Sunday, May 31, 2020

May 31, 2020
(Acts 2:1-11; John 20:19-23)
Nelson Mandela once said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”
As I took a moment to read the lectionary readings assigned for today and as I read the passage from Acts, I could not help but think of the recent tragedies inflicted on our African American brethren recently. We have seen much in the news in regard to Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and George Floyd. Though these are merely three in a long line the past few years. And then there is Christian Cooper in Central Park with the woman who called the police on him, because he asked her to leash her dog (as required by posted signs). Fortunately, no police brutality there, but an obvious case of racism from the woman, who has since apologized.
Instead of hoping you take your Bible hidden somewhere and knock the dust off of it, and read the Epistle reading, let me simply put the reading here for you:
“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, ‘Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.’”
Now isn’t that interesting! Think about it. In John 14:15-31 Jesus makes it clear He will ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to help us. Then again in John 16:7 and again in John 20:22. (You will have to dig out that Bible and knock the dust off of it for these.)
If Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit came to all these various ethnic people as stated in our reading from Acts, that tells me that not only is the Holy Spirit indiscriminate, but so is Jesus and God the Father whom both send the Holy Spirit. It is obvious, frankly, in my mind at least, that the lesson here is that NO ONE is less than anyone else in the eyes of God!
Racism is a grave sin and illness that this country is inflicted with. We are battling two fronts, with racism on one side and Covid-19 on the other. Neither of the two is being appropriately addressed by those with the political power to make these illnesses go away. In fact, I would say Covid-19 might be getting a slight better focus. However, it isn’t just politicians who are to blame. It isn’t even the police officers who seem to commit what they deem lawful, yet their actions are far from it. No, the blame falls squarely on each of us, especially those of us who are white. Yes, we are all the blame.
Studies show that racism persists in America:
People with “black-sounding names” had to send out 50 percent more job applications than people with “white-sounding names” to get a callback.
A black man is three times more likely to be searched at a traffic stop and six times more likely to go to jail than a white man.
If a black person kills a white person, he or she is twice as likely to receive the death sentence as a white person who kills a black person.
Blacks serve up to 20 percent more time in prison than white people for the same crimes.
Blacks are 38 percent more likely to be sentenced to death than white people for the same crimes.
Let me be clear, there is no room or place for racists in Christianity. There shouldn’t be in any religion or society as a whole.
The Spirit enables followers of Christ—people with beautiful Asian, black, brown, and white skin; with a range of immigration statuses; with different accents—to pursue mutual sacrificial love for one another in the power of the Spirit as the people of God. Christians must walk in love in the power of the Spirit as opposed to the lust of the flesh – which is doing that which is evil or sinful instead of the radical love that Jesus taught!
One way we do this is by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, instead of taking advantage of our freedom to gratify our sinful desires or to serve the demonic forces of evil. As Paul writes in Galatians 5:13–14, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping with this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
This Spirit-empowered love can move willing Christians to speak against and to seek to defeat every form of racism and white supremacy with the supernatural weapon of the Gospel!
Racism is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who willfully live to gratify the sinful desires of racism “will not inherit the kingdom of God” because they reveal they might be still enslaved to the present evil age and to its seductive powers, instead of being freely enslaved to love by the power of the Spirit as those redeemed by Christ and bound for the promised land of new creation.
In an age where racism is on the rise and police brutality and violence is going unchecked, we must stand for a change and not be afraid to hold the politicians and policing agencies accountable in these times. These individuals, in true democracy, work for you and me, not their own agendas. If they will not instill change in a system deeply flawed, then in November we must vote in those who will! Until then, let your voices be heard!
We also must be careful, to not allow ourselves to become like those who inflict pain, or cause violent social unrests like in Minneapolis. This type of action is counter to what Jesus would call us to do. Let us take as our example the great Martin Luther King Jr., who although his protests and speeches caused great potential danger to him and his family and eventually led to his assassination, he had the courage and bravery to protest against discrimination and promote love and truth through the act of Civil Disobedience. Let us be civil, but let us also protest injustice! I am well aware that there are those who feel that peaceful protests hasn’t worked, so maybe rioting is needed, but this is counterintuitive. Two wrongs do not make one right. “Socially destructive,” is how Martin Luther King Jr labeled riots. Violence will not end violence. Only peace, love and accountability will end violence!
I am confident that Jesus would hate racism. We can know this from His parable of the good Samaritan. We can no longer walk on the other side. We must be brave and speak out against hate of any kind!
We may not state it often, surely not enough, but within our denomination, we find racism and intolerance deeply sinful. Ethnicity, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, marriage status, social status, creed, faith, or age are of no concern to us. What we are concerned with, and we all should be concerned with, is one’s walk with God by loving other’s in the example of the radical love of Jesus!
We claim to be a nation as a home of the free and the brave, yet freedom is still being fought. The voice of freedom and equality is a voice like that of our reading from Acts, it is understood by all – or it should be. Let your voices be heard unequivocally for an end to racism and law enforcement’s inappropriate use of force. Speak out and pray up!
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Sunday, May 24, 2020

May 24, 2020
Ascension Sunday
(Acts 1:1-11; Matthew 28:16-20)
Another week has passed. Another week of Covid-19 restrictions and concerns. Another week of many unemployed and worrying how long it will last and whether to chose mortgage over food.
We have been restricted to stay at home throughout the entirety of Easter, virtually as if we have yet to leave Lent. We never got to celebrate the great day of Resurrection, and here we are at the Ascension, which we also cannot celebrate. Another week with my feeble attempt at a short “sermon” to fill a little void. I am not good at these short exoteric sermons, however neither are any of us good at staying home, being ill or unemployed.
As some of you know, my episcopal coat of arms motto from a well-known poem reads, “And it was then I carried you.” It comes from the Footprints in the Sand poem. It postulates that when we look back over our life as if our life were a path of footprints in sand, that we remark to Christ that we sometimes only see one set of prints instead of two and we wonder why Jesus seemingly “abandoned” us during the worst periods of our life. And Jesus responds to correct us by telling us it wasn’t our singular footprints we look back and see, but His! He was carrying us!
We could look at life in Christ a little deeper – or maybe, differently is a better word, while still using the sand analogy.
Let’s assume for a moment that we are in the desert in Western California and I were to ask any one of you to look out over the plain of sand and dunes and asked you to start walking, but to be sure you walked in a straight line, for say, oh, maybe 5 minutes, whilst I stand still and do not move. After that 5-minute interval, I yell (or probably call you on your cell phone, a 5-minute walk could make it hard to hear a “yell”) to “stop!” Now I ask you to turn around and look.
Now, you were sure that you walked in a straight line but discovered that you veered considerably to the right. One could, I suppose, argue that as long as it was a straight line to the right, it was still a straight line, but let’s assume a straight line was directly forward of where I was standing while you walked. That said, you did not walk in a straight line, though you made a concerted effort to do so.
Now there is a little story or parable of king and three neighboring princes. The king issued a challenge to them, that whomever among them could, over a long journey of varying landscapes, walk a straight line to the king’s castle would have the right to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
So, the first prince starts out, looking to his right and to his left to ensure he did not veer off his course. However, like you, the further he got, the more off course he ended up.
The second prince determined to look down, to keep his eyes on his feet, making sure every step followed in the same path as the step before it. However, he too went off course.
Now the third prince started out and he neither looked to the left or to the right, nor did he look down upon his feet. But, at the end, it was discovered that he walked in a straight line. Everyone wanted to know how he did it, and he said, “All I did was look into the far distance to the light on the crown of the castle tower. I didn’t look at my path or the landscape to my right or left. I just kept my eyes on that light and kept pressing forward to that light until I arrived there.”
This, my friends, is the way to walk with God. We are called to walk a straight path to God. This can be a challenging journey over varying landscapes and changing circumstances of life. Sometimes, we have to pause and do our best to sometimes not focus on our circumstances or our walk. It is beneficial to fix our eyes on the destination, regardless of the surroundings, mountains, valleys, highs and lows, even regardless of our own walk and footsteps.
We should fix our eyes on the Eternal – on God – and press forward, always onward and closer to this goal. And when we do so, we will end up there – and straight will be our footprints in the sand, whether we see one set of prints or two.
Like the Apostles, now that Jesus has Ascended, our goal is to walk the path of His teachings and example. We want to follow a straight path to Him, and we find there are times we have veered to the right or left, and even sometimes ended up full circle. We can get frustrated at times, but in the end what must we do?
We must simply allow Jesus to carry us when we struggle along the path. The path is not always easy, but like the third prince, if we keep our eyes on the light – the light of Christ – we too shall make it.
This Covid-19 virus is one of those landscapes that is challenging our walk in the sand, but walk we must continue to do. We must never lose sight of the fact that we must still walk. It is hard, sometimes with a wall seemingly in the way, but this too we must go over.
Let us take some time this week to ask Our Blessed Lord to show us, not only our path, but that He is there by our side to carry us if we need. He never deserts us. Let us ask Him for an end to this terrible epidemic, that medical science will win the cause; that fewer and fewer unnecessary deaths will take place; that people will return to jobs and food on their plates. That on this Memorial Day those who have fought and died to defend our great nation, be remembered and rest in peace eternal.
Let us know, that although Our Blessed Lord has indeed Ascended, He is only away from our physical sight, but indeed nearer to us than when He walked the earth. By His Ascension, our salvation is assured.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

Sunday, May 17, 2020

May 17, 2020
The Sixth Sunday of Easter
(Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; John 14:15-21)
Both passages before us today, speak of the Holy Spirit. Interesting, in a way, that we have these readings now and not as alternative readings for Pentecost Sunday in a couple of weeks. We are used to hearing the passages of the Holy Spirit coming like tongues of fire, but the Holy Spirit comes in whatever way God wishes.
How often we read these scripture passages and think to ourselves, “Oh, but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come to me in this way – probably not even at all!” We all think these thoughts from time to time. I sometimes feel much like we have learned that St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata felt at times in her religious life. I too often feel as though God has left me, that He no longer comes to me or hears me. Many of us experience “dark nights of the soul.” Yet, time and again, our Lord senses this and sends us little reminders that He is indeed still there.
Sometimes, it isn’t so much that He has “left” us, as merely He is allowing – in fact – encouraging us to seek Him out. Sometimes, our free will gets in the way. Let me try an exoteric story of sorts to help.
Let’s say you are standing at the base of a very large mountain. This mountain has a very gradual ascent, with smaller interlocking mountains and several paths one could take to reach the peak or pinnacle. The endeavor is for you to reach this peak or pinnacle.
Naturally, seeing the many possible paths, it is a challenge to determine which path will lead to the peak if at all. Certainly, more than one path could possibly get you there with varying lengths of passage. Or, maybe only one path will lead there. But, you must first choose a path. God gives allows us our free will, so the challenge is to determine the appropriate path.
So, you chose a path and start walking. It appears to be getting dark and this path does not appear to be leading to the peak. So, you choose another path, and then another. Finally, you become disoriented and filled with anxiety so you call out for help for someone to lead you back down.
Once you arrive back down, you are discouraged because you didn’t get to the peak. You become frustrated because you did not know which path to take. Someone else comes along and asks if they can help and you explain your ordeal. The stranger explains why.
The stranger says you were far too focused on the which path to take, instead of choosing the paths up. He says you should have always choose the higher ground. Take a path that is ascending. When it stops ascending, switch to the path that is still ascending, and so forth. It rarely is one path, but a connection of many that leads to the top.
It can be the same with our walks with God! The pinnacle or peak of the mountain represents God’s calling in your life. His will and purpose for your life. You don’t need to know exactly which path, so long as you are always sure you are ascending. When you choose the higher ground, sometimes there are higher footsteps to take.
No matter where you started from; no matter where you are now, you will end up in the exact, specific, appointed and perfect will of God! The peak or pinnacle of God’s purpose in life.
Why? Because whether we feel it or not, the Holy Spirit is always with us. Jesus promised us this. Once we receive the Holy Spirit through our Baptism and Confirmations, the Holy Spirit is granted us. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, will be with us until the end of the age.
The Holy Spirit will indeed come as God so wishes, as I said earlier. Whether it be in a friend, a co-worker, your pastor, a stranger or an email or message of some kind. The Holy Spirit will come!
We are living in a challenging and scary time. As the world’s religions joined Pope Francis’ call for all religions to join with the Roman Catholic Church to pray for the end of this pandemic this past Thursday, I too joined in prayer. Millions of people did the same. We do this, because of our faith in a healing God, in a loving and beneficent God.
He knows our sorrow. He knows our sorrow, because He came and died on the cross for us! He is with us now. And in His time, he will eradicate this evil from our lives. We must still follow the paths we have chosen, and if they are not leading to higher ground, we should change another path.
As we continue to celebrate Easter, as best as we can in current times, we are called to not lose faith; to not give up; and to know there is always light ahead no matter how dark the night of the soul is. The Holy Spirit will draw us out of that darkness so that we can resume our journey.
My prayers remain with us all during this time. Let us all take a moment to ask God to intervene in our time and set us free from this epidemic.
God Love You +++
The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Sunday, May 10, 2020

May 10, 2020
The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Mother’s Day
(Acts 6:1-7; John 14:1-12)
In the Talmud, the writings of the rabbis, there is inscribed a reference to a scarlet cord. At the time of the second Temple, on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, a scarlet cord was tied to the Temple doors. When the requirements for the Day of Atonement were completed, it is said that the cord would turn from scarlet to white.
Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be red like crimson, they may become white as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
It is said to have taken place every year. The phenomenon or miracle would occur every year to signify that the atonement had been completed and accepted.
The Talmud indicates that something changed in the first century AD. The cord abruptly stops changing. Certainly, this must have been unsettling. Had Adonai (God) stopped accepting their acts of atonement? Although this is where Jewish and Christian theology and thought take separate roads. I am sure that they thought that God had stopped accepting the acts of atonement for some reason, but they may have questioned why.
In human history, let’s face it, we have not always lived as God would want us to, and He would intervene in various ways. Often times He would send a prophet or leader that would help lead us back on the correct path. So, what was it this time that has caused Him to stop changing the cord from scarlet to white?
From a Christian perspective, we tend to believe it wasn’t because He stopped accepting the acts of atonement, but merely that they were no longer needed. The final atonement had been offered up. The final sacrifice for sin.
Now another interesting piece to this is when the cord stopped changing. The Talmud records it as being about 40 years before the destruction of the Temple. The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Therefore, the cord stopped changing about 30 AD! The same time frame Christians place Jesus’ death on the cross!
Jesus’ death on the cross was the final Atonement for all people. The book of Hebrews explains that we are no longer saved by the sacrifices of the Temple or the Day of Atonement, but by the death of Christ Jesus who took upon himself all of our sins – past, present and future!
So, as we continue to “celebrate” the Easter season, we do well to remember what our Savior did for all mankind. We “celebrate” this saving grace bestowed upon as we celebrate his resurrection – Easter.
As we continue to live through this horrible epidemic, there is seemingly no reason to feel joyful, at least not by human standards. There are so many people who are acquiring this virus, with far too many dying. We can pass blame, yet we are all responsible. Responsible for the spreading of the illness in our insistence to go outside or to not wear a mask or gather when we should not. None of us like being cooped up and restricted.
Yet, Easter calls us to joy. For those of us who have never come close to the kind of joy that the Apostles and all of Jesus’ followers had after his resurrection, there may be within us a pang of jealousy. What is it like to feel that way, so sure of our calling and our mission and our God, that nothing, not even threats of death, can steal our joy?
Part of the problem stems from our society’s view of happiness and joy. There’s the danger in thinking that they are the same; people of faith know that happiness is fine but fleeting. Inevitably, something comes along that makes us sad or mad.
But joy? That’s a different story. Joy comes from deep within and can’t be shaken by bad weather or traffic jams, even illness or work issues. Because joy is grounded in God, and God is never fleeting.
On this Mother’s Day during our Easter season, may we each find some joy in the resurrection of Christ by viewing him through our mothers who bore us. While many are unemployed and nervous for their next meal; while some may be ill and may be one of those particularly vulnerable to this virus causing serious harm; while others are concerned of this life as we have it now – let us try to find joy in Christ and his resurrection. Let us bless our mothers with a day of joy in a trying time, even if for a fleeting period.
This is a difficult time to be sure, let us each try to trust in our Lord and place our burdens at his feet, for he will indeed see and respond. Let us know that all through all this, there are front line workers who are doing those things that are meant to help us all. Help them to not fear as they put themselves in potential danger in so doing. These are angels sent from Jesus’ to help us during this time.
It is easy to give up and see no respite where we have difficulty seeing such. Let us take this fifth Sunday of Easter and do our best to place our trust in God and find some joy as we spend it with Him and our wonderful mothers. Let us find some joy in this difficult time. Our mothers bring us joy, and they are, like Our Lady Mary, and our Lord Jesus bringing love into the world.
God Love You +++