Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Sermon

May 29, 2011

The Fifth Sunday after Easter

Most mission statements, according to Kevin Starr, needs a short statement, no more than eight words long, that includes "Verb, target, outcome." Can a church come up with something like that?

How about:
Jesus was a man on a mission.

He healed the sick, fed the 5,000, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead, washed the feet of the disciples, commanded them to love one another and showed them the way to God. His mission was clear. But did he have a "mission statement"? An essential expression of purpose? Something such as "To inspire and nurture the human spirit", as the Starbucks Coffee Company slogan says?

Sounds awfully spiritual, doesn't it? In the inspiration business, we Christians have some serious competition. But does Jesus need a mission statement? Or better yet, would one mission statement be enough in describing Jesus? Or would we need many mission statements?

Mission statements have become big business, with a wide range of organizations crafting them in an attempt to capture their core values, purposes and goals. The problem with most of them is they wind up sounding complex and boring, such as the one that reads: "Our challenge is to assertively network economically sound methods of empowerment so that we may continually negotiate performance-based infrastructures." I will not tell you were it is from, but suffice to say unless you’re a person with a rocket scientist brain working in some intense field, that slogan would do nothing for any of us.

Jesus would never want his mission to be so complex and boring. As followers of Christ, we can do better.

So what should be included in a mission statement for the followers of Jesus, based on the words he spoke the night before his death? "If you love me," he says to his disciples, "you will keep my commandments". That's a strong start, but this exceeds the eight-word limit. Maybe we are limiting ourselves too much with something as strong as Jesus.

"I will ask the Father," promises Jesus, "and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever". Advocate comes from the Greek word
parakletos - one who exhorts, comforts, helps and makes an appeal on another person's behalf. There are acceptable English translations for the word parakletos, which is why one Bible will render the word "Advocate," another will say "Comforter" and, still another, "Counselor." Depending on what version of the Bible a preacher uses, there could be any number of combinations of a sermon given to describe the Holy Spirit. All these English words describe the "Spirit of truth" that God will send to the disciples, and Jesus predicts that "you know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you".

This is a good start to an authentic Christian mission statement: Love Christ, do the right thing, receive the Advocate, Comforter, Counselor, Spirit of truth. But wait, there's more - "I will not leave you orphaned," promises Jesus; "I am coming to you." Jesus assures his disciples they will see him after his death and resurrection, and he predicts that the future will be marked by an amazing intimacy between God, Jesus and all his followers. "I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you," he says, describing in this tumbling jumble of pronouns a beautiful blend of divine and human elements.

Then Jesus circles back to where he began, making another link between loving him and keeping his
commandments (One could substitute, we might say, "Do the right thing," or "Do the God-thing" or "Don't Be Evil" for commandments) "They who observe my Don't Be Evil rule are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them". Different churches might teach the concept of "commandment" differently; the point is that Jesus connects living right with loving right. For many people, loving and commandment-keeping are very different approaches to the Christian faith. For Jesus, they're one and the same.

After reading this passage, one easily sees how mission statements can become awash in jargon and marble-mouthed pronouncements. There's so much to say, and the temptation is to try to say it all. But remember the marks of an effective statement: verb, target, outcome. Eight words, no more.

Fortunately, Jesus includes several strong action words in this passage from John:
love, keep, know, abide, see, live. And he offers a clear target as well: the creation of a community of people who love Christ, keep his commandments and experience a truly amazing intimacy with Jesus and God. And what will be the outcome of this effort? To receive the Holy Spirit - receive the one who is an Advocate, Comforter and Counselor, as well as the continuing presence and power of Jesus Christ himself.

Verbs, target, outcome. A mission statement, it seems, boils down to eight essential words:

Love Christ, keep his commandments, receive the Spirit.

This is our mission: to be a community of people who love Christ and keep his commandments - seeing these actions as complementary, not contradictory. Loving and commandment-keeping are two sides of the same spiritual coin, revealing both devotion and order, affection and obedience. If we can hold them together, then we'll be in a position to receive the Holy Spirit.

So how do we do it? First, we
love Christ. The writer Anne Lamott was a 30-year-old single, hip, intellectual agnostic who didn't think she wanted to have anything to do with Jesus. In her book Traveling Mercies, she tells of how she became pregnant by a married man. She had an abortion and was sadder than she'd been since her father died. She drank and took pills to dull the pain. Then, one night, lying in the darkness, she became aware of someone with her, hunkered down in the corner. She knew it was Jesus. "I felt him just sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft," she writes, "watching me with patience and love."

For the next few days, Lamott sensed Jesus following her everywhere, like "a little cat." Finally, she took a long, deep breath and said out loud, "All right. You can come in." Looking back on the experience, Lamott says, "I was dying, and I got a second chance. I do believe I was saved."

We love Jesus because he first loved us. He comes to us with patience and love, and he saves us.

Then we do the right thing:
We keep his commandments. This doesn't mean we suddenly achieve a state of moral perfection, with an ability to check off all the ethical imperatives in the Sermon on the Mount or become a “goody-two-shoes”. But it does mean we respond to Christ's love with a desire to live an orderly and obedient life - one that's organized around the new commandment of Jesus to "love one another." Loving and commandment-keeping come together when Jesus says to his disciples, "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another".

Such love isn't so much an emotion as it is a deep desire to order our lives around the example Jesus set. It means championing the cause of the underdog, reaching out to the downtrodden, working to build up God's kingdom on earth and being willing to sacrifice for others. "No one has greater love than this," says Jesus, "to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you". On this Memorial Day weekend, we pause to give thanks for all the men and women, throughout our nation's history, who have given their lives for others.

Loving sacrifice is how we keep Christ's commandments. In a concrete way, it shows the world that we are friends of Jesus Christ.

Let me use another analogy. A parent or grandparent may ask a small child, “How much do you love me?” And the child will respond with stretched wide open arms and an enthusiastic “This much!” Real love has no bounds. As wide as the child can open his or her arms; this is a whole universe to a small child. This is the unboundedness of responsive love that nurtures, strengthens, and helps build strong character and values. “If you love me …” Jesus says. Of course we love Jesus! Why else are many of us here today? And, as with a small child, we might want to open our arms wide and exclaim “This much!” - As much as the whole universe.
Yet it would seem that Jesus puts a limit on how much we can love him; “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Commandments are finite and measurable. Is it true that Jesus is limiting our love? Of course not! There is much more to what Jesus is saying than what meets the eye. Instead, it expands our love to include the whole of our living. When Jesus says to keep his Commandments as a sign of our love for him, he is not only speaking about the Ten Commandments; he is saying that if we love him, we will live as he lived. Loving Jesus as he asks requires us to live in such a way that others know the Resurrection is real, that Jesus is really present, that Jesus cares for us deeply.
Our love for Jesus is shown in the same way as the early disciples showed their love; by doing in our everyday living. Like Philip and Peter and John, as we read in our first reading, we are to proclaim the living Christ by the way we heal hurts in others; bring a healing touch to those who are ailing in any way; strengthen those who are weak or paralyzed by fear, doubt, or selfishness; those who feel ostracized; encourage those weighed down with too much stress, work, or indecision. All this and more is keeping Jesus’ commandments by living his way of life; a life of deep care for others. The most encouraging aspect of this Gospel reading is that Jesus sends us the help we need to love and live in this way.

Finally, our mission comes to its conclusion when we
receive the Spirit. This is the final phrase in our mission statement, the outcome of our loving Christ and our commandment-keeping. It's usually experienced in a community of faith, such as the Presbyterian congregation where Anne Lamott is a member. She writes, "One of our newer members, a man named Ken Nelson, is dying of AIDS, disintegrating before our very eyes." He has a totally lopsided face, ravaged and emaciated, but "when he smiles, he is radiant. He looks like God's crazy nephew." Ken says he would gladly pay any price for what he has now, which is Jesus - and his congregation.

During the prayers of the people, Ken talks "joyously of his life and his decline, of grace and redemption, of how safe and happy he feels these days." He is dying but is full of the Holy Spirit - full of God's Advocate, God's Comforter, God's Counselor.

This is our purpose:
Love Christ, keep his commandments, receive the Spirit. No jargon. No gobbledygook. Just eight words of authentic Christian mission. When we go into the world and love all others we meet without condition, we are loving them as Christ would love them, hence we are loving Christ. Let us go into the world and do just that!
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Friday, May 27, 2011

*** A special deal for an Organist ***


We are in need of an Organist for our St Francis Universal Catholic Church and have a special deal for you:

If you want to practice on an Organ, you can use ours free of charge. All we ask is to please play the Organ for 1 hour on Sundays at 11 during our Mass.

Please contact our Bishop Robert at:

Thank you for your consideration.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Sermon

May 22, 2011

The Fourth Sunday after Easter

New research continues to show that skipping breakfast can have nasty effects on the health of your heart. Although a healthy diet overall is key, it looks like one meal might just be most critical of all. Mom always said breakfast was the most important meal of the day. It turns out she was right.

Sure, we all grew up hearing it was "the most important meal of the day," but most of us assumed that was just Mom's way of making us feel guilty and thus making us feel obligated into grabbing a banana as we burst out the door to catch the bus. Although, that may have been true, it also turns out Mom was on to something.

According to a ongoing study from Mayo Clinic researchers, breakfast is, in fact, the most important meal of the day, at least when it comes to the health of your heart. Throughout the course of 20 years, doctors tracked the breakfast habits and health statistics of some 2,100 individuals. The monitoring began in early adolescence and continued into adulthood. The goal of the study was simple; to determine the positive or negative overall health effects of skipping breakfast.

Respondents who grew up in homes where breakfast was skipped or who later in life chose to rebel against a pro-breakfast upbringing by passing on the meal as adults showed significantly higher levels of heart-wrenching health statistics. Their waistlines were larger. Their cholesterol was higher. Their insulin levels were out of whack.

Moms, doctors and the Mayo Clinic aren't the only ones concerned about heart trouble. So is Jesus. In today's gospel text, Jesus gives his disciples this clear command: "Let not your hearts be troubled".

Jesus isn't talking about cholesterol levels or bypass surgeries. He's talking about a different kind of heart trouble; the kind that can also be classified as worry, fear, anxiety or stress. The kind of heart trouble that can feel like a loss of hope, a lack of faith, a panic attack or pangs of uncertainty. The kind of heart trouble that keeps you up at night thinking about money, biting your nails when you're worried about your child or on the phone with a friend craving advice for a crumbling marriage. That's the kind of heart trouble Jesus is talking about. It's the kind we've all experienced. It's the kind of heart trouble, faith trouble and lack-of-peace-trouble that tends to run rampant in our lives.

It's not hard to see that heart trouble - of the physical, emotional and spiritual kind - is a major threat to our well-being as followers of Christ. Thanks to the Mayo Clinic, we know a bowl of Cheerios will help our arteries. But what about our hearts of faith, our worries and anxieties? What about those gnawing fears and gnawed fingernails? Let's be honest. Is it even possible, as follower of Jesus in an extremely screwed-up world, to heed his command and have an untroubled heart? Sure it is.

According to Jesus, having an untroubled heart of faith all comes down to what you're feeding
that heart. Just as an omelet makes a difference physically, what you're feasting on or depriving yourself of makes all of the difference spiritually.

Ask any doctors, and they'll tell you there are two keys to physical well-being: It all comes down to a good diet and regular exercise. Neglect either of those, and you're headed for trouble. The same is true with your heart of faith. It must be well-fed and well-run in order to be strong and healthy. Take another look at Jesus' words. He says, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me". Jesus tells us the key to "heart health" as one of his followers is to trust in and feast on him. What our hearts need to stay healthy is regular nourishment from Christ and an active life of following Christ.

Now, at first glance, that answer may reek of Sunday school simplicity. But it's true. Far too many followers of Christ have heart trouble stemming from the fact that their lives involve no regular consumption of Christ and no actual exercise
of their faith in Christ. As a result, they're unable to withstand the anxieties of life that come up daily. Starving for a sense of direction that comes from Christ in his Word or craving some lasting peace that can come only from standing on his promises, we wind up looking for nourishment in all the wrong places.

We skip the spiritual meals in favor of earthly solutions. Later, we binge on earthly things, believing they'll bring us God-things. For example, you might religiously consume cable news, thinking the talking heads from your preferred political tribe will give you lasting wisdom in a crumbling world. You may join the neighborhood gym and begin obsessing about your physical appearance and calorie count, wrongly believing that regaining control over your body will give you control over your startled soul.

Meanwhile, our unfed hearts of faith are going through prolonged periods of disengaged laziness. Our troubled hearts of faith that were once tested in tough conversations with unbelieving friends in college and put to use through prayer in times of stress now sit on the couch and consume nothing but junk. No wonder we feel ill-equipped for the worries of life!

If you already know you suffer from actual heart disease, the Mayo Clinic prescribes a dizzying array of "easy" steps to help establish a healthier existence. Simply stop smoking, control your cholesterol, manage your diet, get moving for 30 minutes each day, manage your stress, practice good hygiene, maintain a healthy weight, take your vitamins and be sure to get a flu shot. That's all.

But when it comes to our hearts of faith, it's about just two things. Our troubled hearts need to be fed with Christ and exercised in a life of following him. Remember Christ's own words immediately following the command that our hearts be trouble-free. Five times -
five times in just two verses - Jesus uses the words I or me. It's nothing less than a plea for us to anchor our hearts in the hope that he gives and the work he'll one day return to complete.

So how do we feed our hearts the power of Christ? It comes down to being connected to the promises of his Word, found in the Scriptures, and the power of his presence, found in his people. Just as someone who's cultivating physical heart health by taking up running might subscribe to
Runner's World for insight and join a local running club for accountability, God's Word and his people are essential for a strong heart of faith.

Christ makes a promise, saying, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." Quite often, when our hearts are troubled and we feel furthest from Christ, it's simply because we are far from the two places - his Word and his people - where he's promised to always be found.

What's more, we live in a world in which access to God's Word has never been easier. Just one example: At the Web site, one can read the Bible in hundreds of languages and translations, take notes that can be shared with others and use an endless number of reading plans that make connecting with Christ easier and more accessible than ever before.

Once your heart of faith is fed with Christ, the essential element is to make sure it's regularly stretched, exercised and put to the test in a lifestyle of relentlessly pursuing Christ. Immediately after telling his disciples to feast on him, Jesus boldly proclaimed that they would be living lives of faith in which they achieved more amazing things than he did! "Truly, truly," said Jesus, "whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these he will do ...” The disciples needed hearts that were fed with Christ because they'd be thrown into lives of doing incredible, frightening, heart-straining works in the name of Christ.

Could it be that one reason your faith feels so weak is because it never gets off the couch? Could it be that the very reason you feel so ill-equipped to face life's obstacles is because you've only attempted to avoid them? Could it be that the very means of strengthening your heart of faith is jumping at opportunities that will test it?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year some 785,000 people suffer their very first heart attack. Heart disease is the number-one health issue among adults, both male and female. Each year, more than 630,000 of us will die of a heart-related disease. It's time to start feeding your heart a little breakfast.

Each day, millions of disciples will feel a few shooting pains run through their hearts as their work-stress rises, a relationship gets rough, money gets tight or health grows weak. "Let not your hearts be troubled." It's time to heed Christ's call, feed on his Word and begin flexing that faith.

Pick up that Bible and do some more reading and meditating over the Scriptures. Take out that prayer book you bought eons ago and use. Make a concerted effort to come to church more and hear God’s word in action. While at church, receive Jesus in the Body and Blood at the altar. Just a few minor suggestions that will help that aching heart and get you on a healthier spiritual heart road.

God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sunday Sermon

May 15, 2011

The Third Sunday after Easter

Ever had a miserable job? You know, one of those soul-sucking employment situations that make you feel like a drone in a corporate hive somewhere? If so, you’re not alone. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 77 percent of American employees hate their jobs. Gallup also contends that this ailing workforce is costing employers more than $350 billion dollars in lost productivity. Americans are increasingly unhappy with their jobs.

These figures intrigued author Patrick Lencioni because they reminded him of his own experience. Says Lencioni, “I became interested in this topic because, as a kid, I watched my dad trudge off to work each day and became somewhat obsessed with the notion of job misery. Somewhere along the line, I came to the frightening realization that people spend so much time at work, yet so many of them were unfulfilled and frustrated in their jobs. As I got older, I came to another realization — that job misery was having a devastating impact on individuals, and on society at large. It seemed to me that understanding the cause of the problem, and finding a solution for it, was a worthy focus for my career.” His latest book,
The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, is his attempt to meet the problem head-on.
I have to admit, as I sat at my desk writing this sermon, I felt strangely Déjà vu. I remember when I was a child, seeing how much my dad hated his job, he would literally hate it so much that his attendance record at his job must have been deplorable, but thanks be to God, they never fired him.

You’d think that the barometers of job satisfaction would depend on things like salary, job responsibilities and the possibility for advancement. Those aren’t insignificant factors, but, says Lencioni, they aren’t the key values that determine whether or not you have a miserable job. I have said a few times in my career, that it isn’t the job I hate, it is where I am doing it. Lencioni seems to confirm this feeling, as he wrote, “It’s important to understand that being miserable has nothing to do with the actual work a job involves,” says Lencioni. “A professional basketball player can be miserable in his job while the janitor cleaning the locker room behind him finds fulfillment in his work. A marketing executive can be miserable making a million dollars a year while the waitress who serves the executive lunch derives meaning and satisfaction from her job.” I fully agree with Lencioni on this. I have met, as an example, many waitresses and cashiers over the years who have held that same job for eons, and yet are happier than a corporate executive making tons of money.

What makes the difference between a miserable job and a satisfying one? According to Lencioni, it’s the relationships formed on the job, particularly the relationship between manager and employees, which determine whether your job is a dream or a soul-sucking nightmare. Lencioni points to three critical signs that, when put together, form the perfect storm of vocational hell.

As much as this sermon sounds like a topic of “Workplace hell”, however it is actually leading somewhere, so bear with just a tiny bit longer ….

The most telling indicator of job misery is
anonymity. “People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known,” says Lencioni. People need to have a sense of being understood and appreciated for their unique personality and gifts, and that feedback needs to come from someone in a position of authority. If people feel invisible or anonymous in the workplace, particularly to their supervisor, they can’t love their job no matter what it is or what it pays. We’re not talking about the need for constant praise here, just a sense that someone in authority cares about the people in their charge.

The second sign is
irrelevance — not knowing that your job matters to someone, to anyone. “Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an, employee simply will not find lasting improvement,” remarks Lencioni. A job must have some kind of purpose and impact on others, even if it’s just flipping hamburgers. We all want to feel that what we do matters and that someone will miss us if we’re gone.

Lencioni invented the word
“immeasurement” to describe the third sign. Immeasurement illuminates the fact that employees “need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves.” Employees don’t want their jobs to be merely judged subjectively by the opinions of others, which can lead to politics and posturing in the workplace. They want to know how they measure up based on a set of agreed-upon criteria. Measurements don’t necessarily have to be numerical, but they do have to be tangible. Take a bagger at a grocery store, for example. How many bags he fills on an hourly basis is one measurement, but there are others, such as how many times he makes a customer smile or the time it takes for him to move customers through the line. Humans like to feel a healthy sense of competition, seeing it as an opportunity not only to measure performance but to improve it.
These three statements by Lencioni are so very true. In my 27 years in retail management, I have seen how true these statements are. As an example, our company recently unveiled a new employee review system. Instead of the manager sitting down with the employee telling them how he feels they are doing, they must take a criteria of 8 items and tell the managers how they think they are doing and then the manager critiques that. I find that completely demoralizing, however. An employee already knows how they feel; they hardly need to write it down. They want to know how their manager feels about them.

These signs that Lencioni talks about all seem like pretty elementary stuff that anybody who works with people should understand. It should be a given that leaders know their people well and care about them, help them see how their place on the team matters and give them markers to assess their progress. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work that way. Its little wonder, then, that job misery more often than not spills over into the other aspects of a person’s life. Health problems, addictions, broken relationships at home — these are just some of the byproducts of a miserable job.

However, I said all this was leading somewhere and here it is. I simply have taken a familiar topic and stretched it out a bit to help everyone relate to what I am going to say from today’s lesson.

We weren’t created to work this way or live this way, for that matter. We were made to enjoy a fulfilling and life-giving relationship with God and with others. We were created to live with purpose and to measure our lives not in terms of the dollars we earn or the amount of stuff we own or produce but by the amount of love we give and receive.

Jesus came that we might have “life, and have it abundantly”. If there’re markers for a miserable job and, a miserable life, Jesus offers a completely different set of signs to mark a life that is ultimately fulfilled and fulfilling

As John 10 opens, Jesus is still engaged in a rather heated exchange with the Pharisees — a conversation sparked by Jesus’ healing of the man born blind in John 9. The Pharisees were acting like the ultimate bad boss, engaging in religious ruthlessness rather than in compassion and amazement at the man’s healing. Notice that the blind man is never named — he’s anonymous, and the Pharisees seem to care less about the man himself than about the legality of him being healed on the Sabbath. In response, Jesus draws on a different vocational metaphor to counter the misery-making legalism of the Pharisees.

It would’ve been hard to imagine a more miserable first-century job than shepherding sheep. Besides the grinding boredom of moving sheep back and forth from water to pasture to sheepfold, shepherds faced long periods of time away from home and family. Living most of the time in the open, and they were often pounded by harsh weather. Their nomadic life meant that they could dine on only the most basic foods. Certainly not with the preservatives that modern day food has either. Besides that, they and their flocks were in constant danger from animal predators like lions, bears and wolves and human predators like sheep-stealing thieves. Shepherds were among the poorest of the poor.

It’s interesting, then, that in John 10 Jesus chooses to put himself in the shepherding role to describe his relationship to his followers. In doing so, he placed himself firmly in the prophetic tradition of Ezekiel, which describes God as the good shepherd who cares for the sheep. By calling himself the “good shepherd”, Jesus identifies himself as fulfilling the role and promises of God.

Back up a bit to verses 1-10, though, and you see that Jesus is setting up a contrast between the shepherd who cares for the flock and the “thieves and bandits” who come only to “steal, kill and destroy”. The Pharisees may have seen themselves as the benevolent bosses of the people, but Jesus makes it clear that their oppressive religious posturing is bringing the people nothing but misery. They’re clueless managers who just don’t get it. Jesus, on the other hand, understands the needs of his flock and is invested in bringing “abundant life” to those in his care.

Here, then, is the second set of threes:

The signs of the
abundant life: Being known. No anonymity here. The abundant life has everything to do with the relationship of the shepherd to the sheep. For Jesus, the first and foremost sign of an abundant life has to do with knowing and being known. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” says Jesus of the shepherd, “and the sheep follow him because they know his voice”. If a basic human need is to be valued by someone in authority, Jesus is all over this. We don’t serve a dispassionate, disconnected God who sits in a divine office dispensing orders. In Christ, God knows us by name, values us, and cares for us. In a world that seems to always operate out of a sense of scarcity, where the operative principle is always wanting, doing or being more, Jesus offers an abundance of love, grace and hope.

Moreover, the church has always recognized the value of being known, not only by God in Jesus Christ, but by each other. Thus the emphasis on hospitality and community. You could say that church is meant to be a cheery place where “everyone knows my name.” If not everyone, at least enough people to satisfy the human need for being known.

Relevance: That love isn’t just a sentimental thought. Jesus would “lay down his life” and be the “gate” through whom all his sheep, his people, would “come in” and “be saved”. The love and care of the Good Shepherd has a purpose. We are people who can make a difference! We’re not just saved from the dangers of life apart from God; we are also saved for the mission of sharing the abundant life in Christ with others. Jesus came to bring an abundant life and says to us, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”.

Our relevance in the world isn’t based on our job title, on what we produce or how much we make. No one gets out of bed in the morning to program software or assemble furniture or do whatever it is that accountants do. They get out of bed to live their lives, and their work tasks are merely part of their lives. An abundant life embraces a larger vision of life and our place in the world. As Paul put it, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). I suppose it is much like a little saying some of you may have heard before, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down!” No matter what job, family or life situation we find ourselves in, we find relevance when we see our connectedness to the purposes of God for the whole world. When we function in our jobs or just the everyday, seemingly mundaine life, if we simply put Christ at the head of it, life doesn’t seem nearly as bad.

And finally, it’s about
Ministry, not measurement: At the end of his book, Lencioni encourages his readers to engage in what he calls “the ministry of management.” “I have come to the realization,” he says, “that all managers can — and really should — view their work as a ministry. A service to others.” Whether you manage workers or just your own life, viewing your work as a ministry is a step toward understanding your relevance.

Measuring the abundant life involves a different kind of math than the rest of the world uses. All the things that typically mark success in the world don’t add up to a hill of beans in the eyes of Jesus. The abundant life is always outwardly focused, always concerned about how much one gives rather than gets. If there’s a measuring stick for the followers of Jesus, then it has to be Jesus himself. We measure ourselves by asking, “How well did we represent Jesus? How did I reflect his presence in my life? Did I move the kingdom of heaven a little closer to earth today?”

As I mentioned earlier, I have often noticed how the most humble of workers, are probably the happiest workers. We should not live to work, but work to live. Some become slaves to their jobs so as to have more and more. But what really counts is to have more happiness and to have it fully with Jesus. No matter how glorious a job or how exuberant the pay; nothing can match the happiness found in Jesus and letting Him be our directing force, not our jobs.

Being a disciple of Jesus may be a tough job, but it’s certainly not a miserable one. After all, we serve a divine manager, a shepherd, who loves us enough to die for us — one who gives us an abundant life designed to be fully lived with and for him.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Sermon

May 8, 2011

The Second Sunday after Easter

Mother’s Day

First, I wanted to say just a few words on a topic hovering over us today. As most of you know, Osama Bin Laden was shot and killed by our Navy SEAL group. Many have asked me over the past week, how I feel about it and what I think others should feel about it.
I think we need to keep in mind that we are first and foremost imperfect human beings that are going to have varying views on this topic. There will be those who are jubilating over Bin Laden’s death. There will be those who have no strong emotion one way or another. There will also be those who are angered by the whole thing. And further still, there are those who struggle internally with their mixed emotions. They probably feel some sense of joy, while yet at the same time, some sense of remorse for feeling joy.
All of these emotions are normal. Nothing any pastor says today will really mean a hill of beans in the end result. We could say things to help those who are remorseful to help them feel better. We could try to temper the anger. We could help bring some Christian light to the joy (if one feels the joy is wrong or misdirected). However, I only want to say that all of these emotions are normal, and for each of us to reflect for a moment on our own personal emotions over the issue and realize that as imperfect beings we are going to have those emotions, regardless whether we think these emotions are good or bad.
As Christians, we have teachings from Jesus that seems to take us away from the vengeful God perceived in the Old Testament Scriptures. This is true. We must understand, however, that Jesus did not leave us with teachings on every possible life scenario. The Church has always taught reservedly that a country, and thus the world, has the right and obligation to protect her citizens. If we take the message from the Old Testament Scriptures, this is very true. If we look to Jesus, we have a less clear message. However, the Church, believing that the Holy Spirit guides her, has taught that even Jesus was not a passivist to the point that nations could not or should not defend and protect her people. Jesus did say however, that “those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword.” Unfortunately, this is one of those situations.
All this said, Christians do well to not be over jubilant over Bin Laden’s death. There is reason for some gladness that the insidious proponent of terroristic evil is now eliminated, yes. However, with that comes the feeling as though one has committed a sin in thinking this. Even Jesus made it clear that we should not feel sorrowful over elimination of evil. And finally, we should not get over burdened with feeling that this death is overly evil or sinful either. All peoples have a right to defend life against one who seems to not value life as highly. Do not over burden yourself with shame for what you feel your country has done. Evil has to be stopped …. Sometimes in unpleasant ways. With all this said, I would like to offer a prayer.
Almighty and Merciful God, this week a foe has fallen-and admittedly we have rejoiced.

This enemy was not just our enemy, but also a threat to those of his own religious faith, and to his countrymen. Disavowed, and condemned by many national states in the world. Thousands of men, women and children have perished, suffering horrible deaths, because of the diabolical planning of this foe.

So, we celebrated.

We whooped and hollered. We waved flags. We danced in lower Manhattan. We sang our national anthem. And we did so spontaneously - as with the joy of the thirsty drinking cool water, the joy of the hungry sated with food, the joy of the sorrowful now comforted in their mourning. In those first hours following the news, it was as though we rose off the ash pit, anointed ourselves with the "oil of gladness" and donned "the garments of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

And if in the dancing, the waving and the singing there was anything unseemly, we confess our sin, for our motives are seldom pure and who can know our hearts, but you, O God? The death of any living soul is sobering. But we ask you not to consider us blameworthy, to remember our humanity, to remember our natural love of country, to remember our basic sense of decency, to remember our empathy with the thousands of families whose loved ones perished ten years ago, and to have mercy upon us, for you "O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness."

May our national leaders and the community of nations move forward from this moment to not only defend the innocent from the minds of destruction and the architects of annihilation, but to refocus our national will to protect the weak, and - in the words of the ancient prophet-to rise up against "those who make unjust laws, against those who deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed, and from those who make widows their prey and robbing the fatherless."

May we reconsider again what it means to "act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God."

Loving God, a foe has fallen. We have rejoiced. But we acknowledge that wickedness abounds and that we must stay ever vigilant. Empower us now to return to our duty to "preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives, to comfort those who mourn and to provide for those who grieve."

Heavenly Father, we ask all this in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen

Now that we are done with that late breaking news, we now rejoin our regularly scheduled program …. Err … sermon from the beginning.
Text messages may look like gibberish, but we shouldn’t dismiss this new form of discourse. Peter’s message at Pentecost was short and on point.
Dad@hvn, ur spshl. we want wot u want &urth2b like hvn. giv us food & 4giv r sins lyk we 4giv uvaz. don test us! sAv us! bcos we kno ur boss, ur tuf & ur cool 4 eva! k?’

Got it?

For the uninitiated among us, this probably looks like a new form of transliterated Near Eastern hieroglyphics. For the younger demographic, however, this one’s a no-brainer.

It’s the Lord’s Prayer — or at least a shorthand and post modernized version of it. This particular version by York College (U.K.) student Matthew Campbell won a contest put on by the online Christian magazine
Ship of Fools in which entrants were encouraged to update the oft-repeated prayer to read in 160 characters or less — the length of a mobile phone text message.

Here’s the “literal” translation of the prayer Jesus taught us, err, texted us: “Dad in heaven, you are special. We want what you want and earth to be like heaven. Give us food and forgive our sins like we forgive others. Don’t test us! Save us! Because we know you are boss, you are tough and you are cool forever. Okay?”

It gives me chills, but in a good way. Somehow, I imagine Jesus being willing to text the prayer just this way, simply to get our attention. Further, God is the bomb, so why not say it with a modern feel!

Welcome to the world of Generation Txt, where the English language, like most everything else in the realm of communication, has been reduced to the smallest of parts.

Text or “instant” messaging is rapidly overtaking e-mail and voice as the primary means of communication among adults in many areas of the world. Users can type a quick, shorthand message and instantly fire it off to a friend or coworker’s cell phone or PDA — no need to wait for the phone to ring. It also enables the sender to know whether the other person is online at a given moment, using indicators that flash or play sounds when the other person logs on or off and so many things I will be forever too inept to figure out!

A survey by Internet giant AOL shows that 59 percent of American Internet users are “texting” each other, with the largest number of those being in the 13-21 age bracket (90 percent of them use it). As with most youth culture trends, text messaging has brought a new and, for some, disturbing transformation of the language.

Take, for example, an essay handed in by a 13-year-old Scottish student describing her summer vacation that was texted beyond recognition by her teacher.

Her teacher was not amused. “I could not believe what I was seeing. The page was
riddled with hieroglyphics, many of which I simply could not translate.” Others, like the publisher of a new dictionary, have decried similar shorthand writing as a “degree of crisis” among university students, indicating a serious decline in the proper use of spelling and grammar.

But perhaps the grammatically correct among us should pause a moment before we trash this new quick-set and thumb-twitch language. The messages are getting through, and for some young adults, like those who text into the advice forum “Text Talk,” it’s providing a new voice and a way to ask for help. Text Talk offers information on a wide range of issues, including counseling, housing, substance abuse and careers with a guaranteed immediate response.

The text service has been in operation in Wolverhampton, U.K., since January and has already helped 200 young people, many of them boys.

It’s interesting that an apparent de-evolution in language is actually enabling more people, particularly young people, to communicate better and more often. While the rest of us may not be able to type that fast with our thumbs, there is hope that we can crack the code. New Web sites like can translate the IM hieroglyphics into traditional English or vice versa.

In the post-resurrection experience of the disciples/apostles, the world was being turned upside down. And the first sign of it was that people were hearing and seeing things they couldn’t understand.

When I was writing this sermon, I was drawn back to a book that Ramon had lent me to read. It speaks of the Holy Spirit being the light; or the truth to the world. The advent of the Holy Spirit was — as it were — the beginning of instant messaging. Jesus had given them a heads-up about this — that the Spirit would translate and disseminate Jesus’ message to and through them: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you”.

Now, as this new matrix begins to unfold, Peter, speaking boldly and using language far beyond his own previous skill and capacity, texts a sermon straight from the Holy Spirit and the Hebrew Scriptures — a wi fi, fired up translation of Israel’s history into “His-story” — the story of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ. “Therefore the entire house of Israel knows with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified”. Peter’s proclamation of Jesus as the Christ was short, to the point, and tremendously effective: God has made Jesus Lord and Christ.

In a message that’s tighter than some rock star’s jeans, you get an impression real quick:

Peter: God has made Jesus Lord and Christ.

People: What shall we do?

Peter: Repent.

As with any txt tlk, the message itself can be fleshed out.

Peter argues to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost celebrations that God is the agent of all the changes being seen here. He notes, in the text prior to today’s reading, that it’s the same God who had spoken through the prophets, Joel, in particular.

It was God who worked miracles by empowering Jesus to do them.

It was God who delivered Jesus into the hands of his enemies.

It was God who then raised Jesus from the dead.

It was God who made the covenant with David.

It was God who gave the promised Holy Spirit who has now been “poured out” among us.

Moreover, God made Jesus Lord.

It’s a word that was typically not associated with messianic promises, but reserved for God himself. God revealed Jesus to be God, or Lord.

And it was God who made Jesus the Christ, or Messiah.

God. God. God. That’s powerful text.

And disturbing text. The response of the people is quick and brief: “What shall we do?”

It is an appropriate response for all of us. If it is God who gave Jesus power to work miracles, and who delivered Jesus into the hands of his enemies, and raised him from the dead, and who promised us and delivered to us the Holy Spirit, what other question is there for us except, “What shall we do?”

Do we continue to live as though God does not exist? Do we stumble through life in pursuit of earthly pleasures and possessions as though the most important thing is to die with more toys than anyone else? Do we try to shoulder the burdens and responsibilities of life as though there is not a divine Presence to help us with those burdens? Do we live as though we are alone in the universe?

What shall we do? The short answer is “repent.” Change. Turn about. Turn around. Stop going in one direction and go in another. Do an about-face. The fruit of that repentance is that we receive the Holy Spirit who mediates the presence of God in our lives. The Holy Spirit acts for us like the IM piece of the Trinity — the power and word and activity of God given to us in a moment in order to clearly communicate the truth and good news of Christ.

Peter also makes it clear that this movement of the Spirit is going to be widely broadcast across generational and national borders, making this language of good news available to everyone. The disciples were now set to translate the story of Jesus for the rest of the world. They did it in a world where walking was the primary mode of transportation and messaging consisted of rolls of parchment and months-long mail service. We can do it in a world that has become progressively smaller because of technology that enables us to transmit a thought in less than a heartbeat.

In other words, we are hard-wired to use the gift of the Holy Spirit himself and the gifts of the Spirit within us to mass communicate the love of God through Christ to a world where nearly everyone is in reach.

But the core message is simple: God has made Jesus Lord and Christ. In response, we repent — and begin a new life text-messaging, or life-messaging the Good News to others.

And one more thing ….. How about text messaging your mothers today; whether on earth or in heaven, and wish them a Happy Mother’s day and let them know how much you love them and are grateful for all they have done for you – most especially – giving you birth! (That probably would be one of those smiling emoticons with little hearts fluttering in the air.)
God Love You+
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Welcome To Universal Catholic Church

It is unity we are talking about, not uniformity. What is needed is to respect one another's points of view and not impute unworthy motives to one another or to seek to impugn the integrity of the other. Our maturity will be judged by how well we are able to disagree and yet continue to love one another and to cherish one another and see the greater good of the other.
(Extract from Archbishop Tutu's archiepiscopacy sermon during his enthronement in St. George's Cathedral as the first black Archbishop of Cape Town, September 1986)
Welcome to St. Francis Universal Catholic Church. We're glad you stopped by. We further hope that you find something that is appealing to you as well as something traditional. Here at St. Francis we offer all Catholic Sacraments combined with the widest measure of intellectual liberty and respect for individual conscience. If being Catholic is important to you, if you want less guilt and fewer restrictions, then St. Francis is for you!
We are an independent and self-governing body, neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant, but Catholic. We trace our apostolic succession to the Old Catholic Church of Holland, through a complete reorganization in 1916 of the Old Catholic movement in Great Britain. We draw our central inspiration from our faith in the Eternal Christ, who lives now and forever and is a mighty spiritual presence in the world, guiding and sustaining all his children.
We've had many families come to us over the years with various horror stories of how they were denied the Sacraments at other Catholic churches (predominately Roman Catholic). Families come to us to have their children baptized, because one or more church wouldn't do it. Whether it be because the parents were not married; the parents were married in a civil ceremony; or one member of the parents was not Catholic; the parents were not members of the church or were new members; the parents have not donated enough money to the church; or the children were born out of wedlock. We do not deny children being baptized because of the chosen godparents are not married to each other, the godparents were either too young or too old or because the godparents were not both Catholic.
Although these issues can be theologically debated, the more important aspect of this is that the children should not be punished for anything the Church feels the parents may have done wrong. It is ludicrous to hinder a child being baptized for any reason. It is ludicrous to not allow a child to go through catechism classes; to have their First Confession; or First Holy Communion; and be Confirmed, all because of something the parents have or have not done. When we're asked what our requirements are for something such as a baptism, we simply say, “If your child has not been baptized, then you have met the requirements!”
We've had many couples come to us asking us to perform their marriage ceremony. Why? Because, like the children who've come to us to be baptized, these couples have been denied a marriage ceremony for various reasons. Whether they have been living together prior to marriage or one or both of them have been divorced, will not be a complete impediment to our church performing a marriage. Once again these are all good theological debates, however the Church is meant to minister to people, not make their lives miserable or deny them the grace of God. We do not feel Christ mandated this nor should the Church. There are issues that may need to be worked out before they receive the blessing of the Church on their marriage, however we do not turn them away. Christ wants us to learn from our mistakes not suffer because of them.
We welcome those who have been marginalized by other churches, or treated like second-class citizens . We welcome the divorced and remarried back to the altar of Holy Communion, when they have been denied the Body and Blood of Christ elsewhere. We do not deny politicians Holy Communion based strictly on their voting record. We welcome diverse people who felt unwelcome in other churches for reasons of race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, economic status, age, disability, theological viewpoint, familial status, or issues of individual conscience. When other churches have said “no” to God's children, we said “yes”! Yes to being welcome in God's house. Yes to being loved, not for who you might be someday, but for who you are now. Yes to participating in the most precious gift of our Lord; the gift of his Holy Body and Blood the consecrated Bread and Wine of the Holy Eucharist.
Some will ask about our stance on Confession. We do teach this is one of the seven Sacraments. However, we have no church teaching that requires you to go at certain times or certain number of times per year. We do highly recommend that you do go to a priest for private confession for any major sins. As an example, if you said a bad word in traffic the other day, no we do not feel that you have to run to your first priest and confess it. We have a Confiteor during our Mass, in which the priest gives general absolution to everyone present. It is our belief structure that if you recite the confession sincerely, truthfully, and with true repentance, then you have satisfied the requirement of the Sacrament. Therefore, anyone who feels that they cannot take Communion because I haven't been the confession lately, need not worry, because we have confession and general absolution during every Mass which satisfies the requirement. However, as stated before, you are highly encouraged to see one of our priests for a major sin.
You'll never find a church where all of her members agree with their pastor or church leaders all the time. You'll never find a church were all of her members agree with all the principles and practices upon which the church is founded. You'll never find a church were all of her members interpret the Bible exactly the same way, or hold the same political views, or all vote for the same candidates or issues. You will find many, many churches expect those with different or minority opinions to change them, or at least to keep silent about them. Some people even go as far as hiding their marital status, sexual orientation, past history, or current values from their priests or ministers, in order to be welcomed at the altar for Holy Communion. In the Universal Catholic Church, we focus on common worship, not common belief. People who want to be welcome to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, are welcome just the way they are in our churches.
Who are we?
The Universal Catholic Church is one of a number of independent Catholic churches. Others include the Old Catholic Church, the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch, the National Catholic Church, the American Catholic Church, the Greek, Russian, Syrian, Bulgarian, Serbian and Coptic Orthodox Churches and many others. The Universal Catholic Church is a modern thinking, yet traditional liturgical church. Modern in that the forms of religion should keep pace with the human growth and enlightenment. Historical in recognizing the Church has handed down from ancient times a very precious heritage from Christ is himself. Traditional in liturgy, in that we use a variation of the Tridentine Mass that was used prior to Vatican II, though seemingly ‘old’ to some, it is a rich descendent of a form of worship that was in existence for hundreds of years. Yet progressive, and that leaves English not Latin. Therefore, we combine the Catholic formal worship; a solemn ritual, its deep mysticism, and its steadfast witness to the reality of Sacramental grace. We feel this style of worship is part of our heritage and calls upon us to seek a deeper mystical worship of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Universal Catholic Church combines the Sacramental worship of the Christian Church with a wide measure of intellectual liberty and respect for individual conscience, yet still preserving the mystical power of the Sacraments. The Universal Catholic Church welcomes to its altars all who reverently and sincerely approach them. The Church is a gathering of all those who turn to Jesus Christ. We attempt to balance ourselves between worship, spiritual devotion, mystical understanding, modern philosophical thought, and current scientific advances.
We are part of the Liberal Catholic Movement. A group of churches that came into existence as a result of the complete reorganization in 1917-1918 of the Old Catholic movement in Great Britain upon a more liberal basis. The old Catholic movement was developed shortly after the year 1870 and Vatican Council I, where the new doctrine of Papal Infallibility was declared an absolute doctrine of faith.
Contrary to popular opinion as stated in some circles, “liberal” is not a dirty word. It comes from the Latin word liberalis, which means “suitable for free man.” The idea of this ancient term is that “free man” is free to think for himself, and not be told what to think as a slave would be. We are “Liberal” in the sense that we erect no barriers around our Sacraments; all members of the Christian Fellowship are welcomed within our churches. All are welcome to our churches. Those who have faith and those who are searching for it. Those who believe in the literal exposition of the Scriptures and those who believe in a symbolic spiritual interpretation.
Some find the name of our church, the Universal Catholic Church, strange. The words “Universal” and “Catholic” some would say mean the same thing. And they would be partially correct. However our choice of this name is the idea that the church is “universal” by existing in all times and all places for all people. We believe that all of mankind has the possibility of being saved by our Lord Jesus Christ. That said, we teach a form of what is referred to in Christianity as, “Universalism”. Further, it is our teaching the Christ did not want any person singled out from His church. So “universal” has also come to mean for us, that all people universally are welcome to the Body of Christ. The church is called Universal Catholic because its outlook is both Universal and Catholic. (For more information on our denomination, you are encouraged to visit )
Therefore, here at St. Francis, we offer open communion; that is, we welcome all the members of the Christian Fellowship to receive Communion at our altars. The only thing that we ask is that if you are child, that you be at least seven years of age, baptized and confirmed; and if you are an adult, that you approach the altar with reverence, sincerity and respect.
We are traditional church, in that we believe in all seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Absolution/Confession, Holy Unction (Last Rites/Anointing of the Sick), Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders. We believe that, through administering Catholic Sacraments to all, we continue to be stewards of the precious heritage handed down from Christ himself.
Admittedly, if you're looking for church with dazzling multimedia presentations, with elaborate expensive sound systems, with hundred member choirs, with television ministries and radio stations, where you can show up, be entertained, and go home ….. well, you probably will not like the Universal Catholic Church. Most of our churches are very small and do not have the resources for the above mentioned ideas. Further, we do not feel the worship service is about being entertained; it is about coming together to worship God as one. But if you're looking for a faith community, a place to belong, a place where but he knows your name, a place to participate and get involved, a place for our members are family, in good times and bad, if you're interested not just in attending a church but helping to build a faith community, then we think you need the Universal Catholic Church and St. Francis.
Independent Catholicism:
One question often posed is, “Can one be Catholic without being Roman Catholic?” A short review of church history can assist us in coming to a conclusion.
History has not been kind Christian freedom. The first century of the Christian era was witnessing a religious riot when the Church erupted from the upper room on Pentecost with its startling message of freedom. A careful study of the New Testament in the earliest writings of the primitive Christian community reveals that the Church which burst forth from the upper room - the Church founded by our Lord Jesus - the Church of the Apostles - was Independent Catholicism. The church of Rome is always taught that there has always been a “Pope”. We do not deny the fact that there has always seemingly been one person who was at the leadership role within the church; we simply want to clarify, however, that this structure that the Roman Catholic Church has now, has not always been in place in this form. Just as the United States has the president; even the president does not hold all the power within the nation.
Some people find it hard to believe that the Church was not always “Roman Catholic”; it used to be “Independent Catholic”. Historical inaccuracy, repeated often enough, becomes accepted wisdom. But the fact remains that the Holy Catholic Church existed long before there was a Pope, before there was a single Eastern Patriarch, before there was even one bishop in England. The title or term “Bishop” was not even used until many years after the Apostles were no longer alive. In fact, those are all later developments in Catholicism. All this resulted in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican Communions, but all three share a common Catholic heritage: Independent Catholicism.
As the Church emerged from the upper room they brought the message of the Gospel to the farthest reaches of the known world. St. Thomas brought the Church to India. St. Mark brought the Church to Egypt and the rest of Africa. Other disciples brought the Church to the wild isles of the Celts. The fact is, that all of the Apostles brought the Church to someplace in those early years. This courageous, diverse, responsive Church was united in the love of the Lord, the faith of the Apostles, the celebration of the Sacraments, and the apostolic succession of the independent Catholic Bishops from the Apostles.
Yes, Jesus stated to Peter that he would be the head of his Church. And this he was. However, what most people do not realize, is that in the early years of the Church, St. Peter was more of “a first among equals” such as that term that the Anglicans use in modern-day. Whether Jesus meant for St. Peter to be a “Pope” such as we have now, is open for debate amongst the many liturgical and sacramental churches in the world. We hold no ill feelings toward the Roman Catholic Church, only that we disagree with the supremacy of the Pope. The Pope is the Archbishop of Rome and deserves the respect as that of any Archbishop and/or that of a person who is first among equals. He is a successor to the Apostles such as all bishops are.
Every Christian, Catholic or Protestant, bows his or her faith to Independent Catholicism. Over the centuries, sects and denominations have fractionated, reformed, ruptured and revolted away from their Catholic roots. But the Holy Spirit who brought Catholicism into existence has never abandoned the Church. Pentecost is still happening today!
And yet, it is estimated that 62 million American adults will not go to church this week. They have opted out of the religious riot. Other millions will fill pews out of habit. Some will go seeking. Some will go for imaginary security of belonging to a large institution. Somewhat water fear. Some will go for their children. Some will try some other religion entirely. Some will try something new age. Some will simply not given it any thought at all. This is such a shame. When God originally created us, we were meant to be in his image; but most importantly we were meant to worship him. It is so sad that the situations that we have mentioned above exist in our world today.
So, what do we teach?
Although we are listing forth with the following lists the teachings it must be stated in advance that these are just teachings, not required beliefs. One of our doctrines he is “freedom of thought”. We allow our members full intellectual discernment.
  • We teach the doctrine of the holy Trinity.
  • We teach that God the father is the creator preserver of mankind and that his love shall never fail.
  • We teach that the historic Jesus is the Christ, who is also the Ancient of Days. We teach that He was incarnated (born of the Virgin Mary), crucified, resurrected and ascended.
  • We teach that it is by Christ that “all things were made, and as the indwelling life all things exist, and as the transcendent glory all things live and move and have there being."
  • We teach that Christ lives on as a mighty spiritual presence in the world, guiding and sustaining His people.
  • We teach that we are created in the image of God and that we are heirs of God.
  • We teach that we are all immortal, both before and after physical death.
  • We teach that our bodies are vehicles were expressions of our consciousness, of the indwelling Spirit.
  • We teach that the Christian Church is the Mystical body of Christ.
  • We teach that there are seven Sacraments: Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Absolution, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Holy Unction, and Holy Orders.
  • We teach that the Sacraments were instituted by Christ Himself and He is present in them.
  • We teach that all the Sacraments are received from the Hand of Christ Himself and the officiant is but an instrument in that Hand.
  • The church practices infant baptism, as the dedication of the child to Christ, as a grafting of the child into the mystical Body of Christ, and as a means of opening the child's whole nature to the most Holy Spirit of the living God.
  • We teach that in the Holy Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine become linked, or polarized, on the Life of Christ and become literal outposts of His Life and His Consciousness.
  • We teach that, as the corporate worship of the Church, the Holy Eucharist is designed to help those who physically take part, and to pour out a flood of spiritual power upon the surrounding world.
  • We teach that we are assisted from the beginning of the Eucharist by the Angel of the Mass, and later by all the various Orders of Angels.
  • We teach that Christ has given to the priests of his church the power to absolve the repentant faithful from their sins. We teach that the Sacrament of Absolution is a loosening from the bondage of sin, a restoration of the inner harmony that was disturbed by the wrongdoing, so that the person can make a fresh start toward righteousness. We do not teach that Absolution is a way of escaping the consequences of one's misdeeds. “Harbor no illusions; God is not deceived; for whatsoever man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
  • We teach that the Sacrament of Confirmation is intended to supplement the Sacrament of Baptism and thus bestow on the person the fullness of complete union with the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church Universal.
  • We teach regarding Holy Matrimony that the couple are the celebrants and that the method of sacramentalizing the marriage is the placing of the blessed ring by the groom on the ring finger of the bride with the reciting of the Names of the Trinity.
  • We teach that in the Sacrament of Holy Unction we are assisted by the healing Angel.
  • We teach that the power of the Apostles has descended to this day through the Apostolic Succession. In the case of the Universal Catholic Church, that Succession is derived from the Dutch Old Catholic Church and is complete and valid.
  • We teach that the minor orders (Cleric, Doorkeeper, Reader, Exorcist, and Acolyte) are intended primarily to assist the candidate and his own spiritual growth and life. We teach that the major orders (Deacon, Priest, and Bishop) are intended primarily to assist the Christian community. Subdeacon is an intermediate stage. Both men and women may be ordained to any of these levels.
  • We teach that the Holy Scriptures, Creeds, and the Traditions of the Church are the means by which the teachings of Christ have been handed down to His followers. We teach that they are fundamental, true, and sufficient as a basis for right understanding and right conduct.
  • We teach that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are inspired in a general sense only, and can in no way be construed as verbally infallible. We hold that the books of the Old Testament are of unequal value.
  • We teach that all Christian worship is valid, of whatever kind, so long as it is earnest and true.
  • We teach that the sign of the cross can be traced to the earliest times of Christianity; it is the Christian “sign of power.” We teach that it is a vehicle of spiritual force, flowing sometimes from the Priest to the congregation, sometimes from on high into the Priest and the people. We teach that when it is made over ourselves, it will draw around us unseen influences that will tend to drive away unwholesome thoughts, and at the same time make it easier to retain what is good.
  • We teach that the vestments worn by the Priest date from the earliest times of Christianity, and that they are part of the general scheme by which spiritual power is spread out upon the congregation.
  • We teach that the Seasons of the Church were “appointed for solace and instruction.”
  • We teach that the efforts of men and women can hasten the coming of the kingdom of God. We teach that the expectation of faith is victory; that good shall finally triumph over ill, and that death is but a gateway to eternal life.
  • We teach that everyone shall “one day reach his feet, however far they stray.” We teach that the “dead” passed to a life of higher service, where there is available to them the “Felicity of the …. Presence, ever more ….” what we shall experience “at His feet” is conscious life in Christ.

Frequently asked questions.
What relief requirements to you who's on prospective members of the Universal Catholic Church?
Universal Catholic Church has as one of its basic tenets freedom of thought. It permits its lay members entire freedom in the interpretation of the Creeds, Scriptures, Tradition, and of the Liturgy. The church hold strongly they believe should be the result of individual study or intuition, not its antecedent. The truth is not a truth for a man, nor a revelation, until he sees it to be true for himself. We make no belief restrictions on lay members; instead, we asked questions about the prospective member’s intentions. For example, in the Form of Admission to the church we ask: “Wilt thou strive to live in the spirit of love with all mankind, and with all your will to fight against sin and selfishness?” “Wilt thou strive to show forth in thy thoughts, thy words, and thy works, the power of God which is in thee?”
What is the Universal Catholic Church’s position on reincarnation?
We do not teach nor require a belief in the dogma were teaching of the principle known as reincarnation, “Christian” or otherwise.
What are the conditions for receiving communion in the Universal Catholic Church?
The UCC offers open communion; that is, we welcome all the members of the Christian Fellowship to receive communion at our altars. There are no membership or belief requirements. The blessed sacrament of Christ love was meant for the betterment of all people. Christ came not to heal the healthy but the infirm. The only thing that we ask is that if you are child, that you be at least seven years of age, baptized and confirmed; and if you are an adult, that you approach the altar with reverence, sincerity and respect.

Do Universal Catholics believe that the bread and wine in Communion actually become the Body and Blood of Christ?
We do teach that a change, known as transubstantiation, occurs in the bread and wine after they are consecrated in the Holy Eucharist. The Body of Christ is the vehicle of his consciousness and the Blood of Christ is His life poured out in sacrifice. Though the bread still looks like bread, taste like bread, and smells like bread; though the wine still looks like wine, tastes like wine, and smells like wine; both of these elements truly do become the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a miracle that is trusted in faith in most all Catholic churches.
Our Universal Catholic priests allowed to marry?
Yes. Many people are unaware that the practice of requiring celibacy, such as those in the Roman Catholic Church, was not always a requirement. This change to celibacy came about roughly 1000 years ago as a means of preventing the spouses and children of priests from inheriting church property. Prior to this time married clergy was very common. The Roman Catholic Church also teaches that celibacy allows for the clergy to not be distracted by married life or worldly things and thus is able to concentrate fully on the flock under his care. Though admittedly there is good value to this last explanation, we feel that other churches that have been successful with married clergy has proven that the opposite can also be true. Further, when Jesus chose His Apostles, many of them were married as well. We do not feel that Jesus necessarily was calling the priests of His church to be celibate.
Do you ordain women?
Yes we do. Put simply, we see no reason to hinder women from Holy Orders.
Are divorced are married people welcoming your church?
Yes. If we look at Jesus' treatment of the woman caught in adultery as well as the woman at the well, we see that Jesus still treated these women with great respect. Although Jesus did state that divorces were granted by Moses because the people were simply stubborn, and he did indicate the divorce was wrong. However, we can see by his actions of the two examples listed above, the he knew well of the human condition. For many unfortunate reasons, divorce does take place, and following Jesus' example, we do not turn anyone away. Staying in an irreconcilably bad marriage is not good for anyone. If a couple comes to us for marriage, after one or both of the couple have been previously married and divorced, we most certainly will consider the request, as being divorced in itself is not an impediment for remarriage in our denomination. The couple in most cases will be required, however, do have some discussions with our pastor to help ensure that the right choices are being made in a remarriage.
Do Universal Catholics practice artificial means of birth control?
The Universal Catholic Church places no restrictions on its members use or lack of use of birth control methods. In fact, many Universal Catholics, in keeping with church belief that religion should keep pace with human growth and enlightenment, consider family planning an important part of responsible human sexuality. Artificial birth control and/or the use of condoms is not restricted in our church.
Are homosexuals welcome in the Universal Catholic Church?
Yes. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people they receive Holy Communion at our altars, with no need to hide or repress their sexual orientation. Although many churches teach that homosexuality is sinful and in some cases even evil, many people would be surprised to know that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality at all. We might wonder why so many Christians are worried about something that Christ never once mentioned. If Jesus mention so many things as being sinful, yet did not mention anything about homosexuality, it begs the question as to whether homosexuality is as bad as some make it out to be. While the Old Testament does condemn certain forms of homosexual behavior, it also condemns men cutting their facial hair, eating pork, and many other things that today's Christian churches do not consider sinful. Science is slowly showing that Homosexuality likely has a biological basis. Christ did not single out homosexuality for scorn, neither should we.
I am still concerned, though, that many of these things – divorce, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage - our sins. Doesn't a person need to be in a “state of grace” before receiving Holy Communion?
Christ taught us in the story of the woman caught in adultery, that only the person who is without sin among us can cast the stone. We have all committed sins. We seek to recall the original meaning of the word “sin”, which means error. We have all made errors. Consider the company Jesus kept – drunkards, prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, the poor and the oppressed - and that nearly all of His critical comments were aimed at religious leaders. When Jesus walked the earth He did not withhold His love from all but the perfect, nor does He now.
What do Universal Catholics think about Mary?
The Universal Catholic Church does not seek to clearly define the role of the holy Lady Mary as other churches have done. There are a great many of our followers that have a special devotion to her. Some view her in a very traditional Catholic way as the Theotokos, your “God-Bearer”, while others see her as the World Mother - a manifestation of the feminine aspect of divinity. She is often honored in the devotion of the Rosary.
Some of the early bishops of the Liberal Catholic Church were Theosophists. The Liberal Catholic Church led to the Liberal Catholic Movement of which the Universal Catholic Church is part of. What is theosophy and is it a belief that is required in Universal Catholic Church?
Theosophy is a school of thought founded in the late 1800s. The purpose was to study comparative religion and mysticism. Some of its basic principles our beliefs in the eastern concepts of reincarnation, karma, vegetarianism and abstention from the use of alcoholic beverage. While many liberal Catholic churches early bishops did, in fact, hold Theosophical ideas, a belief in them was never required nor forbidden in most Liberal Catholic Church circles. The Universal Catholic Church respects the freedom of individual conscience on these issues, as in others. There are branches within the Liberal Catholic Movement that require their members to believe in Theosophy. We are not a part of that branch.
Does your church have a hierarchy similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church?
The Universal Catholic Church is governed by what is called the “General Episcopal Synod”. The Synod is simply all the bishops of our church. In comparison, think of the Synod is the House of Representatives or the Senate of the church. The Synod meets formally approximately every three years. The sin is the governing body, or Board of Directors, of our church. The Synod also elects from one of its bishops, a Presiding Bishop, who is the spiritual head of our denomination. Much like the Anglican Church, the Presiding Bishop is a first among equals within the ranks of our bishops. The Presiding Bishop does not function in the capacity such as the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church would.