my miscellany

Epiphany IV, 2018 — 28 Jan 18

Epiphany IV, 2018

RCL Year B Epiphany 4
Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Saint Mark 1:21-28

In the Gospel today, Jesus performs an extraordinary healing. A man suffering from an unclean spirit is healed, and the man is restored to good health. That is extraordinary.

In the course of that extraordinary healing, the demon challenges Jesus: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”[1] Literally, I am told, the Greek is: “What to you and to us?” The idea is that there is nothing in common between “us and you”—nothing in common between what is unclean and Jesus.

We have a saying, “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.” The Jewish laws said essentially the same thing: touching an unclean person or thing made you unclean. The bad infects the good.

But Jesus turns this around. The Holy One from God redeems bad apples. The clean redeems the unclean. The man with the unclean spirit is healed. He is made whole. Jesus’ touch makes him clean. Jesus’ healing brings him from the outside to the inside.

At their best, parishes can perform this healing. With genuine welcome, with genuine welcome, a parish can grow and can grow by healing the people it welcomes.

The welcome has to be genuine, and it has to be Christ’s welcome. The welcome cannot be desperate. It cannot rise from the need for operating income. Christ welcomes everyone, whoever they are and whatever they’ve done.

Because “Everyone” includes new people with new ideas. “Everyone” includes those people who wish to be private. It includes the noisy children. It includes the people with unclean spirits. It includes the people who don’t wear the right clothes.

Just for fun, sit for ten minutes in a fast food restaurant or store, as they like to name themselves, and watch people go by. As you watch our fellow human beings go by, ask yourself, “Would this person receive Christ’s welcome at Good Shepherd?” You might be surprised with the results. To me the essence of the Gospel is to announce God’s forgiveness, God’s love, and God’s welcome to everyone God has made, for everyone God has made wears the flesh which Jesus took on in his birth at Bethlehem, the flesh that was nailed to the Cross, and the flesh he took into heaven. You and I wear Jesus’ flesh. The tough thing is to realize that everyone else does also.

If we don’t stand in the way, if our welcome isn’t in service of our operating budget, Jesus will heal the sick and will welcome everyone. Jesus Christ makes the unclean clean. Jesus Christ makes the sinful holy. Jesus Christ makes the outcast a member of a loving community. These miracles can happen right before our eyes. And we can grow at the same time.

[1] Saint Mark 1:24.

Epiphany III, 2018 — 21 Jan 18

Epiphany III, 2018

RCL Year B Epiphany 3
Jonah 3:1-5 and 10; Psalm 62:6-14; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Saint Mark 1:14-20

The Gospel today gives none of us any wiggle-room. Wiggle-room is that zone of comfort that allows us to hear the Gospel, to receive Holy Communion, and to go about our lives as if nothing had happened. But today, there’s no zone of comfort, no wiggle-room, none at all.

First, Jesus issues a call to repentance, which we hear in these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”[1] No comfort zone there. We all need to repent. We’re all involved. None is exempt.

The message applies to each of us. And, I’ll tell you why. Repentance involves more than we may think. Repentance is more than giving something or someone up. It’s more than putting aside the cigarettes or desserts you shouldn’t take. It’s more than quitting seeing someone you shouldn’t see in circumstances you can’t talk about. It’s more than stopping what should never have started. The Greek word for repent means to change one’s mind and approach drastically, to turn around 180 degrees, to reorient one’s whole attitude toward God in the face of his coming kingdom. It includes the demand to be faithful. It includes giving sacrificially or tithing to the church. It includes doing all we do in the Name of the Lord Jesus. We all need to repent. We can start with stopping what we should never have started. But, alone, that will be incomplete. It will be incomplete unless our minds and hearts and actions become God’s. Very little comfort zone there. In the face of that call, we are either holding out in our refusal or joining up in our acceptance.

Certainly, join up in your acceptance. That decision leads to health and salvation. That call is what we all need. That call is intended for us all. Who could refuse?

[1] Saint Mark 1:15.

Epiphany II, 2018 — 14 Jan 18

Epiphany II, 2018

RCL Year B Epiphany 2
1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139:1-5 and 12-17; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; Saint John 1:43-51

After surviving last week the coldest weekend of the year, we are gathered together to hear a Gospel about growth and opportunity. Two very warm subjects are growth and opportunity. No, I’m not talking about a mutual fund. Nor am I talking about “transitioning” to retirement. This Gospel is about growth and opportunity in the lives of Philip and Nathanael, how they grow and how they take the opportunity to be as Christ would have them be. Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Son of God, this is the One who says to Philip: “Follow me.”[1] And Philip has to respond. For his relationship with Jesus to continue, he must at least give some response. Philip’s relationship with Jesus is a living and dynamic relationship, a rhythm of call and response.

In hearing God’s call and in responding, you and I discover growth and opportunity. We grow as we hear and answer God’s call. When we do not hear God’s call or when we do not respond, we do not grow. We do not grow as individual persons or as a parish.

The minute that you or I begin not to hear God’s call becomes the very minute that you or I begin to allow something to block our relationship with God. And then our relationship with God and with each other withers. Imagine Philip hearing the voice of Jesus saying “Follow me,” and imagine Philip not responding. Imagine what and who he would then be. Imagine the damage that would be done.

For God has not created us, God has not baptized us, into his Son’s death and resurrection, to seek our own will or our own pleasure. God has created us, God has baptized us, to be his people, to be in a relationship with him which is loving and tender. God has done this for us to that we may be his people in a broken world, a world broken by things not true, a broken world desperate to be healed and forgiven.

The call from God is here. God always calls on us to follow him. The ministry to a broken world and broken people is right here, not far away at all. More than one, surely, will say with Samuel in the Old Testament Lesson, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”[2]

[1] Saint John 1:43.

[2] 1 Samuel 3:10.

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