Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Sunday of Lent

Dt 26:4-10
Rom 10:8-13
Lk 4:1-13

What do we want, and what do we need? How often do we confuse those things? There are a lot of things I want, there are a lot of things I have, but I should ask myself, do I need them? We all have a lot of things now, things we consider necessities, that just a few years ago were if not luxuries, at least not something that you could do without. Cell phones, all of us have one, and perhaps they have become necessities, but you could survive without it. The same can be said for computers, internet access, and a lot of new technology. Sixty years ago television was a luxury, and not something that was a necessity. The same can be said about radio if we go back 70 or 80 years. There are a lot of things we have or want that maybe we could do without, a lot of stuff that tempts us to believe we can’t live without it. Jesus was in the desert, hungry, tired, and tempted to turn stones into bread. He refused. Just as he refused to worship the tempter, just as he refused to tempt the Creator. What did he want, what did he need? Jesus managed to separate those two things. Yes he was hungry, he wanted bread, but how much bread did he actually need? He didn’t need the power and glory offered to him. His faith was strong enough he did not need to test it by tempting God. In this season let us examine our own lives and try to determine what we need, as opposed to what we want. How much stuff is enough? Who, or what, do I worship? Do I need proof of God’s existence, or do I have faith? Now is the time task these questions, now is the time to seek the answers, now as we prepare.

Deacon John
First Sunday of Lent
Feb. 21, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Jl 2:12-18
2 Cor 5:20—6:2
Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

It’s Lent? Already, it’s Lent? Didn’t we just celebrate Christmas yesterday? I have to tell you, I am not ready for it to be Lent. I need more time to get ready, to prepare myself, mentally, to take on the challenge that is Lent. This can’t happen yet. Could we put it off for another week, maybe two, just to give me more time to get ready? The real problem is, if we are willing to admit it to ourselves, is that we will never be ready. Lent can start today, tomorrow, next week, next month it really doesn’t matter, we will never be ready. We don’t want to face ourselves and admit that we are indeed imperfect beings. We definitely don’t want to face God knowing that we are imperfect, that we are indeed sinners. The admission to ourselves that we fall short makes it hard for us to face God, because we are afraid. We’re afraid because we know we don’t look good to ourselves, so how can we stand how we must look to God. We’re afraid, but we fear without cause. God calls to us, just as the prophet Joel says, because God is full of mercy and compassion, full of kindness and slow to anger. God calls to us because we are loved. This call to accept the compassion of God is ongoing, all day, every day. But being human, being limited, and being afraid, we need a push, a nudge, a reminder that God is calling us, and that we should not be afraid to heed that call. Thus we have Lent. Lent, which is our push, our nudge, our reminder that God loves us more than we can ever comprehend. Lent, a reminder of the great love demonstrated for us forty days from now.

Deacon John
Ash Wednesday
Feb. 17, 2010

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 6:1-2a, 3-8
1 Cor 15:1-11
Lk 5:1-11

Blessings, we all have them, no matter what we might think of our circumstances. Perhaps we think we have more than we will ever need. More likely, we don’t think we have nearly enough. We could always use more we think, more money, more space, more time, more something. If we are honest with ourselves, however, we are blessed in some way, no matter how meager we may think our circumstances are. My associate always starts off our non-denominational services for our residents and staff by singing a song that goes, “We’re blessed, we’re blessed, we’re blessed. We have shelter, clothing and strength, we are blessed, we don’t deserve it but yet we are blessed.” We tend to discount the blessings we have perhaps because we don’t believe we deserve them. Well, we don’t. We don’t deserve whatever blessings we have, so we are skeptical, and we are afraid. We know we are not worthy, we know that we can never earn those blessings that God has granted us. We fear for no reason, the blessings we have are a gift, God’s grace is a gift, freely given despite the fact we don’t deserve it. In the first reading the writer proclaims;
“Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips;” but despite his fear the next thing that happens is amazing, it is a gift, God’s grace granted freely as, “one of the seraphim flew to me,
holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it, and said, ‘See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.’”
In the Gospel reading today Jesus asks Peter to set out from the shore so that Jesus could teach the crowd without being crushed or pushed into the sea. Peter does as he was asked, then when Jesus finishes teaching he tells Peter to set out for deep water and lower his nets for a catch. Peter tells Jesus that they had fished all night unsuccessfully, but he would do as Jesus asked. Now Peter was a fisherman, a rough-hewn, straight talking, hard-minded businessman. He was probably skeptical about the possibility of catching anything, but he did as Jesus asked. He did as Jesus asked and was blessed with a harvest of fish so bountiful it nearly sank his boat and another. Peter knew he did not deserve this blessing, he knew that by the standard of his day he may have been a good guy, a hale fellow well-met sort, but not a holy man. This gift frightened him, because he knew he did not deserve it. He looked to Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
Each of us fits in that same place, the place where the writer of the first reading was, the place where Peter was. When confronted with the greatness of God, when facing the grace and the almost unbearable love that God showers upon us, we are terrified. We don’t deserve this, we are a people of unclean lips, a people who are good by some standard, but surely nor holy, surely not worthy of God’s attention much less God’s boundless love. We are so programmed to think we have to earn things, we have a hard time believing that this great gift is ours, with no way we can reciprocate, no way we can earn it. We can’t earn it but we still feel a need to do something, we do have to respond somehow, don’t we? We can respond, first by accepting the gift, by not being afraid of the gift. Then, knowing that we are not working to earn this gift of love, of grace, we look around and offer it, undeserved, without reservation or expectation, to the rest of the world.
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”
Deacon John
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Feb. 7, 2010