Sunday, November 24, 2019

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

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

Sunday, November 17, 2019

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

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

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

Sunday, November 3, 2019

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