Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cindy said; "Love one another"

Cindy said “Love One Another”

The Gospel gives us an account of Jesus’ confrontation with a madman. Mental illness of some form or another had driven this poor soul to behaviors that were bizarre on any account. Thankfully, this fellow did not have an assault rifle. We are told in the Gospel that he ran around with no clothing, had no home or connection to family and friends, but like the menace of a lone wolf, he lived among the tombs. When he came face to face with the goodness and love of Jesus, he went into a rant; “What have you to do with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God?”

He begged Jesus not to torment him for Jesus had already begun to command the unclean spirits to come out of him. Interestingly enough, not only did Jesus have the ability to recognize mental illness, he also had the authority and power to restore the victim’s soul to sanity.

Just last week another madman vented his fury on innocents who were out partying. Several years ago another madman unleashed his rage on children in a Connecticut school. Only a year ago, it was a house of worship during a bible study. In Colorado, there have been mass shootings in a movie theatre and a high school. On an on it goes. 

Lets face it, we are a uniquely violent country historically and presently. Our love affair with the gun and now assault weapons has put us into a situation where we cannot avoid taking a long hard look at ourselves. At least I hope and pray we do. Most civilized and developed countries have developed laws and regulations to help minimize the violence of these weapons, most notably Australia. After a mass shooting in that country, they clamped down on the weapon’s sales and not only has there not been a mass shooting since, but the homicide and suicide rates have declined radically. Not so here. We want our guns. So be it.

As our Lord said, “The who live by the sword, shall die by the sword.” ~Matthew 26:52

Last week I was on retreat in the Detroit area. Taking time to read, rest, pray, renew old friendships, and take some time in quiet to be with God is the ancient way of the Church. It is a way of restoring the human soul to sanity and keeping it there. The Anamchara Fellowship, of which I am a part, is a gathering of like minded souls, whose friendships run deep and true. The word “Anamchara” is a Celtic word meaning “soul friend.” We are a dispersed order of religious folks. Our community is dispersed in marriages, the workday world, some retired, some still working, some married, folks in many walks of life; gay straight, black white, rich poor; a kaleidoscope of other hues of humanity. Yet we are one in friendship, like any church. Indeed we are less like any worshipping community throughout the world.

On the other hand, we also live in a world of many lonely and disconnected souls. We find ourselves fragmented by political ideology, especially in the here and now of our country. The more fragmented we are by race, ethnicity, class, gender, and orientation, the more we risk falling out of sanity into a world of depression and mental and emotional stress or falling into suspicion of the other or falling into hatred or excusing violence; verbal or otherwise against those different from "us". This kind of disconnectedness is dangerous. Fanning the flames of this kind of fear and suspicion is not only dangerous, it is frankly madness.

Thankfully, many of us have grown up enough to get help when we need it. There is no shame in accepting a diagnosis and taking medication. Good heavens, it is a sign of well being when any one of us discovers our need for help. As Jesus put it; “Blessed are those who know their need of God.” You can substitute the words “Higher Power” for “God” if you like. Coming to terms with the truth within the human heart requires a journey toward making friends, making “soul friends” within the heart of the human self as well as with the “other”.

God knows poor Elijah, had to confront the demons within himself. Not only were those demons within him. They were real. Ahab and Jezabel had resolved to have him done away with. Elijah found himself alone, for as the scripture says, he spoke to God, “I alone am left.” What loneliness that must have been. And his life wasn’t worth two cents or so he thought. And so it was, that he was driven into the madness of a dark night of the soul; there were great winds, an earthquake and a fire, but God was not in any of that. Then came the revelation. God is not discovered in any of these dramatics, God reveals the divine nature rather in the sheer silence, in that “still small voice” of which we speak and sing. It is one of the reasons I love going on my annual retreats. It is in time away, that God will refresh the human soul.

Among my favorite selections of the Psalter is today’s 42nd Psalm. I find in the words of the Holy Scripture a mirror into the soul. Such as these words today;
“1 As the deer longs for the water-brooks, * 
so longs my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; * 
when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?”

Whether we know it or not, our souls long for the living God as a dear longs for a refreshing mountain stream. Every morning in our worship with the Anamchara Fellowship we sing the Psalm; 
“One thing have I asked of the Lord,
This is what I seek
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord,
All the days of my life.”

What then do we say in response to the hatred we see in the world we live in? How do we answer it all, as the madness of our time seems to multiply. What are we to say on Father's Day to one another? That could have been one of my kids on a dance floor in Orlando. I've got two gay kids and I love my children like you love yours. Cindy said it well, as I was preparing for this morning. Just remind them, she said;

“Love one another”. 

That’s what it all comes down to again and again. In fact, Jesus calls it a new commandment. It was then. It is now. A whole new commandment, a new way of life;

“Love one another”

You and I are not to be divided into friends and enemies. We are not to be "listed" and deported according to nationality or religion. We're all one in this country. My freedom as an American is that I need not be afraid or suspicious of folks because they are maybe a bit different. Every morning and night when I go for a walk down the Lynn Scenic Walkway by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea, I'll see young and old; the lame and the halt. I'll hear Engish, Spanish, Swahili, Arabic, Russian and God knows what, within a short space of time. Mind you, I do keep a watchful eye out. We were taught back in the old "hood" in Somerville to be "street smart". Even Jesus told us to be "wise as serpents, harmless as doves." ~Matthew 10:16

But ultimately, day in and day out, every walk of life; "Love one another." This is the one great quality of life that will save us from falling back into a deepening cycle of violence that leads nowhere but into the madness of war.

As my namesake Paul the Apostle put it; "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." ~Galatians 3:27,28

Steady as she goes shipmates, "Love one another."

And Happy Father's Day.

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

Fr Paul

Saturday, June 04, 2016

There's A Song in My Heart!

There’s A Song in My Heart

There is a song in my heart this morning. There is a song in all our hearts this morning. We sing a song of gratitude to God for the ministry of Carol Amos, our parish organist and music director. There is a song in our hearts for Paisley Jayde Wilson this morning, as she enters into the community of faith through the sacrament of Baptism.

Those who sing, pray twice as St. Augustine once said more than 1500 years ago. When we sing, there is a melody in our hearts, and there is poetry in the words we use in these grand hymns. If we let them dwell within us, they have the power to change our lives, to heal and to strengthen us, to teach and empower us for God’s mission and ministry in this world.

What are we here for?
What song do you think there is in the heart of God?

Let me suggest a reminder; “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son to the end that all who believe in shouldn't perish but have everlasting life.” ~John 3:16. 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I look at the world with all its violence, warfare, terror, bigotry and oppression, I find it anything but lovable. Sometimes when I look at the lives of those I love, it can get discouraging. And when I read the daily papers or watch the news, I think, what a mess!

But not so with God. God loved the world so much that the only begotten was willing to give his life for the whole of it notwithstanding the wickedness of it all.

This is what bring a song to my heart. Because this is nothing less than the song of God. Week after week after week Carol and this choir work diligently to sing these songs so that we too may learn to love the world with all the love with which God loves it. It would be easy to wash our hands of it all. But that not how God works.

This is not how Jesus does things either. This is not how Jesus sees you. To Jesus, you are infinitely precious. We see it in a newborn, don’t we? We see the innocence, the loveliness, and beauty of this brand new child. Our hearts are filled with love, joy and hope aren’t they? 

You would give your life for this child, wouldn’t you? I’d give mine for my children. This is how it is with God. He gave his life for each and every one of us. And no matter how many messes you’ve made, no matter how hopeless it may seem, God never gives up on us, or anyone else for that matter and certainly not for this tired and sinful old world. There’s not a soul on the planet God will give up on.

God is filled with love for it all. And there is a song in my heart because of it. We thank Carol Amos today for her ministry. We baptize Paisley Jayde today and mark her as God’s own child forever. By the way she already is God’s child. She is already forgiven. What this water and this baptism does is that it helps us see what God has already done for her.

If God so loves the world we live in,  what about us? How much do we love this very dangerous and wicked place?

Imagine if you will every single baptized person on the face of this planet, every single congregation, every single denomination, all churches, all synagogues, all mosques…imagine the collective power of all of us when combined.

If we all organize our lives and worship places around the needs of the communities we live in…if every single child of God were to dedicate himself or herself to some form of servant ministry, imagine what that combined effort could accomplish. 

Imagine if we were all on the same page, all pulling in the same direction. For example, one of the most noble symbols for this country is the American eagle. Have you ever seen an eagle soar on the updrafts of a strong canyon wind? How magnificent! Notice it takes both wings for an eagle to soar. In fact, it takes both wings for any bird even to get off the ground and fly, let alone soar.

That’s both wings; the left wing and the right wing. We sometimes forget this one simple and obvious fact of life. Just because we may differ theologically, politically, or on the matter of any other opinion. You’ll never fly, let alone soar, none of us ever will until we come to understand that we are all one in Christ Jesus our Lord. Whether we are Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat, Rich or Poor, Black or White, Male, Female, Gay or Straight…whoever we are we are all of one blood. Blessed Paul the Apostle put it in these magnificent words; "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." ~Galatians 3:27 & 28

Until we come to understand this one key fact of the Gospel, we will find ourselves hobbled by the wickedness of divisiveness. Today there is a song in our hearts. One song. Today there is a Baptism in our Church. Today there is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of All.

In the Name of the God, the most holy, undivided and everlasting Trinity.

Fr Paul