligons’ death, she told about how she’d beaten cancer and hadn’t gotten sick since his passing. She also wrote about falling in love and having her heart broken, joking that Ligons “would have killed” the guy.
But then, something happened - she received a response.
It was not Ligons, but a man, identified only as Brad, who had been receiving her daily messages these past four years.
“I am not your father,” Brad texted, “but I have been getting all your messages for the past four years. ... I lost my daughter in a car wreck (in) August 2014 and your messages have kept me alive,” Brad said. “When you text me, I know it’s a message from God.”
Brad went on to say that he had read her messages for all that time but hadn’t texted her back for fear of breaking her heart.
Chastity posted the exchange to Facebook, saying, “Today was my sign that everything is okay and I can let him [Ligons] rest!” Her post was then shared more than 288,000 times and picked up by several media outlets.
How Brad came to receive Chastity’s messages is easily explained: I have read that when an individual surrenders a phone number, whether because of relocation, death or other reason, the company that supplied the phone service eventually reissues it to a new customer, sometimes as soon as 30 days after the number was discontinued.
After Chastity’s story went viral, she posted that she had shared the story to show friends and family “that there is a God and it might take four years, but he shows up right on time!”
While Chastity’s story was splashed out by several media outlets, few of the major national news organizations reported the story at all, which suggests that by some standards, it didn’t rise to the level of “news,” and there was no “miracle” involved. I suppose by some definitions of “miracle,” it may indeed not have been one, but surely God was indeed involved. 
And that brings us to the Scripture lesson for today — the well-known account of Jesus feeding more than 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish and ending up with 12 baskets of leftovers. This story appears in all four gospels, a sure sign that the early Christians had no doubt that what Jesus did that day was a miracle.
But now fast forward to the 19th century, when a Protestant Bible scholar named Heinrich Paulus examined the feeding the 5,000 story. Paulus was a rationalist, and as such, was skeptical that miracles occurred. He posited that what really happened was that in the spirit of the day, after Jesus blessed the meager amount of food on hand, the wealthier people in the crowd, who had arrived with packed picnic baskets, shared their food with those who had none.
(I do hope you weren’t drinking something and had a mouthful that you didn’t just now send it spraying across the room!)
People persuaded by Paulus say the real miracle was that the wealthy were inspired to share what they had.
Paulus, by the way, is the same guy who proposed the “swoon theory,” which speculates that Jesus did not actually die on the cross, but somehow survived his execution and proclaimed that he had risen from the dead. (I suppose it doesn’t matter that there were non-followers of Jesus who were witnesses and reported the actual death of Jesus, but as Trump say, fake news maybe.)
Of course, many of us have trouble reconciling miracles with reason. And that logic gap is likely what the news writer was counting on when he headlined Chastity’s story to sound spectacular.
But both the sensational headline and our natural skepticism miss the real story: that Chastity’s texts helped Brad deal with his grief following his daughter’s death, and that his reply to Chastity helped her put to rest her grief over Ligons’ death, and that both Chastity and Brad viewed the texts from the other as conveying a message from God.
Miracle stories like the feeding of the 5,000 and non-miracle stories like Chastity’s invite us to think about how God does work in our lives. Certainly God is not limited to interventions that cannot be explained by science or that go beyond the realm of reason. He can work through means we might label as coincidence or accident or serendipity or luck or natural processes or everyday happenings.
In Isaiah, we find God saying, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, ... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (55:8-9). We minister folk often quote these words to emphasize how God can work through means that we humans don’t have available to us, and that is certainly a correct message to hear in these verses. But we shouldn't take them as if they are saying that God works only through extraordinary or miraculous means. God’s higher ways may, in some cases, operate through everyday things — through natural functions of life. Some Christians have observed that God uses means (or agents, tools or intermediaries) much more often than he intervenes in the laws of nature — with bright lights and all, such as he did with Paul on the road to Damascus.
This does not muddy the majesty of God's ways. In fact, it might be said that in sending Jesus as a human being, God was putting his majesty in an ordinary “container.”
Consider this true story from a book called Small Miracles: Carol Anderson was young widow whose husband died at 35. Bob Edwards was a young widower whose wife had been killed in a car accident at 29. Both had happy marriages, but after several lonely years the two surviving spouses met and got married. They got along well except for one thing — their differing opinions about how to handle their history. Bob wanted to explore it, to share it with Carol. He wanted to know about Carol’s first husband and tell her about his first wife. Carol, however, didn’t want to talk at all about their previous marriages; the pain from her loss was still too strong. “Why raise ghosts?” she said. But Bob felt that good memories should be preserved, not obliterated.
This issue hung between them for a long time, with Carol’s view prevailing, to Bob’s disappointment. But finally, after a few years, Carol felt secure enough to talk about the past and decided to show Bob some snapshots from her first marriage. Among the photos were pictures that Carol and her first husband had taken in France on their honeymoon. “Here we are at Lourdes,” Carol said, pointing to a photo taken at the famous healing shrine.
“You went to Lourdes?” Bob said, mildly interested. “So did we.”
“Well, I guess half the world goes to Lourdes,” Carol said. It was no big deal.
But then Bob asked to see the photo again. “Who’s that couple in the background?”
“I have no idea,” Carol said. “Just a couple who walked by and were caught by the shutter. I can see why you asked, though ... It does look as though they’re standing behind us, almost as if they’re posing, but that’s just an illusion.”
“That couple,” Bob said, “is me and my first wife.”
The matter for us to affirm today is raised both by the miracle story in the Scripture reading and by some natural occurrences that take on special meanings for us — in that we see the hand of God behind them. From the perspective of daily life, there’s not much value in arguing over whether miracles occur or whether there are rational explanations for the events that bring us meaning, healing, hope or lift us up. If we experience God as being in them, we are in touch with the miraculous.
Let’s say it like this: We encounter many serendipitous happenings in life for which there is no supernatural intervention overriding the laws of nature. But something occurs that is not ordinary, not usual and not what one would normally expect to happen. Maybe God did not provide an exception to Newton’s (or Einstein’s) laws of motion, but He may well have moved people to interact in ways that provided what was needed by someone in a particular situation.
In the case of Chastity and Brad, the miracle may have been that God moved both of them toward the mutual support and benefit that occurred.
And we can say this as well: Both Chastity and Brad were quick to see God’s fingerprints in their exchange. Skeptics might disagree, but some things take the eyes of faith to discern.
In this time of continued unease and a seemingly unending pandemic, there may be little acts of God happening. It may be hard to see them, especially in times of despair. But, remember our ways are not God’s ways. 
If you look, you may find God’s fingerprints all over the place. I prefer to look and see miracles, or at the very least, God’s involvement during this time. It keeps hope alive!
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
Services are canceled, but someone failed to tell them that to expenses that still need to be paid, and so we remain beggars. Donate if you can. May God richly bless you for it!
http://www.stfrancisucc.org/donate.html

Sunday, July 26, 2020

July 26, 2020
The Seventh Sunday after Trinity
(Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52)
I am diverting from our Scripture readings again today for a short missive.
As we continue in our daily struggles during Covid-19 difficulties, we are being flooded with news that federal agents are on the streets of Portland. In a free speech and right to protest country, we are seeing suppression. Hmmm …. (After writing this sermon, riots have broke out in Portland. Peaceful protests are a constitutional right, however, riots are very counterproductive and I in no way encourage rioting.)
We shouldn’t even have to gather in protest if we are doing what Christians should be doing – loving one another (though, admittedly, this is not the sole reason for the protests, but it is certainly part of it). Why?
What do you see in the mirror when you look into one? Or when you look at water in a stream, or lake etc.? You see your reflection, of course. What if someone is perched over your shoulder while looking into a mirror or stream? You now see your face and the face of the other person.
Imagine if we could see the face of God. In Hebrew the word for face is panim. The im at the end indicates plural. So, the word face is not really face but faces. So, when one speaks of the face of God, especially in Hebrew, we would actually speak of faces of God!
A face is not the essence of a person, but merely the appearance of a person. It is how we know and recognize each other. When we see the face of God, we see Him via His panim …. Through His many faces. We see Him in His blessings, in His provisions, in every good thing that has blessed our life, in the love He wove into those who once cared for you, in every kindness shown to you in your time of need, in every good given to you by His people.
In their panim, the faces of these people, we see the face of God. As Mary of Magdala looked into the face of God but didn’t realize it was His face (John 20:15), so too have we looked into the face of God but didn’t realize it was His face. Or maybe I should say, we have forgotten that when we look at someone else, we are seeing one of the faces of God.
For blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God! We should be looking for the good, the holy, the beautiful and we will see the face of God.
When you allow your life to be used as a vessel of His love and your heart to be moved by His Spirit, then when people look at you, they will see the face of God.
How often have we looked at someone or encountered someone and failed to see our Lord in their face? How often have you passed a homeless beggar and felt disgusted and judged them as being on drugs, instead of someone needing help? How often have you encountered a same sex couple walking on the street holding hands and you thought that it was an “abomination,” instead of two people in love? How often have you had an interaction with a black person whose pants were so low that their underwear were showing and they spoke using grammar that you felt horrible and you allowed a discriminatory epithet come to mind, instead of merely seeing a fellow human who has had a less privileged upbringing than you, especially when there is a white kid down the block that dresses and speaks the same as the black person but you didn’t judge them the same way? You get the point.
We have all been created in the image of God and we should always remember this. We also need to always remember the radical love Jesus had toward anyone and everyone He encountered.
And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:40-46)
Now granted, some will say the examples I gave earlier would not immediately seem to apply here, but the thing we must remember is that Jesus really meant this for ALL people, not merely the disadvantaged. In our political climate, and with the additional complications we are seeing in public view, it is easy to get caught up in the rhetoric and lose sight of the fact that we are all equal in God’s eyes. We all hold an image that is part of the face(s) of God.
I would like to challenge everyone to find someone in your life (directly or indirectly) that troubles you or you seem to have difficulty accepting or associating with, and say some kind words, maybe strike up a conversation and even pray with them. You will both possibly gain a better awareness of each other and even build a valuable friendship from it. You never know, they may be wanting to connect with you as well!
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA
We are beggars - As some of you know, places of worship are closed again due to the uptick in the Covid-19 infections, so we see a decline in giving. If you are able, we ask you to consider helping.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

July 19, 2020
The Sixth Sunday after Trinity
(Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Matthew 13:24-43)
As we once again are shut down due to escalating positive tests for Covid-19 here in California, and again I write for “virtual congregation,” and from reading the Gospel assigned to us today,  I thought of a topic that may seem to not match, but hey, I am weird. However, in the world we have currently, I think it is a good topic for us.
As I have done a couple times recently, I want you to picture a mental image. There is a large wheel shaped stone in a garden, roughly 8’ in diameter and a foot thick. The stone is one that could have been used to seal an entrance to a tomb many centuries ago. And so, I ask you to go to the stone and to try to move it. The stone doesn’t budge.
I tell you to try harder. You try again, but still nothing. I tell you, “just a little bit harder.” You push with all your strength and, finally, the stone rolled just a little.
What would this show you? Aside from you probably being a little bit out of shape?
You were trying to move an item at rest. A large item at rest. It takes a large amount of momentum. It requires a new action. In order to begin this momentum, it requires you to concentrate all of your strength into moving the stone just a few inches. That’s how physics works.
So, this is how you get a ball… errr a stone rolling, but what does this have to do with you and me? Basically, the same law of momentum applies in a spiritual realm as well. By moving the stone, you cause a change. A change in that you cause it to move and a change because by making it roll, it will thus be in a new location.
Change means new action, new motion, and a new momentum. Let’s face it, the universe is against change and against a change of momentum. Humans are no different. Some of us resist change even to an astronomical point of view. To make a change in our lives requires a great deal of power, energy, decision making, thought, focus and resolve – even to make small changes. The bigger the change, the bigger of an effort needed.
To make changes in our lives, or anything we may speak of, is to sometimes take small, but concerted, steps. And move from that step to the next. Moses’ first step after being called by God was to take off his sandals. The Apostles dropped their nets. Change takes steps. To be good Christians, we often need to change.
We are living in a time of various unrest. We have an epidemic going on, yet many carry on as if there is not. They will blatantly refuse to wear masks, nor follow social distancing or even use hand sanitizer. We have a large problem with racial discrimination – in fact, when we get right down to it, discrimination of many kinds, not just race. However, black lives have really suffered considerably. We have government officials that seem to think they know better than scientists and medical experts. Officials who even seem to push an agenda that is unhealthy. But, are we acting any better?
We must face the fact that our world, and thus our lives, require change. What is so hard about wearing a mask? Granted, they are not ascetically appealing, nor very comfortable, but our lives and the lives of others depend on it! Any of us could be asymptomatic and carry the virus and be spreading it around. We hear many say that it is their right to not wear a mask. However, it is my right to not want to get sick, and you are infringing on it by refusing to wear a mask around me! You do not have a right to cause harm to my person or anyone else! It is all of our rights to want to get back to some form of normalcy and live, but we cannot do so until we make a change.
Many, if not most, of us hate change. It isn’t fun. I have had 3 years of nothing but change, and not always good, but change all the same. If we all want to be free from wearing masks and practicing social distance, then we need to do both for as long as the medical professionals ask us to, or we will never be able to go back to any form of what was! If one does not care enough about their own life to wear a mask, we should at the very least care enough about others around us.
Like Moses with his sandals, and the Apostles with their nets, our Lord asks us all to change. The Holy Scriptures are full of God asking us to change. We may find it inconvenient, but in the end, our life is not our own. We are only here as long as the good Lord desires us to be, or given His allowance of our free will, as long as we allow ourselves to be here. Meaning, we need to take care of ourselves and each other if we expect to make it past the virus and systemic racism and other ills that plaque us.
We need to change. We need to all become good Samaritans and stop bucking the system. Stop trying to force your resistance down someone else’s throat, and put on the mask, be a good Samaritan, be a good neighbor regardless of race, creed, sexual preference or identity, political party, yada, yada, yada!
I dislike wearing a mask, but I wear one all the same. Some people simply rub me the wrong way, but they are still my neighbor and we are all creatures of God, not dirt we stomp our feet on. They still deserve your respect.
We must all change. We all must push on the stone wheel until we make it move. We all have our sins and addictions that do not get any better until we roll the stone. Let us all make a concerted effort to move the stone – to change for the better. Get rid of hate, intolerance, and resistance to masks. Not only for ourselves, but also for our neighbor.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA
We are beggars. If you are able to donate, please do, so that we may keep our small ministry alive!

Monday, July 6, 2020

July 5, 2020
The Fourth Sunday after Trinity
St. Junipero Serra
Independence Day
(Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30)
Today’s Gospel reading is one of my favorites – especially verses 28 thru 30. It is also a passage that we more progressive Catholics like to cite as Jesus’ response to religious conservatives. Sadly, these exact words of Jesus can certainly be applied still today. Too many groups and ministers apply heavy burdens that make it virtually impossible for some followers to live a day without feeling they have failed. It is also why many have left the church or not joined one at all!
What was it that Jesus was talking about? Some like to translate this as meaning that those of us who are burdened by the heavy load of life can come to Jesus who will help them with their burdened life; that He will help them with whatever troubles them. To go to Jesus and He will lighten your load and burdens and make your life better. Although this view isn’t wrong, because indeed Jesus does want us to seek Him when our life is in turmoil, it is not what this passage is actually saying. It’s one of those in context things.
What Jesus was speaking of here is for those who labor and are burdened: burdened by the law as expounded by the scribes and Pharisees. In place of the yoke of the law, complicated by scribal interpretation, Jesus invites the burdened to take the yoke of obedience to his word, under which they will find rest. The scribes and Pharisees would be, in my opinion, the conservatives of today.
We well know that there are many “laws,” especially in the Old Testament, that we simply do not follow in modern times. Though the reason for this is more difficult than can be explained in a mere sermon, the fact remains that some of these “laws” simply do not apply in our modern context. They have been made unnecessary in various ways and for various reasons, and also because Christ fulfilled the “laws.” One example would be from the book of Acts in which St. Peter hears a voice speak to him.
“The next day, while they were on their way and nearing the city, Peter went up to the roof terrace to pray at about noontime. He was hungry and wished to eat, and while they were making preparations he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.” But Peter said, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean.” The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into the sky.” (Acts 10:9-16)
Now what does this mean? The vision is intended to prepare Peter to share the food of Cornelius’ household without qualms of conscience. The necessity of such instructions to Peter reveals that at first not even the Apostles fully grasped the implications of Jesus’ teaching on the law. The arrival of the Gentile emissaries with their account of the angelic apparition illuminates St. Peter’s vision: he is to be prepared to admit Gentiles, who were considered unclean like the animals of his vision, into the Christian community. The revelation of God’s choice of Israel to be the people of God did not mean he withheld the divine favor from other people.
As we know, there are many topics in the Scriptures that can be very divisive. Many items can be taken out of context. Many items can be twisted in any way someone wants them – to say what one wants them to say.
Some people church going Christians as inconsistent because “they follow some of the rules in the Bible and ignore others.” The challenge usually sounds something like this: “When the Bible talks about certain sexual behaviors as sin, you quote that; but when it says not to eat shellfish or that you should execute people for breaking the Sabbath, you just ignore it. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what suits you best?”
Many Christians have a hard time answering it. Which is why we just secretly hope it never comes up. Even I don’t like the question, because what I say in reply, I will always get the same response ….. but, doesn’t the bible say this ….. etc. However, it is always good to keep in mind that our branch of Catholicism has always taught “freedom of thought.” However, that is for another day ….
One of the most helpful ways to think about this is to look at the types of laws there are in the Old Testament. The 16th-century Reformer John Calvin saw that the NT seemed to treat the OT laws in three ways. There were Civil Laws, which governed the nation of Israel, encompassing not only behaviors, but also punishments for crimes. There were Ceremonial Laws about “clean” and “unclean” things, about various kinds of sacrifices, and other temple practices. And then there were the Moral Laws, which declared what God deemed right and wrong—the 10 Commandments, for instance.
For OT Israel, all three types of laws blended together. Breaking a civil or a ceremonial law was a moral problem; conversely, breaking a moral law had a civil (and often ceremonial) consequence. But they only went hand-in-hand because Israel was in a unique place historically, as both a nation and a worshiping community. “Separation of church and state” wasn’t one of their core tenets. That’s not the case for the Church today, so the way we view the Law would have to look different.
All of this helps explain what often seems contradictory about the NT view of the Law. On one hand, Jesus said the Law was perfect, that heaven and earth would pass away before the Law would fail (Matt 5:18). On the other hand, the Apostle Paul points out that those who are born again are actually released from the Law (Rom 7:1-6; Gal 3:25). As Jesus himself put it, he came to fulfill the Law (Matt 5:17).
What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the Law? It means that every law pointed to him, and He completed everything they pointed to. Thinking of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law helps us see why we keep some of the OT commands and “ignore” others.
The Civil Laws, for instance, were set up so the nation of Israel could thrive. Jesus actually emerged from this nation, but He started a new Israel—a spiritual Israel, the Church. We’re no longer bound by the civil codes of Leviticus because God doesn’t have a nation-state on earth anymore. (At least from the Christian perspective.) Of course, we may wisely look at some of the principles in Israel’s civil laws as we think of our own societal politics (principles about public health, caring for the poor, etc.), but the specific rules were all fulfilled in Jesus.
The Ceremonial Laws illustrate for us God’s holiness, our unholiness, and what God would do about it. The entire sacrificial system should have ingrained into Israel’s minds just how large the gap was between sinful humanity and a perfect God—and just how costly it would be to bridge that gap. And as the book of Hebrews shows us, the sacrifices were all fulfilled in Jesus’ perfect life and death. If we accept Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, we don’t need the lesser sacrifices anymore. In fact, it would actually be offensive to go back to them, because that would communicate that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t sufficient.
The Moral Laws are fulfilled in Jesus as well, in that He kept all of them perfectly, every day, always, for His entire life. But unlike the civil and ceremonial laws, which were more time-bound, these laws reflected God’s assessment of good and evil, right and wrong. They reflect God’s character, and since His character doesn’t change, His views on morality don’t either. In fact, whenever Jesus mentioned the moral laws, He either reaffirmed them or intensified them! To follow Jesus is to love what He loved, including the moral law.
Now, even though we still defend the moral laws of the Old Testament, we have to keep in mind that Jesus fulfilled it all. The Christian is not under obligation to keep the moral law as a way of earning his or her way to God. Instead, we are changed by the presence of God’s Spirit to desire to keep God’s laws. Because God isn’t just after obedience; He’s after a whole new kind of obedience, an obedience that comes from love and delight in God. Christians keep the moral commands, not because “it’s the law,” but because they love God and want to be like Him.
So, His yoke would merely be the Golden Rule or the two greatest commandments. To love the Lord thy God with all your heart, mind and soul. And to love your neighbor as you do yourself. Following these commandments and following Jesus’ example in how He treated others during His ministry, and your burden is already lightened. No cagillion rules or laws to follow. Two simple laws and Jesus’ example.
Let us pray.
For the Church, that we may find ways to both preach the word and serve our neighbor, especially during this time of separation and crisis. We pray to the Lord.
For elected leaders, that they may serve with wisdom, compassion and humility all the people in their care. We pray to the Lord.
For an end to gun violence in our community and in our nation. We pray to the Lord.
For our diocese, that we may foster a missionary spirit and bring the message of the Gospel wherever we may go in the example of St. Junipero Serra. We pray to the Lord.
That, more and more, we will come to see the Lord Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. We pray to the Lord.
For our nation, as we thank God for our national freedom this weekend, we pray for a deeper consciousness of the damage caused by systemic racism and the unwelcoming of immigrants seeking refuge. May American Christians be people of humility and openness. We pray to the Lord.
For all who are on the frontlines of this COVID-19 pandemic, especially our health care workers and first responders, for all who are unable to stay at home, but must work to provide for their families, may God continue to protect them and keep them in good health. 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.
You, gracious God, are love itself, and perfect love casts out fear. Come to us in merciful patience, we pray, to love us from fear to trust, from anger to grace, from doubt to faith. Love us from our self-centeredness to hearts that willingly give themselves in selfless sacrifice and service. Love us out of our scarcity to hearts overflowing with generosity. Love us from brokenness to wholeness, from resentments and forgiveness withheld to forgiveness freely offered just as it has been freely offered to us. Come to us, Lord, overwhelming us with your love that we might love as you first loved us.
Gracious God, we thank You for your promise to be with us and among us today as we worship You in a spirit of humility and holiness. We invite You to be our “true mirror,” to hold up before us Your Word in such a way that we see our true selves. Help us also to see in a new way the fullness of Your ineffable glory and transcendent grace and mercy. We await in the next hour Your word to us, that by it we may be empowered to live in the world, announcing Your rule of justice, reconciliation and peace. We await You in the loving of our neighbor and remembering that black lives do indeed matter. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Friend. Amen
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

We are beggars.