Sunday, November 30, 2014

1st Sunday in Advent - Matthew 13:33-37 - "The Art of Waiting"

The first words of the bible are, “In the beginning . . .” This is the first proclamation of God’s love for His children.  The beginning of God’s love and our journey of salvation.  The beginning of the fulfillment of His covenant with mankind.  This is an Advent – a word which means beginning. 

This is what Advent is for us, disciples of Jesus Christ – a beginning.  It is the beginning of our period of waiting.  It is the beginning of our anticipation: the beginning of our celebration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and God’s gift of Himself dwelling among us, His children.  It is the beginning of a new year in the Church: our beginning of moving from darkness into light.  It is the beginning of our hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation: our being raised up into new life at the second coming of our Lord, Jesus.

With Advent we celebrate the beginning of waiting – the beginning of the Art of Waiting - waiting for Jesus to return as he promised, 
“I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:2b-3)
We all know waiting is hard.  Ask any child or reach back into your own memory of years past – waiting for that Day to arrive was a misery.  Our patience were sorely tested and we thought we’d fairly burst with excitement before it arrived.  Our minds and hearts were set only for the Day’s arrival – we could think of nothing else.  We suffered great agonies, our whole being was focused on - that - one - Day!

But we Christians, we disciples of Jesus Christ, are masters at the art of waiting.  We have been waiting for over 2,000 years for Jesus to ‘take us to himself, so that where He is we may also be.’  And while we have waited we have been sorely tested.

We have suffered persecutions.  We have suffered distractions.  We have suffered hatreds for the name of Jesus.  We have suffered death and destruction.  We have suffered for our belief in the Truth of Jesus Christ.  Since the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and through this very day – we Christians suffer for our love of Christ – the Word of God.

Throughout the history of Christianity we have suffered – while waiting in hope and love; anticipating the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is for love of Him and our hope in God’s promise of eternal life; resting in the glory of His heavenly kingdom that we practice the art of waiting.  

In our belief in God’s love for His children and His promise of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ – we wait patiently.  We know that God is always faithful, always true, always loving and merciful: forgiving and welcoming.  We wait patiently in hope of the Truth discovered in scripture’s promise of that for which we wait:
“What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualize; all that God has prepared for those who love him;” (1 Cor 2:9)
In this love and hope, we go about doing the Lord’s work faithfully, waiting patiently.  We hold true to His teaching – loving God above all and loving one another as we love ourselves – the immutable Truth that bind us together as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  

For our love of God, we go forth doing the will of the Master – teaching all the nations; bringing the Light of Christ, the Word of God, to all people, so that they too may come into His light and be saved.  For our love of God, we search the dark places of the world, seeking those who have wandered away from the fold, leading them back through His Word into the Light of Salvation.

Each day through prayer and good works we wait patiently for the fulfillment of this Advent, this beginning, as we continue Christ’s mission, doing the will of the Father; renewing our belief in His promise - that He will come again to bring all the faithful into His heavenly Kingdom, where He has prepared a room for each of us to dwell forever and ever ~ Amen.

Deacon Don

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christ the King - Matthew 25:31-46 - "Where do we seek Christ"

Where do we seek Christ?  Where do we go when we want to find our Lord?  Is Christ found in Cathedrals?  Do we find Jesus in the churches?  Is He seen in sunsets or misty valleys?

Sharing Bread
If pilgrims on a journey were to meets us and ask, “Where do you seek this Christ that we too may find Him?”
How would we respond to these strangers?  
What do we say?
In what direction do we point?
To what place can we take them?
What do we do, so that these pilgrims too may find the Christ, our Lord and Savior, our King?

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us where we can find him: He is among the poor and the suffering.  
His face is seen in the faces of the lost and the lonely, among the forgotten. 
He shares the despondency of the disenfranchised and displaced.  
Christ despairs with the imprisoned. 
He is the one who thirsts and hungers, crying in pain for lack of nourishment.  
He shivers naked in doorways huddled against the cold.  
Sick and alone He is languishes in fear and uncertainty.
It is here in the sufferings of the children of God, where we will find Christ, dwelling among these least of God’s beloved.  

We will also find Jesus among those who care for the needs of the least of God’s children.  
He is among those feeding the hungry and quenching their thirst.  
Christ is found tending the sick, comforting them and calming their fears.
To the sorrowful He brings hope and peace.
He is listening to the cries the poor and suffering; ensuring them they too are beloved of God and not abandoned.
We find Jesus sharing his cloak to the naked, returning to them their dignity as equals in God’s kingdom.
He embraces the lost and lonely; leading them to places of comfort and peace; assuring them they are loved.

It is to this place where we can direct the pilgrims seeking Christ.  To the heart of Jesus found in the love of God for His children.  It is in these places – dark and lonely, fearful and despairing – where both the suffering and the loving dwell - that we seek and find Jesus. 

Among these least of God’s beloved is where we will find the love of God – Jesus Christ.  Here is where His disciples continue His mission – living as He calls us to live, loving as we are loved – completely: – without counting cost, without hesitation, without fear.  

In the Other is where we make manifest God’s kingdom; working to bring His justice and peace to the world.  
Jesus’ summation of the Ten Commandments, He says to us: ‘Love God above all else and love one another as we love ourselves’.  

We accomplish both when we care for Jesus found in the least of God’s children.  In loving the Other, we love Him and in loving Him, we love He who sent Him, God the Father.

We seek Christ in love.  Love of the Other, the love we have for ourselves.  And in loving Him, we find the love of God – who is love – our peace and our joy. ~Amen

Deacon Don

Saturday, November 15, 2014

33rd Sunday Ordinary Time - Matthew 25:14-30 - "Taking Risks for the Glory of God"

Over time, the meaning of the parable of the talents has transformed.  Today we use the word ‘talent’ to describe those God-given skills we develop or that come naturally to us, such as a talent for singing or a talent for writing poetry or a talent for playing a sport, but in Mathew’s time a talent meant something entirely different.  Mathew understood a talent to be a measure of weight.  

In this parable, the talents the Master gave to his servants were made of either silver or gold.  They could be likened to ingots – representing a great deal of money – entrusted to these servants.  Five talents or two talents – even one talent was a vast sum of money.  Five talents could be a lifetime of wages for that servant and even one talent, the wages of many years’ service.

The basic meaning of this parable remains: the use of the talents God entrusts to us to further His kingdom, but – and here is where the story is transformed - it is also about risk-taking for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Now, we know the story:  Each servant was entrusted with a different amount of talents while the Master was away on a trip and each did something with the talents because they knew the Master expected them to oversee his property in his absence.  They knew their Master to be a demanding man who ‘reaped where he did not sow’ and ‘gathered where he did not scatter’.  He is a Master who always looks to make a profit from his property; increasing his estate.  The first two servants, knowing their Master always took risk to increase his property and expand his estate, also did the same as he, while the third servant buried the talent entrusted to him for safe-keeping.  

Now the disciples’ understanding of this story would have given them an appreciation for the actions of the third servant for, in their time and culture, burying valuables was an acceptable way of keeping them safe.  If buried valuables were stolen, the person who buried them was not held responsible for their loss, but – if you lost valuables entrusted to you through bad investments or squandered through poor decisions – you were punished and held liable for the entire amount entrusted to you – and remember – these talents represented a very great deal of money.

So, when Jesus told the disciples the part of the story of the Master’s return, they thought the first two servants extremely lucky to have escaped condemnation for their risky though profitable actions.  They were shocked when the Master failed to appreciate the actions of the third servant and not only scolded him, but cast him out of his household - into the darkness, where there is wailing and grinding of teeth.

The moral of the story is that we are not just called to preach the Gospel by our lives- doing the safe thing, but to actually go forth; taking risks in bring the Word of God to all the nations.  We are called to move out of our comfort zones among family and friends, of being ‘good’ and working to ensure we follow the commandments, so we can come into the heavenly kingdom, but to actually seek out others to bring them into the light of God’s kingdom.  

We are called to live Jesus’ command of loving God above all and loving others as we love ourselves by going out into the dark places of the world to bring the light of Christ, His message of love and salvation, and God’s promise of eternal life to all people.  The Master expects us to take risks; using the talents he has entrusted to each of us, to increase his property and expand his estate. ~Amen

Deacon Don

Sunday, November 2, 2014

All Soul's Day - John 6:32-40 - "Blessed be the name of the Lord"

We are a people of hope.  God has given us hope through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.  As we believe in Him, who experienced life with us, who suffered cruelly for us, who died for us and who was raised up by the love of God, the Father has shared with us the hope of eternal life.

There is an old story told of a Rabbi and his wife who had two sons, the delight of their lives.  

One day, while the Rabbi was off teaching the people his two sons became suddenly ill and died in their home.  The Rabbi’s wife was sorrowed to tears and unsure how to tell the Rabbi the news that their sons had died.  So she covered their bodies with a sheet and left them on the bed in a side room.
When the Rabbi returned home for the noontime meal he asked where his two sons were.  His wife made some excuse and then proposed a question to him.  “Husband, she said, I am placed in a great difficulty.  Someone has entrusted to me a precious possession to care for while they were away for a very long time.  They have now returned asking for their possessions back.  I have grown very fond of these valuables.  Am I obliged to give them back?  What am I to do?”
The Rabbi was surprised that his wife would ask such a question, knowing she was a good and honest woman. “Of course, you must restore to another that which is theirs”, he said.
The wife then asked her husband to follow her into the side room where she pulled back the sheet covering their dead sons.  The Rabbi cried out, “My sons, my sons!” and began to weep bitterly.
His wife said, “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.’  You have always taught the people to return, without reluctance, that which is lent to us for our happiness.  We have returned our two sons, who brought joy to our lives, to God, the Father of all mercies.”

On this day dedicated to remembering the souls of our dearly departed, let us be consoled in the hope found in the resurrection.  Our God, who loves us so much, asks that we, His precious children, be returned to Him by those entrusted to love and care for us in this life; giving them joy for their lives.  He has given us the means by which we may return into His embrace through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Father has entrusted to His Son all whom the Father has given Him.  He does not reject anyone whom His Father has given Him.  He does the Father’s will in raising up all who believe in Him, - into eternal life - in joy and peace of the Father’s heavenly kingdom.

That we grieve the loss of our loved ones is expected because we have grown fond of those precious possessions entrusted to our care by our heavenly Father.  But we live in hope and expectation of being reunited with them in the joys of His heavenly kingdom.  This is the hope and joy we have in Christ Jesus.  ‘May He enlighten our inner most vision that we may know the great hope to which we are called, the wealth of His glorious heritage, freely given to all members of His holy church.’

By His cross and resurrection he has opened the path to new life: where all who believe in Him shall attain salvation. Through His sacrifice we will be joined together in communion with His saints, with all the angels and the heavenly host in our Father’s house forever and ever. ~Amen

Deacon Don