Monday, July 28, 2014

St. Christopher & Life's Journey

Today have gathered together to celebrate the love of God as revealed to us in the legends and stories of St. Christopher. Christopher lived during the third century, a time when it wasn’t easy or admirable to be a follower of Jesus. Actually, the government, at the time, use to forbid it in many places because followers of Jesus had a way of breaking the rules! They tended to work outside of the norms of society and the social constructs that were deemed appropriate. They placed their love for God, love for neighbor and love for self before their love for the rules and politics of the time. As we all know politicians and rich men, even of our own time, do not like it when individuals go against their mandates and beliefs and it was no different when Christopher walked the earth.

Now, Christopher was a man we have to allow our imaginations to form in order to truly appreciate his appearance. Accounts tell us he was a huge burly man that was seven and a half feet tall! He was said to have a fearsome look, the type that would cause many of us to quickly turn and head in a different direction. Mind you, a few of us might have run towards him but that is a thought for a different time! Now, Christopher was the servant of the local king where he lived in the country of Canaan. He had a pretty good life. But he had a deeper desire to be the servant of the most powerful ruler in the world. You see Christopher wasn’t satisfied with good enough; Christopher wanted to be a part of something great, something incredible, something unlike anything else. And so he set out on a journey where he found a king who was known to be invincible and above all other kings and queens and rulers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wheat & Thistles, Good Seeds & Bad Seeds

Preached on July 20, 2014 at Btown Inclusive Mass

Psalm 139
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30
"He told another story. “God’s kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his hired men were asleep, his enemy sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. When the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up, too. “The farmhands came to the farmer and said, ‘Master, that was clean seed you planted, wasn’t it? Where did these thistles come from?’ “He answered, ‘Some enemy did this.’ “The farmhands asked, ‘Should we weed out the thistles?’ “He said, ‘No, if you weed the thistles, you’ll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I’ll instruct the harvesters to pull up the thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn.’” (The Message)
In the Name of God: the One who allows the thistle to grow among the wheat knowing the day will come when evil is no more and peace covers the entirety of the earth. Amen.

Today our Scripture readings fill us with hope and expectation! They share with us the promise of God that a time is coming when peace will triumph, when evil will be radically destroyed with good and when love will rule the land in ever sense of the imagination. Each reading today was literally bursting with the expectation of the manifestation of a godly world. That is a world that isn’t ruled by greed, hatred, malice, strife, jealousy, fear or envy but rather one ruled by patience, goodness, gentleness and self control - in a spirit of harmony, a spirit of unity. This hopeful expectation has been a core belief of both our parent religion, Judaism, and of Christianity since the very start. You will remember our Paschal promise that “Christ is Risen,” a spiritual reality declaring that evil has already lost its foothold and death has been destroyed. As people of faith we are called to live in the present, seeking to bring God’s ways into their midst. We do this while also remaining hopeful for the future age when the promises of God will be radically realized and embraced by all people-kind. A time when the power of the resurrection will not only rule in our hearts but in every segment of society and life. The very misunderstood and poorly interpreted apocalyptic texts, such as Revelation, are all about this hope and promise. They are poetic and colorful symbols and images of the faith-filled confidence that one-day peace will replace war, life will replace death and abundance will replace hunger. St. Jerome, who lived in the late fourth century and early fifth century, conveyed this faithful hope quite well, when he said: “In the end and consummation of the Universe all are to be restored into their original harmonious state, and we all shall be made one body and be united once more into a perfect man and the prayer of our Savior shall be fulfilled that all may be one.”

Jesus referenced this hopeful age or time quite often in his parables throughout the Gospels, while still requiring the listener to be fully present in their daily lives. He did so today in our reading from Matthew. If you remember, last week we encountered the story of the sower of seeds or the farmer. We came to understand that the farmer represents God. And in her unending goodness we realized that God is not stingy with seeds of love but extravagantly sows them upon all the earth, in expectation that we all will arrive at his doorstep sooner or later and all will be forgiven. Today, we again encounter God as a farmer. As last week, an interpretation is given for this parable a few verses later but this interpretation is once again, most likely, not original to Jesus. Rather it is an attempt of the Matthean Community to make sense of the times and events in which they lived. So today let’s approach this parable with open hearts and open minds, seeing what God wishes to convey to us.

Monday, July 21, 2014

God the Sower

Originally preached on July 13, 2014 at Btown Eucharist

Psalm 65
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9

"At about that same time Jesus left the house and sat on the beach. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the shoreline, forcing him to get into a boat. Using the boat as a pulpit, he addressed his congregation, telling stories.

“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, the weeds strangled it. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.

Are you listening to this? Really listening?” (The Message)

In the Name of God, the one who scatters seeds of love across the entirety of the world as gifts for all people-kind, we seek to learn and grow. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today is likely familiar to many of you. You might have heard it multiple times in your childhood but there was likely an additional passage you always heard in combination with it. If you were to turn to this reading in Matthew and skip ahead a few verses you would hear an explanation of the parable Jesus gave. The Gospel of Matthew paints this as an explanation given by Jesus himself. However, many scholars now agree that this was added many years after Jesus no longer walked this earth. The passage attempts to describe this parable as a spiritual telling of those who accept the salvation message of Jesus (and the Church) and those who do not. A telling of those who receive the promise of God and therefore inherit eternal life and those who deny it, causing it to dry up, and therefore we can presume are no longer in God’s good graces. However, I believe, Jesus never gave that explanation. That was simply an attempt of the Matthean community trying to understand why some people accepted their message of the Christ and why others refused too. They had a hard time wrapping their heads around the idea that not everyone in the whole wide world would want to be a Christian like them. They also could not understand why some would convert only to later leave the faith. This parable of Jesus seemed to lend itself easily to their doctrinal and membership issues and so they made use of it.

I know it is traumatizing, week after week, I come up here and tell you a part of the Bible is based solely on a group of people wanting to enforce their ideals on others. But breathe deeply because we still have the authentic words of Jesus, which we heard just now in our Gospel passage. Jesus tells us a farmer planted seed…actually, the farmer scattered the seed. Some it fell on the road and birds ate it, some fell in gravel, some fell in weeds and it didn’t do to well. Finally, some fell on good earth and produced an incredible harvest! Jesus then says to us: “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”