Homily – 18th Sunday in (Extra) Ordinary Time

Friends, sorry for the lateness of this homily, but our internet was down this past week–seems we had a hungry mouse attack the router cable!

My friends, this week the psalmist encourages us to ponder a simple, but really profound invitation—“If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” I would suggest that we make this question a part of our upcoming week, thinking about how we at times, do harden our hearts—fail to go deeper, checking our priorities to see just what it is that drives our lives.

The reading from Ecclesiastes seems to be saying that in the end, “all our work and toil, under the sun, is futile” if it has simply been about accumulating more.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians reminds us of the fact that through our baptisms, we have life now in Christ and that changes everything! Or perhaps, as we assess our lives, it should!

Luke follows this with Jesus’ story—one that always makes me smile, about the farmer hoarding all his grain by building yet, “a bigger barn!”  Jesus’ caution then and now is that you may be called soon to leave all that behind and account for your life—not what you have accumulated, but what indeed, you have shared! We need, in other words to be rich in the things of God—of goodness and love, not in material things.

All of us friends, who have enough, have to struggle daily for balance in our lives—how much is enough—how much is too much?  This reminds me of a question that my mother through marriage used to pose, “How much do I need, and how much do I want!”

This of course is not to say that having things or striving for them is bad, but we always have to be wary of what that striving and accumulating can do to us.  A prime example for me at present is that of some within the Roman Catholic Women Priest movement as they have strived to become ordained.

All of us women, who have become ordained, object, and rightly so, to the men within our patriarchal church who are so into power, prestige and control, to the detriment of the message of Jesus, who asked us to be servants, not lords.   In that light, it has been interesting to me to watch some of the women, as they have gained power as priests and bishops, become what they are fighting.  Power and its ability to control us find victims in women as well as in men and it is something that we do need to be aware of.

I found that for a time, I had to separate myself from my Midwest Region due to my inability to get anyone to listen to what I was saying and make some change. I believe that now some changes are happening as new leadership is coming forth.  Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised this past week as I joined my sister Midwest priests for retreat and found as Bishop Nancy told me, “We have moved on,” meaning that they aren’t the same—that growth has happened.

For all of us friends, the importance of balance in our personal lives, in our cities, in our country and our world, is so important and when all are not allowed to speak and have their concerns heard, we as families, citizens of Winona, the United States of America and the world, are headed for trouble. If we think over history past and present, we know this to be true.

The days in our Church and in other denominations as well when men can set all the rules, benefiting them primarily, with no willingness to change, touting the ridiculous excuse, “the Church moves slowly” is over!  The men, who have solely controlled our bodies of worship, for too long, have lost their credibility through their lies and abhorrent behavior regarding the sex abuse of children and we are not going back!  Balance!

The voices and experiences of women showing that face of our God to the Church is being born and cultivated through women-led congregations such as ours here at All Are One and these women, myself included, are not waiting for the men to give us permission, so they can either join us, or be left behind!  Balance!

In our country, we are witnessing the same thing—2016 may not have been the year that this country could elect a woman to lead us, but because of that ground-breaking work, 2020 may be the year that this country says, “It is time!” Balance!

The readings this week, in this, as someone has said, “Extra-Ordinary Time,” basically meaning that this time in our Church Year is not a lackadaisical time, but a time of challenge, really calling us all to set priorities.  Life, our wonderful existence on earth is all about choosing from many good possibilities—these choices only become “bad,” as it were, when we allow them to rule our lives—too much money, too many things, too much control-power, whatever it might be, to the detriment of doing what is most loving in any situation.  Balance!

Regarding having too much money, it is my strong belief that churches should not carry huge surpluses in bank accounts beyond one month’s outstanding bills.  Here at All Are One, we have the luxury of not owning a building nor needing to pay rent for the space we use—we are thus “allowed,” “to pay it forward” to the Lutheran Campus Center for their ministries, as they share their space with us and for the needs of the greater world.

Part of my disagreement with the Midwest Region of Women Priests was their tendency to “hold onto” the region’s monetary gifts intended for the education and spiritual growth of our women in lieu of some unforeseen catastrophe in the future. Old lessons die hard! Balance!

In our world we must strive for balance too—again, all the voices must be heard!  Twenty years ago, when I was completing my master’s degree in Pastoral Ministries, focusing my studies on the inequality for women in Church and society, women earned roughly, 75% of what men did for equal work.  At present, the inequality is more like 80%, along with even lower wages for women of color and lower still for other races other than Caucasian.  Balance! All the voices simply must be heard and treated equally in order that we all can live with dignity and become all that we were meant to be.

Our country at present is being pulled into a despicable state that is allowing the worst in dialog, ideas and rhetoric to rise to the top because of individual need for power, control and prestige. Fear of losing these things is the main driver and we must all rise up against this evil state when it shows itself. In a country that is frozen in that fear where its apparent need and “sense of right” to bear arms is concerned,  to the detriment of all the hundreds of innocents losing their lives because of the proliferation of guns; we must all speak up and demand change. And again, this is a case that calls for balance.

We must all do our part in any and all ways that we can when we see the morals upon which this country was founded being thrown to the winds at our southern border.  The hypocrisy of a country that was born out of immigration—our forebears coming to this country looking for a better life—a safer life for their families, and now denying this very right to others seeking the same, is absolutely, deplorable.

In these Extra-Ordinary Times, claiming to be Christians, walking hopefully, in the footsteps of our brother, Jesus; we are called to responsibility in living to our best, to care for ourselves, our families, but others too!

Our writers today, Qoheleth from Ecclesiastes, Paul and Jesus, say that we will do that by striving for balance in our lives, simple, but good living—always asking the question, “Is love being served by what I am doing or thinking about doing?”

Amen? Amen!