Sunday, July 26, 2020

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

Sunday, July 19, 2020

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

Monday, July 6, 2020

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

We are beggars.