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Peace With A Sword

July 22, 2017 Leave a comment

rue8 Good morning and welcome to all of you, this family of Sisters and Brothers in Christ. Greetings!

I had to think long and hard about today’s scripture and where to go with it. A few years back I had the opportunity to sit for a while and talk to a Quaker, or one of the “Friends” as they like to be called. It was a casual conversation and an open and trusting dialog developed as the two of us became more comfortable and at ease with each other. As it were, I was not yet ordained at the time but I was going through the education and discernment process, I still had much to learn. Our talk eventually turned to current events and politics. He knew that I had spent 20 years in the military and was retired from the Air Force but was puzzled at why with a military background, I was now coming to terms with a call to ordination I had had as a young boy.

He asked how I justified the two careers, each of them being on different ends of the spectrum involving peace. When it comes to military actions, we know that Quakers are conscientious objectors and are to do no harm to anyone. They truly are a peaceful group and if you ever have the opportunity to attend one of their meetings, I’ll be interested to know your perception of what you think happens during the time they spend together on Sundays. After explaining my intentions for joining the Air Force, and getting a nod of understanding from him it was my turn to ask a question. So I asked him, “Who do Quakers say Jesus is, and why is your service, or meeting, set up the way it is?” He knew I lived for the Liturgy of the Word and the Holy Eucharist so his response was quick and put me on the defensive from what I was hearing. He said, “I can’t speak for all of them, but for me personally, Jesus is all about peace. He came to show us how to be peaceful. Do all Quakers think this way? Probably not and I’m not speaking for them. As for your Christian sects I don’t understand your services. You seem to have all kind of rituals that don’t lead to much of anything. We sit in prayer and meditation and wait for the Holy Spirit to give us any messages we might need for today or the future. It’s all about meditating in a group.”

I’ll not comment on the meditation part. But my friend here really shocked me. I knew, as I said, they were peace-full, but I figured perhaps he might go deep and a little more in-depth theology might emerge. Surprisingly, he didn’t mention anything about Jesus coming as the Messiah, or the Holy Trinity or Holy Eucharist, or even prayer for that matter. His affirmation was simple. You were just to be peaceful. He insisted that Jesus was simply about peace. He came to bring peace. Period. Knowing this portion of scripture, today’s Gospel we just read, I was ready to get into a discussion and question him on what discipleship meant. Something said “Pete, let it be” no need to make things confrontational at this point in the discussion. Perhaps another time when we’d gotten to know each other better we could talk about Scripture and disciples, but this seemed to be sufficient for the time being.

This didn’t stop me from continuing to think of Jesus and Peace and the cost of discipleship during a long drive home afterwards. If it were that easy, to live in peace with no challenges from anywhere or anybody on this earth, then why are there so many wars? Or not only wars? Why are there so many arguments and fights and altercations where people are left with both physical and emotional scars? “I leave you peace, my peace I give you?” Or “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”? Of all things to bring besides peace, he comes with a sword. Just as swiftly as a sword can slice through flesh and even bone, Jesus’s words here slice through our thoughts and sever any notions we had about him from the other words of peace and love we hear him speak of; Love. Peace. Servanthood. No matter how you cut it, his words we hear now don’t go down easily.

It was this exchange that helped carve out my own views on what it meant to be a disciple of Christ. You see, when Jesus gives us this lesson it is with the intent of making us uncomfortable. One of my favorite musicals of all times, The Fiddler on the Roof, points out how uncomfortable things can be for someone who is used to living in a world where nothing changes and then everything seems to cave in on him! It would be as hard for these new converts and followers of Jesus to change their ways than it was for the father, Tevye, to give up his traditions! If we are to become disciples of Jesus we must have the will to give up some of the ways we’ve been used to doing them. If we are to be students of the Good News, we must be prepared to spread that news and tell everyone we can about it. If we are to fit into this life and what it takes to live into our baptismal covenant we must have the fortitude to forget what we’ve been taught by others and stand with our new sisters and brothers. We will need to walk a walk that is much different than that of our fathers and mothers, or sisters and brothers.

That is what I think is meant by Jesus when he says he’s come with a sword. He will make the cuts that separate the talkers from the doers. Our calling is not only to affirm that Jesus is our Lord and Savior; but to make the change that shows that in the world. It’s an easy thing to do, once you convince yourself that you are not held to the old standards of the letter of the law. The spirit of the law now lives in us and we are beyond a meaningless gesture of giving lip service to one deserving of our service to others in his name. Those who follow the master and the teacher will find their peace at some point. The journey and the road that takes them there will make all the difference in the world as to when that peace comes. And when we think we’re near the end and we look back, we may find we’ve been living in that peace all along. All because we paid the cost of discipleship through making the right cuts from the beginning.

Wake Up to Our Call

November 13, 2016 Leave a comment

Once again, good morning and welcome to our family here at Trinity.  You are more than just welcome. You are invited to worship and fellowship with us, and if you feel so moved, please travel with us on our journey. Today we will be reflecting on the readings and in my usual style, see how they instruct us to handle our lives in a day to day manner. But it is impossible to begin any presentation without the mentioning of this past week’s election and the impact it has had on the lives of everyone not just in this country but around the world. Just as it happens anytime there are sides to take, where one group sits in opposition to another, there are presumed winners and presumed losers. Along with this winning and losing there are real and valued feelings that are attached to it.

That is a very large part of what it means to be awake. If we didn’t have feelings one way or another about the outcome of any major event, especially one that directly affects things like one’s health, protecting creation and our environment, the elderly – homeless – refugees – mothers and children, and determining the legality of who we can love …. How awake can we say we are? Because as we sit here today we sit in a divided land, and in all honesty, a divided church of Christians. Some have chosen not to allow their personal preferences to be broadcast in public and their privacy is to be respected. There are others who we do hear from at times because they feel there is a need to let their voices be heard. As long as that is done with civility and respect for those who they sit across the aisle from – we all have the right to do that.

So this morning, we must come together knowing that just as there are those who are joyful, there are those who hurt. Just as there are those who are shocked and confused, there are those who sit here with confidence. And just as there are those who fear a change for the worse, there are those who stand with a conviction of everything being just fine. Where we go from here and what we do in the coming weeks and months will depend on how we process all of these changes and come to grips with a new reality. In a pastoral note to the diocese, the first thing Bishop Audrey did on Wednesday morning was to remind us that no matter where we sit, “… our duties as Christians to participate in God’s mission hasn’t changed: we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the poor. Reach out to the margins and welcome in the stranger, lift up the downtrodden, make free the oppressed. This includes women, LGBTQI brothers and sisters, Muslims, refugees and all those subject to the sin of racism. Pray for peace, strive to end gun violence, bind up the wounds of those who ache. Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what matters.”

I thanked her for that reminder and as I sat with myself in the next few days wondering how I could tie all of this in with today’s readings things became even more confusing. Because here I sat with two lessons from the lectionary with seemingly polar opposite messages. It appeared that some two-headed monster was attacking me from every angle there was. I was looking for one way, one solution, one clue as to what words you were supposed to hear but all that was coming through were two seemingly distinct lessons. The first is the message of Isaiah that foretells of a new world order and a utopia where everything is made right by God, people working together with other people for a common good and even the rest of the created world living side by side without fear. This world will be so perfect that all things that existed prior to it won’t be remembered. There will only be peace… violence will not exist because it says in the final verse “They shall not hurt or destroy on all my Holy mountain, says the Lord”.

Compare that with Luke’s account of Jesus’s apocalyptic world that has us – or at least me – cringing at the prophesies of a world turned upside down not in a good sense, but through both the natural and human-made destruction of our home. It’s almost as if Jesus is saying “yes, you read what Isaiah had to say, that everything will be just fine in the next life. But I’m here to tell you that you have to go through a living nightmare to get there.” Jesus had to have scared people out of their wits talking like this! We are given instances of earthquakes, famine and sickness, evil rulers, collapsing kingdoms, false prophets claiming to be Jesus … but that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that believers will be rounded up and tortured because they do the work that Jesus told them to do. The same work that Bishop Audrey reminded us is our call as Christians in the few sentences I read just a couple of minutes ago.

How do we sit with that? Can we comfortably separate these two pieces of scripture and say we are good with one but not the other, or that we’ll accept one because it’s easy and as for the other … well, maybe it’s not going in the direction we hoped it would. We’ve seen plenty of wars and natural disasters before today. Christians have been persecuted for years since back in the first couple of centuries yet the world hasn’t ended yet. Why we’ve even seen people claiming to be Jesus walking around with signs saying ‘repent, the end is near’! Surely either it’s all a big lie to get us to behave – or God is playing a game with us and just teasing us a little at a time.

As usual I’m full of questions today, here are a few more: Which is more important to you? To know what the will of God is so we can find out if this is all truth; or to have faith and hope, trusting that what we read here is in fact, truth? Figuring out God’s will in this moment is as difficult as it was when Jesus was there in front of his disciples, personally giving them clues. Right now, today, do we stand in glorious and happy times full of cheer or do we wrestle with the unknown and very mysterious ways of God?

Our faith tells us we must wake up! We must wake up and see what is going on around us. We must wake up and listen to the words of Jesus spoken through those less fortunate. We must wake up and make sure that we haven’t gotten so comfortable that we’ve lost track of our baptismal covenant. We have every reason to want to have things our way, have things easy, have things such as Isaiah promises in his vision of a new world. After all we’re told from a very young age that if we work hard early on and keep at it we’ll have the finer things in life later on because we’ll have earned them. Now, if that were true we’d have a country full of healthy, wealthy, successful citizens who don’t have a thing to worry about. What that old adage doesn’t tell us is that at any time, our lives can be hit like an earthquake, shaking things up when illness strikes us or a family member; causing finances to be eaten up with the cost of medicines and hospital bills. So while we may face our future with wishful thinking that the only thing that matters in life is to have everything go perfectly fine, we still need to keep our mind focused on our mission. We still need to do all we can to help each other as we journey through this ever changing world.

To do anything else but focus on our call, regardless of who is in charge of this earthly existence, is to step aside from the teachings of the Gospels and the words of Jesus. Those other voices, the ones who promise you prosperity in this life are the voices of the false prophets that Jesus speaks of, because according to them things should always come easy. We need to listen to the voices who know what suffering is, because Jesus tells us it is through this that we find what true joy is. The joy of being awake!

Through these threads that either weave back and forth between the passages or stand exclusively on their own, there is one point that Jesus makes that we must not ignore. And that is what to do if we ever are in a position where our association with Christianity is questioned. For those of us who write or preach as part of our jobs, it’s unlike anything we could think of. We are not to rehearse our words and plan a discourse that just might talk ourselves out of becoming a martyr. Just the opposite. We are to stand before our accusers and be faithful in knowing that we will be given the words to testify, letting our convictions be known that for us – Jesus, yes Jesus – not a politician, not a lawyer, not a family member or best friend, or performer or athlete – Jesus is our one true Lord.

When we are able to consider this without second guessing ourselves, then we will know we are awake. We will know we are alive. Will we put all of our resources together in moving forward, leading the way and doing all we can to carry out our call to be Christians? It’s our choice. We must choose to be awake and we must choose now. Being dead while living cannot be an option. So take a moment to step back and take a deep breath. Leave the “God in charge of picking winners” out of it, that God doesn’t exist. Ask the God who sits alongside those who suffer to be in our lives. And let’s continue the work we have to do to make this earth as it is in heaven – a world where one day the wolves will graze alongside the lambs.

So comfort your neighbor who mourns through this time and allow them the space to do it without ridicule. Give those who need to celebrate the time to do so, asking only that it be done with respect for others and without gloating. And let us pray for this country and its people that we will live within these tensions peacefully and filled with the ever-loving grace of God. Peace and All Good! Amen.

(Biblical Text used is from the RCL for Year C, Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28), Nov. 13)

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Pure Joy. A Sermon for the Feast of St. Francis Oct 4, 2016 The Rev. Pete Gdula, Deacon

October 5, 2016 Leave a comment

There’s a saying I read once that puts what we think we know about Francis in perspective. If our only recollection of him is a bird bath statue and a once a year pet blessing, we really don’t know the first thing about him. Yes, he loved animals, but he also loved every single thing in this universe of ours, because he knew that God created everything.

Francis was consumed by a love for the Gospels, and took every word to heart. If you could say there was one goal that Francis wanted to achieve, it would be to emulate everything that Jesus did. One of the most dramatic things was how he not only accepted pain and ridicule, he welcomed it. His view was, anything he could endure on this earth could not possibly come close to going through the agony of what Jesus did leading up to His death by crucifixion.   From that first historic moment where he heard the words of Christ spoken to him through that crucifix at San Damiano “Francis, rebuild my church”, his love for God and Jesus became a passion.

He acknowledged how at first he took these words to mean the actual reconstruction of that old, dilapidated chapel in the meadow. He even went around town begging for stones and rocks from people’s property to use to rebuild the walls. But as each stone was put into place those words of “rebuild my church” transformed him into a being who then realized it wasn’t the building Jesus was talking about, but the church in the world and God’s people who belonged to it. So armed with this love to be like Jesus, the gospel words etched in his mind, and a new perspective on the human condition, he set out on a mission to reclaim the message that was meant to be heard by everyone who heard these gospels.

During his conversations with people, there were many who showed an interest in what he had set out to do, but honestly couldn’t handle the rigors of a monastic lifestyle. To these, Francis graciously allowed them to go back into the world, yet encouraged them to live their lives and continue their ways with families and occupation, taking the things they learned with them. This was the foundation of the Third Order; people like you and me, who feel called to a deeper relationship with Christ and Creation, but don’t have the call to live out a life in a monastic tradition. Just as the rule for his band of brothers was simple and rather ordinary, the third order was also given a rule of life to live by.

Part of our rule is comprised of areas we are to pray and focus on. There are three of what we call “Aims” of the order, as in we “aim” to achieve these in our daily lives. The first is “To make the Lord known and loved everywhere”. While this sounds like basic evangelism, what it really entails is to allow our lives to be lived as a model of what the gospels tell us. It’s believed that it’s the mission of the church to make the gospel known to all, and the church’s people show it in the way they live their lives.

The second aim is “To spread the spirit of love and harmony”. In this we accept the fact that creation was intended for everyone. It’s our basis for becoming involved in social justice movements, breaking down barriers between people to show the goodness that we inherently own, all from God and displayed through the words and actions of Jesus in the gospels. We are pledged to fight against the ignorance, pride, and prejudice that breed injustice and partiality of any kind.

The third aim is probably the hardest; “To live simply”. Just as the first Christians acted on the words of Jesus by giving up all the had to live in community with their sisters and brothers, so each person had what they needed, we too, seek to remove materialism as a driving force or goal in how we go through life, and replace the need for “things” with a love that goes back to the second aim, breaking down the barriers that monetary wealth forms between classes of people.

Over all of these things, Francis insisted that they lead to ‘perfect joy’. His thoughts were that nothing in the world could be more joyous than living a life as how Christ and the gospels directed us. Now to give an example of Francis’s quest for perfect joy I’d like to read to you one of the many legends handed down to us:

One day in winter, as St Francis was going with Brother Leo from Perugia to St Mary of the Angels, and was suffering greatly from the cold, he called to Brother Leo, who was walking on before him, and said to him: “Brother Leo, if it were to please God that the Friars Minor should give, in all lands, a great example of holiness and edification, write down, and note carefully, that this would not be perfect joy.”

A little further on, St Francis called to him a second time: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor were to make the lame to walk, if they should make straight the crooked, chase away demons, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and, what is even a far greater work, if they should raise the dead after four days, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor knew all languages; if they were versed in all science; if they could explain all Scripture; if they had the gift of prophecy, and could reveal, not only all future things, but likewise the secrets of all consciences and all souls, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

After proceeding a few steps farther, he cried out again with a loud voice: “O Brother Leo, thou little lamb of God! if the Friars Minor could speak with the tongues of angels; if they could explain the course of the stars; if they knew the virtues of all plants; if all the treasures of the earth were revealed to them; if they were acquainted with the various qualities of all birds, of all fish, of all animals, of men, of trees, of stones, of roots, and of waters – write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor had the gift of preaching so as to convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Now when this manner of discourse had lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leo wondered much within himself; and, questioning the saint, he said: “Father, I pray, teach me where is perfect joy?” St Francis answered: “If, when we shall arrive at St Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, ‘We are two of the brethren’, he should answer angrily, ‘What you say is not the truth; you are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say’; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who makes him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.

And if we knock again, and the porter come out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors, saying, ‘Begone, miserable robbers! to the hospital, for here you shall neither eat nor sleep!’ – and if we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy. And if, urged by cold and hunger, we knock again, calling to the porter and entreating him with many tears to open to us and give us shelter, for the love of God, and if he come out more angry than before, exclaiming, ‘These are but importunate rascals, I will deal with them as they deserve’; and taking a knotted stick, he seize us by the hood, throwing us on the ground, rolling us in the snow, and shall beat and wound us with the knots in the stick – if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.

And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, What have you that you have not received from God? and if you have received it, why do you glory as if you have not received it?’ But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, ‘I will not glory but in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.”

This doesn’t seem like pure joy to anyone. It rather seems like a love for being beaten and humiliated. But there is where he makes his point. Just as he took every word of Jesus to heart, he acted on every word. He left nothing out as we do today, saying “I don’t think that suites me so I won’t do that part”. For just as he heard how good God is, he also heard the words of the beatitudes “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” That is what set Francis apart, that he took all of the words to heart and acted on them, not just a few chosen words by his own selection.

Perfect joy to Francis was anything that made us like Christ, or came as close as possible to bring us to a sense of unity in the spirit of the words. We are all sinners. But as long as we are headed in the direction of what the people before us chose, we are well on our way to perfect joy; the ultimate perfect joy of being in the presence of Christ when our time in this life is over. May we all share in the peace, love, and joy that Father Francis wanted us to live in. Amen.

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Raised Up Like the Serpent

March 15, 2015 Leave a comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA “For God so loved the world…”  John 3:16.  This verse is probably one that most everyone knows.   It’s probably one that most everyone as heard or seen.  And if you have ever watched even a dozen or more athletic events through the years, especially golf and have seen the signs raised up with this notation on them, you may even gloss over it as fast as it enters your mind.  I’ve always been amused with that aspect of this one sentence; that so many or our Christian brothers and sisters use it to get attention.  Because while on one hand there are believers in Jesus who use it as their mantra to explain how anyone who doesn’t accept Jesus as their lord and savior is condemned to hell; others hold it in their hearts that this is too hard to believe.  That if God not just loved the world, but is Love and the one true light – as we are also taught by John (among others) – how could not believing or not even knowing this gospel separate someone from God?  In other words, does the passage from Paul we read today really mean what John Calvin believed?  That there is an elect group of people who God has chosen to receive salvation and no one else gets in, defying the forgiving virtues of grace that we know so well?

This is such a difficult teaching, not only to comprehend without throwing our human thinking out the door, but to break down theologically as well.  And it leaves many preachers leaving it tucked into the gospel reading and heading toward the other lessons.  As I will do… for a moment… then we’ll return.  Because leading us into this creed of believing is a reference to the Book of Numbers that was given to us for this day.  Jesus said “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of man be lifted up…”  Now Jesus very often uses scripture to show the relationship between himself and what the prophets were speaking of.  (It always fascinates me how people who had so few books could remember so much written material.  This is just a side bar on the subject but it shows how far too much information we have on our minds these days.  I have a very hard time just remembering names, a few passages and psalms here and there, and a tenth of the grocery list I left at home.  This is proof of how much we really do need the bible in our daily lives and not just on Sundays… keeping the scriptures alive as so many did before us.)  But; let’s look at what the serpents or snakes represent.  This is one of the times the people are grumbling and complaining about what they don’t have.  Keep in mind they are now free from bondage.  They are on their own, traveling around the wilderness searching for a new home.  There is no food or water… and here comes one of those lines that completely befuddles you, how can there be no food or water and have the food be so miserable?  It really does represent extreme dissatisfaction when you detest the things you don’t have!  So God thinks, “Well, they are once again placing troubles over freedom.  I guess it’s time for another lesson.”  So snakes are sent, fatally poisonous ones at that, and as more Israelites are bitten the more they die, until at last the people look at it as punishment for their groaning and complaining.  And as Moses usually does, he talks to God to try and intercede for them and we have the bronze serpent mounted on a pole that heals those who are bitten.

One word we can throw out with this: Idol.  We can be led to think this is a form of idolatry but keep in mind they are not giving praise and bowing down to the statue.  They are using it as a representation of their problems and a means of coming to terms with those things that are killing them.  Well into the future, where 500 years later this same snake is in the temple in Jerusalem, people had made it into an idol, and came to revere it so much they gave it the name Nehushtan.  King Hezekiah then had it destroyed to put an end to it.  For as much as many people hate them, snakes and serpents are used throughout cultures as representations of one aspect of life or another, in many ways as a good thing.  For instance we are aware that the emblem worn by people with the American Medical Association is that of a snake entwined on a staff.  That symbol comes from the Greek god of healing.  We are told back in Genesis how wise the serpent was.  And other cultures depict it as symbols of fertility.

But for the Israelites the snakes sent by God meant one thing:  sin.  It was for their sins that the snakes were sent and it was by looking up at a snake that they repented.  There’s a saying that goes along with this that says ‘that which kills, heals’ or if you’re into the pop singer Kelly Clarkson one of her songs has a line; ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ For many poisons and diseases it’s the very thing that causes you pain that is used for the serum.  We build up immune systems and create vaccines from the very viruses that give us the flu and other communicable diseases.  The venom from snakes and spiders is milked to make a serum that will reverse the effects of their bites.  The snakes can also be thought of as the things in life that become our downfall.  We may first think of it as our diseases or our illnesses, but are those things mostly our faults?  Perhaps we can think of the serpents as our faults, our grumbling, our moaning, our inequities, yes – our sins, all of these and more are what keep us from living a healthy and spirit-filled life.  These are the things that spread some of the true sicknesses throughout the world; the sickness of hate, of greed, of indifference, of intolerance, of exclusion.  I don’t know if they are dangerous or deadly until they come back to bite me.  And then they show how bad they really are.  In fact in some interpretations of this the Hebrew word used is the same as fiery!  Another says flying!  Flying, fiery serpents!  Were they really fire breathing dragons or perhaps was the sting of the venom so bad it felt as if you were on fire?  I like to think that the realization of what keeps us back and truly is a sin against God and our neighbor can be enough to cause you to feel a little sick, and perhaps if it’s bad enough maybe even some fiery heart burn.

But how will this same item bring you relief?  How can our sins bring us grace and forgiveness – new life?  The revelation here is that once we’ve identified what ails us, once we come to grips with our faults; we hold them up in front of us and examine them for what they’re worth.  Just as the Israelites looked up at the bronze serpent on the pole to be healed of their wounds, we hold up our wrongdoings and reflect on them.  And once we admit the shortcomings and change our way of thinking (or repent), we are healed and forgiven, and the grace of God carries us on.

So it’s no coincidence that these passages are used in Lent.  We are in a season of repentance.  More and more people are using Lent as a time for an inner journey, finding the things in their lives that do them or others no good, and making the necessary changes to move on.  We are creating the same story for ourselves as the Israelites did who held up the bronze serpent.  It is nearing the time in Lent where we will look up at the son of man being raised up on a cross.  Jesus spoke the words.  He was raised up.  Except not just raised up on a cross for our viewing.  Not just raised up in atonement.  Not just raised up to cure us of our ills.  But raised up in his own pain and suffering – for us to see and feel the healing power of Christ – in our personal lives, the healing power of Christ in our family and neighbor’s lives, and the healing power of Christ in the life of the church.  Yes, God so loved the world… that He gave his only begotten son… and we are left with the mystery of how it all works… a mystery of which the more you believe, the deeper the mystery becomes… until nothing matters because the only thing you see is the light.  Amen.         Deacon Pete

citations:  RCL; Year B, 4th Sunday in Lent

Pass the Palms, Please

August 7, 2014 Leave a comment
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Avoiding the Ruts

August 7, 2014 Leave a comment
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Don’t forget the Ascension

August 7, 2014 Leave a comment
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