Sunday, May 24, 2015

Come Holy Spirit, Come! - Pentecost

Come Holy Spirit, Come!
Fill the hearts of thy faithful
Kindle in them
The fire of your love!
Send forth your Spirit
And they shall be created
And you shall renew the face of the earth!

Picture in your mind’s eye the scene from the Acts of the Apostles.  
A sudden noise like a rushing wind – a deafening - frightening sound louder than anything you’ve ever heard before.
Then, tongues of fire coming down from the sky; separating to hover over the heads of each of person in the room. 
See the faces of those who are being filled with the Holy Spirit.  See the fire glowing within them.  See the look of amazement as their eyes blaze with faith and understanding as the Holy Spirit ignites within them.

Now imagine yourself as one of the crowd in the streets.
You are made curious at the sound of a mighty wind.  It might mean danger or excitement, so you stop what you are doing; rushing to seek its cause.
You and all the others hurry toward the source of this sound; coming together around a building from which the sound emanates. 
You hear voices speaking.  
They speak of the Son of the Most High.  
You hear the name of Jesus – the crucified one – He who died and was raised up from the tomb by the power of God.
The voices speak of love, of mercy and of forgiveness of sins.
They proclaim salvation and new life in Jesus, the Christ.
Clearly and distinctly, each person hears the Truth of Kingdom of God spoken by these Galileans, these followers of Jesus, the Risen One.
As they emerge from the building you see that a new fire burns within them.  Each speaks with such passion and zeal that you are moved by the power of their presence and come to hear and understand that they speak the Truth. 

That same fire of the Holy Spirit fills each one of us.  We, as disciples of Jesus Christ, are filled with that same Holy Spirit He promised to send to the Apostles.  Just as they were filled by the Spirit of God this same Spirit comes to each one of us to guide and comfort us as we go about witnessing to His Truth.  

We, the faithful are filled with the Holy Spirit – we are called to speak the Truth of the Kingdom of God – the Truth of God’s Love, Mercy and Forgiveness – the Truth of Salvation through Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit comes to rest upon each of us, so we too may have courage and support as we continue the mission of Jesus - to renew the face of the earth.

Rely on the Holy Spirit, the breath of God that flows within each of us.  Come to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Son of the God and proclaim His Love and His Truth to the whole world.

O, God,
Who by the light of the Holy Spirit,
Did instruct the hearts of the faithful,
Grant that by the same Holy Spirit
That we may be truly wise
And ever enjoy His consolations,
Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Deacon Don

Sunday, May 17, 2015

7th Sunday in Easter - John 17: 11a - 19 - "The Mission"

For those who are unfamiliar with latest Pew Poll on Religion, I will tell you that the numbers are in - and they don’t look too good.  They do not paint a rosy picture for the future of Christianity in this country.  

More and more of the sheep are wandering away.  Some are even running away – off into dark and lonely places.  Some of the sheep are caught up in brambles and bushes as they search for greener pastures.  Others are falling into pits. Some are caught in rocks, as they respond to - voices on-the-wind - of false shepherds, who lead them off into the wilderness.  Many others are just wandering alone without a shepherd to care for them; relying on their own efforts to find sustenance and safety.

All these sheep fail to hear the voice of the one true shepherd, the Good Shepherd, who calls them to green pastures.  
The shepherd who loves them.  
The shepherd who feeds them.  
The shepherd who brings them to running streams, so they may quench their thirst.  
He is the shepherd who cares for them; binding their wounds and comforting them when they are frightened.  

This is the Good Shepherd who endured suffering and hardship to protect his sheep against wolves and other predators who would make a quick and tasty meal of them.  
The shepherd who watches through the dark of the long cold night, so they may rest in peace: refreshed from their day’s labor. 
He is the shepherd who endlessly searches for his lost sheep; bearing them home on his shoulders when he finds them.
He is the ever-faithful Good Shepherd, who loves his sheep more than his own life.  He knows each one and calls them by name into his loving embrace.  

In the Pew Poll, the number of Christians is down all across the board – Evangelical, Catholic and all other Protestants.  The number of Catholics is down a significant percentage.  The biggest gain is in the ‘Nones’.  No, not woman religious, but those who claim no religious affiliation – you know many of them – they are the, “I’m spiritual, not religious” types.  This category also includes those who reject all religion; relying on a belief in their own sovereignty and superiority.

There are a myriad of reasons why this is happening and there is much hand-wringing over the pending doom of the Church.  This is not the time or place for a dialogue on the causes behind the effects, though that is a necessary and on-going conversation.

This is a time to remind each of the faithful that we are an Easter People.  
We are a people of hope.  
We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!  
We believe in Jesus’ Ascension into heaven where He sits at the right hand of God, the Father. 

Soon, we will celebrate the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in sending the Holy Spirit to be with us, guiding and consoling us as we live in His love.  
We also believe that He will return one day to bring us, the living and the dead, into the Kingdom of God where we will live forever and ever.

We also believe that His Church will prevail triumphant against all adversity.  This is not a time for fear and despair, but a time of challenge.  It is a time to remember - with great joy - that in our baptism, we have died to sin and are raised up to new life in Christ Jesus.  

Like Him, we are not part of this world, but only live in this world as His disciples – awaiting His return.  Jesus prays to the Father for us, “As you sent me into the world, so I send them into the world,” so we may continue His work of bringing the Good News of salvation for all God’s children. 

Our mission, “. . . to go forth and make disciples of all nations” is not to just a matter of signing up more members of His Church, but to make known God’s love for all His people and to herald the Good News of our Salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.  
This is our mission – the continuation of His mission.
It is the mission of God’s love – a love that knows no bounds – a sacrificing love – a complete and enduring love. 
It is the love of the Good Shepherd for His sheep: the love God has for each one of us, the sacrificing love of Jesus Christ, the compassionate love of the Holy Spirit, the perfection of love of God, the Father for all His children.  

We share this Good News of salvation in living lives of true discipleship that gives glory to God.  In living this way - we are known as disciples of Jesus, by the love we have for one another, by the joy we share in the knowledge of God’s love for us and by our desire to be with Him in His heavenly Kingdom.

We are sent by Jesus to bring this same love to the whole world; living out His mission in His Holy Name. ~ Amen.

Deacon Don

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Reflection - 5th Sunday in Easter

We are made perfect in the love of God.  The Lord, God punishes only to make us perfect.  It is in His will that we true humanness is are realized.

Last week we had the image of the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.  His love for us is so unsurpassable that he gladly suffered punishment and death, so we may have life, abundantly in the love of God.

Today we have the image of the gardener, the Good Gardener, who sacrifices what may seem to be beauty of the plant for its future health and growth.  What we see as beauty and health the Good Gardener sees as detrimental to the potential beauty of the plant held within.  To make this beauty come out he has to cut back the transient beauty of today.

Last week, the landscapers for the Essex County Court Complex pruned back the rose bushes around the big fountain near the courthouse where I work.  While it is still too early to see the blooms of roses, the memory of what came forth last year makes one smile.  Today though, it would be hard to see that beauty in what the landscapers left of the bushes.  Their pruning left stubby, stunted shadows of the buses former selves.  But without this seemingly harsh pruning, new growth would not yield new beauty.  Growth on the old branches would be wild and unruly.  There would be fewer new blooms and the overall effect would fail to live out the potential of what each plant could be.  Overall, the garden would be a disappointment.

The same with our lives.  What may seem like harsh punishments and disappointments are really God’s pruning to encourage new growth and even greater beauty in the potential of our lives.  His punishments may seem severe, but it is His pruning of the dead and dying branches in our lives that, while seemly a momentary good, are only transitory benefits to our will and not the ‘good fruit’ that that leads us to Him and to our true selves, as children of God.

The Song of Mary, the Magnificat, speaks of God’s action in our lives wherein He prunes us to make us better, more beautiful, more bountiful fruit of His love.  We too magnify the Lord by accepting His love and allowing His will be done in our lives; making us into branches on the Vine of Jesus Christ that yield ‘Good Fruit’ that feed and nourish all of God’s holy children.


My soul doth magnify the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

Deacon Don