my miscellany

Pentecost 24, 2015 — 8 Nov 15

Pentecost 24, 2015

Proper 27 in Year B
I Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28, Saint Mark 12:38-44

You might think the writers of the Lectionary suspect that many parishes are having Stewardship Campaigns as these Lessons are read. The Lessons today give us two widows, two poor widows, and whether you are male or female, widowed, single, or married, I invite you to try to identify with both of these widows.

The widow in the Old Testament Lesson, the widow of Zarephath, is poor, dirt poor.  And she is living through a severe drought.  She has a young son, and her handful of meal and her little oil are just enough to prepare a skimpy last meal.  But God intervenes through his prophet Elijah.  And you remember what the prophet says: “The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.”  And you know how her story ends.  “The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.”

What little she has is little enough.  But it is enough.  That’s the heart of the Lesson.  She has little, but it is enough.  If you read about this widow past the confines of today’s Lesson, you will learn that her son dies, but Elijah resurrects him by the power of the living God.  This widow and her son are going to come to no harm, because they know their need of God, and they know God’s loving kindness.

The widow in the Gospel, the second widow, is also poor, dirt poor, but like the first widow she is rich, rich toward God.  She shows how rich toward God she is by putting two small copper coins, all she has, in the temple treasury.  Like the first widow, she relies on God’s word to live, and live she shall, just as the first widow does despite drought and death.

Both widows are poor in money but rich in spirit.  Both have little money but discover that little money is enough when one is rich in spirit.  With faith and with confidence that God keeps promises, both widows discover that their true happiness is in God and in God’s will.

My guess is that the widow in the Gospel could not double or treble her gift to the temple treasury. But I guess also that the people who give a dollar or two a week could double and treble that without breaking the bank.

The question I ask myself, and now I ask you, is this: How much do I need to give to signify that my faith is in God and not in my money? To me this is the crucial question.  And I don’t mind telling you the answer I have made to it.

I suspect many know that a grim reality knocked on my door a little more than a year ago. Please notice I said “grim reality” and not the Big, Bad Wolf. I had the opportunity to declare in the distribution of my expenditures that, like the widows, my trust is in God rather than in the money I wasn’t giving away. Now I give to Good Shepherd 10%, a tithe, of the compensation I receive from Good Shepherd. I can tell you that since the grim reality knocked my life is richer than it was before. My gratitude to God is greater. And I have fewer concerns about money. There is a drawback, however. You have to try this faithfully in order to know whether it’s true. But the witness of many is that it is true. My chief concern is how to declare to God something of my gratitude. That question receives a different and perhaps a better answer each day I ponder it.

The world in which these widows live, and the world in which you and I live, the world disclosed to us by the Word of God, is a world where we have a choice to be rich in spirit.  We have a big choice.  We can live our lives like these widows, putting our trust in God. The choice is ours, and we work out our choice in the decisions, large and small, that we make every day of our lives.  Your future choices are yet to be written.  You can make whatever choices you want.  Remember those widows.  Most definitely, the choice to be rich in spirit lies very close at hand.

All Saints Day, 2015 — 1 Nov 15

All Saints Day, 2015

All Saints Day
Year B
Wisdom 3:1-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; Saint John 11:32-44

Episcopalians love the Feast of All Saints.  We love it so much that when we revised the Prayer Book, we gave ourselves permission in most years to observe the Day twice: on November 1, the Day Itself, as well as the Sunday after. For years in a former life, I sang “For all the saints” on the Day Itself and then again three times on the Sunday after. I loved that. This year the Day falls on a Sunday, and we are able only to observe the Feast once.

Maybe we love All Saints because of all the remembrances the Day brings to our minds.  This day reminds us that by God’s grace, through Jesus’ resurrection, and in the power of the Spirit, we shall live in two worlds before all is said and done. We shall live in this world, or, I should say, we shall so live in this world, we shall live in this world in such a way, that we may attain to the next, to heaven itself.  That hope, really, is the Christian hope, the hope all Christians share. It may even be the motivation that we have in coming to church week by week.  We all hope to live here so that we shall get there.

And there are many who are living here or on another shore who are Saints. And they are the ones we remember today. When you think about it, only God knows how valuable they are; only God knows how devoted they are to God. We cannot know for certain how valuable any person is to God. We know that about some, and we give them their feast day. But many, many escape our notice. And this is the Feast where we say to God that we recognize there are many, many saints known to God alone. We remember them today, and we ask them to pray for us.

I feel comfortable putting it to you this way: I am willing to say that the people you have looked up to in your life, the people you admire, have many fine qualities, and one of those qualities, I feel certain, is generosity.

And part of our good and responsible stewardship is to pray for them, for all the saints, even as they pray for us—all those brave and suffering people who have gone before and who’ve set such good examples for us of what the Christian life may be like and such good examples of how an ordinary human being may be a full imitator of Our Lord Himself.  And we’re praying for them today, All Saints Day, even as we expect, through the Communion of Saints, that they will pray for us and that they will encourage us as we so live in this world that we hope we shall live in the next.

This Day brings to mind so many reasons to be grateful to God: the Christian hope, the examples of those who’ve loved us and we admire, and the awareness that someone near may have inestimable value to God. For these reasons, and for others, I am grateful to God for every circumstance in my life.

All the saints, all those we have admired through our years, they are in our prayers today. Through prayer and through the Communion of Saints, we are together with them, united with them through our Baptism, and today particularly we rejoice in this goodly fellowship. We give thanks to God for his revelation of himself to us through them. For, after all, in the words of the great hymn:

They were all of them saints of God—and I mean,
God helping, to be one too (Hymn 293, Stanza 1).

All Saints Day, 2015 —

All Saints Day, 2015

All Saints Day, 2015
November 1

Today I became the Priest-in-Charge of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Vestry requested this appointment, and the Bishop made it in accord with Canon III.9.3(b). I have ministered in this parish for years as a supply priest before and after the last rector.

In addition to offering the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day, we have an outreach ministry called the Seasons of Love dinners. We serve the people who need a hot meal twice a month on Sundays. (A nearby parish sponsors one meal a month in our parish house.) No one is turned away, and we serve eighty to a hundred people a dinner. We believe that these dinners are acts of mercy we perform offer in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

To be a priest in this community is an honor and a privilege. I am grateful to God for my association with this parish. The association reminds me that I am grateful to God for every circumstance in my life.

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