15 July 2016

The Better Part

Readings Here :-)

What is the better part?

I sat in the fading sunlight yesterday.  To the West, the glowing remnants of a day that had been given its best, even in the 103 degree weather.  To the East, a darkening sky that seemed ominous and full of terror.  To look around the sky, there was a contrast between the radiant warm colors of the setting sun and the cold dark clouds of the oncoming storm.  And then,  the lightning!  At first it was one bolt that struck with the focus of a college professor with his red pen in hand!  Sharp and fast, it struck and then it was gone, but the witness of its presence remained.  After that first lightning bolt, there were plenty more and while my initial instinct was to run and shelter, I stayed put and in awe as the weather put on this glorious production.  The Heavens were telling the Glory of God and I was privileged to be a spectator, admiring such beauty.
For many years, I did not like Mary, she seemed lazy and careless to me. She had clearly skirted all her responsibilities and left her sister Martha to do the work and to make matters worse, when Martha mentions her sister's lack of assistance, it is she, Martha, and not Mary who gets a Jesus reprimand.  The "big brother" in me always cringed at poor Martha.  I always imagined her to storm off and then do the rest of her work in a huff, like I would have.  So this is the part where I wish I could say that I am no longer like Martha.  This is the part where I would triumphantly announce that I am more like Mary and so much attune to the voice of the Master...  yeah, right.  If only! In actuality, however, there is an important lesson to be gleaned from this story.  In reality, the story calls us to never be afraid to sit at the feet of the Master and listen.  It is a pleasant reminder that no matter what, we are invited to approach Christ and sit with Him in Love.  But the flip side of the story is that Martha is not completely wrong either.  Sure, she's told that Mary is right, but notice also that she isn't ever told that she is wrong.  I believe this is because the Love of God calls us to listen and act.  Or if you prefer, to put it in the words of St. Benedict "ora et labora."  It is in this exchange of listening and acting that we encounter Christ in a very different manner.  You see, it is easy to say "I'll keep you in my prayers."  It is much more difficult to then become those prayers, to en-flesh what we proclaim, but this is exactly what our Christian call to evangelize is.  It is a becoming recharged and renewed int he Love of God so that we can in turn share that love, or become that love for others.  A relationship with God is always good, but if that relationship only stays within the confines of my heart, then there is something seriously lacking.  Now don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean that I get to be a holy jerk to other people, especially those I perceive as bad.  As I have come to know God's love more and more, I have come to realize that sharing God's love does not have to take the militant form of evangelization that has so prevailed in our times.  Instead, evangelization is a partaking in the present time, the hear and now and being available to what the Spirit may be doing.  In many ways, it is about being like Mary and then Martha or Martha and then Mary.  it is about being able to stand in awe of the Divine and then share, not because the Divine forces us to, but because we can't help but share the good we have just encountered.  it is standing in the middle of the storm and allowing yourself to be immersed in the wind, the rain, the light and the darknes and then sharing the experience with others.  The love of God is not exclusive to one group or one person, but there can be no doubt that each of us, in our own unique manner, have the grace to encounter that love in radically different ways.  As I sit and reflect on this amazing love, I also hope that each one of you has that experience which inspires you to share.  If nothing else, sit and enjoy and then go and do.  As always, know that you are beautiful and you are loved.  God bless you.  Fr. Rick

10 July 2016

That person on the side of the road.

Gospel of the Good Samaritan

The Gospel of the Good Samaritan has never hit me as strongly as it did this week.  It's not that I'm on some pietistic kick, or that I was particularly struck by my prayer this week, instead, this Gospel passage struck me because in a seeming barrage of videos and news clips, I saw that trampled man in the faces of so many this week.  Yes, it's easy to say that the man by the side of the road was those killed by cops, or the cops killed in Dallas, but that's not exactly what struck me.  What hit me the most was seeing how so many of us were so readily able to justify the killings or at least make up a good excuse for them.  In one social media quote, I read how one person posted the criminal record of one of the murder victims, as if that justified the killing.  Others wrote about the good deeds that these men had done in their lives and hailed them as heroes, or perhaps, modern-day Saints.  Either way, yes, these things were there, and yes, they demand some profound reflection from each of us, but that's not where I saw the man fallen by the wayside.  Instead, it struck me to see the priest and the scholar of the law in me!  And truth be told, all too often, those men who ran away from the injured man, are often each of us.  I saw him in those who post their anger against Muslims, without knowing a single Muslim.  Or those who discriminate against Latinos, Gays, Blacks or anyone else who doesn't look like them, without really knowing any.  I saw the man fallen by the wayside, to be each of us when we are left without recourse to a fair reception in the public sphere, or each of us when we find ourselves judged before even uttering one word.  I also see each of us becoming the priest or the scholar when we choose to actively avoid anything or anyone who is not like us, or who is different.  This passage isn't about serving our neighbor when it suits us, it is about going beyond our comfort zones and serving those in need.  Furthermore, this passage isn't about serving a Jew, a Muslim, a Gay, a Latino, a Black, a Cop or any other title, it is about serving our brother and sister, a fellow HUMAN BEING!  That is what struck me in a very particular manner this week, it's not about the service of a Samaritan to a fallen Jew, but about the care that one human being offers another.  This then brought me to question myself, what are those things within my own worldview that prevent me from truly being able to serve?  What lenses have I put on that influence the way I am with others, especially when that "other" calls me beyond my area of expertise?  The Gospel passage today is radical, not because it shows the image of one person serving unconditionally, but because it shows one person serving without consideration of who or what the person in need is.  In my own journey to serve God, and to the face of Christ in the world today, I believe that this passage calls me to go and be love to all the world, yes, even those who don't believe, not because I hope to convert them, but because I have known Love.  We have each experienced Love, my hope is that we can then go and love others and share with them, not because they are this or that, but because they are our fellow human being.  As always, know that you are beautiful and you are loved.  God bless you.  Fr. Rick

08 July 2016

An Epistle of Our Times

Peace and God's blessings to you my dear one, beloved in God's eyes!  The night has been long, and death has been rampant.  There are tears on the faces of many people and fear in the hearts of even more.  Anger seems to have gained an upper hand and faith seems to be something quickly fading away.  As we have heard before, be not afraid!  Life is here and God is with us.  Our dignity as God's beloved children may appear to have been stripped away from us as we encounter so much violence and death, but in Love, we are brought to a new state in life.  Yes, there is pain and yes, there is doubt, but be not afraid.  Christ is with us and nothing can change that truth.  The tomb, yes, the tomb and the tombs of our daily existence have been made obsolete and we are called into life.  Be not afraid, for the shadows we see today are but a mole hill and not a mountain.  That tomb has been vanquished and in Him we have become a new creation, a new child, beloved and good.  Yes, sin still prevails and yes, sin has caused great pain, but sin is not our way of life, Christ is and in Him we shall find the light no matter how dark things may seem.  Be not afraid, we have been told, and today, even as I feel the inkling of running away, I have to root myself to the One in whom there is no fear, in whom there is no death, in whom I am made whole.  Be not afraid, we are one and together, in love, change will be made.  Be not afraid for you are beautiful.  Be not afraid for you are loved.  Be not afraid.  Take my hand and together we shall walk into the light, with Him, in whom there is no fear.

07 July 2016

Blue? Black? All? no, Your life matters!

All day I've been thinking about the tragic police shootings that have taken place this week.  It's difficult to believe that only two day ago, a man was shot and killed and that video was posted all over social media.  This morning, as I got my morning fix of NPR, I could not believe that there had been another gruesome murder, and once again, a video posted onto social media.  At first reaction, I wanted to place blame, I looked at the seemingly ostentatious teeth of Alton Sterling and the seemingly callous comportment of Philando Castile's girlfriend and associated the worst of my own prejudices onto the situation.  Furthermore, my energy went toward the police as I think of what they must be going through and what their world must be like, especially now, with so much aggression.  That took me onto a tangent that has been brewing in my brain since early today.  Why all this aggression?  Where has it come from and what can I do about it?  As I mentioned, upon hearing about these two men's deaths, my instinctual reaction as a goody two-shoes and as a person of my own upbringing, I wanted to blame the guilty and exonerate the innocent.  During my prayer, though, something happened.  For the first time, I realized that the guilty were not the dead men.  Nor were the innocent the officers.  In actuality, there is no innocent and the guilty are guilty for reasons other than their rap sheets or their trigger finger.  Even as I type, I am trying to grapple with the reality that our world has become so familiar with death and violence.  As a minister, I am challenged by the call of Christ to love, the service of Jesus which was to heal and the movements of the Holy Spirit who calmed the chaos at creation.  As I reflect on the violence that has taken place, I am shaken to recognize the violence within me and how that is triggered by the shiny gold teeth in Alton's smile, or the shiny gold badge on the officers.  As I think about this, I am forced to discern on what it means to be a child of God, and not just as a lip service to the God's of Facebook, but as a true believer in the One who calls me to be a part of His body, the One I see in my brothers and sisters.  It scares me, but the aggression I feel is not of God, nor is the anger that naturally rises within me as I read or hear about another black man's death.  This isn't just a reality of black men being killed, instead, it is a deeply rooted growth that has taken over our country, not this Christian nation that so many want to shout about, but this country, a land created for all.  A land where I am able to celebrate who I am and live freely.  Our agression and fear have driven us to see each other not as sisters and brothers, but as a nuisance at best and a threat at worst.  We have become a society where we turn to our man-made god's and look for solace, often finding death instead.  So all that being said, what does it mean for me to be a Christian?  What does it mean to love? and how am I to respond to what has happened.  First of all, no, I cannot go seeking revenge.  Violence begets violence, no matter what.  Secondly, as Christ calls me to love, how am I to do so in today's world?  and how am I to do so as a person of non-violence?  Finally, in love, how am I to be reconciliation, both within and beyond me?  Ultimately, this begins with me.  It begins with each of us.  It means recognizing those things within us that bristle when brought into the light and moving away from that which is not of God.  It means recognizing that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear, and it means going into the darkness with the full knowledge that within me, the light is.
A better tomorrow is not about perfection or Saintliness, it is about an authentic living out my life and celebrating others as they live theirs.  It is about moving into tomorrow, not in toleration of others, but in an understanding that makes all of us stronger!  I do not have all the answers, but as I reflect, I recognize and beg forgiveness (of the victims, their families and so many others) for those things that I have harbored that have filtered the way I looked at these events in the past.  Today, I know what it means to say "Black lives matter."  But I would stretch it beyond that, no, I don't intend to cheapen it by saying that all lives matter, instead, I will offer a remind to myself (if not for anyone else) that by saying "Black Lives Matter," I am reaffirming my belief in the Body of Christ, because insofar as the families of these black individuals hurt today, Christ hurts.  Christ matters, and Christ is in that car, in that parking lot, in that park, and in that hoodie.  I can no longer defend the supposed innocent, for I have seen in myself the ease of placing blame.  I am for Christ, and Christ is bloody and dead, and that matters!  As always, I love you, you are beautiful.  Fr. Rick