Sunday, June 4, 2017

It Could Happen to Us...

Pentecost - Yr A - 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville, KY

Wouldn’t it be awesome if what happened that first Pentecost happened to us here in our parish?  Wouldn’t it be amazing if – while we were here celebrating Mass – the Holy Spirit came down upon us and set our hearts and souls on fire – so on fire that we began to preach the Gospel to everyone around us in a way they could understand? And on Brass Band weekend too.  We’d leave here so filled with the Holy Spirit that folks in town would whisper behind us as we headed home: “They’re preaching the mighty acts of God!

Imagine what that would be like! Couples seeking out our parish – even if they weren’t Catholic – because they see something they want to nurture happy, healthy, loving families. Centre College students make the 3 block trek down Main Street in droves – twice or three times a week because the life of faith that we live is so enticing they can’t resist the allure of the Great Adventure we’re living.  Imagine our young people eager to see what happens on the other side of Confirmation – running to find ways to participate even more fully in the life of faith (rather celebrating their ‘graduation’ from CCD.)  Imagine that the homeless turn toward us because we provide for their humanity – the drug addicted turn toward our common life of faith because they see we have the answers and healing living life centered around Jesus. 

Imagine being so drawn into the life of faith that this community – this people – this place becomes the center of our days.  That we come here often to pray, to fellowship, to learn, to serve…  Imagine…  Imagine what that would be like.

//

I think it’s possible.  In fact – I know it’s possible.  I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve seen communities of faith like our own – that are doing a good job – I’ve seen them ‘catch fire’ with the Holy Spirit and become humming centers of transformation, change, and faith for their entire town.  I’ve seen them transform the steady pace of maintenance into the exciting, energized marathon of mission.  And it always starts with the Holy Spirit.  Come Holy Spirit…

//

It happened for the apostles at Pentecost – that powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit that takes what already is and transforms it into even better.  It happened for them, and it can happen for us, too.  But how, Father – HOW?  It’s simple, really.  If we want what they had, we have to do what they did.

If we want what they had, we have to do what they did.  And what did they do?  They expected the coming of the Holy Spirit, they looked for Him wherever they were, and they remained together in one place. 

//

Are we doing that…?  Are we expecting the coming of the Holy Spirit? That means finding a way to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives – and not just where we feel safe enough to invite Him – but to invite Him into wherever and whatever He pleases, whenever He pleases.  What if we started our days by praying a simple prayer:  Come Holy Spirit – come into my life wherever and however you want – and set me on fire!  What if we prayed that with our family?  What if we prayed that before every Mass we attend?

//

And then – what if we actually began to look for the coming of the Spirit. What if we began to look for the Holy Spirit the way we look for tornadoes in the spring?  What if we began to sit up straight and listen to the readings and the homily looking for the Holy Spirit – expecting the Spirit to show up and set us on fire.  What if we walked around our homes or went about our jobs looking for the Holy Spirit?

And what if we worked hard – made it our highest priority – to really be, as a community of faith, together in one place.  The second chapter of Acts begins this way: ‘When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.’ 

Together in one place means working hard to be of similar heart and mind.  Together in one place means that we have similar objectives, similar priorities, and similar ideas about how were moving forward into the future. Together in one place means that our differences of opinion fade and become secondary to the effort we invest in moving forward together… togetherTogether in one place means we’re all us – each of us – doing our part, doing something more than sitting here once a week – doing our part to share the ministry of this parish for the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. 

That first Pentecost, the apostles were so together in one place that even when they went out to the corners of the world, they somehow remained together.  Imagine what might happen in the life of our parish if our physical gatherings began to be mirrored by a more spiritual reality of truly being together…  Can you begin to pray and dream about how to make that happen?  Can you admit what part you need to play in making that happen in our parish?

//

Brothers and sisters – I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform the life of faith into something that is alive, all-consuming, more rewarding than we can imagine, and fruitful beyond our wildest dreams.  I believe the Holy Spirit is capable of consuming whatever lingers in us that holds us back.  I believe the Holy Spirit can ignite in us the spark of divine energy that will transform this thing we call ‘living the Christian life’ into a Great Adventure that changes the world.  And I believe you and I can catch that spark – I believe we can be set on fire with the Holy Spirit just like the apostles that first Pentecost.  I believe if we do what they did, we’ll find those tongues of fire dancing on our heads and experience this life like never before. 

If we do what they did, we’ll get what they got.  So let’s begin to expect the coming of the Holy Spirit, let’s look for the Holy Spirit wherever we go, and let’s work to be – heart and mind, truly – together in one place.  

Come Holy Spirit!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

They Doubted Too!!

Easter - Ascension - Yr A - 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s all just too much.  Am I right?  The Son of God left heaven and became a man?  Yeah right.  There’s life after death – and committing a sin can prevent me from getting there?  You mean if I tell a lie – if I have sex outside of marriage – if I steal, or talk badly about my neighbor – if I don’t conform myself to some outdated moral code – then I’ll go to some place called hell that is eternal torment?  Yeah right.  You mean the greatest of all the commandments is to love God and love other people, and love means sacrificing to do what’s best for them – all of them?  You mean if I don’t live my life in this kind of sacrifice I’ll miss the boat and be lost for all eternity?  Yeah right.  

You mean this Jesus we talk about all the time, who is supposedly the Son of God, also supposedly knew that I would have a hard time with all of this, and that’s why he lived a human life, and died a cruel human death – cut open, bled out, and was left hanging to dry like some butchered meat?  Yeah right – I mean, if He was the Son of God, would He really do that?  Do that for me – little ole me?  Yeah right.  Oh sure – sure – He didn’t stay dead.  Uh huh.  Right.  He “rose from the dead” and walked around some more, did he?  Come on Father – I know that’s the story you’re supposed to tell – that’s your job – but do you really expect anyone to believe that?

Ok – well – maybe I’ll believe all that.  But you’ve got to cut me some slack, OK?  Stop with all the rest will you?  I mean…you expect me to believe that this Jesus really somehow sent His supernatural spirit to those first apostles – that uneducated, in-fighting, common, fickle bunch who followed Him around aimlessly, watched Him die, denied ever knowing Him?  You expect me to believe that there’s something about them that gives them to power to forgive sins?  Yeah right, Father.  Nice story – but you’ve gotta be kidding me, right?  I mean – you expect me to believe these little pieces of cracker and cheap wine actually become His eternal living and divine presence among us – you’re about as crazy as they come, aren’t you?  You go ahead, Father, and bow and fall down on one knee in front of the gold box and the altar – I’ll do it, too, because it’s a nice idea.  But you don’t really expect me to believe that the Great King of All Creation is actually just sitting there in that tabernacle just so He can hang out with us whenever we show up here, do you?  Please, Father, you insult my intelligence!

I like all the stories – I like the idea of taking care of other people – I like this notion that I don’t really stop being when I die – and I even like all these quaint little notions of ritual and tradition – but you don’t really expect me to believe it’s true, do you?  I doubt it, Father – you’re a nice enough guy, but I doubt it.  It’s all just too much…

//

It is too much to believe sometimes, isn’t it friends?  It’s so far beyond making sense sometimes that we all have doubts.  Doubts aren’t bad – it’s what we do with our doubts that makes all the difference.

I discovered something in this Gospel reading: they doubted too!  The ones who had seen Him with their own eyes, seen the miracles He’d performed, seen Him dead as a doornail and three days later walking and talking and eating and living again among them!  They doubted!!  They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread, and they doubted!  They went ahead of Him to that mountain in Galilee as Jesus had ordered them to do – they followed His commands and they worshipped Him when they got there!  And – know what else they did?  When they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but they doubted.  That’s right – they doubted.  They doubted, too!  The Apostles – our forefathers in faith – they doubted!

They doubted – and what did Jesus do?  Condemn them?  Send them away?  Go looking for others who didn’t doubt?  What did Jesus do?  He sent them anyway!  He sent them to spread the Good News!  He sent them to preach all that they’d heard and seen – He sent them to share with others!  Even though they doubted, He sent them to save the world!!

//

You doubt sometimes, friends – and so do I.  Doubting is a part of living the life of faith – doubting is part of trusting in things unseen, of cultivating a true and authentic and lived faith.  We don’t have to be afraid of our doubts.  What we have to do is live past our doubts!  We have to live beyond our doubts – living in faith – living a great adventure of spreading the Gospel because we know it to be true even when we doubt.  YOU are called – YOU are chosen – YOU are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people set apart for God’s own possession – YOU are charged with living differently from the world in order to save the world around you in spite of your doubts.  Are you doing that?  How are you doing that?


"When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted." And what did Jesus do with these worshippers who doubted? He sent them to spread the Gospel. Doubts aren't excuses - they're part of living the life of faith. You've been sent, even with your doubts. Will you go?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Right There In Front of Us...All Along...

Easter 5th Sunday Yr A 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

There I stood, staring at the refrigerator.  I had literally looked everywhere – everywhere – and couldn’t find my phone.  But, you know, these days a phone is so much more than a phone.  Calendar.  Link to the outside world.  Address book.  Shopping list.  Photo album.  In the four years since beginning my priestly ministry, I probably haven’t been more than 25 feet away from my phone for more than a half hour.  Standing there, desperate, looking over every inch of the refrigerator, I hadn’t seen my phone for two hours.  Two hours!  What if Mom had called.  What if someone was in the hospital and needed me?  What urgent emails from the Bishop was I missing?  What if one of the seminarians was in trouble?  What if I was missing a meeting?  I had to find it!

It happens more often than I’d like to admit.  Keys.  Pens.  The phone.  Medicine.  You know what I’m talking about – it happens to you sometimes too, doesn’t it?  That thing you always have nearby – that familiar thing that is important that all of a sudden seems missing.  And what usually happens?

No – the phone wasn’t in the fridge.  It wasn’t under the couch, or in the bathroom cabinet.  It wasn’t in the car, in my briefcase, or even in the sacristy.  You know where it was when I found it, don’t you – because it happens to you sometimes, too.  Yep – you’re right.  It was right there on the kitchen counter the whole time.  Right there in one of the places it always is – right where I’d walked past a hundred times in the two hours I’d been searching for it.  The thing I was most desperately searching for was right there in front of my eyes, and I was completely overlooking it – not recognizing it – probably so familiar with it that it just blended into the background and I couldn’t see it.

//

“Master – we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?  Master, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”  Poor Philip.  Jesus was right there – He’d been as clear as He knew how to be all along.  What Philip and the disciples were most desperately searching for was right there in front of their eyes, and they were completely overlooking it – not recognizing it – probably so familiar with it that it just blended into the background and they couldn’t see it.  “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” I’m right here, Jesus says, and I’ve been right here all along.  You don’t have to search any farther.  You don’t have to stand there staring at the fridge or look under the couch – you don’t have to find the next right Bible Study or read the next Matthew Kelly book – you don’t have to study theology or sit puzzling it out – I’m right here, Jesus says, and I’ve been right here all along…just open your eyes and your heart and see.

//

All around the Church today folks are trying to figure out the key – what will make it all work again – what will keep our children in the community of faith when they grow up – what will keep the largest growing religious group in America from being ‘former Catholics’?  On a personal level we find ourselves searching, too: why don’t I feel close to God – where can I find the kind of living faith I hear other people talking about – what am I missing that leaves my faith feeling like an empty Sunday ritual rather than the cornerstone of a life lived on a Great Adventure?  We sometimes seem to be wandering around scratching our heads searching desperately, frantically, for something…when all the while its right there in front of us – He’s right there in front of us – right here in the tabernacle waiting for us – right here on this altar come to be with us, to love us, to transform us.  

He’s right here – He’s been right here all along – we just have to turn and recognize Him.  We just need to stop looking and come find Him here.  We just need to let all the distracting questions go and get back to the basics: Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  He’s right here in front of us…and He’s all we need.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Recognizing the Shepherd's Voice

Easter 4th Sunday - 2017 Yr A
Ss. Peter & Paul - Danville, KY

A few years ago I spent the summer working as a chaplain at St. Joseph hospital in Lexington.  I was often the only on-call chaplain for the whole system, which included the Women & Children’s Center at St. Joseph East out on Richmond Road.  Let me tell you:  Newborns are adorable, and new moms and dads are precious to behold.  It is difficult to be welcomed into the moment of new life without feeling uplifted.

I often watched in amazement at how these newborns recognized their fathers.  It was really no surprise to me that there was a natural attachment and response to the mother – after all, the infants had spent every moment since their conception with mom.  But I was amazed at their ability to recognize their fathers.  What was most interesting to me was what they most often seemed to recognize.  Dad’s touch was more scary than anything else – little baby David had never met dad’s touch before, it would take him time to learn that dad’s touch was safe, protective, tender, and warm.  But Dad’s voice was very often instantly recognized and tremendously calming.  Even from across the room.
  
I’ll never forget meeting a very grumpy little infant.  Newborns are able to produce a volume and pitch of sound completely disproportionate to their size.  This little guy could have provided the early warning system for all of Boyle County.  I’d been there for three or four minutes, listening to him scream and wail while the doctors were taking care of his momma, when the most amazing thing happened:  dad walked into the room and – from clear across the room – quietly said, ‘What’s the matter little guy?’  It was magic – it was amazing – the silence and calm that descended over the room was as comforting and peaceful as warm blankets on a cold night.  He hadn’t come within 15 feet of his little one – but the sound of his voice calmed and soothed him.  This newborn – just hours old – instantly recognized his dad’s voice – and it calmed him…made everything all right.

I marveled to these new parents about what had just taken place.  ‘Isn’t it amazing that your son recognized his father’s voice,’ I asked.  The new mother smiled with such love up to her husband as she gently took his hand and said, ‘Not really all that amazing, actually.  He’s been talking to him for months now – it just makes sense that he knows his voice.

///

That’s the message of Easter – that’s what Jesus says in today’s Gospel.  Even before we were knit together in our mother’s womb, Jesus was talking to us, calling our name, reaching out to us.  And, though perhaps not at first – and certainly not every time and in every way – but eventually, we begin to recognize His voice.  Why?  Because He knows us.  Don’t you see – the message of Easter is that the One through whom all things were created, like a shepherd, continually calls to us.  Even when we run from Him, even when we stray from Him, He calls.  He calls us because He knows us – and eventually hearing His voice becomes recognizing His voice – and with time, and grace, and relationship and the sacraments, recognizing His voice becomes following His voice.

“…the sheep hear His voice, as the Shepherd calls His own sheep by name and leads them out…He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him, because they recognize His voice…”

///

Brothers and sisters, we are an Easter people.  We are far from perfect – we are not always the best sheep – we don’t always follow, we aren’t always listening.  But our story is an Easter story; we have an Easter destiny.  Even when we are imperfect, frail, afraid, stubborn, or downright obstinate, the Good Shepherd calls our name, and we hear His voice.  He calls us today – calls us to gather at this altar – calls us to Himself.

Can you hear Him?  Do you recognize His voice? 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

They Recognized Him in the Breaking of the Bread...

Easter 3rd Sunday 2017 (Yr A)
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville, KY

They were distracted from the most important things, and that had them headed in exactly the wrong direction…

//

Though you and I are now two weeks from the resurrection, today’s Gospel takes place later that same day.  Cleopas and his friend were followers of Jesus – they’d been in Jerusalem when He’d been arrested, tried, crucified, died, and was buried.  They’d heard the crazy news that the body of Jesus was missing – and they’d even heard the crazy story that some believed He had risen from the dead.  And later that same day they were…well, they were headed the wrong direction…  They were headed to Perryville when they were supposed to be staying in Danville. Biblical scholars suggest they were distracted, confused, and afraid – and headed in the wrong direction…

//

But – Father – how can you say they were distracted and had their minds on the wrong thing?  They were talking about Jesus.  Doesn’t that mean their minds were on the right stuff?  

Well – I don’t know – you tell me.  While they were discussing what seems to be all the right things, Jesus Himself showed up and started walking with them – and they didn’t recognize Him. They were even talking with Him, talking about all that happened to Him – and they didn’t recognize Him when He showed up!  That suggests they were a bit distracted – a bit confused – and their eyes and hearts were turned to other things, regardless of the words that were coming out of their mouths.

We’re on the road to Emmaus sometimes too, aren’t we?  The words coming out of our mouths seem to be about all the right things, but sometimes we’re not really seeing or recognizing Jesus when He comes up alongside of us.

//

Now – the good news is – Jesus still comes!  He still comes to us, journeys with us, listens to us, loves us.  And there’s more good news – there’s something that always reveals Jesus to us, sets our hearts and minds in the right direction, eliminates our distraction, and gets us focused on Jesus.  They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread...!

That’s why the Eucharist is so important – that’s why coming to Mass is so important, especially when we’re feeling distracted or lost, or are trying to make sure Jesus is as the center of something important going on in our lives.  Because if we turn our eyes and hearts and minds to the breaking of the bread, we’ll recognize Jesus, we’ll see and experience Him with us.  The Eucharist is our compass, our north star, our guiding light.  Just like Cleopas and his friend, we’ll recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, adjust our destination, and begin to head in the right direction – toward the miracle He has in store for us.

//

We’re on the road as a parish family right now, aren’t we?  We’re on the road of discernment, trying to figure out what the next right step is for our family of faith regarding our building project.  We know we need an elevator.  We’ve talked for a long time about a bell tower.  We’ve also talked about important maintenance to our historic building to preserve and protect it, and dreamed about updates to our worship space.  Each of us has a different perspective on the priorities; a different story to tell about why we invested or didn’t invest in the capital campaign.  But we learned just before Easter that we can’t do it all – at least not all right now.

And so here we are on the road.  I don’t know about you – but there are times on this road that I feel like the disciples on the day of the resurrection.  Sometimes confused.  Sometimes scared. Wondering which direction to go.  Doing the best I can to find Jesus in this journey – to hear and see Him – to understand His guidance and direction.  Because nothing matters if we’re not following His lead.  “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

//

When we’re heading down this road of discernment for our parish building project – any time we’re on the road – together or individually – in difficulty and struggle, in times of loneliness, sickness, or hardship – even in times of plenty and consolation – any time we’re on the road, the only sure way to recognize Jesus and let Him point us in the right direction is to focus first and foremost on recognizing Him in the breaking of the bread.  To focus on gathering together – even among our disagreements and differences of opinion – to be walking together and focused on the Eucharist, to see and encounter Jesus in the Eucharist – so that we can recognize him in the breaking of the bread and let Him point us in the right direction.

There is nothing – nothing – more important that we do as a community of faith than turn toward Him at this altar, set everything else aside, recognize, see, hear, and respond to Jesus in the breaking of the bread, and let that communicate to us where and how we go forward.

//

Every registered member of the parish has a voice in our discernment regarding the construction project – we’ve heard already from about 150 of our families, and we’ve extended our time for response to noon on Monday.  Place your response forms in the collection basket or bring them to the parish office.  If you didn’t receive a form, contact Cindy in the office and she’ll get one to you.  The Parish Council has met, the Finance Council and Construction Committee will meet this week – and we’ll do the best we can to hear the voice of the whole parish and discern how to proceed.  But that only matters – it can only happen – if we keep what is most important actually most important to us:  that is, Jesus Christ – recognizing Him and responding to Him – and we do that by focusing together on Him in the breaking of the bread at the Eucharist.

//

They were distracted from the most important things, focused on worldly things, and that had them headed in exactly the wrong direction…  We find ourselves on that same road together and individually in all kinds of situations and circumstances.  Sometimes we’re headed in the right direction – sometimes we’re not.  Sometimes we’re distracted – sometimes we’re not.  The story of Cleopas and his friend give us a sure compass as we walk – we’ll recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  

Come Lord Jesus – show us your presence – let us hear your voice – point us in the direction we should go – and walk with us – so that all we do might bring glory and honor to you, and serve the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls.  Amen.  Amen.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Man, Does It Feel Good To Come Out of the Desert!

Palm Sunday (Yr A) 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville
Man does it ever feel good to be coming out of the desert!

Six weeks ago, we got out of the boat and into the desert – remember?  We went into the hot, dry, barren desert with Jesus – leaving behind all the things that try to leave us dead in the desert.  And as soon as we got into the desert, Jesus took us up a high mountain. Why?  So that we could be transformed – seeing Jesus more clearly for who He is transformed us so we could complete the rest of the journey through the desert of Lent to new life at Easter!  

And then we went on an adventure. Jesus found us thirsty at the well, and gave us the water of life.  Jesus found us blind from birth, and restored our spiritual sight. He found us dead – dead in our sin – dead and locked away – He found us dead, and restored us to life.  And all of that – all of that to bring us here…to the precipice of Holy Week – to the celebration of the great days.  In Lent, we got out of the boat and into the desert, where we were transformed, we found living water and began to see, and we are being brought back to life.  

Man – does it ever feel good to be coming out of the desert…

//

Coming out of the desert we hang our banners high, the music greets us once again, we march around town and around the Church celebrating the arrival of the King – our King!!  All Glory Laud and honor to You Redeemer King!! We’re excited – we’ve made it out of the desert – we’ve found our king – He is triumphant – we are SAVED!!!!  

And…that lasts about 15 minutes.  As quickly as the children of Israel turned on God and Moses after being delivered from Pharaoh – more quickly, actually – we turn on Jesus.  In the space of 15 minutes we go from all glory laud and honor to Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!  

//

Like all the worst stories in human history, our celebration of friendship with Jesus becomes a brutal betrayal.  The first time I ever really paid attention to the parts I read in the pews on Palm Sunday, I was overwhelmed by confusion. He’s my friend – He’s my king – I love Him – I’ll follow Him anywhere!  Kill Him!  Destroy Him! Murder Him!  CRUCIFY HIM!

The enormity of it used to bring me to tears – but nothing quite like the sorrow that settled into my soul the first time I realized that, truly, in my life, I actually do and say things that line up with our speaking parts on Palm Sunday.  We come easy to the palms and procession of this glorious day, dismissing or disconnecting from the part we play in the Passion.  But the truth is, friends, if we take an honest look at our days, at what we do and say, if we’re honest with ourselves we can recognize that the Church gives us these lines in the Palm Sunday drama because we’ve earned them.  Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.  All Glory, Laud, and Honor and Crucify Him!

//

We come to Mass on Sunday; we trust Jesus in prayer; we share what we have with the needy; we love even when it hurts; we carry our burdens courageously; we worthily receive His Body and Blood from this altar, and focus ourselves on offering the true worship of joyful, contrite, open and loving hearts.  Hosanna to the King of Kings!!!

But what about those times we miss Mass out of simple unwillingness to be inconvenienced?  We cling to more than we need and leave others in desperate want.  We love as long as it feels good or reject the teachings of the Church the moment it asks something of us that we don’t like.  We hide our sin from Confession, spiting in the face of Love Himself when we receive His sacred Body and Blood unworthily.  We sit at Mass the way we sit in a movie theater, passively going through the motions, overlooking the divine realities taking place.  Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!

//

Is it any wonder that at the end of it all – in His divine mind able to see the entirety of human experience – aware of the ways you and I would ignore, resist, and work against the very love His pain and agony offers us – is it any wonder that in His last breaths He felt abandoned and alone?  “…why have you forsaken me?”

//

Friends – we are all joined together in the hypocrisy of Palm Sunday.  We are all guilty.  Thank God – THANK GOD – this is a story, this is a day, this is a celebration of who Jesus is and not who we are!  Because, the story doesn’t end with our hypocrisy – the story doesn’t end with our fickle, two-faced transformation.  The story, the celebration, the Good News is that the pain and agony of the Cross, the humiliation and betrayal or our “Crucify Him” – the story we tell today – this story, this celebration, this Good News is that Love wins!

Day after day, if we let ourselves be pierced by the Mercy that flows from the Passion and Death of the Lord, our sin is overcome and the crucifixion pierces us with Love and earns for us a place in that kingdom where we become wholly, completely and forever among the parade of faithful witnesses ringing out Hosanna to the King!  

The story isn’t our betrayal.  The story is this:  Jesus wins!! Jesus wins in our lives!  Love wins in our lives! Even our own hypocrisy can’t destroy the power of this King’s love and mercy!  Hosanna to the King!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

We've Been Blind All Along...But It's OK

Lent 4 Sun Yr A 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul/Danville

Well – here we are in the desert – where it’s hot and dry.  We’ve been up on a high mountain already.  We are seeing Jesus more clearly for who He is – and coming back down the mountain, we’re finding it has transformed us (if we are letting ourselves be transformed, that is).  Did I mention it was hot in the desert?  And we didn’t bring any food or water – but we did that on purpose.  Just like Jesus, we want to rely on God for our sustenance.  And it’s working - because last week we came upon a well in the desert, and met someone there who seemed to be a stranger.  But He said He’d been waiting for us all along – waiting for us to ask Him for a drink of living water that quenches all of our thirsts forever.  He can’t be a stranger…He knows everything about us – everything – even the things we try to keep hidden from others and ourselves – He knows everything about us, and still loves us, gives us this water if we ask.  We’re transformed again as we trust Him more and let ourselves be known by Him who already knows us perfectly.

Yes – it’s hot and dry in the desert – it’s hard in the desert – we do without in the desert.  But – this desert seems to be doing something for us – it seems to be doing something to us.  Like ancient Israel following the pillar of cloud and fire, we’re discovering that we’re not really wandering in the desert.  Sure, it sometimes seems like we’re wandering, struggling with the same old stuff – not seeming to make any headway, not really getting anywhere in this life of faith and discipleship and relationship with Jesus.  But we can see, if we look, that we’re really headed toward something.  That’s why this Laetare Sunday we change our purple to rose; because we’ve been transformed, we’ve been refreshed with living water – and we’ re beginning to see that there’s hope…

But then – when things seem to be looking up – that’s when we discover that we’re blind.  Blind as the proverbial bat.  It would be horrible to go blind in the middle of the desert.  But this is worse!  We didn’t go blind – no, we realize we’ve been blind all along!  No wonder it’s so hard here in the desert; we’re blind and we didn’t even know it!

Our spiritual blindness is so much a part of our vision that we hardly ever acknowledge it, but it’s there.  We think we see sloth, vice, and danger in the poor, downtrodden, imprisoned and outcast, but in the desert we realize we’re blind to the dignity of the marginalized that is as fundamental to their existence as it is to ours.  We think we see in the Sacrament of Reconciliation an antiquated holdover from a misguided age, but in the desert we realize we’re blind to the workshop of humility and tangible encounter with grace that frees us from sin that confession truly is.  We mistake the beauty of creation for nothing more than a picture-perfect portrait meant for our casual and occasional pleasure, but in the desert we realize we’re blind to the giant arrow pointing to the masterful Creator worthy of our worship who carefully crafted for us a paradise in which we can walk and talk with Him so that we can come to know Him intimately on our journey toward heaven.  We think we see in the return of the ancient traditions of the Church an empty ritual that binds us to the past and prevents us from doing things the way we want, but in the desert we’re realizing we’re blind to the beauty and freedom these thousands of years of tradition represent and make real in our lives.  We think we see in the rules and disciplines and clear moral teachings of the Church nothing but chains that bind our preferences and rob our freedom, but in the desert we’re realizing we’re blind to the spiritual freedom and authentic discipleship these disciplines lead us into.  

In the desert of our Lent, we’re realizing that we are BLIND!

//

Were blind – but it’s OK.  It’s OK because…He is here.  The One we followed into the desert and up the high mountain.  The One who was and is and always will be – the source of all that is good – the exalted King of All Creation who stoops low enough to take us by the hand and lead us through the desert to the promised land.  The One who was waiting for us at the well of living water and gives it to us freely if we ask.  Jesus is here!  And what does He do when we discover how blind we are?  Here – in the silence and the hunger and thirst of the desert – here in the desert Jesus gives us living water that quenches our deepest thirsts, and here in the desert Jesus restores our sight!

//

Search your hearts – look for your blindness.  Are you blind to sin?  Blind to love?  Blind to trust?  Are you blind to your own dignity and worth?  Blind to how precious you are in the eyes of God?  Search your hearts – are you blind to the mercy of God that forgives – the mercy of God that calls you on a mission in this world no matter what your faults and failings are – are you blind to the mercy of God that pours out upon you the love of the Savior no matter what, if you’ll only ask for it.  Search your hearts – look for your blindness – and when you begin to see your blindness, trust Jesus – trust Him to cure your blindness and restore your sight.  It’s why He brought you to the desert…

//

Along with those preparing to enter the Church this Easter, the Lord restores our sight, sending us on our way – better able to see the goodness of the Lord, better able to leave behind the darkness of this world in exchange for the works and ways of light.  “Brothers and sisters, you were once in darkness – but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of the light!  Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!”

Sunday, March 12, 2017

In the Desert on a High Mountain...

Lent 2 Sun Yr A - 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

Last week, we entered the desert of Lent – we left behind what we know, our patterns, our normal, our familiar, to get into the desert.  We left behind our triumphant and jubilant hymns to enter into a greater silence, so we can hear the Lord speak to us more clearly.  We left behind the water we draw from old familiar wells of earthly success and praise; we left behind water drawn from the wells that never satisfy for longer than a few moments – you know – the water of feeding our appetites indiscriminately with screens and food and cheap love – we left that water behind to seek and find the water of life that is the only drink that can satisfy our longing.  We entered the desert by committing to a program of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to let go of the ‘extra’ in our lives – the ‘extra’ that weighs us down in the stark dryness of the desert and will, if we don’t drop it, prevent us from moving through the desert to the garden of paradise and new life on the other side.

We may still be struggling – trying – having difficulty getting into the desert, but we recommit today to the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving because they help us get into the desert – because our hope of making it through the desert to Paradise and new life lies in following Jesus into the desert…  In Lent, we have to get into the desert, where we are transformed, find living water and begin to see, and are brought back to life.  Can you say that with me?  In Lent, we have to get into the desert, where we are transformed, find living water and begin to see, and are brought back to life.  Very good – remember that – chant it – say it over and over again – let it guide us through Lent to Easter.  In Lent, we have to get into the desert, where we are transformed, find living water and begin to see, and are brought back to life.  Very good. 

So…here we are, in the desert, in the dry stillness and stark simplicity of the desert…here we are, in the desert, with Jesus…

//

A few steps – just as we really begin to get into the desert – a few steps into the desert, still tentative and halting, still trying to adjust, let go, shed sin and death – a few steps in the desert, listening in the stillness and looking for Jesus, walking with Him in the desert…and what’s the first thing we see?  Oh great – a mountain.  Here, just inside the desert, there’s a mountain.  

Well isn’t thaaaatttt speciallll...

//

Just inside the desert, there’s a mountain.  And not just any mountain – a HIGH mountain.  I can’t walk up a hill, no less a mountain – a high mountain.  But, apparently, Jesus thinks we should go with Him.  The good news I guess – if there can be any good news that goes along with having to climb up a high mountain – the good news is that Jesus leads us up the mountain.  Like Gandalf guiding the Fellowship, Jesus leads us up this mountain.  There must be something important up there for Jesus to lead us up that mountain so soon after following Him into the desert.

And – of course – there is something important up on this high mountain.  Something that has to happen before we can find living water and begin to see – something that must happen before we can be brought back to life.  Something that must happen before we can journey through Lent to Easter...

We must be transformed!

//

In my Bible – in every Bible I’ve ever seen – the little heading over this passage of scripture tells me it’s the Transfiguration.  As if what this story is about what happens to Jesus on the mountain.  But – does anything really happen to Jesus?  He is the same person coming down the mountain as He was leading us up the mountain, right?  

Peter and James and John saw His face shine like the sun for the first time, but Jesus is the Bright and Morning Star!  It wasn’t like Jesus began to shine at that moment – He had been and will be forever the bright shining light chasing away the darkness of our night in the valley of sin and death.  

Peter and James and John saw His clothing appear as white as light itself, but Jesus is the pure Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  It wasn’t like Jesus began to be radiantly pure and unstained by sin at that moment – He had been and will forever be the perfect, innocent, unblemished lamb that is the only acceptable sacrifice to rescue, redeem, and sanctify you and I and all humanity from the stain of sin and death.

Peter and James and John saw Moses and Elijah – the law and the prophets – conversing with Jesus; but Jesus is the very Word and Wisdom of God.  It wasn’t like Jesus began to be the source and completion of the law and prophecy at that moment – He had been and will forever be the fulfillment of all that the law and prophecies have pointed and will point toward, rescuing you and I and all humanity from the perils and pitfalls of sin leading us into death.

This story doesn’t really seem to be about what happened to Jesus at all – He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  No, this story seems to be about something that we who follow Him into the desert and up on the High Mountain – Jesus isn’t changed, He is revealed.  And – by encountering Him more completely as He truly is we – you and I – WE are changed and transformed!

//

Peter and James and John – and any of us who bravely get into the desert and follow Jesus up the high mountain – we’re transformed when we encounter Jesus more completely for who He truly is.

Our desire to capture moments and stay so stuck in them that life won’t move on is transformed into a willingness to leave it all behind and follow Jesus into whatever great adventure He has planned for us.

Fitting Jesus into a little box where He isn’t really anything more than a sage teacher telling us to be nice to each other is transformed into a recognition that Jesus Christ is true God, the Only Son of the Father; Christ the King and Jesus the Friend – who calls and leads and has enough – is enough – to bring us to the other side.

Our fear at seeing Jesus for who He truly is is transformed into love and courage and strength – our fear is transformed into a burning desire to follow Him wherever He leads, no matter what the cost.

//

We so often avoid the desert and the high mountains of life because they are uncomfortable, we have to leave the familiar behind, it’s hard in the desert… We avoid the desert and the high mountains because change is hard and sometimes it hurts.  But in the desert – on the high mountains – as we fast, and pray, and give – in the desert and on the high mountains we encounter Jesus more completely for who He truly is – and that encounter always – every single time – encounter with Jesus always transforms us.

//

“Well – that’s all well and good, Father.  But you haven’t told me anything I can use.  I hear what you’re saying – but I don’t know what to do with it.  Tell me something useful.  Tell me what I need to do – tell me where I need to go and what I need to go do.”


I wish I knew…but I don’t.  I don’t know anything about where to go or what to do – what I do know about is how.  How to live life in the desert and on the mountain.  Pray this week – in the silence of the desert, pray – pray and listen for Jesus so you can encounter Him.  Fast this week – fast from screens or food or complaining or despair – fast so you’re hungry for Jesus and can encounter Him.  Give – notice others around you and take some of what you’ve got that they need and give it to them – time, attention, resources – give to others and see Jesus in them so you can encounter Him.  If you live life this way this week – you’ll encounter Jesus on the High Mountain in the desert, and – seeing Him more perfectly for who He truly is – you will be transformed…

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Get Out of the Boat, and Into the Desert

Lent 1 Sun Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville, KY


We began Advent with a common theme in mind.  Do you remember?  Say it with me: “If we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss the boat.  So get ready!  Because Jesus is coming.  But don’t be afraid.”  My Advent Angel gave me a miniature sailboat which is displayed in the rectory to remind me every day that if I’m not paying attention, I’ll miss the boat.

But – Lent – Lent is different.  Lent is a time to bravely and intentionally get out of the boat – because: In Lent, we have to get into the desert, where we are transformed, find living water and begin to see, and are brought back to life.  Can we try that together?  In Lent we have to get into the desert, where we are transformed, find living water and begin to see, and are brought back to life.  I have a feeling we might hear that once or twice again… 

Yes – this is the time of year where we must get out of the boat and into the desert.  That sounds fun, doesn’t it?  Yeah right.  Nothing about that sounds fun to me.  Deserts are hot and dry places.  There are snakes and scorpions in the desert.  There’s no food or water in the desert.  The desert is a place of dryness and death.  Maybe that’s why we sometimes try to gloss over the desert of Lent and dress it up to be something different.

//

I’ve noticed this trend over the last decade.  We focus on something else besides the desert during Lent.  Let’s sing happy songs in a happy way, and fill our ears with as much lively music as possible to distract us from the stark silence of the desert. Let’s dress up our Churches as beautifully as they are during Easter, to add some color to the blandness of the desert.  Sure – we’ll use a different color – but our worship spaces should be as beautiful and inviting during Lent as they are during Advent and Christmas!  Because if they look and feel and sound like the desert, no one will want to come…  Well, I get that.  If you told me that to get to Easter I needed to walk through a desert – a real desert – I’d look for a path that seemed the most non-desert-like possible.  But then – that begs the question:  Why go through the desert at all?

//

That’s a very good question, actually.  Why go through the desert at all?  Why did Jesus go to the desert?  No – really…why?  And – why not bring some bread and water.  I’m not the omniscient Son of God, all-knowing and all-seeing, but I think I’d be smart enough to bring some food and water if I was going into the desert.  But Jesus didn’t…  Why?  Could it be because He knew we had to walk through the desert just like it is – dry, hungry, hot, difficult – that we have to walk through the desert to get to Paradise on the other side?

That’s what today’s readings are telling us, by the way.  We all were meant to live in Paradise, but that got messed up by one person.  So, one person (Jesus) fixed it for us so we could get back.  But, in order to do that, He first had to walk through a desert – and if we trace the rest of the story we know that desert leads to certain death.

That’s why we have to go through the desert, isn’t it?  That’s why we can’t miss the desert.  Yes – things die in the desert…but only the things that are preventing us from living.  In the desert there’s no time or energy or room for all the ‘extra’ that we surround ourselves with that hold us back from life; in the desert we drop all that to keep moving.  What’s your ‘extra’ – hurt, resentment, sins that just won’t seem to go away?  Computers, television, relationships?  Lust, gluttony, pride?  What’s your extra that you’ll have to drop in order to make it through the desert of death to the garden of life?  In the desert, instead of clinging to our old selves – the selves we hold to so tightly today – instead of resisting change and sanctification and growth, in the desert we have no choice but to let go of what isn’t useful and let ourselves be transformed.  

We don’t bring the pitiful water that only quenches for a moment into the desert…it won’t help us.  That water that comes from the same old familiar wells that leave us thirsty: focusing on careers and the success of the world, the accolades and praise of others, or dreams of building such a powerful bank account that we’ll never have to rely on God for anything because we only need to rely on ourselves and what our money can buy.  No, we go into the desert without that pitiful canteen so we can find the living water that can sustain us.  In the desert where the sun is so bright and glaring, we have to ditch the false lenses we’ve let the world put on us that blind us.  The lenses that say there is no such thing as objective truth, the lenses that suggest morality can ignore or re-interpret God’s Divine Law to fit my desires or circumstances.  In the desert we have to abandon that, so that our sight can be restored, and we can find our way to the other side where we are restored to life.

//

Yes – the desert is a place of death and dryness and dying – but only a dying away of what is holding us back from real life!  In this desert, in this Lent we find a path toward springtime, new life, eternal life – because what dies is sin, what dries up is our attachment to vice and our focus on this world.  We strip our Church bare so we’re not distracted or pretending the desert isn’t empty – because in the emptiness we empty our hearts of all that keeps us from letting the desert dry up and destroy whatever in us isn’t from God.  We sing less, and sing more somberly to repent, to change, to be different – and to let us hear and encounter Jesus here with us in the silence of the desert.  We sacrifice our preference for beautiful and lively Mass parts, and willingly – yes, willingly, whether we like it or not – learn or re-learn the ancient solemn chant in the ancient language of the Church so we can travel more closely with all the saints and sinners who’ve gone through this desert before us…and we do this…why?

We do this, because it’s in the desert that we are transformed, find living water, begin to see, and are brought back to life.  In the desert…

//

Just one last thought…

Part of our parish Lenten observance is the invitation for each and every one of us to come pray with Jesus here in the Church sometime during Lent.  Preferably during Adoration on Fridays between the noon Mass to 5pm.  I read something this week that was a powerful game-changer for me.  “Jesus’ human nature longs for human consolation…”  Think about that.  

Sure – as completely God and completely Divine, Jesus has no need of our praise or presence.  But – as fully human – He knows the need and longing for human consolation and companionship.  We all know what it’s like to long for human relationship and human companionship.  Last Wednesday, at the beginning of our Lent, Jesus entered the desert.  He entered there for us – He entered the desert looking for us – and I believe He entered the desert longing for us.  Imagine His longing…His desire…His sense of hunger and agony in waiting for us to find Him, join Him, be with Him in the desert.  Won’t you be a part of our parish’s effort to “Console the Heart of Jesus” in the desert this Lent?  We’ve prepared some guides to help you pray a Holy Hour if you’ve never done it before – all you have to bring is yourself, and a desire to be with Jesus in a special way.

Go ahead and sign up today.  And – even if you can’t sign up – even if you can’t make it a whole hour – come visit Jesus this Lent in the Eucharist to be with Him in the desert while He’s in the desert for you and looking for you…

Sunday, February 26, 2017

One Foot in Tomorrow and One Foot in Yesterday...

8 Sun OT Yr A - 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

I have this problem that I think most of us share.  I heard it described once very well by a very wise man.  It’s not quite fit for public consumption, so we’ll have to massage it a bit.  It goes like this:  If you’ve got one foot stuck in tomorrow and one foot stuck in yesterday, you’ll… Well…you’ll do something gross, and messy – all over today.  Poopoo.  Can we say poopoo in Church? If we’ve got one foot stuck in tomorrow and one foot stuck in yesterday, we’ll poopoo all over today.  

Funny as it is…we do it all the time, don’t we?  

I’ve been trying to get on the treadmill more regularly.  Here’s a typical conversation in my head when I start thinking about exercising: ‘Gosh – I wish I hadn’t gone so long without exercising – if only I’d started doing this months or years ago, I could be so much stronger, so much fitter.  If I’d started drinking my NutriBullet shakes and eating better in my 30’s, it wouldn’t be so hard to walk two miles.’  Often, that gets me so bummed out that when it’s time to get on the treadmill, I start having a different conversation in my head: ‘Golly – looking at my calendar, there won’t be any time to exercise again for another 10 days or so – there’s so much to do!  Maybe I’m better off just giving this treadmill thing a go after we get Lent off to a good start…’  And you know what happens, right – between all that worrying about yesterday and worrying about tomorrow – I don’t get on the treadmill today.  

I’m not alone in that, am I?  We do it with fitness and finances and faith.  We do it with relationships.  We do it with confession.  Go ahead – we’re family – raise your hand if you’ve ever done that with confession…  Over and over again, we struggle with this pattern… If we’ve got one foot stuck in yesterday, and one foot stuck in tomorrow, we’ll poopoo all over today…

//

Jesus invites us to do it differently…actually, he invites us to be different.

//

‘Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life,” he says.  There’s so much more to this life, He says, than the things we’re always worrying about.  That thing we call worry is hardly ever about this present moment; worry almost always sends us to regret over yesterday and paralyzing concern over tomorrow, eating up the only moments we can use to do anything about it: right now.  

And what’s the key to living this moment – each present moment – in a way that will fill our lives with peace?  “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you besides…”

//

Isn’t it funny – when I shut up all my internal chatter about what I wish I had done and what I’m worried about that’s coming – when I shut all that up and say to myself, ‘Who does God want me to be right now?’ – every single time I’ve done that, I’ve put on my walking shoes and hit the treadmill. Every. Single. Time.  Every single time I stop regretting that I haven’t prayed as much as I should have, and stop predicting that I won’t pray tomorrow as well as I need to – every single time, I’ve grabbed my breviary or rosary beads or journal and spent quality time with the Lord.  Every. Every. Single. Time. Every single time I stop beating myself up for the sins I’ve committed, stopped shaming myself for not being a perfect Christian, and stopped wondering whether or not I might commit the same sin again even after I go and confess it and stop playing the ridiculous game of ‘I’ll go to confession after I figure out how to stop sinning’ – every single time, I’ve gone to a priest and made my confession, and found peace in the mercy of Jesus who sees growth and healing in me. Every. Single. Time.  

If we’ve got one foot stuck in yesterday, and one foot stuck in tomorrow, we’ll poopoo all over today…But if we’ve got both feet in today, in each present moment, and if we look to God who loves us enough to save us one moment at a time, then we’ll get somewhere…and we’ll be as at peace as the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, because, like them, we’ll live each moment in the hands of love.

//

We have to practice this way of living, friends.  This way of knowing and trusting Jesus enough to let go of our anchors in yesterday and tomorrow and live in today.  That comes from experiencing His love, experiencing His friendship, and experiencing His divinity – because if we experience that the all-powerful Creator loves us enough to be our friend, we can trust our lives one moment at a time to Him.

Together as a parish family, I want us to try something together this Lent.  Something that will help us all experience more deeply the love of Christ.  Something that will help us all know Jesus better as a real person and the realest friend around.  I want us to spend time with Jesus.  Specifically, I want us to spend time with Jesus like we would any friend…by coming to where He is… where He waits patiently for us to visit Him…hidden in simple bread.

If you’ve got a friend or acquaintance you want to get closer to, what do you do?  You spend time with them.  Face to face.  You see them.  And you see them seeing you.  You talk with them, and you stop talking and listen to them talk to you.  You laugh and cry together.  You’re honest with each other.  And – you do it face to face as often as you can.  Right?  

This Lent, I want you to ‘come and see’ what happens if you do that with Jesus here in the Church, here on the altar, here in Eucharistic Adoration.  As a family of faith, together as a family, let’s visit with Jesus this Lent.  Each Friday, between the noon Mass and 5pm Stations of the Cross, there will be adoration right here in the Church.  Our parish staff has made the first commitment – for every hour of adoration, one member of our parish staff will be here praying for and with you as we seek to be closer to Jesus ourselves.  And I’ve asked our Parish Council and those involved in each of our parish Committees to lead us as well, by being a routine part of this Adoration effort.  If you’re on the Council or a Committee and haven’t yet heard from your leaders about this, please get in touch with them.

We’re doing all of this for you – each and every one of you – young and old alike.  We’re trying to experience Jesus ourselves as leaders in the parish so that we know him more deeply and can serve you more perfectly.  But we’re also making this commitment so that you can have the opportunity to spend time with Jesus this way, too.  I want to ask each and every one of you to spend one hour with Jesus, here at the Church, in Eucharistic Adoration, over the course of this Lent.  Take a long lunch; leave work early; change your plans just once to make this happen.  I’m not asking you to do anything more than what you’d do for a good friend who wants to make plans to see you…  One hour over the next six weeks…and just see what happens…come and see…

//

If we’ve got one foot stuck in yesterday, and one foot stuck in tomorrow, we’ll poopoo all over today…But if we’ve got both feet in today, because we’ve spent time with Jesus face to face and have grown in knowing Jesus as the God who loves us enough to save us one moment at a time, then we’ll be as at peace as the birds of the air and marvelous to the world around us as the flowers of the field, because, like them, we’ll live each moment in the hands of love.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

It All Seems So Simple, Doesn't It?

6 Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul/Danville


It all seems so simple, doesn’t it?  What’s the big deal, right?  Choose and trust. If you choose to keep the commandments, they will save you.  Simple.  If you trust in God, you too shall live.  No big deal…

//

Except – well, except apparently it is a big deal.  Because from our first parents thousands of years ago until now, who among us has been able to just choose to keep the commandments?  You can eat any fruit you want – except this one – this one tree over here, leave it alone.  If you eat this fruit you will surely die.  Simple.  Don’t lie, cheat, or steal.  Don’t murder – the unborn or the elderly or even the criminal.  Don’t take their life – and don’t be angry either.  Simple.  Don’t use the gift of your sexuality however feels good – it’s powerful and meant for a purpose; use it only in a forever union of man and woman.  Physically and mentally, preserve this gift of sexuality for what is true marriage.  Simple.

If you choose to keep the commandments, they will save you.  Simple, right?  Wrong.  This fruit looks good to eat, surely it won’t kill me.  This pregnancy is inconvenient to me, surely it’s my body so it’s my choice.  He killed her so surely we should kill him.  It seems like marriage should be between whoever wants to be married for as long – and only as long – as they want to be.  Who is God to tell me what I can do with my anger, my sexuality, my love?  

//

Is it a choice problem, or a trust problem?

For as long as there have been people, we’ve had difficulty choosing to follow God’s commandments.  And I think that’s because we have a trust problem.  We don’t trust God to know whether a fruit is good for us or not.  Surely the one who eats know better than the one who plants the fruit what is good for the belly.  Who is God to tell me what to do with my body and mind – they’re mine aren’t they?  I’ll love who I love however I want to love – because I know better than anyone else what’s good for me.  Trust God?  Sure – when He tells me what I want to hear.  But trust that He knows better than me?  Nah – I’ll pass…

//

If we believed about God what we say week after week we believe about Him, we’d solve both our trust problem and our choice problem.  “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…”  

Wait…what?  Creator.  Creator?  

Hmmmm….

Maybe – just maybe all those “commands” are something other than arbitrary boundaries imposed on us to make us live lives a certain way.  “You can eat any fruit you like but this one.”  Was that a command designed to keep us from some pleasure that would make us very happy?  Was God trying to save the best fruit for Himself, and keep it from us?  Was it just a trick question – a test for His amusement?  When He said if we ate the fruit of that tree we’d surely die, was it a cruel punishment that He was going to exact on us for having the audacity to displease Him? “Do as I say or I’ll have your hide?”  Or is it possible that, being the Creator, God knew us and knew the garden so well that His command was a protection spoken out of love?

Don’t touch the stove when it’s hot; don’t run down the stairs.  Are the burnt fingers and bruises punishment?  Don’t eat the fruit; don’t kill; don’t commit adultery; don’t lie.

//

It all seems so simple, doesn’t it? If you choose to keep the commandments, they will save you.  If you trust in God, you too shall live.  Simple, right?  Well – it would be, if we trusted God at His word… But we have difficulty with that.  It is simple – but far from easy.

That’s why Jesus came friends – that’s why He comes here again today on this altar.  God created us to be with Him forever – He created us to be like Him – but the difference in our vantage point seemed too difficult for us to overcome.  Created so much like the Creator Himself, from the very beginning we struggle to remember that we are creature, not creator.  And we attempt to substitute our wisdom for His; we mistake the love expressed in His commands for artificial boundaries; we misunderstand freedom to be an absence of any boundary instead of the authentic freedom which listens to the voice of God and hears the caution of a loving parent:  don’t touch that, it’ll burn…

What we understand instinctively about parenting children we reject in our relationship with God…because we forget that He always has been and will be our Father; we struggle with the idea of forever being His children…

We struggle to hear care and concern in His commands, we’re unable to see God’s love written in our very existence…so Jesus came to show us once and for all the depth and breadth of His love.  I will die for you to make up for all you’ve misunderstood and ignored, if you’ll just believe that I’ve done it.  I’ll hang on this cross for you, and hide in the bread and wine forever for you, if you’ll just see my love in the completeness of my gift for you. 

If you choose to keep the commandments, they will save you.  It’s simple really, I love you.  If you trust in God, you too shall live.  It’s simple, really – I died for you…why would I lie to you?  


“Before you are life and death, good and evil; whichever you choose I’ll give to you.” 

Because I love you…