Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C, April 21, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Year C
April 21, 2013
                        Acts 9:36-43                                              Psalm 23
                     Revelation 7:9-17                                    St. John 10:22-3      onnday of 0   
Hymns:  371, 410, 314, 388 

“My sheep hear my voice … no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

The early church was a much different church from the church today.  The Gospels were written as the church was struggling against many forces in society.  So you might wonder what the lessons of the Gospels can hold for us today, in such a different place and in such a different time. 

But often the messages of the Gospel are timeless.  The church has used and reinterpreted the lessons of the scriptures though out history.  The church wants to make the lessons practical and applicable in every time and in constantly changing circumstances. 

The early church faced a lot of struggles.  And so do we today.  Admittedly much different struggles today, but struggles nevertheless.   And so we look to the scriptures for comfort and guidance. 

We hear the voice of Jesus and are comforted in that voice.  Jesus provides a familiar voice in the struggles and challenges we face in the world and in the struggles and challenges we face as a congregation. 

Congregational live can be a challenge.  Learning to live together in a faith community.  Living to live as a faith community as we struggle with differences. 

It is amazing the things that parishes can find challenging.    I was reading this week about a sculpture entitled “Jesus the Homeless”.  It is a power presentation of Jesus depicted as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench.  The only way you can tell it is Jesus is by the nail marks in the feet.  Sadly two cathedrals turned it down.  Jesus was homeless once again.  This could have been a powerful message speaking to the poor and homeless in the community, giving them a chance to hear the voice of the shepherd.  But the chance was missed. 

Sadly those in power could not hear the voice of Jesus in that situation.  I think for most of us it is hard to hear the voice of Jesus unless we hear a voice very much like our own.   All too often we can only see Jesus when we see someone like ourselves.  The idea of a homeless Jesus is a scary thing for many people. 

We covet the familiar in our lives and in our parish.   And that presents a challenge for any parish in transition as St. Peter’s is right now.  It is only in being willing to try the change will we have the opportunity to grow and develop.  And yet in the midst of it, we can rely on the familiar voice of God in our life in the face of change. 

St. Peter’s needs to be open to new things and change.  When you call a new parish priest there will be lots of change and transition.  It will be a challenge to every one.  The next priest will bring talents, skills, and abilities which may be different.   She or he will have different strengths and weaknesses.  But you can count on the familiar voice of Jesus to be in your midst as you go through the challenge of change.  

You may be challenged with new ways of doing things.  You may be challenged with different attitudes and ideas.  But the familiar voice of Jesus will be there with you, guiding, building, and strengthening.  

The key is to be open to new ideas and the opportunity to experience life in a community of faith in a new and different way.   And yet, each of us will still have the familiar voice of Jesus with us in this journey. 

Will we be willing to trust in God as we go through the next change, or will we, like those rejecting the sculpture of Jesus the Homeless, reject, fight and fear the new and different and challenging.  I pray that God will give us all the strength to embrace the change, relying on the familiar voice of Jesus speaking to us, kindly, gently, lovingly, and encouragingly as we move forward.   

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Second Sunday of Easter
Year C
April 7, 2013
                        Acts 5:27-32                                              Psalm 118:14-29
                     Revelation 1:4-8                                            St. John 20:19-3      onnday of 1   
Hymns:  199, 7, 208, 469

Today is known as Low Sunday.   Churches tend to be packed on Easter Sunday, but now we are back to the normal, and many just take a Sunday off.  So we few are here!  

And of course today is St. Thomas Sunday.  Poor St. Thomas, you have to feel for him.  He is always held up as the skeptic against the example of the other disciples.  And yet, this is not quite fair as a comparison.  After all, the disciples had already experienced what Thomas himself asked to experience.  Thomas was not asking for anything other than that which they had already experienced.  He wanted to see Jesus in person just as the other disciples had.  It seems a perfectly reasonable request to me. 

Those others disciples were not a shining example of blind faith.  They had been able to see Jesus and believed and that is the same experience that Thomas wanted to have as well. 

To tell the truth, I actually think Thomas is a pretty good example for all of us in the Christian church today anyway.  I believe that a little bit of disbelief and skepticism can be quite healthy and good for us both as individuals and as the church.  Disbelief allows us the opportunity to ask question and opens up the possibility of deepening and exploring our faith. 

And yet some people and church leaders show what I feel is an unhealthy fear of a little or like in my case, a lot of, disbelief.   In some churches the honest questioning about faith and what we believe is quite threatening.  People never speak of it because they fear they will be judged as either very weak in their faith, or worse as no longer Christians. 

People are afraid to even express any doubt or concerns for fear about what others – or God will think about us. 

This quite frankly is not good for our own spiritual development or for the development of the church as a whole.  To be fearful of growing, developing, and questioning is extremely unhealthy.  Thomas was not afraid to speak his own truth, that he needed more in order to belief.  He was not afraid to speak out his concerns regarding his faith to those around him. 

We need to feel that it is safe to express our doubts, our understandings, perhaps even our fears about our faith walk in our lives.  

Only when we feel safe to do this can we truly grow, develop, and challenge ourselves and our faith. 

I pray that God will grant all of us the strength of heart to not fear to express ourselves.  I pray that God will grant all of us the strength of character and charity to be open to listening to people expressing their doubts and struggles.  That will make St. Peter’s a healthy place to learn and love.