My friends, if I were to choose just one word this week to offer up from the combined Old and New Testament readings, it would be, “hope.” But we can hardly speak of “hope” without including faith, because as we all know, it takes a great deal of faith, at times, to keep “hoping” that somehow we will as a country, and a Church, find our way to truly become the great nation that we so often claim to be, as well as, “the best people we can be,” following in the footsteps of our brother, Jesus, the Christ.
This summer, if you have been watching the news, you have witnessed the stellar work of a bi-partisan group of Americans, Republicans and Democrats, trying to get the whole story about what happened at our Capitol in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, when our democracy came frighteningly close to being over-turned. For me, this episode in our history was the clearest in my lifetime of what can happen when the privilege of serving goes awry—when the responsibility is put into the hands of the self-serving and irresponsible. And now, with a new bishop for the Winona/Rochester diocese in Southern Minnesota, we can hope that service and service to the least among us is a big part of Bishop Barron’s agenda.
Speaking of January 6, 2021, this past week I prepared and sent out nine letters to the members of this January 6th Committee thanking them for their courageous work in exposing the crimes of that day, from the president on down, so that this can hopefully never happen again.
I concluded each letter with a personal note letting that member know that their individual and corporate work gives me a great deal of hope to believe that we, as a country can be better than what was displayed on that fateful day.
The writer to the Hebrews speaks of faith saying that it, “is the confident assurance of what we hope for, the conviction about things we do not see.” In other words, “a mystery”—but one, I personally feel that we must cling to, must hold on- our- hearts, and must believe that the greatest majority in this country and in our Church are capable of. And again remembering that we are spiritual beings, here, having a human experience, so that it is possible for us, “to be our best!”
The Wisdom writer in today’s 1st reading calls us, “holy people” and I believe the greatest amount of us will step up and be that “holy people,” not just in name, but in action too. And that is the most important part—that we act, that we show just “what” we believe in through our actions.
Our brother Jesus, who has shown us the way, has said so succinctly in today’s gospel from Luke— “wherever your treasure lies, there you heart will be.” Additionally he tells us, “Not to be afraid,” and the enjoiner is most assuredly, as he told us before physically leaving us— “I will be with you, always!”
It is most interesting and tragic really that three years ago when I was reflecting on these same readings, the issue of gun violence was front and center and for the first time in my memory, news casters were using the word, “crisis” to speak of this national problem. And here we are three years later, and in my mind this issue of proliferation of guns and the violence caused by them has become, “epidemic.”
In the Wisdom letter that names how we will know “holy people,” the writer goes on to say that “holy people” [will] “share all things—blessings and dangers alike.” In other words, when one person dies from gun violence, all of us should mourn whether we knew the person/s or not, because as followers of our brother Jesus, this is what he calls us to.
This reminds me of four years ago already when 17 people, were murdered and 17 more wounded at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I was so proud of the students at Winona Senior High School under the direction of their teacher, who held a prayer service in support of this community–students that they didn’t know. Probably the most poignant part was when 17 students laid down in front of the school and other students drew with chalk their shapes upon the ground to keep before our eyes that 17 lives were ended needlessly because our country can’t responsibly deal with this epidemic. What we as a country are saying is that our “right” to bear any arms that are available, is more important than the lives of our children and Jesus’ words should be ringing in our ears—wherever your treasure lies, there your heart will be too[!]”
I have said it before, but just to be clear, as a pastor I can’t advocate for one candidate for public office over another, but I most assuredly can say that those claiming to be Christians should never be voting for candidates who do not advocate for stronger gun laws that would rid our country of weapons of mass destruction, allowing them into the hands of the public, and this is just one among many other issues that do not show care and respect for the least among us! Our right, in this country to vote should never be taken lightly—it is a precious responsibility!
Our prayer today can and should be that of the psalmist, “May your love be upon us God, as we place all our hope in you.”
The times in which we live my friends call for great faith and hope, trusting in our faithful and merciful God. Our faith calls us to be our very best, each and every day, to show up, and do our part—call and write our Congress people, insisting that they too be the servants that we all sent them to Washington to be, serving not just their own constituents so as to be re-elected, but all the people, especially those in this country with little or no voice.
In conclusion, when our faith and hope seem low and hard to hold onto, it would be good to remember our parents in the faith, Sarah, and Abraham, “as good as dead,” as the writer to the Hebrews says, but in actuality, began a family of descendants, “as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands of the seashore.” And finally, as our brother Jesus reminds in the gospel today, we have been given much, and “much is required” as well. It is what Christians are called to…