Homily – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends, 

I was away this Sunday and Pastor Dick Dahl stood in for me–he has given us a wonderful homily!  Thank you Dick! –Pastor Kathy


I want to speak with you about three interrelated issues. The first relates is what Pastor Kathy said last week. She spoke of our needing to have hope, but the reason for that hope is, in her words, “so that we can do what God is calling us to in our lives as Christians.”

So the first issue is do you have a sense of “being called”? It is common to think of a vocation, that is, being called to a way of life, when a person is young, a teenager or in their 20s. Do you think that a vocation, a calling, only happens when one is young? Or does the Spirit speak to us, call us, at different times in our life, in the differing circumstances in which we find ourselves—such as right now? It’s not necessarily something we want or choose. It is a calling of the Spirit that we become aware of, recognize, accept and respond to.

This week’s first reading describes a man named  Amos who lived in the 700s before Christ. Amos kept insisting he wasn’t called to be a prophet. He said he was just a man who cared for livestock and orchards. Nevertheless Yahweh called him to prophesy in the northern Kingdom of Israel. That was where the poorer classes of peasants suffered greatly under the unjust treatment of the ruling and elite classes who lived lives of leisure and luxury.

Amos responded to this dangerous and unpleasant calling—to speak truth to power. Five times Amos repeated Yahweh’s warning to the King. He so infuriated the authorities as he repeatedly pointed out how they would be punished for abusing the poor and helpless, that the priest at the holy site of Bethel, where Amos preached, kicked him out. Those in power never listened. The Assyrians came, conquered the land and scattered the people in exile.

The first theme: are we being called as Amos was, or does that seem preposterous?

The second theme today also stems from something Pastor Kathy said last week, namely, “In our present time,” she said, “I believe it is true to say that many of us feel disillusioned over where our country seems headed and ill-equipped to do what is needed to make the changes that will fix this dilemma.” Are we, perhaps like Amos, feeling powerless to bring about the changes that seem necessary?

Let’s reflect on what it means to feel or be powerless. Father Richard Rohr writes, “Christianity is a bit embarrassed by the powerless one, Jesus. We’ve made his obvious defeat into a glorious victory. Let’s face it, we feel more comfortable with power than with powerlessness and poverty. Who wants to be like Jesus on the cross? It just doesn’t look like … a way that’s going to make any difference in the world. We worship this naked, homeless, bleeding loser, crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, but we want to be winners . . ..”

Paul told the Christians at Corinth, “God chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” In another letter to them he described how he came to accept, “When I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.”

Now we have come to today’s third theme—politics. Separation of church and state is important to safeguard freedom of religion and ensure that governments are not dominated by a single religion’s interests. But Father Rohr insists that does not mean people of faith should not participate in politics. How, he asks,  can one read the Bible and stay out of politics? Again and again (approximately 2,000 times!) Scripture calls for justice for the poor. The Gospel is rather “socialist” in its emphasis on sharing resources and caring for those in need.

Father Rohr strong states that there is no such thing as being non-political. Everything we say or do either affirms or critiques the status quo. To say nothing is to say something — in other words that the status quo—even if it is massively unjust and deceitful—is apparently okay. The silence of many Christians is used to legitimize the United States’ obsession with weapons, its war against the poor, Israel’s clear abuse of Palestine, politicians who are “pro-life” on the issue of abortion but almost nothing else, the de facto slavery of mass incarceration, and on and on. As humans we can’t help but be political whether we recognize it or not—so let’s learn how to participate in the public forum as God’s image and likeness!

Like it or not, politics (civic engagement) is one of our primary means of addressing poverty and other justice issues. Our knowledge of the power wielded by big money can accelerate our retreat from politics, discouraging us from being the participants that democracy demands and reducing us to mere spectators of a political game being played exclusively by “them.”

Bill Moyers has said, “The antidote, the only antidote, to the power of organized money in Washington is the power of organized people.” We must bring as much passion to our cause as do those who call for building walls. But our job is to tear down walls and build bridges. We have the capacity to grow beyond ego and nationalism into a new identity, one that holds space for everyone to belong and be loved.”

However, this doesn’t mean partisan politics.  To be a faith leader is to connect the inner and outer worlds. In the United States’ not-so-distant-past, Christians were at the forefront of political and justice movements to abolish slavery, support women’s suffrage, protect civil rights.

Jesus and other great spiritual teachers emphasize that we must first seek transformation by the Spirit of love to use the gift of critical thinking without immersing ourselves in negativity and arrogance. We must learn to collaborate in a non-partisan way. We must avoid idolizing anything that preserves our own privilege and status quo, while neglecting to ask, “What effect is this having on others?”

The Apostles in today’s Gospel were called to put into action the powers and authority Jesus had given them. We are called to do the same.

Homily – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, our readings this week speak to us about hope.  We need to have hope so that we can do what God is calling us to in our lives as Christians. In our present time, I believe it is true to say that many of us feel disillusioned over where our country seems headed and ill-equipped to do what is needed to make the changes that will fix this dilemma.

The psalmist today seems to be saying that we have to keep our eyes on our loving God, and for us, that is Jesus, in order that we can know our path and what our life will mean as believers, as his followers.

We have the short, but very powerful reading from the prophet Ezekiel today that at first glance appears to tell us little, but upon a second look; we get the kernel of hope we so often need when trying to do God’s work among seemingly stubborn people, as Ezekiel encountered. God says, “Whether they listen or not—they will know that a prophet has been among them.”   A good question for us to consider this week might be—do I see myself as a prophet?

Sometimes I think many of us believe that being a prophet is a thing of the past—we think of a few “greats” like, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Mary, his mother and Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles. But, truly friends, the Spirit is continually renewing the face of the earth and each of us is called to the prophet role by nature of our baptisms, to speak truth as we are given it for the good of all. Much in our present day needs the words of the prophet, in each of us, I think you would agree.  And with God’s grace, the prophet that is in us and others will be willing to share the Spirit’s message too!

The Spirit is always about wanting to assist us in speaking her truth. She may sneak up on us, giving us strength we didn’t know that we had. Think about this—have you ever been compelled to say something in the face of a present evil that no one was addressing, and once you said it, you wondered, how you were able to stand up and say what you did?  Well my friends, that was the Spirit!  We must come to humbly accept and appreciate the Spirit of Jesus wanting to renew the face of the earth through us! And if we don’t do our part, there will be a part missing!

I had several opportunities this week to do good in regard to others and I could simply look at these good things that I chose to do, and make nothing of them or I could see them as the prompting of Jesus, in his Spirit to do what he would have done. The ordinary, the everyday, my friends, that is how our God works the good into our lives, makes our lives meaningful and the life of the person we reached out to, meaningful as well!  And when we can make these connections, humbly, that God is working through us, we receive the hope we so need in times of trial.

We see Paul struggling with what it means to be a prophet too, even though he doesn’t claim this distinction for himself. He is simply trying to be a true follower of his brother, Jesus.  He lives with some sort of affliction that he prays God will take away only to hear, “my grace is sufficient for you.”  And as Paul lives out his call—his life in Christ, he comes to be able to proclaim, “When I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.”  We could well take up his thought in our daily trials as well.  “When I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.”

If life were always easy—no worries, no hardships; we might become arrogant or think as some do, that we did it all ourselves. Our sufferings, what seems to be part of our physical life here, help us to recognize what others bear with in their lives and enable us to empathize with them and show compassion.

This past week, David Brooks, who writes as a conservative, political commentator for the New York Times, gave a talk, that I heard on public radio, to a group I can’t remember, but for my purposes here, I simply give him credit for uplifting an idea much needed today.  He spoke of times past when the idea of “community” was much more prevalent in this country—that of knowing our neighbors, partaking in their lives and they in ours, rather than living separately and as individuals, or within our own little families.

It is this kind of individualism that raises suspicion of newcomers to this country and it is simply because we don’t care to know them or their stories.  If we did, as a nation, we would see them as part of ourselves, struggling as we are, or once did, for a better life.  All of us are part of the family of our good God—not something to be taken lightly.

I believe each of us can point to times in our lives when we did the right thing against all odds and felt strength beyond ourselves.  Likewise, we have all had experiences when we felt the task was more than we could do, but something compelled us just the same.

At these moments we should look to Jesus, our model, our brother, our friend, because even Jesus, God’s First Born was not without scorn—the people he would have thought he could have expected support from, turned away or at least didn’t understand—his neighbors and perhaps some of his family members.  His example is a great comfort to me in my times of rejection and I hope is to you as well.

It is perhaps a good meditation to think about and pray over, of just what it was like for Jesus to be rejected in his own home town.  His human nature had to have experienced the pain of that rejection.  On the one hand, “their lack of faith astounded Jesus,” the Scriptures tell us.  His thoughts might have ran something like—“Can you not look at the fruit—see that what I am doing is for the good of people? Can you not see that we must strive to see that all of God’s creatures have the good things of this earth—that all are free, accepted and loved for who they are?”   This train of thought is experienced often by me and other women priests—“check the fruits,” we find ourselves saying too, and then perhaps you won’t be so ready to condemn. For even Jesus said, “If they aren’t against us, then they are for us!

And on an even deeper level, he must have felt their rejection of him—of his person—of his truth and of the reason he laid his life out for them in the first place.  Because it wasn’t about his personal need to be the messiah or his desire for power, even though, in his humanity, those temptations were no doubt real as in our own lives. We have to struggle as did he with the right reasons for our decisions—is it about me or a greater good? And this kind of reflection is so very important so as to gain strength, like our brother, Jesus, to do the right thing now, in our time!

I think sometimes in remembering that Jesus was and is God, we forget or don’t give enough attention to the fact that he was also human, fully so.  This mystery of Jesus’ divine and human natures somehow existing in tandem, can be a bit to get our heads around, but we have these same natures too, that of humanity and of God, and when we are truly human— in our best selves, as God created us; we are most like God.

So, we come back to hope.  We see in the lives of the prophets, like Ezekiel this week, like Paul, like Jesus, and we think of others like Mary, his mother, Mary of Magdala, his friend—prophets all, taking on the tasks of priesthood, discipleship and servant hood—tasks that each of us are called to as well, by the simple fact that we name ourselves “Christian.”  How many of us miss the work of God all around us in the goodness of daily and random acts of kindness done for us, for others—the challenges we are called to—to do likewise?

Jesus found a lack of faith, a bit of mean-spiritedness even, an inability to believe the best—to see the miracle that love gives birth to. We should pray that our faith would be strong, with the clear knowledge that “God’s grace is sufficient” and therefore allow the miracles to unfold in our lives through the Spirit of Jesus for the People of God.

What will the miracles be?  Which ones will we become aware of?  May our eyes be open to all the good around us—miracles all!  Amen?  Amen!

 

Homily – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, if you are like me; there was much this past week that lays heavy on your hearts.  A short listing is probably instructive as we try to make sense of the Scriptures today.

  1. 2300 children are still separated from their parents at our southern border, and no matter the rhetoric out of Washington, there seems not much sign that they will be united any time soon—we can only imagine the trauma this is causing in the lives of these young people.
  2. Then there are the parents detained, separated from their children simply because they came to this country, escaping a bad life and looking for a better one for themselves and their children, free from violence, only to be met with more violence at the port of their hope.
  3. The Supreme Court of this country voted in a split decision to again enforce the ban on Muslims coming from 5 Middle East countries, under the guise of national security when it is clear to all who choose to see that the ban is racist at heart.
  4. Our Congress failed once again this week to come up with a viable plan on immigration, allowing partisan politics to get in the way of doing what is right, what this country says it stands for. You can name others….

And for some in this country, this is about “making America great again.”  In reality, each of these four actions is about sticking our heads in the sand,” about selfishness and greed, about turning our backs on all that is decent and good, what our country was founded upon.  And if all of this makes you sad, it should!

But as Christians, as followers of our brother, Jesus, we can’t stop at the sadness, but in our hope that good always, always wins out in the end; we must each do our part, to make it so!

Our Scriptures for today are most instructive in this regard—we must simply take in their messages and make them reality in our lives.

Our first reading today comes from the Wisdom literature and when did we need wisdom more?  The writer tells us that, “we are modeled on the divine” and I would submit that because we are, modeled on the divine; we are called, as a country to emulate the words on the Statue of Liberty, more so than the actions coming out of Washington this past week.  We know from all the Scriptures re-telling Jesus’ life among us, that to emulate the divine, to rise above our humanity cannot be just about ourselves, but about what is good for all.

The Wisdom writer continues, “God created all things to be alive—all things of the world are made to be wholesome.”  In separating children from their parents and parents from their children—the pain goes both ways; we must remember that this is not about “life” at its best and certainly is not “wholesome!”

Our brother Jesus demonstrates in two different actions of healing touch how we must, each of us, approach our world.  Both examples speak of a certain kind of “death,” as we know; death can be physical, emotional and spiritual.

The unnamed woman suffering from an undiagnosed and misunderstood blood flow for many years comes to Jesus in faith and hope to be relieved of this ailment, which, to her, was like a death.   Because her ailment was unexplainable, she was ostracized from the community and her family—there were all kinds of taboos about associating with women during their monthly flow of blood, to say nothing of someone whose flow was continual.  On top of that, women had no significant place in the world in which Jesus lived; thus it isn’t even important to give her a name.  And Jesus would have been aware of all of this, so that when she reached out in faith and hope, he reached back with his healing touch.

We hear a like story in that of Jairus’ daughter, again, unnamed.  Jairus is a man of faith and hope too.  Realizing that his daughter is gravely ill and that physical death may be imminent, he reaches out to someone he believes can help.  Again, Jesus reaches back in love and caring, confirming Jairus’ faith in him.

An endnote on the 2 females with no names—what we don’t name has no power and is more easily forgotten.

So, are these two stories just for 2,000 years ago or do they have something to say to us today?  I would say they demonstrate for us how we are to be in our world.  We need to see past the fears that cause all of us to act less than divine and at times, less than human.  We need to see another’s suffering and pain as if it were our own.

Most of us understand the dynamic when it is about our own children, our families—those we hold dear—most of us would take on a loved one’s suffering if it meant sparing them.  Jesus’ words are instructive here—“do unto others as you would have them do unto you!”  If there is any key to the good life—what is good for each one of us, it is this one idea—if we wouldn’t like or appreciate an action, odds are good, others wouldn’t either!  We have to make that child at the border, our child, and then act accordingly!  Those of us who attended the Interfaith Prayer Service yesterday heard Pastor Robert Hicks ask, “Do you know where your children are tonight?”—meaning of course that the children taken from their parents at the border, because my friends, these children are our children!

Sometimes our actions aren’t so much about fear in losing something we have that cause us to respond in less than good ways, but might be more about greed in not wanting to share what we have.  This almost seems to be a worse reason to act without love.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians has some wisdom to share in that regard when he says, “The one who gathered much has no excess and the one who gathered little did not go short.”  As followers of our brother Jesus, we each have to deal with this one.  If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that, “we did not pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, but that we had a good deal of help along the way.  So, if we are doing well, according to Paul, and Jesus would agree, we owe a share to others who may not be in a position to help themselves now.  We could just as easily find ourselves in need one day!

So, as someone said recently, “I am saddened that we even have to talk about all these issues” and I would add, again and again!  But, we must not stop, we must keep caring—we must keep reaching out with our healing touches.  And don’t ever underestimate any “touch” any action that you do—it all is, “light in our darkness” and we never know how our single action will multiply to make a difference for good in our family, city, church, country and world.  Amen?  Amen!

 

Homily – Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist and the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(friends, a note before you begin—there was some confusion here when I learned that the bishops had changed the readings for Sunday—I had been planning on using the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist and so made the assumption, incorrectly that they had changed to the 12th Sunday in OT, which made no sense, but once you have something wrong, it seems to stay wrong for a while. So, the first paragraph of this homily will make more sense knowing this bit of explanation)


My friends, the bishops decided against the Lectionary this week, dropping the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist and instead are using the Scriptures for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  They gave us no explanation and I heard that some were surprised—surprised that is, of the change, not that we weren’t informed! Regardless, I am of the mind that we never more needed to reflect on the words of a prophet like John, of “one crying in the wilderness” than now, so I used a bit of ministerial license, as it were, and decided to use some of the Scriptures from both, so as to get at what the bishops may have been thinking, but also to be true to the printed Lectionary for the day.

I have been reflecting on my week that has been full of many and sundry things—all, I would include, under the heading of ministry, so I find myself bringing all these things to this homily today. It makes me think of Fr. Dan Corcoran, at peace now with God—you always knew what he had been about all week when you listened to one of his homilies. For those of you who may not have known him, he pastored the Newman Center in the days when Newman Centers were cutting-edge, theologically and spiritually, unlike today. I too feel that the best homilies come out of applying the Scriptures of the day to the “stuff” of our lives and therein coming up with the true work and inspiration of the Spirit, so here goes…

Right away on Monday morning last, I met with Victor Vieth who heads up the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center—he still has an office at Winona State University but due to budget cuts, the program here has down-sized. Unfortunate really that the University wouldn’t want to continue to offer meaningful training to all its graduates, especially in the helping fields about how to recognize children, and adults for that matter, who have been victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.  But perhaps all isn’t lost as Victor is looking toward having an office in the new Education Village opening up next year.

Our purpose in meeting was to catch up and due to the newspaper article on our church; that was his connection back to me.  I had taken a 3-day training from him designed for Chaplains about 5 years ago and also had been instrumental in bringing him to Winona Health to speak to staff there—unfortunately, the turn-out was light.

Part of our discussion was about getting church people and others to see that some of our mission and vision statements plus our patriarchal culture preclude having safe places for the abused among us to practice their faith and more so, to find spiritual comfort within our churches.  The cultural piece that says that half the population is better than the other half; more fit to serve, more acceptable, is easier to understand.

The piece about vision and mission statements that aren’t as welcoming to the abused was more of a challenge for me to hear because, as you know, here at All Are One, we invite everyone to our table.  Now, of course, if someone wanted to come among us and outwardly abuse others; they wouldn’t be welcome, but otherwise, not knowing what is on someone’s heart; we invite everyone to our table.

Victor gave me an example from his practice of a woman physically abused by her husband who finally went to her pastor for guidance because as she said, “If I stay with him, [take my life one day]!” The pastor understandably counseled her to get away from her abuser, which she did.

So the end of the story is that on a particular Sunday, the former abused wife and her children show up for services and the ex-husband with his new woman friend are there too.  This was a Lutheran service that welcomed everyone to the table and the abusive man, with his new partner; presented themselves too in front of the abused woman and her children.  Victor’s experience says that the abused feel less welcomed in church than do the abusers because the abused are welcomed to the table without apparently changing their ways, and therefore, the abused feel that the abusers are given license to continue their evil ways.

Victor pursued a theology degree the last couple of years to make the connection to the Scriptures to show that actually Jesus had much to say about abuse and it has been part of his practice now to get ministers to see these connections too.

His challenge to his seminary class was to ask them if there was ever a time that they would deny communion to someone presenting themselves and no matter the scenario he gave them; they always came back with the same answer—they would not deny the Eucharist–because as they said, it wasn’t their place to judge what was on someone’s heart.  I found myself feeling the same as the other ministers, at first, and then upon more reflection; I found as I told Victor later, that his words “had convicted my heart.”

I think too of people like the young woman befriended by some members of our parish who had been abused as a child by a priest who couldn’t bring herself to be at Mass with us because of the memories that her childhood experiences still held for her.  I wonder if some of Victor’s words about the abusers feeling more welcomed and encouraged than the abused isn’t a bit true for this young woman.

So, at any rate, I’m not through thinking and praying about this issue and perhaps must remember the Scriptures that indicate that we are called to the table with the intention of always being our best selves and not with malice on our hearts. So, that was the beginning of my week.

On a lighter and more hope-filled note, there was the over-flow from our article on our 10 year celebration as I shared with you—it being picked up by the National Catholic Reporter’s daily on-line news feed and the next day by the Associated Press.  This was followed by friends telling me they saw it in the St. Cloud Times and the Mankato and Twin Cities’ papers. And just on Thursday, I was contacted by Channel 19 out of Lacrosse with an offer to tell my (our) story to their viewers.  So, it would seem that regardless of what Pope Francis is saying about women not being able to image Christ at the altar, the Spirit wants this story out!

I had one interesting call from a woman in LaCrescent who left a message on my phone saying that she had seen the article and wondered if I might be interested in a book that was listed in their Catholic bulletin, entitled, Prodigal Daughters Return to the Church.  She didn’t say enough about what her concern was, so before calling her back; I went on-line and looked up the book.  As you can imagine from the title, it is a very conservative view of women and Church and returning to, “our mother, the Church.”  The introductory pages have a good dose of a very male God, mentions of Opus Dei and I stopped there.

In calling her back; I asked if she wanted me to critique the book, because I wasn’t clear from her call, what her concerns were.  I mentioned that the book was very conservative and to answer her question, “I really wouldn’t be interested in it.  I went on to say that women priests do not see themselves as “prodigal,” that if anyone had left, it was the Church who had left us in not accepting our calls to priesthood.

She jumped on the term, “very conservative” and proceeded to tell me without taking a breath how that was where she was at, sharing her views on women priests, abortion, gay marriage and there may have been more that she wanted to share, but finally I interjected that I didn’t think there was much that we could agree on.  She responded that, “We can agree then to disagree!”  All this was done in quite pleasant tones.  She blessed me and said, “Good-bye.”  And to that I said to myself, “Wow, lots of work to do still!”

Paul, in today’s letter to the Corinthians says well I feel, for all of us, what is needed.  He is basically talking about not letting ourselves get stuck. The old order, he seems to be saying has passed away—everything is new in Christ—because of our brother Jesus, we can no longer look on anyone with “mere human judgment,” but must see through the eyes and heart of Jesus who gave all for us, so that we could see with clearer eyes.

And finally, the story that is on all of our hearts this week, that of children being separated from their parents at our southern borders, rages on. The country is finally, seemingly coming together, regardless of political party to say that this is simply not right and must be stopped!     I am sure your week like mine has been full of every attempt we all can think of to protest these presidential actions unworthy of the office.

Franciscan, Ilia Delio has asked friends and acquaintances via email to observe 10 minutes of silence at 3 p.m. each day to pray for and with each other for the guidance and strength to do what needs to be done. A group meets each Thursday at the Blue Heron from 10-12 to write postcards to Congress people demanding action worthy of us as a country—on this and other issues. On Saturday, yesterday, there was a very powerful vigil at noon in Winona at the corner of Main and Broadway to show our solidarity and to raise awareness of this issue, realizing that we can’t ultimately remain silent.

Next Saturday, June 30, time yet to be determined, an interfaith prayer service will be held at Wesley United Methodist church, much like the one that was held in response to gun violence in the spring.  Again, the purpose is to show our solidarity, to ask the God of us all to assist us, giving us the strength to be the prophets, like John, that this world so needs.

In the reading we used today from the prophet Isaiah fore-telling the life of John the Baptist, he said, “I will make you a light to the nations, so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

My friends, I think sometimes, all that befalls us in a week’s time can be overwhelming, but we can’t in all of it lose sight of the psalmist’s words today, that we are, “wonderfully made” –each of us—and each of us has so much potential—we have voices, we can take action like letter-writing, we can witness with our presence at prayer services and vigils and we can vote!

The question to Jesus from the apostles on the boat is our question too, “Teacher, does it not matter to you that we are going to drown?”  And friends, our faith must be our rock and we must realize that if we let Jesus calm our storms, he will do that by sending his Spirit to give us the strength to be the prophets that this world needs, speaking truth to power! Amen? Amen

 

Homily – 11th Weekend in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

Being that we are celebrating Fathers’ Day this weekend, I invited a younger Dad, in our midst, to reflect on the Scriptures today in the light of his role. He shall remain anonymous in this venue for personal reasons. I think he has given us some rather good thoughts to ponder–enjoy!


 

Thank you, Kathy, for the opportunity to speak here today. Kathy asked me to speak to
everyone gathered here because Father’s Day is tomorrow and I’m a father. I haven’t been one for very long, so what I say here today may very well be wrong – and I hope the fathers in the room will tell me as much afterwards. More fathers need to talk to fathers about being fathers.  I, of course, wouldn’t be much of one without [my wife]. You may have met our little guy in back there. He’s new to all of this, but he’s doing a very good job of learning and we’re very proud of him for that. I know it can be disruptive at times, and I thank all of you for your patience with that. But as I’m sure you all know from your experience with All Are One, learning and progress are disruptive. For that matter, Christ was disruptive, and Christianity is disruptive. And I think that’s because love is disruptive and all of these things are in their strongest form when they focus on love. Of course it is also a trying time to be a father, having to fight a resurgent toxic masculinity that urges simple and destructive answers. The last two weeks have been no respite as we learn of the violations of human rights occurring on our southern border where children and infants are being taken from their parents and held in inexcusable conditions because their parents did not happen to be born in the right place. There cannot be a just society that puts children in cages, and if there were ever a task to test how disruptive of the status quo love can be, this is it.

In the Gospel today (because I have no idea what to do with the other two readings), we hear about Jesus trying to teach the disciples about the reign of God using stories of things that start small and then grow and flourish. Around Father’s Day that might remind us of parenthood and seeing our little ones grow from tiny mustard seeds into beings we can read with, and talk to, and on whose branches birds can come nest (you do have to wonder where Jesus’ audience were getting their mustard seeds). The analogy gets a little strained because I don’t think we should ever intend to “harvest” our children; I know I’d be more partial to [our little boy] growing unharvested to have metaphorical birds rest in his metaphorical branches. But Jesus was using
these stories to explain the “reign of God”, and presumably God is the “sower” of the seed in these stories.

At least that’s what I thought at first. There are many places in our society and our philosophy where notions of fatherhood are undergoing significant change today. We might traditionally be expected to understand a father as the sower of the seed—a simple creator. But I think that as more men resist limiting patriarchal norms and come to understand what women and mothers have always known about what children need, we should consider that the seed can be sown in any manner of ways, but what makes the real difference is the soil. In fact, our roles as mothers, fathers, and community members might be better understood not as sowers but as soil. For it is the soil that nurtures and teaches and provides what the seed needs to grow. While the soil cannot supply everything and plants will always face challenges that restrict them from growth, it is the soil which essentially says “yes” to the seeds and it is this “yes” that spurs their growth. As the ground and soil for the next generation we shelter our seeds and have to be firm with our “no’s” when it comes to something unwise or dangerous. But these “no’s”
never need to come from a place of belittlement, anger, or jealousy. They are always “no’s” in service to some greater ”yes”: wisdom, life, the benefits of less processed sugar. A parable is also a way of teaching that says “yes” by connecting to ideas that are already familiar in an audience. It teaches by saying, “Yes. You already know this, but in a different form.” Maybe a good way to think of fatherhood, whether it be in God or a human father, is as the art and work of saying “yes”. We may want to move on from simply being creators, and explore the part of creating that lives on in creat-ivity — a work that is never done. Just as the parable assumes the soil has a (complicated) way of saying yes to the seeds that grow in it, so we as fathers should commit to the art and work of saying yes to those who depend on us, whether it be at our southern border, our congregation, or our very own families.