Sunday, February 19, 2017

Red Headed Women and Whiskey!

Red Headed Women and Whiskey!

Jesus said; “Love your enemies.” 
I find that difficult to do sometimes, particularly in the present political context in this country. We are so divided now. Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, Citizens and Immigrants, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Atheists. The rancor among us is palpable.

All this made me think of a time when I found myself in the hotbed of controversy over the building of a homeless shelter in Saint Albans, West Virginia. Our church operated what was called Christ’s Kitchen, a free breakfast and lunch program for the poor in the midst of a challenging neighborhood. There were a number of homeless folks who lived along the riverbank and under a bridge. One especially stormy night a small band of homeless folk put together a makeshift shelter of cardboard boxes. They set a fire to keep warm. Things got out of control and when the smoke cleared three people had died. 

The press came by to investigate. We went over to the site of the fire and in what was one of the most pitiful things I’ve ever seen, I watched as the department of Public Works cleared the scene of all the worldly possessions of the homeless and the police gave tickets to them for littering and vagrancy. Not only had they lost their friends in the fire, all their worldly possessions were gone and they were facing court action and fines for the crime of being homeless. The reporter and I documented and published the sequence of events.

We went back to Christ’s Kitchen to collect ourselves in the aftermath of all this trauma. And then in a moment of inspiration, I said; “Give me your tickets!”. The reporter and I went out to the front steps of the church and I brandished the tickets in front of a camera and announced that the police had harassed the homeless at the direction of the city authorities, and that I had taken the tickets into my possession and if the courts wanted to collect fines they’d have to get the money out of me. The story made it to the front page of the Charleston Gazette

The response from the city was predictable. The next morning I arrived at my office to see my secretary in tears and she told me that the President of the City Council had called and and was in a state of outrage. He said to her and I quote; “Those Irish, the only thing they brought to this country was red headed women and whiskey”. The press were there waiting for a quote from me. I was ready;
“I’ll have one of each!” said I.

Thus began a sequence of events that led to the building of a homeless shelter. I shall never forget all the parishioners, community leaders, lawyers, police, civic leaders and so on who became a part of a collaborative effort to build that shelter. What had begun in controversy and confrontation, eventually became a galvanizing rally point for constructive cooperative ministry. It began however with with my willingness to serve as a lightning rod!

When Jesus tells us to turn the cheek and to love our enemies, I don’t think he means that we are to roll over and play dead in the midst of conflict. Rather I think Jesus wants us to engage one another honestly and creatively in a way that leads to reconciliation. That’s how it all worked out for us in Saint Albans. West Virginia. 

Things don’t always work out so well. When Jesus confronted the religious authorities of his day, he overturned the tables in the Temple precincts and then there was the trial, the execution, and the dreadful death of Jesus.

But even then, even then at the very point of his deepest moment of suffering Jesus found it within him to say; “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

“You have heard that it was said of old ‘An eye for an eye’”
The bankruptcy of that ethic was clear to Jesus. As it was to Mahatma Gandhi who is quoted as having said;
“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth merely leaves the whole world blind and toothless!”

Jesus insisted that we love our enemies.

Is such redemption possible in this nation and in this world of mutually exclusive opposites; particularly when our President seems to revel in insulting and alienating so many? Not only are we a divided nation, but the wedge between us seems to widen by the day. 

I believe it takes much conflict and confrontation to work out the particulars of our reconciliation. We must be outspoken in our advocacy. Particularly as Christians and other folks of faith, we must speak up on behalf of the poor, the outcast, the marginalized and the alien among us. The ethical biblical mandate requires us to do so.

You did hear that verse from Leviticus in today’s first lesson? When describing the farmer’s duties when harvesting, the Biblical ethic requires that the margins of the farmer’s field be left for the benefit of the poor and the alien among them. And then the Scripture says; “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself!”. 

No doubt you will remember that when Jesus described our neighbor he singled out the Samaritan. Samaritans were despised by the general population of the day. They were foreigners, and their religion was “different”. I’m sure there were those who would have deported them all back to Samaria if they had it in their power to do so.

Foreigners! My grandmother, God rest her soul, used to say that it was the Irish who ruined Boston. That tells you what she thought of my dad especially after that nasty divorce.
She also made me promise on the family bible that I would never marry an Italian. I promised! Obviously I broke that promise. And I’m glad I did. But my grandmother is fine about all that now that she’s got it all straight in heaven. 

There always has been  prejudice based on race, ethnicity, class, national origin, language, gender and orientation. There always will be. Folks have put folks in pigeon holes for ever.

But what of Jesus? Did he reject the outcast, the sick, the poor, the blind, the lame or the lepers. Did he reject the prostitutes or the tax collectors or look his nose down at common fisherfolk?

Who did Jesus reject?

The only folks Jesus had trouble with were the religious literalists of his day who kept trying to catch him up in his words. Ultimately, he found a way to love them too!

Is there any hope for America and our sad divisions?

There is this one thought. It is a reach but let me mention the hope I have for this country. The American Bald Eagle. It is a magnificent symbol for this nation. Ben Franklin thought it might be safer to use the Turkey as the symbol of this nation given the factious nature and level of intelligence of far too many.

But if we could be inspired by the symbol of our nation’s greatness, then hope is possible. Look what it takes for an Eagle to fly. It takes both wings; the left wing as well as the right wing. And no matter how far out those feathers are, they all work together for a purpose. 

Dare we hope that we could honor one another in this country, and across the great divides that appear to be at such variance? This is a great dare. I’m not sure we can do that. But if we could, the Eagle would do more than fly, it could soar!

Clearly this is one of the reasons Jesus told us to “Love our enemies”. He also told us that he expected us to be perfect as God in heaven is perfect. This is where I fall short of the mark. I can get hurt. I can get angry. My feelings can even verge far too close to hateful. This is not what Jesus had in mind when he asked me to be perfect. 

When I become aware that I have strayed a bit too far from the desirable perfection that Jesus has in mind, I look for a way to return to him with all my heart. Righteousness is a corrective then to our behavior. When I veer off to the left or to the right of that righteous line, Jesus beckons me to return. After all we are called to be perfect even as God in heaven is perfect. 

When the Chief Executive governing officer of these United States of America revels in mockery and disparaging disrespect we have a problem at the very heart and soul of the nation. Likewise the Press, and all up and down the body politic of this nation. Are we enemies who insist on our hatefulness? Or can we find our way to Peace once more with Freedom and Justice for All?

Will this Eagle soar? Or will its broken wings confine itself to the ground? 

It took some time, everyone had to swallow some pride but the President of St Albans City Council and I came to a deeper understanding, appreciation and respect for one another. So too with the Police. I often brought donuts to the break room as a peace offering. And when a K-9 was cut down in the line of duty, the Baptist minister refused to bury the dog. Apparently the dog was not regarded as having a soul. But one of the police officers knew I’d bury the dog. Fr. Paul, they knew had a heart for all God’s creation.

All in God’s good time. All is made well. Peace reigns. The homeless shelter is built. Perfection is Present to us even if only for a brief and fleeting moment. 

What of America here and now? Will we seek peace and justice once more? Or rather will we insist on characterizing one another as enemies. Jesus tells us that we must love our enemies. Jesus tells us to be perfect as God in Heaven wants you to be Perfect. Will we seek God's will or our own? How we answer that question will make all the difference.

In the Name of God the most Holy, Undivided, and Everlasting Trinity. Amen.

Fr Paul.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Reconciliation between the Oppressor and the Oppressed

A Matter of Life and Death

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago in a faraway land of Cleveland, Ohio when I was the rector of the Church of the Epiphany in Euclid, Ohio, there was a young man who left his Ohio home to go to work in West Virginia. There were problems at home. In many ways he was a troubled youth. He came to church on occasion though. When he did, I could tell by the way he looked at me at the altar rail that he was in pain. When he left, I wrote him a note. In it I said that no matter what happened, remember this one thing, “I believe in you. More importantly, God believes in you. I know you will find your way.” 
Years passed. When I found myself at St. Mark’s Church, in Saint Albans, West Virginia, there he was one Sunday. He was all grown up with a family of his own now. At the coffee hour he came up to me and said;
“Remember this?”
With that, he opened his well worn wallet and there was a tattered, water stained crumpled up note that he very carefully unfolded. It was falling apart at the folds. It was my handwriting, but honestly, I had forgotten that I had written that note. He told me that whenever he was discouraged, and there were many times that happened, he would open up that note and he remembered what I had said, and he then called God to heart and prayed. 

You never know what small gesture of kindness may touch another human being’s heart. But each of you, whether you know it or not is making a difference. You may never know it. But your expressions of loving kindness can make all the difference in a human life. Another former parishioner likes to say; “Make America kind again!” Likewise, if you are not so kind, or are a little too quick with hasty words, you can leave a world of hurt behind you.

It really is a matter of life and death; the way we live. You and I both know that. There are a hundred ways for us to live good fruitful and productive lives in a way that glorifies God and is of service to all the men, women and children.  Those we love so much and perfect strangers too. 

There are also hundreds of ways for humankind to destroy God’s creation and God’s creatures; both ourselves and others. It really comes down to the fundamental choices we make each day, the choices whether we wish to add abundance to human life or to take away from it.

Every Sunday we pray the Collect of the Day. As the service begins, it is time for collective prayer. We take a moment to gather ourselves, and pray in summary what God is teaching the Church through the Scriptures. The very first English Book of Common Prayer was written by Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1549 and it contained these magnificent prayers. They are an anthology of spiritual wisdom that has come down to us from the ages. 

Today’s Collect admits the truth about us; “in our weakness we can do nothing good thing without you.” Isn’t that the truth! So where are we to turn for help but to God? The collect continues; “give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed”. 

The collect of the day expresses the wisdom of today's scripture themes.

The First Lesson from the Book of Deuteronomy says “obey the commandments of the Lord your God…by loving the Lord your God and walking in his ways” and “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live”. To obey God is to choose life. The commandments are God's notes of encouragement to us. 

The Psalmist says; “Happy are they who observe God’s decrees and who seek God with all their hearts!”

My namesake, Paul, had problems with a factious congregation in the seaport town of Corinth. Truth be told each of us has a different part to play in building up the Body of Christ in this or any congregation, in this or any diocese, in this or any denomination. Paul continues; “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

In the midst of conflict Jesus’ provides the following instructions in today’s Gospel “if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift”

Reconciliation! Paul reminds the church in Corinth that there is this business of reconciliation. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he says; “God has given us the task of reconciling people to him.” After all it is in Jesus’s death that the dividing wall between us has been broken down. “All of this is from God who has given us the ministry of reconciliation”. Paul claims that Jesus has made peace by the cross. He paid the price for our sins. Therefore, let us be reconciled to God and to one another.

“There is the way that leads to life and the way that leads to death”. That’s the opening line of the oldest document of the church after the New Testament material. I have often used “The Didache” as it is called with teenagers because that’s when kids often play with danger thinking they are immortal. Folks we can get hurt. Folks, we can live and we can die. The sooner we learn to make the choice to live, the better for us all.

It is a matter of life and death the choices we make as individuals, as churches, as nations and so forth and so on. All we have to do is look around or study history. It is all there plain as day.

You and I are here today because we have chosen life. Whatever sins cling still close, we nonetheless choose life each day. I suspect that we have a long, long way to go to reach perfection. Sometimes you and I can get quite discouraged.

But someone may write a note to us that we will hold precious. We will carry human and Godly kindness, folded up in our hearts wherever we go. In fact God has written a note to you. God knows exactly how you feel. God has been there in the joy of Christmas, in the Temptations of the wilderness, in the heartaches of those who are sick or dying. God knows what it is like to be rejected and finally God knows what it is like to suffer and die!

But I do have good news for you. Wonderful news! You are forgiven. The big sins, those things you're still ashamed of; Forgiven! Even all those everyday bad habits you haven't gotten around to facing. It is all Forgiven. So bear fruit of one who is loved of God and forgiven of all your sins! 

There is the problem of oppression however.
We can make no peace with oppression
If it is true that Jesus came to bring Good News to the poor. ~Luke 4:18
If it is true that "inasmuch as we do it to one of the least of these, we do it to Jesus" ~Matthew 25:31ff
Then it follows that we will be reconciled to all. But we cannot be reconciled to oppression.
We must be peacemakers. 
But we cannot make peace with oppression.

Reconciliation remains necessary between the oppressor and the oppressed. 
It is the ethical mandate of God that the oppressor take responsibility for justice.
If not, it becomes our to duty to see that justice is done. 

It is all written down for us in notes of encouragement, kindness, wisdom and faith. We call those precious notes the Holy Bible. We read substantial part of it every single week. God continues to write notes of forgiveness and love in our hearts every moment we draw breath. This is the way to life for anyone, for any congregation, for any nation, and for the world we live in. 

God demands justice!
It really is a matter of life and death.

In the Name of God, the Most Holy, Undivided, and Everlasting Trinity. Amen.

Fr Paul.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Blessed are You!

Blessed are You!

You are Blessed in Boston!
You are NOT Banned in Boston!

Jesus began his ministry by recruiting some ordinary working people; like fisherfolk as you may remember from last week. Folks like us and he said plain as day; “Let’s go fishing.” 

Mind you he wants us to go fishing for people. After all, we’re spending way too much time walking in the Darkness. It is time for us to proclaim the Gospel of Light!  You will remember how we put it last week; 
Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again.
In the darkness there is much too much violence, bigotry and hatred. In the light we die to sin and rise to newness of life.
We are forgiven
We receive the gift of eternal life
We are filled with the unbounded joy of Jesus
This Gospel message then gives us the kernel of a Gospel life
Love God
Love one another
Love yourself.

No need to complicate the Gospel. Jesus didn’t; neither need we.

So then, he called his working folk to him, his fisherfolk and then Jesus went public with his ministry. 

He began healing the sick. Jesus wanted to make sure that everybody had access to Universal Health Care through his sacred and holy touch. This is first and foremost. He gave us power and commandment to heal the sick. Why then is this matter of Universal Health Care so controversial? For Jesus, the was of the highest priority.

Of course the crowds followed him wherever he went. They longed for his healing touch. And there they were today gathered with him up on the mountain. He begins his first campaign speech; the one we call “The Sermon on the Mount”.

He begins with a blessing. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”. Jesus knew what it was to be exhausted and oppressed by the burdens of his life. He had sense to withdraw in moments when he was spiritually spent. We may not think of Jesus as “spiritually spent” but the scripture tells us exactly that; 
“But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” ~Luke 5:15,16

In the Lucan version of this sermon, the one the biblical scholars call the "Sermon on the Plain", Jesus says "Blessed are the poor." Period. 
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh." ~Luke 6:20-21
Jesus goes on to say this of the rich and powerful
"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep." Luke 6:24,25
Notice how Jesus comforted the afflicted; but afflicted the comfortable. 

In both sermons Jesus begins with a blessing. In fact, he begins with many blessings: A blessing on the poor and those whose hearts are torn with grief. He blesses the meek, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  The merciful and the pure in heart; these folks obtain mercy and they shall see God. Blessed too are the peacemakers, they are God children. And then there is this. Don’t forget those of you who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Blessed are you too! When they revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you Jesus wants you to rejoice and be glad because this is how they have always treated the prophets in times gone by.

Oh my God!

How prophetic are these words. Its still the same now! What kinds of things do we hear now in public about all the above? Where are the blessings from our public leadership at the very top of our nation’s Capitol? Rather than blessings, we hear bullying at the very least, and at worst nothing less than persecution.

How tragic that in these United States of America among those persecuted are folks singled out because of their religion. Just because you are Muslim! In our history, you might be persecuted because of the color of your skin, you may be discriminated against because of your gender, you may face violence, rejection and hatred just because of your orientation. This is not to be among Christian folk. 

Jesus begins with blessings on the people. All the people. So much so, he seeks out those the rich and powerful reject; you know who they are; sinners, the despised, the rejected and the outcast. Jesus blesses those banned by the rich and powerful.

In the person of Jesus, God’s love extends well beyond those accepted in polite social circles. He goes to the sick in body, mind and spirit. He seeks out the sinners; the prostitutes and the unclean lepers, the despised tax collectors, the foreign born Samaritan; Jesus loved them, forgave them. Jesus blessed them!

Contrast these blessings with the language we hear now from the halls of power and the extremist managed media. Jesus tells us that the truth shall make us free. Now we have well funded executive leadership that makes up the truth as it goes along particularly about voter fraud. This is an attack on our very democracy. 

Ah but calm yourself Fr Paul! There I go. I too can get so easily caught up in all the negative talk! We can easily fall prey to the darkness these days if we focus too much on all the hateful speech.

Rather, let us begin our ministry as Jesus began his; with the blessings of God. In Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word for blessed is “makarios” which means 
“You are the ones who are supremely blessed and holy in God’s eyes”
“You are the fortunate one”
“You are the well off in God’s eyes!”
“In fact, you are the ones God admires!”
Makes sense, doesn’t it?

We order our lives with a blessing first and foremost. Make it a rule in your families. Make it a rule in your church. In fact, lets make it a rule of heart to bless God the Holy Trinity. We can get too easily caught up in finding fault, God knows there is much to find fault with.

But Jesus knows that's a trap. This is the darkness of the world in which we live and we are way too much caught up in it. In our politics, God knows. There is so much to find fault with in our church or in our diocese. Good Lord we can find fault with each other, without so much as taking a sober look at ourselves.
Jesus pointed that one out very clearly, remember? In the same Sermon on the Mount that begins with today's, Jesus said;
“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” ~Matthew 7

Jesus began his every waking moment with a blessing. Good lord, there is so much to be grateful for. You have your life, your family, your friends, your work. We have God at the center of our lives, and an indelible picture of who God is in the person of Jesus. By God’s grace and through the generosity of so many we have this church. 

Oh yes, blessed are you for your generosity and your pledges for without them we could not prepare this year’s budget, which, by the way, we will be doing directly following this service. I’m sure you have all pledged. You have, haven't you?

Which brings us back to where we began; “Blessed are the poor”. I’m confident in saying none of you is rich. If you were, then I’d know somebody’s holding out on God’s work in this place.
Let me will tell you this. The biblical standard for giving is the tithe. That means we are called to give 10% of what God gives us. Everyone has some income. This is God's gift to you.  And this is God’s church and we want to be certain that we make provision for the ministry of God’s church in and from this place. Don’t we?

Let me ask you, do you give 10%, 5%, 4%, 2.5% or some other proportion your income? If any of you have difficulty with decimals or percentages, I know somebody here can help you.figure it out. Oh yes, I know about the poor widow who only gave a few copper coins in the Temple Treasury out of gratitude for something God had done for her. But let me ask you, what percentage of what she had did this poor woman give, according to God? 10%? No! She gave much more than that my friends, she gave everything she had. That’s 100% folks! ~Mark 12:41-44.

Finally, “Blessed are you” you are God’s blessed people. You have been blessed. 
“You are the ones who are supremely blessed and holy in God’s eyes”
“You are the fortunate one”
“You are the ones well off in God’s eyes!”
“In fact, you are the ones God admires!”
Now, you are to go forward to bless. 

So then in our first two weeks together; what is it that Jesus is teaching us?
  1. Let’s go fishing!
  2. Let's go blessing!

In the Name of God, the Most Holy, Blessed and Everlasting Trinity. Amen.
Fr Paul

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Gone Fishing!

Third Sunday After the Epiphany
January 22, 2016

In the Name of God the Holy Trinity.

This is the very name in which you have dedicated yourselves and this church. You have dedicated and consecrated this place to the strong name of the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit.
God as our Creator.
Jesus as our Savior.
The Holy Spirit, the Hagia Sophia, she who is our Holy Wisdom from on High. You do know that the word Spirit is “Sophia” in the Greek language and means “Wisdom”. She is a beautiful name and reflects the feminine side of God. Yes, of course you do.
And so you have dedicated yourselves and your church to all that is creative within and among you, all that saves yourselves and others, all that grants us wisdom, the holy wisdom from on high.
It is within the context of this very Holy Name that we begin our ministry together; 
In the Name of God; The Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity.

Cindy and I thank you for your welcome and are grateful to be in your midst here at Trinity Church. We are grateful for all those who have come before us, whose generosity and dedication have built this place. We thank God for all of them, for all of the Clergy who have dedicated themselves here including Fr. Phil, for all the laity who have given so selflessly to build this holy place. And I thank God for each and every one of you. It now falls to us to continue building up the body of Christ.

So lets get right down to it. 
Lets go fishing!

That’s how Jesus puts in today's Gospel to Simon Peter and Andrew; to James and John the fishermen. They cast their nets in Galilee as the old hymn sings it. Now, we are to go fishing for people. 

Let’s go see if we can “catch” some people for God. Each and every one of you, Jesus says; “You, I want you to go fishing for people!” Obviously Jesus wants us to bring the Gospel to the people. So, what do you suppose that means?

Let me put this very simply. The prophet Isaiah says: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”.
What is this deep darkness?
What is this great light?
It is very simple. You know the darkness of sin. Crime, violence, drugs, hatred, prejudice, oppression, inequality. In short; the darkness of our time is that so many of us live without purpose or hope.

This present darkness in which we live and the great light that has dawned upon us are reflected in the events of the past week. We celebrated Martin Luther King Day, then there was the Inauguration of the President of the Untied States of America, and following that yesterday there were marches in Washington, DC; Boston and all throughout this great land of ours. It is in the interplay of darkness and light that a divided nation now takes a sober look at the realities in front of us. I will leave it to you to figure out which of these events has to do with the Light and which with the Darkness. God help us! 

Similarly, as I look around this church and take a sober look at the work that lies ahead of us, I must confess all I can say is the same thing; God help us!

It is in the context of these realities; the reality of my country, and the one of my church that I look to God for help. That's when Jesus speaks to us through the Scriptures and the Sacraments. Jesus invites us to ministry.

Jesus wants us to bring purpose and hope to the people who are walking through the darkness.

The Gospel proclamation is simple.
“Christ has died 
Christ is risen
Christ will come again.”
In the very heart of today’s Eucharistic prayer we will say the same thing  with a slightly different turn of phrase;
“We remember his death,
We proclaim his resurrection,
We await his coming in glory”

That’s it in a nutshell
In our Baptism, we believe that not only has Jesus died, but we have died with him in a death like his, in order that we might rise with him in a resurrection like his.
Throughout our lives we are broken by sin, defeat and by many moments of death like disappointment. But with Jesus at our side and with God in our hearts, and with friends and family around us, we rise again.
It is our experience that no matter how many dreadful moments there are in our lives, we rise again, again and again.
In the darkest days of the Blitz in London, when the Nazis bombed the people, innocent people, unarmed people, Winston Churchill the old English Bulldog stood by their side to say. “When you are going through hell, remember, keep going!”
“Christ has died,
Christ is risen
Christ will come again, and again, and again”.
We never loose hope.

If this is the Gospel what then shall we do about it? This too is pure simplicity;
Love God
Love one another
Love yourself.

Yes I want you to go fishing. Jesus wants you to go fishing. 
Do you have any idea of how dark this world is? 
Of course you do. 
You know how desperate life is for so many. 
How dangerous life is when it is not filled with the fullness of God.
This is why you are here.
You are to show the world how much you love God, love one another and above all, love yourself.

Do not forget to love yourself.
Jesus did not say; “Love your neighbor instead of yourself”.
He said “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”.

If you have ever gone flying you know that the crew teaches us that if there is a loss in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down from above. So whose face do you put that mask on first? You or your baby? If you said; “your baby” you are tragically mistaken. 
You have precious little time in an emergency to save your life first and then your baby’s life. For if you minister to your baby first you may loose both the baby’s life as well as your own.
First save your own life and then you will have the wherewithal to save the lives of those around you.

This is how the Gospel works. First, be forgiven. That’s why Jesus died for you. This is the great news of the Gospel. You are forgiven. Now, live as though you are forgiven. This may take a while. It may take a lifetime but as you grow into your forgiveness, at the same time, forgive so that all may know of the power of God and the Gospel of Christ for yourselves well as for others.

Daily we die to sin, daily we rise to new life in Christ. This is how we are to live Baptized lives. You see, in the Gospel context we are the forgiven forgivers. This is the first sign we have hold of eternal life.

By the way, when you go fishing you may sit there hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and you won’t get so much as a nibble. When the warmer weather comes back and I take my evening walk, all the fisherfolk are down by Red Rock Park in Lynn where I live, and there they are hour after hour, day after day. To me, this is utterly boring, but not to the fisherfolk. One day I found out why. Suddenly there it was; “Fish on!”. It took three big men to haul this huge codfish in, and what excitement it caused. It was all worthwhile!

“Everybody’s coming over to my place for dinner tonight", said the fisherman.  "Everybody’s coming over to my place for the next week. There is enough fish here to feed everybody as much as they want for days on end!”

This is how it is with the Gospel. It may take days, weeks, months, years before you get a nibble, but when you finally hook one for Jesus, and by that, I mean when you save somebody from the brink of disaster, what joy there is in heaven and on earth. Then we summon everybody to Gods table. There is plenty for us all to eat and we feast on the power of Jesus’s resurrection. This is what makes it all worthwhile!

Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again

Love God
Love one another
Love yourself.

And finally, what does God give you in the Gospel life?
Eternal life
And joy without measure.

Depression, the pandemic disease of our time is gone. All the darkness is gone now when we take the Gospel into our own lives and when we bring others into the knowledge and love of God and one another. 

So now, I want you to go fishing.
Jesus wants you to go fishing. 
All the fish in the sea, by the way! The Baptismal Covenant requires of us that we respect the dignity of every human being. All the folk on the planet without regard to race,, class, gender, orientation, or national origin.
This above all rejoices the heart of God. This is eternal life as God would have us live it.
This above all brings joy to all our hearts that you bring yourself and someone else to the knowledge and love of God.
Lets go fishing!

In the Name of God the Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity. Amen.

Fr Paul.