Up a Tree, Without a Clue

zachaeus

The Pas Proper/Ordinary 31 – Pentecost + 21
Year C
3 November 2019

Isaiah 1:10-18
Psalm 32:1-8 pg 742
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke19:1-10

God of all holiness,
in your realm of glory,
those who are poor now will receive the kingdom
those who are hungry now will be filled,
and those who weep now will laugh and leap in joy.
Strengthen us by this vision,
so that, with the saints before us,
we may bring near your justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.
__________________________________

Today’s gospel is one that gets debated from time to time, more, in our own generation for what it doesn’t say than for what it does.

What it does say is that a man, who is a sinner, wants to see this Jesus guy, so he climbs a tree because he’s short. Jesus sees him and invites himself to lunch, and the man, in his haste to respond, comes down and in response to the negative muttering at Jesus words, declares he’s an honest man and will give back more than he took, if he’d ripped anyone off, and Jesus declares that he’s come to bring back those who are lost in the family of Abraham.

So, what did Zacchaeus, the man up a tree, hear when he came down to play host to Jesus? The gospel tells us: “7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”” (Lk 19:7)

In this passage, today, we see a man who knows, intimately, that he is a sinner. He knows what the community thinks of him, and yet knowing the level of condemnation leveled at him and his life, he wants to see Jesus.

So, what does this say for each one of us, today? After all, we’re not wealthy tax collectors who have been pushed to the martins of society by other people’s ideas of righteousness, right?

How do our preconceptions of others cause us to make judgements about them? And what does that say about us? About Zacchaeus? Or about The People, in today’s gospel?

Having said that, though, we know that we are unable to understand, right from the get go, what it is that Zacchaeus is truly looking for, today. What is it, we wonder he’s hoping to accomplish, as he climbs the tree to see out of curiosity in order to see Jesus pass by, and try to figure out what all the fuss is about. This is what we’re seeing.

But really, what Zacchaeus is looking for is forgiveness. And this is what we don’t see because even Zacchaeus cant articulate it for himself, yet.

He’s looking for for absolution, for the choices made in his life that have pushed him to the outskirts of society, probably because he is a man of financial affluence.

And, in today’s society, we have difficulty in understanding this because we know that Jesus died for each of our sins, that Jesus rose from the dead so that we are able to stand, redeemed, before God and we look for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in and through our lives, every day.

Our perception of our place in society is different because we stand on the other side of the cross from Zacchaeus.

In our lives, we are forgiven by God, every time we confess and ask for God’s absolution, of the sins and errors of our lives, and our attempts to live better tomorrow than we do today, in the eyes of God and the Holy Spirit.

And when such absolution is ours for the asking, then it seems that we often find ourselves standing with the people of the community who are muttering because of where Jesus chooses to give his attentions when it isn’t in our direction.

“5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” (Lk 19:5-6)

However, this is often where we lose the wider narrative, this is where our own assumptions make judgement calls on what our eyes see rather than what is taking place in Zacchaeus’ heart so that what we see may or may not be deserved, or appropriate about the people we meet in the daily walks of our lives.

As average, fallible human beings we are so often the cause of such misunderstandings in and for our lives. And because of this, regardless of race, creed, or colour, this misunderstanding, this idea of preconception is at the root of racism in the world around us, and we can see it in the way one person, or one group is perceived by another.

After all, in WWII, it wasn’t just the Jewish nation that was persecuted by the Nazi regime, but also the gypsies, and those who were deemed ‘less’ by mental faculties, or even physical differences that varied from an unrealistic ideal.

And such mindsets, unfortunately, persist today, when and how it suits to form lines in the sand between one segment of humanity and another. Instead, of like we see Jesus doing today, breaking down those barriers, crossing those invisible lines, and looking to include ideas that open our lives and our hearts because they’re different, because everyone is included in the love of God, not just a select few.

“5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”” (Lk 19:5-7)

But were not doomed to be condemned by such ideas and assumptions. Instead we’re able to ask for and receive God’s forgiveness and absolution in the same way Zacchaeus is, in the same way “all the people” are when they see Zacchaeus’ change of heart because of Jesus’ interaction in his life.

And, for as much as the outcome of Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus is so much more than he expected, Zacchaeus is overjoyed to be able to host Jesus for lunch.

According to today’s gospel text, all Zacchaeus wanted was to see Jesus. Instead he’s seen by Jesus.

All he wanted was to know what all the fuss was about around Jesus. Instead he finds himself in the presence of the one who takes away the sin of the world.

But it goes so much further than that.

All Jesus wanted was lunch. Instead Zacchaeus in the euphoria of being a man no longer misunderstood, but one so moved to generosity by God’s forgiveness that this wealthy man gives his wealth away, unconditionally.

“6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”” (Lk 19:6-8)

Now, in all of this, have we seen Zacchaeus ask Jesus to forgive him for the burden of being a wealthy man, that led him to be a tax collector for the Romans?

In all of this have we seen Jesus do anything other than invite himself to Zacchaeus’ house for lunch?

And yet so much more has happened. All of the things we haven’t seen in the words of the passage, but they’re there for those who have the eyes to see them.

In today’s parable, in this passage, we see the people have their eyes opened. We see them have a reason to re-evaluate how they have judged and made assumptions about how Zacchaeus has acted as a tax collector.

The assumption was that as a tax collector, Zacchaeus was cheating people out of their money in order to maintain his position of wealth, and still pay the taxes demanded by the Romans, after all, that’s what everyone else does.

But this isn’t the case. Instead, “Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Lk 19:8)

So, today, both by what we do and what we don’t see in today’s passage, we are encouraged not to judge people by appearances, or by their current occupation. After all, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have more in mind for each one of us than we could ever imagine.

And I know this because if I had stayed in North Bay, and not moved about Ontario, or had the life experiences I’ve gained since I was 15, then I would have become a library technician, not the person you see before you, today because that was my plan, at that point in my life.

So, if something had not happened, in your life, where would your choices have taken you? What would be seen or interpreted of how you present to the world?

Seeing how Jesus sees Zacchaeus, and responds to his unspoken need to receive forgiveness, absolution, new life, how are our lives changed? How are we able to see the world differently than we already do? How does Jesus see each one of us? Are we in the same boat as Zacchaeus? Or perhaps in a different boat with the decisions and circumstances of our lives?

Conversely, how do we see others?

In every topic, in every arena of discussion, we need to look beyond what society wants us to see to see the potential of the person inside.

A good example of this was the film “Working Girl” (1988) where the main character, Tess, had the skills to be more than just a secretary, but her circumstances, her gender, and her accent kept the investment community from taking her seriously, until they had no other choice because she had proven herself, to the chagrin of her boss.

This is Zacchaeus, today.

This is each one of us, when we have the skills, and the desire to be seen as God sees each one of us, as we have the ability to overturn what the neighbours think just because we hold a certain job or present ourselves in a certain way.

Because when we do receive God’s absolution for the choices in our lives that makes the world see us in a certain way, “9 Jesus [says] “Today salvation has come to this house, because [you], too, [are a child] of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”” (Lk 19:9)

Amen.

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Life in God’s Hands

tax collector and pharisee

The Pas Proper/Ordinary 30 – Pentecost + 20
Year C
27 October 2019

Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22
Psalm 84:1-6 pg 817
2 Timothy 4:6-8
Luke18:9-14

God beyond our knowing,
we make you into an idol
to serve our own needs.
Humble our arrogance
by the strangeness of your coming
and the wonder of your mercy;
through Jesus Christ, the friend of Pharisees and tax collectors. Amen.
__________________________________

I have to admit that this has always been one of my favourite passages of Luke, and to find it assigned to what we recognize as Reformation Sunday is, for me, a special treat!

At the same time, as we remember the Reformation of Christianity, we can find parallels with the life and events of Martin Luther and his quest to find the love of God, as well.

Today Jesus shows us a Pharisee, and a tax collector.

We see both men are praying before God, both baring their lives before the one who, truly, knows each one of us at our best, and at our worst.

And we are able to see that each man presents himself as he knows best.

We see the Pharisee comparing himself to the people around him, and laying out a litany of how he considers himself to be apart from other people, and how he feels justified to stand before God.

He says: “‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’” (Lk 18:11b-12)

But perhaps the categories he chooses to compare himself against are too unrelated, too distant from his current circumstances. Perhaps he’s set the bar too low and so he’s not able to fail.

On the other hand, on the other side of the room, we find the tax collector. This is a man who, likewise, knows his place in the pecking order of society. Yet he also places himself and his life in God’s keeping.

“13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Lk 18:13)

Like the Pharisee he knows how far it is to heaven, to the grace of God, to the Mercy Seat of God Most High.

So, on one hand, we have the Pharisee: self-assured in his own sense of righteousness and in his righteous actions. On the other hand, we see the tax collector who knows intimately how far the journey to heaven is, and he knows there’s no way we can get there on his own, on our own.

And this brings up a number of thoughts, of philosophies on serving God, and so on. But today we celebrate the Reformation, so let’s see if Martin Luther’s time can help us see this in a different light.

I remember, when I was in university, I studied Early Modern Social History. We know this era as the Reformation, but instead of focusing on the large events of the day, we focused on the small, day-to-day, year-to-year events of people’s lives.

We didn’t focus on the building of St Peter’s Basilica, the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor, the invasion of the Turks, and the excommunication of an insignificant little monk called Luther whose life changed all of Europe.

Instead we looked at the life and the times of the people who lived in this era. What their lives would look like, what their medical system was like, and how they dealt with the issues that came their way, and how that coloured the talk of politics at the local level differently than in the halls of power.

We looked at the life of the everyday man, woman and child.

And in doing this, I discovered that the nursery rhyme Rock a Bye Baby was true, and that Ring Around the Rosy described the symptoms and the outcome of the black death.

I learned that Grimm’s Fairy Tales were based in reality, and that Bah, Bah Black Sheep is a children’s rhyme that is also a protest against undue taxation.

I learned that were told that they needed to earn their way to heaven through fasting, through works of charity, through the giving of alms, and through the buying of indulgences.

Through this, I discovered that the practices of the church had made the access to heaven something that could be commodified and sold/purchased.

And into this well run mess, we find Martin Luther, who wholeheartedly bought into the paradigm of his day, knowing all the while that he felt more like the tax collector than the Pharisee, although he belonged to a religious order.

And I thought about this, a lot, as I was processing my own fledgling call to ministry; and when Luther made his revelation, had his epiphany that there is absolutely no way in which one can earn their way into heaven, it made me pause, and it made me imagine life 500+ years ago, and this is what I saw:

Imagine a slushy, rainy, snowy day as we woke up to, yesterday.

Imagine streets of cold sucking mud, rutted with tracks from passing carts, and horses that also doubled as your sewer system.

The streets probably aren’t very wide, but that cold sucking sludge of a mud is about ankle deep, so it’s impossible to stay warm, dry, or even clean as we venture out into the day and the events of the day.

Now, as we’re already cold and damp and our feet are icy with mud and water, remember that our lives are not our own. Every breath of our lives, every beat of our hearts belongs to God, who because we are lowly sinful beings, can demand our lives at any moment.

And here is where I had my own epiphany. Here is where Luther discovered that God is a God of love, not a wrathful, vengeful deity hell bent on punishing humanity for the least slight much less the most egregious, horrific error.

So, I imagined myself, and I invite you to imagine along with me, to be part of this environment: cold, and wet, and mud besmirched.

And I imagined that my life is not my own, that it can be demanded of me without notice, so I imagined myself, kneeling in this lovely fall weather, in the ankle-deep, sucking mud, my head bowed, my neck barred, as if before a headsman, with the snow and rain falling on the chilled skin of my barred neck.

And I found myself repeating the words of the tax collector. “‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Lk 18:13b)

And if you let yourself linger there, for a few minutes, this is a very humbling experience.

But this is where we need to be to realize that God is a God of love.

This is where we need to come to, to understand that Luther, in his lifetime sacrificed his own wellbeing, his safety, and his lack of understanding of the love of God to grow into the reformer we celebrate today.

And he did this by reading the gospels, by standing up for injustice, and by letting go of his fear that he’s not worthy of heaven.

Yes, every beat of our hearts, every breath of our bodies belongs to God who picked each of us up, out of the muck and the mud, holds us to God’s breast, warm, and loving, and gives our lives back to us.

So we can look at the example Jesus gives us, today, of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple for the mercy of God.

God already loves us, he loves Luther, he loves those who Luther championed, and he even loves those who misplaced their efforts or seek to outdo each other in acts of charity.

At the same time, we are each given our lives to help make the lives of those around us better. I know my life is enriched because of each one of you, not just coming to service, but for all that you do, in your lives, to help love and support all of creation.

So, on this day, when Luther stuck his foot in the door of God’s love and mercy, a door that others wanted to keep locked for themselves, we celebrate that his efforts didn’t go unrewarded.

We celebrate his passionate revelation of God’s love that has changed our lives.

We see that God’s love has changed the lives of those in Luther’s day.

We are able to, like Luther, like the tax collector, embraces that change, that revelation that all God truly wants from each of us is to love God, to live out our baptismal promise in and to the world around us, and to treat each other with love and kindness, always.

Amen.

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Angels and Warriors Among Us

michael

The Pas Propers / Ordinary 26 – Pentecost + 16
St. Michael and All Angels – Year C
29 September 2019

Genesis 28:10-17
Psalm 103:19-22 BCP pg 460
Revelation 12:7-12
John 1:47-51

God who created all things,
seen and unseen,
make us messengers of your compassion,
so that with Michael and the hosts of heaven
we may end ancient conflicts
and pave the way for justice, kindness and humility;
through Christ, the firstborn of creation. Amen.
__________________________________

It’s not often that we hear from St. John’s Revelation, and to be honest such apocalyptic books of the bible, quite frankly, make us nervous.

They make us nervous because they talk about the end of days. They talk about the time of judgement; they talk about God’s interaction in all things that we can’t even comprehend without a knowledge of the language of faith. And really, they lead to some pretty amazing headlines in the more obscure tabloids.

So, today’s passage tells us about war and rebellion happening in the one place where we would least expect to find war and rebellion: in heaven, the kingdom of God.

At the same time, we read that the rebellion is overthrown, in heaven, and this is what we’re celebrating today. We’re celebrating the general of that battle, Michael, and his efforts to lead his forces in the conflict.

So, as we celebrate, we are aware that our world, as well as the kingdom of God are always in need of warriors, especially today.

We are in need of those who are willing to stand up to defend the helpless, to stop the path of the oppressor, to defend those who are unable to defend themselves.

So, what do we imagine when we think of warriors? Are we thinking of the Archangel Michael, who is celebrated today for overthrowing the dragon, Satan, his brother?

Today’s text tells us: “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.” (Rev 12:7b-8)

Are we, perhaps, looking to the warriors of the Middle Ages who were armoured, and mounted upon horseback, armed to the teeth, whose job was to protect those under their charge, everything from damsels in distress to the peasant villagers in their territory, as they helped to form the nation’s military might under a king.

Maybe we are we looking to the legends of our individual cultures who give us the great heroes of history, such as Achilles?

Or, do we look to the history of our continent who gives us such people as Sitting Bull, Black Elk, and Pocahontas who all sought the best paths for the people of their day?

At the same time we are able to remember those who came home from the wars, and those who didn’t, who are also warriors and heroes. Those who went away in order to keep harm and violence from our shores, from our lands, and they’ve done an admirable job in their own right.

And there is much we can learn from all of these different kinds of heroes, such warriors who arise when needed, and who continuously put the needs of the people ahead of their own safety. But as we look about us, this world is in need of warriors, once more, although the battle field is different.

We are in need of those who are willing to stand up, in our society, in our world, in the face of evil and of abusive power and speak words of truth and faith at all times.

St. John tells us, today, “10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.” (Rev. 12:10-11)

And we can see this today, in the words of the youth who are standing up against gun violence in the United States.

We can see this in the words and the actions of Greta Thunburg who is arguing for the whole of creation and the power backed apathy of our society, fed by greed that has encouraged us to become a global society that refuses to look after the world in which we live.

We see this in the actions of Autumn Peltier who is fighting for clean, usable, and sustainable water, here in Canada, and around the world.

We can see this in the actions of such agencies as KAIROS who seeks eco justice for lands and for people around the world. And in this regard we can remember our good friend Fletcher who was active with them up to the end, or in the actions of my friend James who fought for the emotional wellbeing of others, but lost his own battle.

We can also see this in the actions of those who haven’t made the front pages of the newspapers, and the news feeds who fight for rights, for fairness, and for equality for all of humanity.

Warriors come in all shapes and sizes. They come in all descriptions and for healing of not only the hearts of those caught in the crossfire, but also they fight for the healing of the world, so that there is a future for generations past them.

These youth, these young people are the new warriors who are doing the same thing as the Archangel Michael and his angels did when they “fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Rev 12:7b-9)

And I remember seeing this shift, in our society, in our world the shift that gives us the consumer focused society that we’ve been living for the past 30-50 years.

We went from a world that valued longevity and repairing what could be repaired before seeking the new because we could no longer repair the old.

We’ve gone from that to a society that feels the need to have a new gadget, a new cel phone, a new this or that every time a new edition is released.

We’ve developed a society that seeks self-gratification the accumulation of belongings instead of encouraging us to belong to something bigger than ourselves.

And rampant consumerism, which is what this is, has added the bottom lines of the richest in the world has also added to our garbage dumps.

It’s increased the pollution of the environment, of the air, of the water to the point where it is necessary for the warriors among us to stand up and not only fight for our future, but teach us, once more how to respect and love the creation upon which we live.

And this is where we find ourselves, our world today. We are subject to a war for our world, for God’s creation, because this is the place to which the dragon and his angels have been banished, and they are fighting on to tear apart what God has made, and that includes our relationships with God through Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit.

But this doesn’t mean that we live without hope, or love, or the word of God, because today’s passage also tells us how the war in heaven was won. We’re told “11 They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.” (Rev 12:11)

And this is important because it means that Michael and the angels didn’t battle the dragon alone, rather God entered the fray, God in the form of the Lamb tipped the scales for the battle and aided in the victory.

And here we find our weapons with which to combat this evil, this war, not just Michael and the Angels, but the Blood of the Lamb, as well, is our tool, our ‘secret weapon’ that is active in our lives of faith, in our actions for the world and against the enemy.

Here we find that we don’t stand alone. Rather we stand, not only with Michael and the Angels, but with the Lamb, who is Jesus Christ.

We stand with such people as Greta Thunburg, Autumn Peltier, Fletcher, James, and all of those who are fighting for clean air, clean water, for the rights and freedoms of all people to live without violence and aggression, and for a world that will continue to revive and thrive into future generations.

Here we stand. We stand with the Lamb, with Michael and all the angels of heaven as we seek to overthrown the dragon and his angels, once again, for our generation, for the and with the next generation as we continue to battle the dragon and his forces, in and through the world.

Here we find that what we truly seek is the peace that passes all understanding, in the world, in our lives, in our hearts, in this place that God has created, not just for us, but for all of life. And we understand that this life is worth fighting for, and it’s worth respecting, always.

Amen.

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An Interactive God

found

The Pas Propers / Ordinary 24 – Pentecost + 14
Year C
15 September 2019

Exodus 32OL7-14
Psalm 51:1-11 pg 770
1 timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

Merciful God,
you seek us in the hidden places of our ignorance
and in the forgotten corners of our despair.
Gather us into your loving embrace,
and pour upon us your wise and holy Spirit,
so that we may become faithful servants
in whom you rejoice with all the company of heaven. Amen.
__________________________________

Have you ever noticed how many times we see God’s anger burns against the Hebrew people, in the book of Exodus?

How many times Moses negotiates God’s patience and understanding, love and forgiveness for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

Today’s reading only looks at one of the most significant times because it’s one of the first times we see Moses ‘go to bat’ for the people before God.

Often in our lives, in the lives of the Hebrew people, we get the impression that not only is God distant from each one of us, but that God would prefer punishment over embracing us as God’s children.

But we can see that this isn’t the case, in today’s passage. Or perhaps we’re given this passage so we can see that humanity, that each one of us is able to change God’s mind, adjust God’s plan so that life is found, instead of death.

And this is interesting, because we, as humans, remember more of the negative than we do of the positive, in our lives, in our memories, in our experiences. We focus on the negative, the things that hurt, that draw us away, that encourage us to think we’re alone, or that we ought to be miserable, in life.

But if God were truly distant, then God would be as ignorant of the ignorant actions of the Hebrew people, as Moses is in their formation of, and praying to the golden calf.

“7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’” (Exodus 32:7-8)

And I think that for God the most hurtful was the assertion that their salvation from Egypt, from a life of slavery is due to this man made item before them.

“8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’” (Exodus 32:8)

But all this passage shows us is that God is honest with us when a few chapters later, and in the long form of the law, we see God declare that God is “a jealous God” (Exodus 34:6-7)

At the same time, we have over 30 chapters before this vignette on the mountain of the people praying to God for help, for freedom, for liberation from their slavery in Egypt.

We have chapters of Moses declaring that he’s not the right man for the job and God overcoming each and every one of his objections.

We can see how God turned the heart of Pharaoh, and then destroyed the Egyptian army to ensure that there was no going back for the Hebrew people, once they were set free, and there would be no retaliation by the Egyptians.

So, since we’re reminded that God is always with us, watching over us, guiding us in ways a lot more subtle than parting the sea, so we can walk by on dry land, then we need to remember that not only do we have a temper, but so does God. Or more subtle than the passage of the angel of death, the darkness, and the rest of the plagues.

It came up in bible study, this week, how we envision God, so, I want to ask, how many of us still envision God as an old man, bearded, and sitting on a throne, with a lightning bolt in hand?

This was the image of God that was popular over 500 years ago, and it’s an image of God we often imagine when we feel God is distant, or when we feel that God is only out to judge us on our actions in and around the world.

God wants us to remember who the author of our salvation is, as well as who is the author and finisher of our faith.

At the same time, God isn’t unapproachable. Rather God surrounds us and fills us, at all times and in all places. God is available for us to return to God, to ask for forgiveness, and to receive God’s absolution, always.

And this is the case because the one time God isn’t with us is when we allow our own arrogance to come between us and God, and God respects and loves us enough to allow us to branch out on our own, to see what kind of a “stiff necked people” we are, and encourage us to return. (Exodus 35:9b)

Paul tells us, today: “. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Tim 1:13-15)

And not only does Paul remind us of how far he’s come in his life of faith and service to God, but he also reminds us of God’s action through Jesus Christ.

Jesus who came to save sinners, who came to heal lives, who came to remind us that our salvation is not because of a calf molded from gold by our own hands, or any other man made object, but rather it’s because of God’s action through Jesus Christ on the cross and through that same cross.

Each of our own journeys can be echoed in the journey of the Hebrew people from slavery to freedom.

Each of our own journeys is seen in Paul’s redemptive words

Each of us, in the words of Jesus was lost and now is found. (Lk 15:6b, 9b) in both cases, we find that there is much joy over the found.

So, imagine the joy in heaven when Paul turned from his path to persecute the Israelite followers of Jesus and began, instead, to proclaim the love and redemption of God for all who believe?

Imagine, if you will, the joy in heaven when the Hebrew people pitch tent at the foot of the holy mountain before Moses goes up the mountain to discern the will of God?

And in that use of imagination, we are unable to maintain the image that God is a grumpy old figure who is looking to punish humanity for errors and indiscretions. Rather God is looking to love and to embrace each one of us, no matter our history, no matter where we find ourselves, or in what circumstances, there is always a reason to rejoice, to give thanks, to be aware that God is with us, supporting us, loving us, searching us out, and finding us.

We find it so easy to see God as being vengeful and destructive, especially as climate change begins to grip our storm systems and we experience “the worst July on record, on the prairies” or when a former hurricane gains speed over landfall as it continues to wreak havoc on the coastal provinces.

We find it so easy to find the flaws in our own lives instead of seeing the great cheekbones, and the glowing personality.

But here’s a new chance. Here’s a new opportunity to let God into our lives, into our hearts, and to see where God is leading us.

The Hebrew people, at the foot of the mountain have been raised on the periphery, on the outskirts of the Egyptian religious system for generations, and their familiarity with God is still raw, and new.

So, for them to resort to something that seems familiar is natural to them. It’s what they know, what they’re going to gravitate to when their anxiety is up and they don’t known how to approach God except to beg for God’s intervention and to set them free. And the same happens in each of our lives, when we find ourselves in uncertain circumstances, when we don’t know in which direction to turn.

In today’s reading, Moses steps in front of God’s anger so that God can see that the Hebrew people are acting out of ignorance, out of habit rather than out of faith.

Today’s reading reminds us that “Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand… Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, … 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” (Exodus 32:11-14)

I once used an example with the kids asking them about the first time they ever strapped on a pair of skates, if they could skate and play hockey like a pro, like their hero’s. They admitted that they couldn’t, and this reminds us of this passage, today, as well.

We are the children of God; but how that looks in the world around us, depends on how we interpret that role, how we use the gifts of our lives for the benefit of God. Both in the world, and for the benefit of those who need to be reminded that God is a God of love who longs to be a part of every aspect of our lives.

And these are roles we need to grow into, roles we need to learn to hone our skills to make our own, and through which we need to reach out to those who don’t have the same vision of God’s love for each of us, for them and for the world as we do.

So, today, we find ourselves remembering our first steps in the faith, remembering how our rolls grew as did our confidence, and remembering that we are at all times the children of God. Because that is when heaven rejoices, as well, when the lost is found, when new relationships are formed, when we grow in the love and trust of God and each other. (Lk 15:9b-10)

Amen.

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Woo Hoo, What a Ride!

follow me

The Pas Propers / Ordinary 23 – Pentecost + 13
Year C
8 September 2019

Psalm 1 pg 705
Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Philemon 1-21
Luke 14:25-33

Jealous God,
you call us to hate the life
that is an echo of death and a whisper of fear:
give us the courage to pass through shadows
and count the cost of a love beyond measure;
through Jesus Christ, the one who is fully alive. Amen.
__________________________________

What does it take to become a disciple of Jesus? What are you, am I willing to give up in order to become that disciple that Jesus talks about today?

We can look at this passage, today, as Jesus getting tired of the hangers on. Tired of those who are looking only for a free lunch, and, in a way, he puts his foot down in a ‘shock and awe’ manner in order to sort out those willing to commit to a life of discipleship, from those looking for the free lunch and the paces on their Fitbit trackers.

Or we can see this as Jesus telling it like it is, but as usual, in ways that we don’t expect.

When I applied for seminary, one of the gifts I was given, from my home parish, was a book entitled What to Expect in Seminary: Theological Education as Spiritual Formation, by Virginia Cetuk

Not really the book you’re looking at if you want an overview of the Palestinian countryside and all the bread and fish you can eat. Nor is it a book about how many meetings constitutes a week in full time ministry. But it is one that lets you know that seminary is going to be a bit more difficult than just sorting out essay information on ancient Chinese civilizations or learning how to parse dead languages that are only spoken in sacred religiously framed contexts.

Rather the process of becoming a pastor is one that has the ability to make you doubt absolutely every aspect of your life, your life of faith, and even your sense of call, of vocation in following this particular path.

It is truly a route that can only be completed by following where God leads, and without that, only disaster ensues. At the same time, the role of attending seminary and becoming ordained members of the clergy isn’t for everyone.

It can be seen, instead, as one end of the discipleship scale, to which we are all called, by the grace of God, and through our baptismal promises, while others are called to fill out the rest of the scale.

Today’s gospel tells us: “25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:25-27)

And really, these sound like harsh words, but discipleship isn’t ‘a fly by night’ act. It’s not just showing up on a Sunday and warming a pew throughout the year, but not allowing your attendance on Sunday to make any discernable impact on your life from Monday to Saturday. Rather discipleship is your Monday to Saturday and the Sunday is the day to recharge with the other disciples at the feet of Jesus.

And we are able to see this with the younger people who are looking for demonstrable life of action in and for the issues that affect us today – care of creation, care of each other, and care for the future. After all, a life of faith, a life of Christian discipleship is one of action not just one of contemplation.

Jesus points out that this pattern of discipleship is a whole life, whole body commitment to following where God leads, and where God, where Christ leads us is to the cross.

So, to make his point, Jesus uses the words of needing to hate what is being left behind. He wants us to realize that if what is left behind has the ability to distract or to pull us away from the tasks set before us by a life of faith, then starting the journey isn’t going to be successful.

And if that’s the case, there’s obviously something better out there for your time and attention than a concept of discipleship.

And really, discipleship has, once again, become a buzzword of Christianity.

In some cases, it’s being pulled apart so that we can become disciples of this, or of that, and go home feeling we’ve had a good impact on the world. But this isn’t true discipleship, nor is it actually good stewardship, either.
Discipleship isn’t an armchair exercise. It’s a full body contact sport out in the world that will make those necessary changes for tomorrow.

Jesus points out that its not a pulling apart of our efforts to make change, to bring the love and compassion of God to the world in which we live, but rather a whole package deal.

We are unable to compartmentalize ourselves without causing damage to our lives, our hearts, our sense of identity, and Jesus talks about this in his examples of the person wanting to build a tower, or a monarch wanting to wage war upon a neighbour. Jesus reminds us that “33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be [Christ’s] disciples.” (Lk 14:33)

So, as much as we’d like to see Jesus as being metaphorical, as using ‘shock and awe’ to sort out who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’, in regard to contemplating discipleship, he’s out of the gate and he’s being incredibly blunt.

We, the disciples of Christ, need to have the stick-to-it-iveness to put God first in all things, at all times, no matter what tries to tear us from that commitment, from that focus, from that discipleship.

“Turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:25b-27)

And this may sound simple, but I guarantee that it isn’t. it calls for a complete reorganization of the way in which we view our lives, our actions, and our contributions in all areas of life.

And this is what today’s youth are looking for as well. They’re looking for those concrete expressions of faith of Christianity that better model what Jesus is calling us to embrace in the models of discipleship. And, really, such models have the ability to change the world, and us with it.

So, for as much as we’d like the younger people amongst us, we want them to lift that table, or haul that box. We’d like them to mow the lawns, and remove the snow, because we’re unable to do that, ourselves, any longer. And this is stewardship of this land, but it doesn’t serve the wider world any more now than it did yesterday.

And this needs to be addressed in each of our lives, in the face of Jesus call to discipleship, today. Jesus calls us to do what we’re capable of doing, not just for us, not just for this church building but for the improvement of the world in God’s pattern rather than in the pattern of humanity.

One of my favourite prayers is “Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hands is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Maybe the time has come for us to embrace what Jesus is telling us, here, when he tells us that discipleship isn’t ‘a fly by night operation,’ rather it’s something that takes commitment, and planning, and discipline to carry out in our day to day lives.

He reminds us: “28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” (Lk 14:28-30)

The tower begins as a good idea, but if the planning, the cost analysis, the construction effort, and the follow through isn’t done then the idea comes to nothing and discipleship can be like that.

If we approach it from the understanding that we want to become disciples but figure we can fit it into 15 minutes every other Wednesday. Instead Jesus calls us to adopt a whole new lifestyle that declares to all that we are not just followers of Christ, but disciples in every aspect of our lives, openly, and in full view of the world.

Today Jesus encourages us to look seriously at the questions of what does it take to become a disciple of Jesus?

What are you, am I willing to give up in order to become that disciple that Jesus talks about today?

Are we willing to allow God to reorder our lives, our priorities, and even the very way we view the world in which we live?

It’s not a ‘flash in the pan’ solution, rather it’s a way we live our lives. It’s not something that we do today and set aside tomorrow, it’s a change in focus within each of our lives from the world as we see it to the world as God wishes it to become.

Discipleship does require us to refocus our lives from the earthy to the divine. It requires us to be willing to pick up stakes and move on when God deems its’ time to move on.

There’s a periodically seen post that talks about whether to exercise the joy out of life or “to live life to the lees” as Tennyson describes.

It says: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”” (https://www.scrapbook.com/quotes/doc/11236.html)

And discipleship can be the same kind of ride.

It requires us to look at the world around us and, every day, find a way to make God’s love known, Jesus teachings be revealed, as the Holy Spirit guides us to go where only God knows the ending, but “woo hoo, what a ride!”

Amen.

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Humbled and Exalted

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The Pas Propers / Ordinary 22 – Pentecost + 12
Year C
1 September 2019

Sirach 10:12-18
Psalm 112 pg 860
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

God of power and justice,
… you weep over those who wander from you
and who enter into chaos and destruction.
By your tears and through your mercy,
teach us your ways and write them on our hearts,
so that we may follow faithful the path you show us. Amen.
__________________________________

Today’s readings all touch on the topic of pride, in one way or another, and how detrimental pride is able to be for humanity, as a whole, not to mention the problems it causes for us, as individuals.

Sirach is quite blunt about it. The author says that this is the first and most striking departure from the presence of God in our lives, when we think that our pride will see us to places that God’s love will not.

“12 The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord;
the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.” (Sirach 10:12)

But for all of Sirach’s bluntness, he is also equally blunt in describing how God will bring each of us low who so foolishly puts pride before absolutely everything else.

What’s that proverb … “Pride goeth before a fall”? What wisdom filled words.

But here we are, absolutely human, and always fallible to make errors out of pride instead of seeking the will of God in and for our lives.

I belong to a group, on Facebook that is by definition a Christian Apologetics page.

Now Christian apologetics is a tradition that is as old as Christianity, itself, and we can see its beginnings in the first teachings and preaching’s of the apostles after the introduction of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in our world.

In Acts 4, just after Peter and John had healed a man of lameness, who was accustomed to begging at the temple gate. “7 [the temple authorities] had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:7-12)

This is an example of Christian apologetics, basically the message comes across as an apology, but really, it’s a revelation of faith, of information, of doctrine, that then, was still being formulated.

But what the apologetics page that I follow comes down to is a lot of sceptics trying to figure out what faith is all about in the depth of discussions on this page.

And we can see this in the passage from Sirach, as well, today. The author bluntly states the role of pride in actively separating each one of us from the love of God, of fooling ourselves into saying that we can go it alone, and that we know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there, as we metaphorically throw the road map out of the window and make a grab for the steering wheel.

“13 For the beginning of pride is sin,
and the one who clings to it pours out abominations.
Therefore the Lord brings upon them unheard-of calamities,
and destroys them completely.” (Sirach 10:13)

And really, this applies to all of us.

The rest of the passage talks about God reordering nations, and bringing down rulers, and replacing them with systems and peoples who will honour God, and will follow where God leads.

But why can this not be each one of us?

We are able to return to the love of God, right? We see, in the Old Testament the prophets constantly call upon each one of us to repent and return to the Lord.

“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

And this was at the dawn of the Holy Spirit within our midst.

God does not leave us alone to founder in the darkness. Rather God gives us apologists, and encouragements, even though some of those encouragements can be as rough, as sharp as stubbing our toe on a firm piece of furniture.

God gives us the Holy Spirit, and the ability to return, to confess, to be renewed in God’s spirit and surrounded, once more, with God’s love and God’s absolution.

Sure, being on our own can feel like we’re a teenager without a curfew. Or when our young people move out on their own, for the first time. So many decisions to make, so many choices before us, and which will we choose? To what will we gravitate?

But Sirach warns us that such choices and decisions made from a sense of pride, of an “I can conquer the world” attitude often and quickly leads to disaster for ourselves and our decisions.

And we can see this in the other readings as well.

In today’s gospel, Jesus talks all about how to pick a place at a banquet, and we’ve all done this, right? You walk into a room. There are no place cards on the tables, so you circulate the room, and find where you’ll have table companions with whom you have something to talk about.

Or you look for the place closest to the high table, without being noticed, unless you really want to be noticed taking such a prominent seat at the function.

But Jesus talks about the honour that is accorded, that is given to those who intentionally take the lesser seats, the seats closest to the kitchen doors, or to the bathrooms.

He talks about the upset that’s going to happen if you’re the one in the seat of honour, yet it’s been reserved for another and how is that going to feel to our sense of pride, to our sense of importance in the community, in the gathering, huh?

But Jesus being Jesus doesn’t stop there. Rather he goes on to talk about the blessings not to our lives, but to the lives of those whom we invite when we invite those who don’t even make the social radar, and the blessing of those who have no hope of being able to repay such an honour and invitation: something we see often with our homeless community.

Jesus takes pride out of the equation by reminding us that for all that we are doing well in our lives, there is always the pitfall of pride before each one of us, and we have to decide if we’re going to step into it, and get mired in that mud? Or will we step around it, and keep God as our guide?

And pride is such an easy one for us to fall into.

And the story of Pinocchio falls into this category, as Pinocchio strives to become more than a puppet, a real child. WE can remember the temptations he receives from those who seek to exploit a puppet that is alive, that doesn’t need strings or a puppet master to operate.

We can remember the temptations he and the other boys face when they go to the amusement park without price, and where everything is free.

But the ultimate price of such pride filled and selfish actions was that they became donkeys and were forced to haul the coach to bring others to this plac,e this trap.

It was only when Pinocchio performs an act of selfless love that his wish was granted, that his life was restored, that he became that real boy, the son of Geppetto.

Sirach reminds us: “12 The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord;
the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.
13 For the beginning of pride is sin,
and the one who clings to it pours out abominations.
Therefore the Lord brings upon them unheard-of calamities,
and destroys them completely.”

And this is important for us to remember: that we are spiritual people, in need of that connection with the divine. And when we allow our pride to sever that connection, we strive to make ourselves the divine and so compound that problem of sin.

Letting go and letting God is the only solution available to each one of us, a solution we find as we gather weekly to worship God, together, and strengthen each other along the way. As the psalm tells us, when we trust in God, when we let go of pride, when we keep that all-important connection with the divine, “their heart is right; they put their trust in the Lord.” (Ps 112:7b)

And this is not as easy as it appears. We are constantly bombarded by influences that seek to pull us away from God, from our contact with the Holy Spirit, with Christ, with God. It happens through our emotions, through the busy patterns of our lives, through those with whom we interact who may not have the same priorities as we do, in our lives.

But at the same time, God always welcomes us back. God gives us the rite, the sacrament of Confession so that we can lay down the errors and the sins of our day, our week, our lifetime, and receive God’s absolution.

I might be the one proclaiming the words of absolution, but it’s only by our faith and God’s action that we are truly absolved of the errors of our lives.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll stay away.

Instead, it means that the influences of our lives that tells us that we can be filled with pride and succeed at whatever we turn our hand to, and there are no consequences to pay, will take another run at us from an unexpected direction.

At each step, Pinocchio’s conscience, Jiminy Cricket seeks to bring the boy into the paths of right behaviour, of patterns of behaviour that benefit not only Pinocchio and Geppetto, but the rest of the community, as well, and yet the pitfalls remain, in his life, in our own lives, as well.

But at the same time, we are able to remember the words of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews who reminds us: “16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Heb 13:16)

Amen.

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To Do, or Not To Do?

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The Pas Propers / Ordinary 16 – Pentecost + 6
Year C
21 July 2019

Genesis 18:1-10
Psalm 15 pg 718
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

Eternal God,
you draw near to us in Christ
and make yourself our guest:
amid the cares of our daily lives,
alert us to your presence
and make us attentive to your voice,
so that we may treasure your word above all else.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.
__________________________________

Today’s gospel is one that, I have to admit, has always left me wondering about the perception of gendered roles in our society.

What it shows us, today, is Martha in the kitchen, preparing a meal for Jesus and the disciples while Mary ignores the looks and the gestures to come and help her sister in the role of meal preparation, as she sits at Jesus’ feet listening to the conversation, maybe even participating.

But, gendered roles in our society, it seems, have been around since almost the dawn of recorded history, no matter what the culture, each gender has its assigned roles. And, if you haven’t guessed, I’m a child who was told that I can do whatever I set my mind to doing. I’m a product of the social revolution of my childhood, the 1970’s.

So, then, as a child, if I’d wanted to be a firefighter, or a police officer, then that career choice was as open to me as nurse, or teacher, or secretary, when I was growing up.

And I swear that my husband is a better cook than I will ever manage to accomplish. I can cook to survive, but he has the talent and the ability to create culinary masterpieces! At the same time, I’m the one that sees that the lawn needs to be mowed long before he does.

So, then, today’s gospel has to have more in it than requiring me to cause people gastric distress with my attempts to make soup.

Perhaps it’s the pull between the apparently unrelated roles of hospitality and devotion? After all, it’s not easy for one to show worshipful devotion if one is ensuring that there is always a good supply of coffee, and clean cups in which to serve it.

Perhaps it’s the perceived inequality of the situation? Martha is desperately trying to make sure all of the cats are herded appropriately so that she is the honoured hostess of the evening, although Jesus is the guest of honour.

Or, maybe it’s that Mary has ignored the gender assigned tasks of good hospitality that Martha gave to her to complete. There are probably vegetables to be pealed, table to be set, and she probably got distracted while ether serving a welcoming cup of something or offering water for the washing of feet.

Or any combination of the above.

I was speaking with my husband, about the perceived roles of equality, how one equality, naturally, leads to another – even over genders, treatments of those from other cultures, and even in the areas of equal pay for equal work.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. That’s where it starts, not where it ends.

The gospel tells us is: “38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (Lk 10:38-40a)

And this is lacking a whole lot of detail in its brevity of words.

And today we are able to get equally caught up in the minute details, as well. Those ones we’re not being told in this brief description of a quiet evening at Lazarus’ house.

At the same time, we’re also able to find ourselves distracted by Jesus, by God, by the Holy Spirit who has different plans, designs, and motives in for and through each of our lives, than just providing a great relaxing environment and a home cooked meal.

But, it’s also the way our society relegates each gender to different tasks based solely upon our gender, although if we’re looking at equality, a man can wash dishes as easily as a woman takes out the garbage, and so on.

After all, it was the women who followed Jesus through the passion, along the Via Dolorosa to the cross, and witnessed the crucifixion, after the men had fled in fear of persecution by both the Jews and the Romans.

It was the women who watched while Jesus was taken down from the cross, and who watched where he was laid, so that they could come back, on the first day of the week to do his embalming properly.

And it was the women who first carried the news of the resurrection back to the men.

While the world is watching the men, the women are coming out of the woodwork to see that the events of Jesus’ life and ministry are witnessed, that the news is carried beyond where the men are able to go, and shared with all who will listen.

So, maybe then the clue is found in Jesus reply to Martha, today: “41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” (Lk 10:41-42)

So, let’s look at this closely.

“40 Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” (Lk 10:40-42)

And here’s the pull, in our gospel for today.

To do what is expected by the larger society to provide hospitality to all who come through the door, even though it comes with societally assigned gender expectations. Hustling and bustling around the tasks of creating a meal that will be enjoyed, and hopefully, talked about for some time, until our joy of visitors flees for sunnier climes.

Or, will we break from the gendered expectations and be one of those heralds of the good news, caring it where men cannot go, to markets, and kitchens, to coffee clutches, and to discuss as we travel throughout our day.

Jesus tells us: “few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10:42)

So, in the realm of “few things are needed – or indeed only one”, maybe Jesus had funds to order pizza, or he wanted to take Lazarus and his sisters out to dinner, but the gospel doesn’t tell us this.

The point is that Jesus doesn’t see the roles of hospitality and a home cooked meal to be the necessary bodily and spiritual needs at the moment.

And here we are, still, in our lives, today.

How will we share the gospel of Christ? Will we bustle around, slightly harried by the sudden influx of guests, to be the best hosts on our street? Or will we sit down with our guests and listen to the wisdom shared in the conversation, and have the love of God, of Jesus, and the working of the Holy Spirit to share with others whom we encounter in our day to day tasks.

So, if Jesus declares that “Mary has chosen what is better” we need to discover what that is, and emulate her. And we can do this, even if dinner is burned, even if feet go unwashed, even if the table is missing a row of forks, as long as we are open to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, in and through the world, in and through each of our lives.

But it means stepping out of our comfort zones.

It means seeking equality in all things, places and matters.

It means finding where and how the Holy Spirit directs our lives, through the teachings of Jesus.

The world continues to assign roles based upon gender, but these days we’re free to decide within our families, within our communities, and within each of our lives who and how will each of us assume which roles.

I know that in our household, I’ll continue to mow the grass; and my husband will continue to create culinary creations. Together we’ll discuss the working of the Holy Spirit, the leading of God, in and through our lives, for the sharing of the love of God with all whom we meet, building bridges between peoples, who never thought bridges were possible, and following where God leads.

This is our lives, today because we acknowledge what society sees as gendered roles, and we play to our strengths as a couple, and as family. And in this same way that we are able to determine who, in our household does what tasks.

At the same time, how we live our lives, how we interact with the world around us will live out the love of God, the leading of the Holy Spirit to spread the teachings of Jesus as far as is possible to the ends of the earth.

In todays gospel, we can see that gendered roles isn’t the issue, rather it’s the overcoming of that societal expectation, that we see is the issue, today. In today’s gospel passage, Jesus didn’t just have 12 disciples, but that evening, he has so many more.

So, whether we choose to follow, to listen, to learn and to carry that message into the world, or to sequester ourselves in the kitchen fussing over a gourmet meal, that is the question we face today, and tomorrow, as well.

Amen.

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