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.


Monday, September 25, 2017

The People Complained

The People Complained

The people complained. I can tell you this about the folks back home in Boston. When winter wears on we complain. When the hazy, hot and humid days of summer wear on, we complain. It can get too wet. It can get too dry. And as for the traffic, or the subway service. The one universal is;  we complain. I wanted to let you know you are not alone. Cindy and I were out for lunch Friday noon, and there was a bit of a flurry underway. We overheard someone say; “I’m sick of winter!” We both looked at each other and chuckled; “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, dearie!” And we sure have no idea what a Montana winter looks like or feels like. But I suspect we’ll find out. And when we do, I suspect we’ll complain about it. 



And so it was that in the wilderness as the people wandered through the desert wastes, there was no bread, no meat, no water and no vegetables like there was back in Egypt. And so the people complained. In Hebrew word is literally; “they murmured.” Ah yes, how exquisitely human!

Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness?” But God heard the people’s murmuring and recognized their heartaches and rained down bread from heaven. He gave them quail to eat at night and in the morning he gave them “manna” that would keep body and soul together. 

They ran around in the morning gathering the stuff saying in Hebrew: “Manna” which literally means “What is it?” And so, that is what they called it. “What is it?” “Manna?” It was just enough to preserve them through those long, long years of wandering through the desert wastes. It was a way to humble them and let them know that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We are still learning that lesson. 

When we come to this Altar Rail Sunday by Sunday, we come to the “What is is it?” of the Body of Christ. The “Magnum Mysterium” of God’s Presence in the the Person of Jesus is here in our very midst. It is placed in our hands by a parish priest. We too are fed by the Bread of Heaven. God’s living Being shared among us. We remember that night when Jesus told us to love one another and then gave thanks to God, broke bread, said the blessing and gave it to us. Likewise after Supper he did the same with the Cup of Salvation. 



Remember the marvels God has done for us. By the way, class, what are the Five Mighty Acts of God our Catechism teaches us to acknowledge and proclaim in our faith? The Divine Drama has Five Acts like any great Shakespearean Drama. 
  1. Act 1: The Creation
  2. Act 2: The Exodus and the Law
  3. Act 3: Jesus Christ
  4. Act 4: The Church
  5. Act 5: The Christian Hope
It is one thing to say God has acted in history; it is another to say how. Perhaps by naming these five mighty modes of action you can recognize that God continues to be active throughout history and within your own life as well. God is always creating, freeing, and inviting us into obedience to him. God is clearly incarnate in the person of Jesus in every human life particularly as we come to know the love and forgiveness that God intends for us. In the church we come to know how community relationships participate in the formation of our Christian nature. And finally in The Christian Hope we share in the death and resurrection of Jesus in which we all participate through Baptism. We share together in the Whole Mystery of God in community.

And while we are speaking of community isn’t it interesting that we speak of God in community as well. When we name God as Trinity, we are not speaking merely of a static doctrine, we are speaking of a dynamic community. God is not just our Creator, God is also our Savior. God is our Sanctifier. We name God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As we interact with one another we recognize something of God within each other was we see the marvels of creativity. We see the Jesus within each other as we see how we reach out to one another to salvage what we can of each other when in distress for instance. And I will say this about the Holy Spirit; her name interestingly enough is Hagia Sophia the Holy Wisdom from on High, the gift giver who abundantly bestows upon each of us gifts for ministry. The Biblical word for Spirit is in the feminine form and therefore encourages to experience all the fullness of God.



This world needs a church that sees God in such dynamic terms. There is much that seeks to destroy the creatures of God in this world. That’s called sin. Yes. On occasion we need to use that word. Just last week a dear friend of mine lost a grandson to a drug overdose; 18 years old he was. I don’t know why he did what he did. Or the thousand more who do the same?  But I do know that so many of our young people lack hope. There is no work for so many of our inner city and rural poor. If we cannot come up with a way to save our young, we are merely an anemic and ineffectual presence. Is it any wonder our young are no longer a vital presence in the church. I think we need to find a way to organize our life around their needs now and engage the entire community fabric around us so that we can be the hope of the future. 

That’s why I like to think of God as dynamic community. God as creative, God as redemptive, God as the one who makes all holy; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This, I submit to you is how we are to engage the powers and the principalities. 

In today’s Gospel the landowner sends us out to do the work God wants us to do. The harvest is plenteous, the laborers are few. 

That is to say there are so many human needs. When the church has been at its most effective, that’s how we have organized our life. Celtic Christians for instance, organized their work around the sick, the dying, the hungry, those in need of education, interestingly enough. They were also master cooks and made wonderful beer as the record shows. They were cheerful sorts in a depressing world. To them the Gospel was Good news and brought joy to the world.

As we go forth to do God’s work, the landowner finds others idle as the day wears on. Why are you standing there idle? Nobody has hired us? They were bored to tears. They resorted to crime, perhaps alcoholism. I suspect they complained too. But God challenges us with this notion of discipleship; There are always unmet human needs. 

As Matthew’s Gospel enumerates in the 25th chapter, there are always those who are hungry, thirsty, there are strangers who needs your welcome, naked, sick, imprisoned. How interesting that this is how Jesus judges the nations of the earth; in the same manner as the “least of these” are treated.

Allow me to add our inner city and rural young who are easy pickings for alcohol and drug abuse or criminal activity. I think the landowner’s question is a legitimate one. Why are we standing idly by when there are so many unmet human needs?

It doesn’t matter when we go. First thing in the morning or late in the day. To Jesus the first and the last are one and the same. 

What I find most compelling about this Gospel passage is that whenever we respond to human need and do the ministry God has sent us to do the Kingdom of Heaven immediately breaks in upon us. It satisfies something deep within the human soul when we respond to the needs of those beset right now by disaster. Whether in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, or Mexico, there hundreds of thousands, if not millions in a chorus of human suffering crying out to us for help. We keep writing checks to the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund and I’m sure there are many of you who do also to the Red Cross or other charity. Likewise the Cathedral Social Concerns Committee seeks to respond to many local human needs.



This is God at work. God as Creator, Savior and Gift Giver; in the dynamic community known as the Church. This is who we are called to be! First, last, always. St. Paul writes in today’s Epistle; “live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

Still, the people complain. We will be all too human. That goes with the territory as any parish priest or administrator will tell you. But living the Gospel life and keeping our eyes on kingdom work by caring for one another in our needs, that’s what will satisfy the community of God within us. We will become creative, we will save each other in the midst of every disaster, we will bring to bear the gifts God has so lavishly bestowed up on us wisely. 

This community of faith known as the Holy Trinity is far more than a doctrine. The dynamic community of God is knit into every human heart.



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

Fr Paul



Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Odi et Amo"

“Odi et Amo”
~Catullus



"Odi et amo. quare id faciam fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.'"
Which being translated means,
“I hate and I love. Why do I do this, perhaps you ask?
I do not know, but I feel it happening and I am tortured.”

We live in a world of much hatred and love. The spiritual warfare within us all is at work in this struggle as captured by the famous classical Latin poet Catullus. Take a good listen to our political life and media commentators. The stock and trade of modern life seems to be invested in the venting of the spleen. What we once prized by way of verbal restraint in our public discourse is now largely gone by way of our twitter accounts and Facebook posts. Today I wish to address the issue of hatred particularly as it has recently manifested itself in last week’s defacing of one our own sacred spaces at St. James’ Church, Bozeman. A swastika and 666 were defaced the church sign, and yet thank God, the neighbors covered over what was written with figures representing red hearts and love. “Odi et amo.”

Before I get into all that, please allow me to thank you and God and modern medicine for delivering me from a rather frightening episode last week. As some of you know I suffered a brain bleed and had to be transported by helicopter to Great Falls where a neurosurgeon could evaluate my condition. Thankfully, the bleed was a small one and could be treated with medication and here I am back in your midst today.

Bishop Frank stopped by after an Episcopal visitation and asked which Psalm I wanted him to pray for me. I thought of Psalm 46. I recite the Psalms daily because we know they were the Prayer Book of Jesus and he prayed them daily. So my friend and bishop read these words.
“God is our refuge and strength, *
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, *
    and though the mountains be toppled into the
                             depths of the sea;
Though its waters rage and foam, *
    and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.
The LORD of hosts is with us; *
    the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
"Be still, then, and know that I am God; *
    I will be exalted among the nations;
    I will be exalted in the earth."
The LORD of hosts is with us; *
    the God of Jacob is our stronghold.”
~Psalm 46
Cindy and I stood close by hand in hand, as he prayed these words and I can only begin to describe what I experienced as God’s own healing touch and grace. The Bishop also offered to operate if necessary. He charges only $29.99 and has a perfectly serviceable Black and Decker ready to go.
Thank you all for your love and prayers.



Now let’s get back to the issue at hand. This business of hatred is an infection of the human heart and is a terminal disease. Our tradition has much to teach us on this subject. 

It begins with the notion of Love doesn’t it? When it comes time for God to lay down the Law, this is what God says
The Shema: “Hear O Israel, The-LORD our God is One. You shall love The-LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” ~Deuteronomy 6:4-9

A lawyer once asked Jesus his reading of the Law. ~Luke 10:26 This is a common question in Rabbinical tradition. In other words how do you understand the Law as God gives it to us through Moses? Jesus knew all about that, didn’t he? Scripture clearly states that Jesus is the Word made Flesh and that he was there in the Beginning with God. Therefore he was there too with Moses as he fashioned the Law, yes? 

Jesus begins with the Shema; “Hear O Israel the Lord your God is one and you shall love the Lord your God”. But then he does an interesting thing. His mind searches the Scriptures and makes its way through the first 19 Chapters of Leviticus in which you may find scores of reasons to stone people to death for one kind of abomination or another.

But when Jesus’ heart, soul, mind and strength came to rest,, what was it about? If you say “Love”, bravo!

Look what he does. He quotes one half of one verse in Leviticus and equates the Second Commandment to the first; “You shall love your neighbor as you do yourself.” ~Leviticus 19:18b. 

We know this as the Summary of the Law. Or as Jesus makes clear, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Again this is an extraordinary statement. Here Jesus puts the Love of God and the love of human beings on a par and he requires that we do too. Not an easy thing, right? In some circles right now there are those who would just as soon do neither. 

Moreover, in Judaism as in all tribal societies, “foreigners” are often looked upon with suspicion. My grandmother used to say it was the Irish who ruined Boston. That will tell you what she thought of my father especially after a nasty divorce. She also made me promise on the family Bible no less, that I would never marry an Italian. I later broke that promise but she understands all this now.

The Prophet Isaiah deals with the issue of foreigners and goes one better than that. He spells out the place of eunuchs in God’s salvation plan as well.

Listen to this.

“Maintain justice, and do what is right,
Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,
   ‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people’;
and do not let the eunuch say,
   ‘I am just a dry tree.’ 
For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
  I will give, in my house and within my walls,
   a monument and a name
   better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
   that shall not be cut off. 
And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
   to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
   and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
   for all peoples. 
   Thus says the Lord God,
   who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
   besides those already gathered.”
~Isaiah 56

Now, I will submit to you that when Jesus walked this earth, there were no outcasts. Instead, what was there? There was Love.
There was forgiveness, there was compassion. And Jesus took that deadly disease of hatred that infects the human heart and he nailed it to the Cross. And so must we!

That’s my reading of the Law. 

It is clear clear from today’s Parable of the Unjust servant that he owed what amounts to a couple of million dollars to the King. He was forgiven of his debt. Yet when it was his turn to forgive, he showed no mercy to the one who owed him a few dollars. We have been forgiven bountifully by God, likewise we too must forgive. You know the answer to the Gospel question. How many times shall I forgive my brother or sister?

This is the human condition. “Odi et Amo.”, I hate and I love.

But on that last night, when gathered at supper with his friends, he washed their feet and said; “I give you a new commandment, just one now. Listen up, Love one another!”

Our bishop has written of this hateful incident in Bozeman; “As people who have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, we need to die to racism, hatred, bigotry, and rise in newness of life to love of God and love of neighbor. We are called to pray for the perpetrators of violence and hatred, and work in our communities for an in breaking of the merciful reign of God, to repent for our own racism and lack of acceptance of others who differ from us, and to make ourselves into instruments of Jesus’ peace.”

Whoever you are now, you and I need the courage of Jesus to love one another. Without regard to tribal affiliation, race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, political party. And so on and so on. How often does Jesus have to say this for us to get it?

“Love one another.”



Several weeks ago I shared with you the image of the American Bald Eagle. There are those of us on the Left wing of that magnificent symbol of our common life and others of us on the Right. If we hate one another that bird is in grave danger by virtue of the fact it won’t even get off the ground. If I were to say to you the names of Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, I bet you any amount of money the very mention of the names would inspire intense animus.
That’s a problem. We hate too much. We have forgotten how to hold conversation. We’ve reduced our national discourse to confrontation, ridicule, the racism. And so on. 

We have forgotten the Law of God and so it is time to Reclaim it and Proclaim it. My namesake Paul lays down the Law in today’s Epistle; “Why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,
"As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God."
So then, each of us will be accountable to God.”
~Romans 14

You are to Love one Another and this Cathedral shall be a “House of Prayer for ALL People”. Not because I say so, but because Jesus says so. Period!



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


Fr Paul