Monday, December 11, 2017

Honest to God it is getting darker!

It is getting darker



Journal entry, Monday, December 11, 2017. 
Some sun this morning, 33 degrees F; the winds are SW at 14mph.
There has been an explosion in Times Square.
The Alabama election is tomorrow.

You came into the world because you loved it so much.
The world did not love you back, at least those in power didn't.
But You loved the world right to he last breath of Your life.
And forgave those who killed You and those with whom You died.

And now there is more crucifixion.
Innocents in the public squares by religious zealots.
In Your Name!!!
And more Innocents some even in their teen years
Exploited by more religious zealots
Also in Your Name!!!
Politicians and public figures and more
Seemingly no end to the abuse 

And still You came dying to Sin 
Rising to Life
Bringing Hope in a dark time.
Then
Now

Many look away in shame and denial
Many look away hateful and angry
But Your love does not go away
You are born again and again
Each year into the Darkness



Just a baby.
The King killed babies because of You
But Your love made it through the violence.
And here you are again
At exactly the right time
In the wake of an explosion
On the eve of an election.



You seem to know the right time
Exactly at the darkest hour
You love this gruesome, sinful world
Again, again, and again; seventy times seven and more
In the bleak mid-winter long, long ago
And, thank God, right now!
Amen.
Fr Paul

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Honest to God: Prepare the Way!

Prepare the Way!


Journal entry:

Good morning. It is Sunday December 10, 2017.
Snow last night, I'd say about 5 inches
The temperature is hovering around the freezing mark,
The winds are calm and the sun is gloriously breaking through the clouds.

We don't have to trudge through the stuff on our way to church this morning.
Thanks be to God!
We needn't risk slipping or falling on the slippery spots.
We can wait a while.

Until perhaps this afternoon
When David sings in "Lessons and Carols"
A favorite Advent devotion.
Jeffrey will lead the choir and play the organ.
In a church where no one one gives
A second thought to
Sexual orientation, gender, race or ethnicity
Or even place of national origin
How pleasant and amiable is this.

We like good music
Good literature read well
Worship puts flesh and blood
On God in the way we love one another.
Or at least we try to!
We live at a time when
There are many who do not
Embrace such diversity

Sigh.

This too will pass.
We've been here before.
God knows we too can become ill tempered at times.
And on it goes.


But for now,
Hush.
Be quiet
And look at the manger.
Just folk there.
Simple folk.
Poor
Alone
Cold
Homeless
Taxed unfairly
Don't forget the animals too
Huddled up for warmth
The night we're told is
Faintly lit by a distant Star.


What wondrous love is born here
Not just in the Baby
But in us too.
One would Hope.

"Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye my people.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem".
We can Hope against hope for
The angels song.
"Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all"

Amen.
Fr Paul

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Honest to God: Time to Hibernate!

Hibernation!


Journal entry: Saturday December 9, 2017. Snow. 

God rested on the Seventh Day.
Perhaps a good idea.
I've been at it since 1972. 
Good God that's a long time!
Forty-five years!
Not a bad idea to take a breather.
Bishop Alan observed that I've been at it "full bore" for a long time
And in the context of some rather challenging situations.

Then it occurred to me
Perhaps like a New England Black Bear
Or a Montana Grizzly
I'll just curl up and hibernate in these winter months
For the first time in a very long time.
How pleasing is that idea to me.



No sermon preparation today.
No preparations for Christmas or Lent now.
Just the good sense to take a winter Sabbath
On this the Seventh Day and beyond.

I can still do the things I love to do.
I can write and ride the Subway
And take some photographs on a pleasant winter's day.



If You had the good sense to Rest
On the Seventh Day
So shall I in obedience to You,
In this my Sabbath Season.

In the meantime, before the snow hits,
I'll be off to tank up the car as Yankees do
A matter of sensible precaution.

The larder is stocked up
Home 
To put my feet up for a bit.
And then write to You
The way I love to do
To You and for You
The ongoing
Sacred Conversation.

And then...let it blow...
Let it snow...

Amen.
Fr Paul


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Honest to God: A time for war?

Honest to God: A time for war?



Journal entry: Pearl Harbor Day 2017

It is a beautiful day for a walk along the Promenade in Lynn today. 
Mindfulness for me means our ongoing Conversation
I and Thou.
We speak together Honest to God
Openly, honestly, and candidly
In so doing we we open our hearts to one another.
There is Peace between us.
This is how You commanded us to be
With one another and with our enemies on Earth
You said; "Love one another"
Would that we could so walk together.

But we refuse
   Republican and Democrat
   Conservative and Liberal
   Evangelical and Progressive
   Extremist and Centrist
   Israeli and Palestinian
   The two Koreas
There are so many more.

We find ourselves as we often do in history
On the edge of warfare.
Name calling, stopping our ears; we will not listen.

You said;
"Come let us reason together". (Isaiah 1:18)
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it, how often how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings." (Matthew 23:37)
"Love one another".  (John 13:34)

And then You died trying.
The violence within won and died and then 
You rose again from this death.

The time is short;
Make us love what You Command.
Amen.

Fr Paul

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Honest to God, that's better...

Honest to God, that's better...

Journal entry, December 5, 2017


Much improved today
No sooner do I pour out my soul to You
Then Your Grace rushes in.

A Lamentation over the "way" retirement hit me
It needed to be said;
It needed to be prayed

So I read the paper, have a leisurely breakfast
Say the Daily Office, remember friends and family in prayer,
Then write to You in my Journal.

Then, finally, out for a walk.
The first "real" walk since the fall in July.
I took my walking stick; a sensible precaution
The sun was shining 
The sea was sparkling
And I rejoiced in You and said;
"Maybe this retirement thing is not so bad after all".

So many kind words of encouragement from so many family and friends
Some of you even a bit worried
And you're right. 
Thank you.

Maybe come Spring and Summer I can do a bit of supply work.
But for now rest, relax and allow time to heal
Write and take some photographs.
This I love.

And walk with You:
We can talk things over the way we do
And maybe, just maybe
This retirement thing will work out after all.

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

Monday, December 04, 2017

Honest to God, Early Winter

Honest to God

Journal entry , Early winter 2017



Honest to God I've been a bit out of sorts lately.
So is Cindy.
We're both fighting off colds.
There is a bit of a let down after the frenzy of packing and moving from Helena to Lynn.
The knee injury and the brain bleed are reminders of the inevitable.
And speaking of the inevitable, Doug died. His funeral was Saturday.

And then there is the facing of the fact that I'm done now. 
After 46 years of parish priesthood.
That's it.
I'm done.
My stamina is not what it once was. 
Truth be told I'm 72 now. 
But the rest is helping.

When I remember You, God knows that helps.
That would be YOU! God knows.
Honest to God, I forget You often
In the tossing and turning of it all
The ache and the pain of it
This is when I forget you. 
And then almost as if a lightbulb switched on 
There You are.
Present in the Silence.
Unseen in the Darkness
But like those wonderful days when I was a child, we talk.
I talk.
Honest to God to You
I pour out my heart to You about all the above and more
And soon
I sleep.
And that's the part I don't remember either
In the arms of Your Heart, I sleep
As soon as I remember, it seems, I forget once more
Through it all You are there
Whether I forget or remember
Honest to God.
Amen

Fr Paul

Friday, December 01, 2017

Honest to God

Honest To God



When was the last time an Episcopalian actually "invited" you to church? As Advent approaches this year, that's exactly what I'd like to do. Last Sunday was my first down day in a while. I just plain slept in, read the paper, drank coffee and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. After 46 years of priesthood I thought I deserved a break. Being an Honest to God Pagan from time to time has much to commend itself. 

But then Cindy and I started thinking about Advent. What shall we do? Obviously it makes sense for us to visit churches we've served since retirement. It has been quite a journey. And we're both curious. 

But that begs the question. Why would I invite you to church?
You could be a perfect stranger to me.
You may be reluctant given what passes for "christian" out there. 
I agree with you there. I feel no connection whatsoever with the evangelical conservative movement which feels contrary to much of what I value in the Gospel.

For me, Jesus searched out and loved the outcast. 
In those days it may have been the leper. In our day it feels like the LGBTQ community. 
Jesus searched out the poor, the meek. the brokenhearted and the persecuted.
These were among those Jesus described as blessed. ~Matthew 5

The Episcopal Church and other "mainstream" churches have struggled to be inclusive communities that search for justice for the poor. 

Jesus is compassion, reconciliation and above all, Jesus is the Love of God made flesh and blood.

This is Who I seek.



When I want to focus on the Love of God made flesh and blood I look to Jesus. There are four magnificent snapshots we have of him in The Sacred Writings: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. The reading of them takes center stage in our Liturgy. The Gospel Book is brought into the midst of our congregations as Jesus came into our midst in the town squares to long ago.

I invite you to come and meet this Jesus along with the rest of us.



May I suggest that if you wish to take me up on this invitation you do so "Honest to God". This is the only place to begin, in the center of your Heart of Hearts where God lives. 

I invite you to go to the very center of your Heart of Hearts this Advent and come to rediscover who God is for you. This is how I seek to approach the Sacred. And to tell you the truth after 46 years of life in the church, that is pretty much where we all begin; "Honest to God". 

This is not to say you will not find pettiness and hypocrisy in the church. God knows I've fought many a petty battle with what I considered "small minded" folk for many years. Truth be told I can also get a bit petty and small minded too. 

To tell you the truth, there is plenty of pettiness and hypocrisy to go around. But there is also a far higher truth to live into also. To find a place where we can come to terms with the lesser within us as well as with the noblest within us is exactly what the church is designed to be: Honest to God!

Yes. I invite you to church. Pick one. They're all pretty much the same. Wonderful people who will be a blessing to you and a bane as well, I assure you. This is true of us all. The church is a wonderful place to come to terms with the truth about us all "Honest to God".



In the silence before sleep, this is Who I discover "Honest to God". As I converse with the hallowed emptiness of a sleepless night, there You are, the same now as ever. What seems empty to me, Honest to God, is full of your Love for me. Eventually, this is how I fall asleep; In Your love.

This is what keeps me coming back to church, to learn and learn and learn again that You are there in our midst; "Honest to God".



And so I invite you to church, not so much to "go to church" as to "be the church".
Having folks who can be "Honest to God" with one another is such an inviting prospect!

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

Fr Paul






Monday, November 13, 2017

Toitle an' de Allumgatah

“Toitle an’ de’ Allumgatah”



Thank you for the privilege of serving here as your Interim Dean. Last night the Togendowogan Society sang for me an Honor Song. The beat of the drum and the ancient chants spoke to me of the heart and voice of God. You honor me as you do Cindy. Thank you.

The Gospel today proclaims a Day of Reckoning for each one of us, the call of a Dean, a Bishop, the election of those who represent us. The wise among us will want to be carrying lamps filled with the oil of God’s healing power, love, forgiveness and reconciliation. The foolish; otherwise.

Today I want to I tell you my favorite resurrection story, but before I do, I need to set the stage and provide a historic context for a parable I’d like to share with you. 

In the annals of human inhumanity to humankind, there is the story of the of the Great Expulsion of the French speaking peoples from what is now Eastern Canada and Northern Maine. That part of the world was known then and still is as Acadia. In fact Acadia National Park, located in Maine is one of my favorite destinations. The hostilities between the French and English speaking peoples has a long and unpleasant history in Canada. The Great Expulsion of which I speak occurred shortly before the Seven Years War (1756-1763). The French called it “Le Grand Dérangement”, after all it takes a deranged mind to deport 14,000 souls and dump them in a swampland. The long and short of it was that the Acadians were left in the bayous of Louisiana to fend for themselves. They became known as Cajuns and became part of a Gumbo Stew of humanity that included the native populations, the Creoles, and a sprinkling of indentured servants of Irish descent and so on. But you and I both know that they did not die off as perhaps the English speakers thought they might. 



Instead they rose again as a magnificent creative culture that has given us some of the greatest cuisine in the world today. They have given us jazz, blues and the Bourbon Street beat. They’ve given us Mardi Gras and so much more. 

We also know that the the Great Expulsion was not the last time when they were left to fend for themselves in the swamplands especially in the wake of natural disaster. Poor folks often are left to fend for themselves, are they not?

They gave us some great stories too. There is an old Cajun story that I love to tell. It is a parable of sorts of the resurrection, because just when you think that all is lost, something within you or something outside of you give you grace to “Rise Up” and live. Here then, my favorite resurrection story. “The Toitle and the Allumgatah”. My apologies for any innacuracies and exaggeration of dialect as I put on the persona of a Louisiana Cajun.

Wan day, toitle he go swinn in de swomp
An’ de sonne shahne downne
Own de show, dey be allumgatah
He say; “Mmmmm, dat look gewwd!”
So he on sliddle on in dat wawdah
And he shooks his tail lahk dat won
Quiet like, he don’t make no ripple in de wawdah
Toitle, he swimne along den he sudden say;
“Sonnin lookin’ at me”
He looks on his shoulah, he say:
“MMMM, dey be allumgadah!”
“I bettah speed up some”
So he move his arms fassah, still dat gatah comin’
Den he moves his legs too, fas he ken, But
dat don’ hep none,
Gatah he gettin closah and closah. 
Toitle say; 
“What ah gonna do, 
what ah gonna do, 
what ah gonna do?
Ah tell you what dat toitle done
He done pull hisseff up 
He stand up on top de wawdah
He ben’ his knees 
He jumps up out de wawdah
He donne grab on de branch hangin’ down 
He pull hissef up bend hissef over
And gator snap his mouf ‘en he cain’t get no toitle!

Now, I know what you’re thinking!
I know exactly what you’re thinking!
Hain’ no toitle ken jump out de wawdah like dat wan!
What you mean, he cain’t jump up out de wawdah?
He haaad to!!!”

This is a resurrection story! There are terrifying moments for all of us along the way and yet to come, but I am here to tell you that Jesus is with us in those moments. In all our moments, Times of joy, creativity, as well as all our moments of disappointment as well as terror. But above all and in all is the resurrection of Jesus! As Paul tells us in today’s Epistle; “with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet the dead in Christ will rise!”

This is our faith. I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Somewhere seemingly out of nowhere I know, through my own experience that the gift is given purely out of grace to “stand up on top ‘de wawdah, ben’ mah knees and jump up out de wawdah” 



Because the power God is Absolute
The love of Jesus is Unconditional
And the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit is makes us One, no matter who we may be.

When I say Goodbye to you as I must now do, remember that the word “goodbye” is a prayer. It means “God be with ye”. It is a combination of four words. The word “with” is dropped and “ye” is the Old English familial form of the more formal “you”. The first recorded use of the word was in 1575. So when I say “Goodbye” I am saying a prayer; “May God be with you. It is a prayer we use often as we bid each other well until another time when our Christian hope proclaims that we will meet yet again.

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

Amen


Fr Paul.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

"Taxi!"

“Taxi!”

My dad died when I was eight years old at Christmas and I often needed an adopted father, whether consciously or unconsciously, I’m not sure, but it just seemed to work out that way.

There was, for instance “Suitcase Sam”. He was a Jewish fellow who was part of the Conservative Jewish movement in Boston. He earned the nickname “Suitcase Sam” because he carried a rather large “American Tourister” with him in which he carried day old bread to feed the pigeons down by Symphony Hall in Boston on the way to work. He loved the birds. They loved him back. Every day, it was the same thing, thousands of pigeons spotted Sam and flew to him as if we were watching a bad reprise from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. He and I drove for the old Checker Taxi Company. He was known as “Checkah 226”, I was Checkah 99”. I drove nights in order to help pay my way through seminary. He did too, because he was an elder American who had bills to pay. We adopted one another. By the way, I also drove cab in New York City to help keep ahead of the bills. In those days, working summers or nights like that could help pay tuition, room and board. Nowadays costs for higher education are such that much of that out of reach for so many. 



Sam and I were people of faith. Sometimes it was hard to get a minion for Morning Prayer at the Synagogue and Sam would call on me. Over the cab radio there was the crackling sound; “99, Sam needs you at the Synagogue!” It takes 10 to make a minion or quorum. I loved it. I’d listen closely to the Rabbi in a tiny downtown sacred space as he spoke of each sacred word from the Hebrew Bible and we’d discuss our love for the sacred text as the others stayed in the back visiting, sometimes playing cards but certainly not hanging on every word from the rabbi’s mouth as Sam and I did. Sam wore his prayer shawl and yarmulke and began to pray. As he recited the Psalter his body swayed to the rhythm of the verses. It is called davening; much like we move liturgically; standing, sitting, kneeling, moving from pew to altar rail and back again. We pray with our bodies.  Likewise with Sam; we are all perfectly at one with God in our worship, as we are when we recite today’s Psalm 
7 The law of the Lord is perfect
and revives the soul; *
8 The statutes of the Lord are just
and rejoice the heart; *
the commandment of the Lord is clear
and gives light to the eyes.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold, *
sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.

He loved the Law. It revived his soul. He loved God. He also respected my faith and admonished me to do the same for others. Never attack someone else just because their belief system is different from your own. And so it was with Sam and me and those of us who drove taxis in Boston; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists and Agnostics alike; we all practiced a kind of tolerance that went beyond that to a profound affection and love for one another. That is what we are all taught in our common faith and humanist traditions. After all, Sam reminded me, wasn’t it the Jewish fellow we call Jesus who taught us all to “Love one another!” 

Such a spirit. Such a soul as this! Sam loved the law of God. As we are taught to do in our Synagogues, Churches, and Mosques. We are taught the world over to treat one another as we wish to be treated and to do so out of the abundance of God’s joy and of love. This is because “God is Love”. 



The Law begins with the “Shema, Yisrael!”; Hear O Israel the Lord your God is one and you shall Love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all you mind and with all your should and with all your strength. This is Israel’s great commandment. And the first four of the Ten Commandment’s we recite today are anticipated fulfilled by the Shema. Likewise the remaining 6. They are fulfilled by Jesus are they not. when he quoted Leviticus 19:19, “You shall love your neighbor as you do yourself.” 

In stark contrast to this the Dream of God we come together today in the wake of violence, disaster, political divisiveness, and racial hatred.
Anger has been ramped up in the midst of it all. The Dream of God in so many place of the human soul has become a nightmare from which we seem not to waken. 

Now we dread what may come of things between us and the folks in North Korea. The stewardship of that relationship frankly seems to be in hands that fail the most fundamental test of diplomacy, stability, and nuance which is critical to such a potentially dangerous and mercurial relationship. So many souls hang in the balance. 

And here you and I find ourselves with the challenge of presenting ourselves to the world as Christians.

Even that’s problematic since much of what passes for “Christian” in our contemporary world frankly makes me cringe. 

We Episcopalians seem to be swimming in the opposite direction in many ways. The more inclusive we become the fewer folks seem attracted to the proclamation of faith as we have come to understand it.

I am frankly turned off by much of what passes for Christianity around us. I like to think critically about my faith. I like to read, study and discuss it. For me faith is not about judging folks, it is about reaching out to those who have often found themselves on the margins. The Gospel is about the healing of the blind, the lame, the foreign soldier’s daughter, the leper. It seems to me that Jesus would seek out those the social order rejected. And yet he was also comfortable around the rich and the powerful. The Gospel has always and will always transcend human categorization. The Gospel has always and will always be about the love of Jesus for everyone on this planet. Period. 

I am reminded of the wisecrack Tallulah is reputed to have made when someone asked her if she were a Christian. She spoke openly about being an agnostic, but she loved the worship of the Church especially at Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin on Broadway, “Smokey Marry’s” as it is still affectionately known. The vestments, the incense, the bells, the critical thoughtful sermons, the drama of the Eucharist thrilled her and made sense deeply somewhere in her soul. So her friends asked her often, are you a Christian. “Heavens no daaaaling, I’m not a Christian, I’m an Episcopalian!” 



Look at this sequence of events in the life of Jesus. First he overturns the tables in the Temple precincts. He confronts the money changers and proclaims that “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people!” Quoting Isaiah 56:7 he made it clear that foreigners and eunuchs were part of what it meant to be included in this “House of Prayer”. 

Again and again Jesus was there for the blind, the lame, the tax collector, the prostitute, the common fisherfolk of his time. Yet he was likewise at one with the rich as well as the poor. Whether it was a tax collector or a leper, to Jesus there was no distinction.

Where Jesus ran into problems was with the biblical literalists of his day. In today’s Gospel it was the chief priests and the Pharisees. Other times it was the scribes and the lawyers, the Sadducees or the Sanhedrin. 

And yet it was Jesus who became more and more the voice of the voiceless. So must we. There are those caught in the midst of natural disasters, and acts of violence and hatred. We must be fearless about speaking up for those who are victims. This is how Jesus organized his life.

There are also those not so far away who are forgotten and unserved by any organized efforts. 

Now is when I hear the voice of Jesus say; 
“Peter, do you love me?. 
“Yes, Lord you know that I love you.”
“Feed my sheep.”
A second time; Jesus asks Peter, the head of the church, the rock the builders rejected
“Peter do you Love me?
“Yes, Lord you know that I love you.”
“Feed my sheep.”
A third time Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?”
Peter was hurt, because he asked the same question now three times, as if by way of emphasis or exaggeration. When seeking to make a point. Jesus often used hyperbole as a vehicle of communication.
“Feed my Lambs, Peter”
We may well be the stones the builders rejected.
Especially as we seek out the marginalized, the outcast, the maimed, and those who need to be fed not only with food from our tables, but with the food of the Angles.



You are the living stones upon which Christ is building this church.
Be of Good Courage, the builders may have rejected this ston and you.
But not so Jesus.
You are the Beloved of God, called to Proclaim the Love of God to ALL!

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

Fr Paul




Monday, October 02, 2017

God at Work!

God at Work!

We cannot ignore the fact that a catastrophic humanitarian crisis is unfolding as we speak in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These folks have suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Maria. The islands have been utterly devastated. The most basic needs for water, food, medicine are in short supply particularly in the matter of distribution. Power will not be restored perhaps for as long as six months by some estimates. Despite assurances to the contrary, many of us are deeply concerned that help is not quickly getting where it is needs to be. 



I have a gnawing feeling that we are watching yet another Katrina in the making. I am ready to be convinced that I’m wrong. But this all strikes close to home. My son David was front and center dealing with the homeless in New Orleans during those dreadful months that unfolded into years at Katrina time. What I am watching now has an all too familiar ring to it. I remember General Honore and his 40,000 troops descending on New Orleans and finally bringing some urgently needed help, perhaps late, but appreciated nonetheless. What we see happening in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands before our very eyes, pales in comparison to that response. 

In today's first reading we are told that the people quarreled with Moses in the wilderness because there was no water for them to drink. As the situation worsens in the Caribbean, quarrels are erupting between various levels of government. 



By the way, as a matter of editorial aside, I feel morally required to point out that none of this has to do with Puerto Rico’s massive debt. If I hear another word about that I think I may burst yet another blood vessel somewhere in my already compromised circulatory system. Anywhere in the world where there is such a catastrophe such as this, first save lives, then we ask how we’re going to pay for it. Much later! Billions and billions have been voted up for Texas and Florida in the wake of those storms. What about the folks on the Islands? And while I’m venting my spleen here, what about our heroic hot shots and firefighters in the West? Our fire season has been devastating and costly to us too. What about us? We in the west deserve more than a footnote in the nation’s attention span.

Please forgive me indulging in some of my own venting, but if I don’t do some of that I think I think I run the risk of repressing some of my deeply held humanitarian convictions let alone simple Christian concern for my fellow human beings. I have many Puerto Rican contacts from New York City, Boston and Lynn. I can report to you that those cities and their Public Schools are all preparing for yet another wave of humanity to descend on the Northeast as soon as commercial flights permit. I am relieved to see that State and Local governments have already begun to mobilize resources. No talk of cost or debt; our brothers and sisters are in trouble and they need us. First responder emergency teams, and folks in tactical communication squads, military and medical fields have already been dispatched to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.. Now to coordinate all this help from the Federal Level is an essential piece. Maybe that’s already in place. But I have concerns about how urgently we are focused on this unfolding crisis at the highest levels. 

If water will gush out from the rock, if manna will fall from heaven, if meat is to nourish body and soul as it did in the wilderness for the children if Israel, if medicines are to minister to diabetics and others on the Islands, then delivery and distribution systems will need to be provided from the angelic hosts of generous human hearts and bodies from all quarters. This is God at work in all of us!

Today’s Epistle is spot on in our present predicament. Isn’t it interesting how often that what seems an arbitrary lectionary prepared so many years ago, is in fact so timely. Today we read; “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”



Today’s Collect proclaims that God shows “his power chiefly in showing mercy and pity.” Folks, as we work out our salvation, we must do nothing less since it is God who is at work in us. 

Jesus showed us his power by emptying himself. Defenseless as he was, he got himself into a whole peck of trouble with the Temple Authorites by that business of overturning the tables of the money-changers and hawkers in pigeons and trinkets in the Temple precincts. Today's Gospel is a follow up on that confrontation. The chief priests and elders of the people wanted to know by what authority he was doing these things. As was so often the case, Jesus answered the question by asking another? He says; “Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”The question put the authorities in a quandary; they calculated their response among themselves; “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

So what did Jesus do but to ratchet up the confrontation by telling them the parable of The Unwilling Servant who changed his mind and did the bidding of his Master, while the Willing Servant decided to slough off his responsibilities. So, then comes the obvious follow up question, which of the two did the will of Master? Yes, obviously, the first. Jesus was not politically correct at that point, nor was he very diplomatic but instead took it right to those who exercised absolute authority and power over his life. And so he said; “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”



Of course you know the rest of the story. They showed him no mercy or pity. They certainly did not bend their knees at the Name of Jesus. They were missing the key ingredient of what comprises the Kingdom of Heaven. Not just mercy and pity, not just love and compassion, but embracing the other, the different, the weaker, the poorer as you would those much better off than you. 

And so it was that Paul breaks out into this wonderful Hymn, one I love so much to hear sung from our own Hymnal:
“Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”



God is at work in you, every one of you. Every time you forgive someone, When you reconcile those at odds or feuding with one another, whenever you love somebody who has made themselves difficult to love, yourself included. When you rise to such an occasion as this Heaven breaks into life and shines like the morning sun.

Not long ago I was in the hospital and I was mixing it up with one of the nurses. That’s just the way I am. She said something about my cheerful spirits. I said to her I’m sure there are many who must be grateful for her work and the work of those in medicine. I was a bit taken aback by what she said then. She told me that there were lots of angry people these days. The lack of gratitude, and the anger makes a nurse’s shift very long and difficult. How can you be anything but grateful for such a ministry? Cheerfully I shared my gratitude for her work and my love for God. The nurse was delighted if also a bit surprised to hear that I am an Episcopal priest. She was, I think, intrigued. I explained a bit about who we are, we can marry, of course. Our clergy can be male, female, gay, straight and so forth. So too our membership. We are all one in Christ, said I. We had quite a conversation about faith. She was a lapsed Roman Catholic and found what I was saying sensible and refreshing.

I can tell you this, whether you are responding to a hurricane or a heat attack, every single human being on this planet at one time or another is ready to ask or ready to hear about how God is at work in you, in them, or in the world we live in. I have been brought to my knees at the Name of Jesus more than once. If you haven’t you will. All of us will sooner or later. I pray that we may make God’s Incarnate Love apparent to all while we have this precious gift of life, time and opportunity. People are ready, more ready than you can ever know to hear a kind word. The time is always now to share some measure of the Good News of God.

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

Fr Paul.