Pastor’s Pen – June 26, 2011

Published on 26. Jun, 2011 by in Uncategorized

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This summer is not going well.

My home computer decided to quit working the Sunday morning after UMSL’s graduation, back in May.    Since I needed to ‘read’ the information on the computer, especially my calendar – as I had not been able to sync that information to my phone (that was apparently part of the ‘dying process’) – I did what I have done before in similar situations.  I hooked the hard drive up to a working computer at the Newman Center.  Unfortunately, that computer decided that it did not like the extra work and IT decided to stop working as well.  Two computers down in 4 days time.

Last Thursday the computer on my car decided to send mixed messages to my number 2 and 3 cylinders, causing the engine misfire, and making the engine warning light flash.  The dealership is not completely sure why this happened (and of course, they could not duplicate this in the shop…) so they flipped the controls for 2 & 3 with 1 & 4 and said:  “Let’s see what happens.”  Though that course of action makes sense, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence and hope…

The good news is that these are just things.  Cars can be fixed or replaced.  Computers grow old and eventually stop working, but you can back up the files to external hard drives.  So in the grand scheme of life, these are just annoyances.

“But they are MY annoyances” that petty little voice inside my head tells me.  And that is where the summer can go bad quickly, in that moment when I make the choice about how I am going to interpret the data.  It is never the obvious “God is out to get me” that undoes me/us.  Most of us know better.  It is the more dangerous and subtle – “Does anyone really care or really notice?” that winds up pushing you in ways that are less than healthy and healing.

But I am glad for that voice, because it is easily recognizable amidst the din and hubbub of the day.  Once I recognize its petulance, I can laugh and relax and remember that God is in charge.  And I am reminded that these ARE just things, like the flowers of the field that whither and fade.  I am just passing through.  All that matters about me is held lovingly in the arms of God.

So my summer is not going well.  Thank God for that.  It is another reminder of the things that really matter, and Jesus’ invitation to seek first and only Kingdom of God.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be…”

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An elderly, bearded gentleman, with a benevolent, yet powerful face and flowing beard.  A Jewish looking man hanging on the cross, with body bruised, but spirit somehow intact and triumphant.  A nebulous spirit kind of dove image.  I suspect that for many of us, those images are among our first images when we try to visualize the Trinity – God as Father, Son and Spirit.  I came across a different set of words as I was studying the changes for the priest in the New Edition of the Roman Missal.  They are taken directly from St. Paul.

Grace.          Love.            Communion.

The GRACE of the Lord Jesus Christ, the LOVE of God and the COMMUNION of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (Communion replaces the word “Fellowship” in our current liturgy.)  If you notice, those are all words that describe relationships.  They describe what happens between people and among people and for people as they interact.

These word of St. Paul are captured in the meaning of an ancient term used by the Greek Fathers when they were trying to hammer out a theology of the Trinity – Perichoresis.  That Greek word literally means a ‘going around’, and suggests a vigorous dance-like movement – each person circling, interweaving, whirling in vibrant interaction with the others.  The point of this dance of love, however, is not just the enjoyment of the divine dancers only.  The dance is an open circle that invites all onto the dance floor drawing them right into the midst of the energetic flow of divine delight.

I was at a wedding reception of a Catholic to a Greek Orthodox some years ago, and I saw this in action.  The DJ started playing a certain song, and there was this massive RUSH to the edge of the dance floor.  Then the bride and groom joined hands, and started this side by side dance – a few steps to the left, a few steps to the right, a little Zorba the Greek dip, with a few more moves thrown in, and then two more people join the line.  Repeat, the steps and then four people.  Then eight.  And more.  And more.  The bride and groom and slowly leading this line into a smaller and smaller circle.  And soon, the entire floor is wrapped up in this intricate, weaving, dance, as the music builds and the energy builds and the people weave tighter and tighter.  Eventually, the entire reception is now wrapped around the couple as the dance and sing and enjoy one another in the amazing dance of love and friendship and COMMUNION.  It is thegrace of the couple, the love they have exchanged and shared with each other, that forms the communion of love at the heart of this most amazing dance.

That image, of the bride and groom, at the center of this amazing energy and movement, is my favorite image of the Trinity.  I fear too often, in my prayer, and in my thinking about God as Father, Son and Spirit, I miss the energy and the movement that is the nature of God.  Static images are not what the Greek Fathers thought about the Trinity, nor what Paul suggests in those words which are so often the invitation to the beginning of our Mass – grace, love and communion.  They invite us, like people at a Greek wedding reception, into a dance of delight and relationship with the one who is at the heart of it all.

Paul suggests some practical steps for the dance.  Rejoice.  Mend you ways.  Encourage one another.  Seek agreement.  Live in peace.  Greet one another with the holy kiss.  In these ways, we help one another onto the dance floor – circling ever closer and closer to each other and to our God who is at the center of it and is the source of it all.  In that way, we become one with the very source of grace and love and communion.

May the GRACE of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the LOVE of God and the COMMUNION of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.  Amen. Amen

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What is the Holy Spirit trying to make know through you?

If you have ever traveled to a distant country, you probably have seen this interchange happen.  Someone is asking directions or ordering at a restaurant.  When it becomes obvious that the waiter they are speaking to does not understand English – what do they do?  They speak LOUDER and S-L-O-W-E-R.  As if that will make a difference…  It is kind of laughable, isn’t it?  Yet I suspect that a lot of us have been guilty of that very thing.

I was at the ordination of three men to the Jesuit priesthood this morning.  One of the men was from Vietnam.  So, as a part of the ordination mass, the second reading was proclaimed in Vietnamese.  And the communion meditation song was also in Vietnamese.  And though the lector read wonderfully, I knew that no matter how LOUDLY or S-L-O-W-L-Y she read or they cantor sang, I would never understand.  Fortunately for me, and all those who understand only English, they provided a translation in the program.

All of which got me to thinking about one of the roles of the Holy Spirit, as we heard in the first reading/acts of the apostles.  The Spirit reverses the sin of BABEL and the confusion of languages.  “Each one heard them speaking in their own language,” we’re told.  It did not take written translations on a page or someone speaking LOUDLY and S L O W L Y, but rather is the Holy Spirit’s gift to humanity.  The Spirit helps us sort out, from all the babble and all the noise – a narrative that makes sense.  One of the Spirit’s functions, as it were, is to help us hear clearly.

And what is Luke careful to tell us that Spirit helped people to hear that first Pentecost?  “Yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God…”  The Spirit’s role is to help us tune into the sound of the voice of God – calling and inviting and challenging us to be a part of THE MISSION for the salvation of the world.  And he used the 11 who had gathered, and the other followers to bring that about.  For what Pentecost tells us is that is still speaking, still trying to let himself be heard from the babble of all the noise that it out there.

So what is the HS trying to make understood BY YOU?  If the Spirit is using us, as he used those early disciples to reveal the mighty deeds of God, then within each of us is a gift, a voice, a note, a song – whatever image you want to use – that is given to us to make heard in the world.  What might that be?

  • Perhaps it is to work with our youth – either as they prepare for confirmation next fall, or in our outreach to them as members of the community at large – that God wants to make known through you.
  • Perhaps it is the call to make the social justice dimension of the gospel known by words and deeds here at St. Ann.  Then come to a meeting this Tuesday night at the rectory at 7 pm.   – consider this your invitation.  There will be at least three of us there…
  • Maybe the Spirit is calling you to give a ride to a homebound person who can no longer drive.  Let Pat M. know your availability.
  • Perhaps it is yours to organize groups of people for activities – as the Men’s club has begun doing with a few social events. But instead of social activities, the Spirit is calling you to organize for a specific need in the community – such as the community garden that Sue Reid is organizing on the lower field.  Listen for that invitation…

It was eye opening and ear opening to hear just one of those different languages this morning – and a reminder of the Spirit’s mission among us all.  Spend some time LISTENING this week –  Listening WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT and allowing God’s Spirit to sort through all the babble and the noise.  And then say, with the church, – Come Holy Spirit – fill my heart, kindle in me the fire of your love – so that THROUGH ME and IN YOU, we might renew the face of the earth…

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What is your favorite promise?

Published on 05. Jun, 2011 by in Sunday Homilies

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What is your favorite promise?

We make lots of promises as human beings.  Before a sports game, people promise to give their utmost effort for the success of the contest.  Sometimes parents will promise their children a trip to the ice cream parlor if they have been very good during the day.  When folks have fallen off the wagon, they promise our spouse or family members that they will not touch the bottle again.  A week ago, four men promised to serve the church faithfully as priests forever.  And it is hard to beat the promise that couples make when they vow their love: For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

A promise is a pledge that we will be true to the words we have spoken.  It is an outward sign of the inward intention of the heart – to do something, give something, be something in the world for all to see.

Promises are meant to be things to hang on to when all else fails.  And promises are things that we hold ourselves true to, when our courage would be lacking and our spirit would back away.  What is YOUR favorite promise?

Jesus knows that his time is short.  So in that ‘final speech, recorded in both Acts and Matthew’s gospel, we hear three different promises, don’t we.

You will be receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.

You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.

I am with you always, until the end of the age.

The first promise equips his disciples [and us] for what had to be a daunting mission – go make disciples of ALL nations.  To these fishermen whose furthest journey had been the 5 day walk to Jerusalem, the whole world was a bit daunting.  YOU WILL RECEIVE POWER…  “Oh, so it is not just US doing this.  The promise of the Father called the Holy Spirit – got it. Check.”

The second promise gives us our identity- that which we hold ourselves true to – to be his witnesses.  Two thousand years later, it is still the church’s identity – to let our lives be conformed to his.

And the third, which is my favorite promise, gives us comfort in the midst of our struggles.  I am with you always, till the end of the ages. I do not leave you orphaned or directionless or without recourse, abandoned upon the street.  My presence is found whenever you gather with fellow believers, whenever you call on my in prayer, whenever you celebrate around this altar – there am I with you.

There are lots of ways we can experience that presence.  But perhaps the most important thing about that final promise is the most important thing about wedding vows and ordination promises – that we simply believe them to be true.  One author described it as ‘living into grace’ – which means that we trust the promise is real and true and alive, and then act accordingly.

And if Jesus is always with me, then doesn’t that make a difference in the choices I make and the way I respect my body?  Doesn’t that call for moderation in drink and food, watching only shows and movies that are worthy of me, reading only things that build up the spirit?

And if Jesus is always with my brothers and sisters, then discrimination in all its forms has to go.  The randy jokes and cruel humor are out of place, and I have a mission to not rest until all my sisters and brothers, be they in Libya or Syria or the West Bank or East St. Louis share the dignity of the sons and daughters of God.

And if Jesus is here with us on this planet, then recycling becomes a part of my stewardship of this earth; working for sustainability becomes essential, and even the energy debate that was splayed across the front page of this mornings’ paper becomes the work that God has put before us to accomplish.

Promises are amazing things, especially when they come from God.  As we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord and prepare for the Feast of Pentecost, may we tune into those three promises of God in our living – you will have power, you will be witnesses and I will be with you…

And then, watch out, world…

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