Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Salty Church: Forgiveness, Mission and Generosity

Being a Salty Presence

Today's Gospel is typical of Jesus in some ways. It is a string of disconnected sayings at least on the face of it. Read it over quickly and then lets give it a bit of thought.

John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

"If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell., And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

"For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

A Warning & And a Challenge
Don't Pluck our your Eye but be A Salty Church!

PLEASE don't go cutting off your hand, your foot, or your eye! You know, there are those who do take the Bible seriously and I include myself in that number. But I don't take it literally. Many do. Several folks I've known over the years have actually considered such self-inflicted surgery. Thankfully, at least, among those I know, no one has actually gone through with such a drastic measure.

We live in a literal age. The power of the metaphor has been lost to many modern ears, especially in the world or Biblical Theology. In the passage above, Jesus is clearly speaking metaphorically, and is using the literary device "hyperbole"....the use of exaggeration to make a point. Here the point is; be careful how you use your body; it may cause you to stumble and to sin.

Then Jesus jumps to the treatment of his "little ones" and issues a solemn warning to those who would be the vehicles of their undoing.

Finally he goes into the notion of "saltiness"...clearly a metaphor here. To be "salty" means to be some kind of savory presence in the world. Obviously, Jesus was quite the "salty" presence. He was so "salty" that the transformation of the world that he began is still continuing. We are to be exactly that kind of presence in our own time.

Therefore, today Forgiveness, Mission and Generosity are the vehicles through which I believe we are to be called to be a "salty presence". I'd like to

Forgiveness, Mission and Generosity

The Hope of the Future

When I came here to be your priest almost three years ago I was given three tasks;

  1. Help us heal the hurt
  2. Help us discern our mission
  3. Help us with stewardship

My thoughts and prayers return to these three things as we enter this new season together as a “whole new church”. Things have happened at a breakneck speed since the Bishop asked us to receive “Iglesia de San/Pedro” as part of our Spiritual family. I believe it is time for us to stop for a moment of peace and prayer and consider where we are now. As I thought and prayed about these times I returned to these goals and raise them up to you all for your thoughts and your prayers. I believe that it is in these goals that the hope of the future of our beloved parish resides.

First: I ask God’s Forgiveness and yours.

When I came here the healing and the forgiveness we needed was for something that happened in the past. Now the healing and forgiveness we need is from things that are happening in our midst now. We cannot be community, we cannot be family unless we hurt one another from time to time, by a careless or defensive comment. That hurt gets magnified when careless comments are repeated and passed around. This happens in family, at the office, in school and yes even in churches.

In Judaism you cannot have a future without the rituals of forgiveness every fall in Rosh Hashanah. In Islam you cannot have a future without the forgiveness that comes from the daily fast during the month of Ramadan. Both festivals have just passed. In our faith, we cannot come to Eucharist without asking God’s forgiveness and one another’s.

Therefore for anything and everything that I may have said or done that has hurt your feelings, I ask God’s forgiveness and yours. And for all that you have said and done to one another I ask you do the likewise. Knowing God to be who God is, I rejoice that I am forgiven. Knowing who you are, I rejoice that you forgive me and that you also forgive one another. This is the essence of the church’s ministry; the ministry of reconciliation itself.

Second: Remember our mission; “We are a house of prayer for ALL people”.

At our first vestry retreat we prayed and thought about our mission. We remembered that Jesus spent most of his time seeking out the outcasts of his time. This society has its own outcasts. When Jesus entered Jerusalem all those whom he loved received him with joy and spread palm branches at his feet. These were in many cases those who had been expelled from the Temple. So when he entered the Temple and found the money changers, he overturned their tables and said; “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people, but you have made it a den of thieves”. Thus we remembered why we are here at St. Peter’s Church. We are always to be a House of Prayer for ALL People. (Period)

Third: The Hope of our future is in Generosity.

Notice I capitalized that word “Generosity”. It is a word that needs to be capitalized. For the church to have a future, our giving is at the core of our essential being. There is an old saying that applies to Generosity; “It is not so much the amount of the gift but the amount of Love that goes into the Gift that counts.” So it is with God’s church. We are coming up upon a season of Giving. Over the next few months between now and the end of the year, the church will ask you to make a pledge. The church will be making a budget. The hope of the church rests in your hands. You will hear more. You will be aware of the need for the church and her members to crunch numbers. For now, I ask your prayers and your generous spirit to consider what you might do. The biblical standard for giving is the tithe; 10% of your income. Can you do that much? How about 5%? Can you give 5% of your income? The hope of the church rests on your answer. Here then is a proportional giving chart. Look for yourself in it and ask yourself, ask yourself, ask your partner or your spouse; “Can we give in proportion to what God has given us?” Even more important, ask this question; “Can I give with the kind of love that makes this gift sacred?” And may God prosper our generosity as, together, we make the future possible.

Forgiveness, Mission and Generosity, the hope of the future of St. Peter’s…it rests in our hands.

God bless you all,

Fr. Paul