We continue the Easter joy yet again this week, even as the apostles and disciples are preparing for Jesus being in their lives in a new way. He is letting them know, preparing them at every turn for the fact that he can’t physically stay, but that his Spirit will be with them always! This should be great consolation to us as we look back on the scene that no doubt gave his young followers pause and wonderment about HOW they would be without his physical presence. We all learn daily in our walk with our brother Jesus HOW we will be if we choose to truly follow him.
Come; let us walk together, pray together this week! Pastor Dick Dahl will be with you as Robert and I have a family gathering today!
Peace and love,
- Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17
- 1 Peter 3:15-18
- John 14:15-21
Good Friday Services, today at 4:30 p.m.
If you can’t be with us, here are the Scriptures for your reflection:
- Isaiah 52: 13–53:12
- Hebrews 4: 14-16
- John 18: 1–19:42
This is a beautiful, solemn service when we will have the opportunity to reflect on the Scriptures, pray for our Church and world, reverence the cross, and receive the Eucharist. Come; be with us to remember with gratitude and love the great love and compassion of our God for us.
Peace and love,
I was away this past Sunday and Pastor Dick Dahl stood in for me–here is his homily. Enjoy!
Instead of expanding on the three readings we have just heard, this homily is based on the larger message spoken to us from the beginning of time which has often been distorted so that we have often not heard it or been transformed by it.
To make a major shift from our familiar way of thinking to a transformation of our worldview is a paradigm shift. It is rare in both science and religion, but when evidence is overwhelming for it, one is blind not to make it.
This homily is based on Jesus’ words but may seem like a paradigm shift from the way we have been taught about them. It is based, some of it word for word, from Father Richard Rohr and his recent book “The Divine Dance.”
Most Christians and Catholics say they believe in God as Trinity, but the word has little meaning for many, if not most. The message has seemed to be, “Don’t worry about it. It’s a mystery and you can’t understand it anyway.” In fact, for some, God is often emotionally related to as an unchanging monarch living remotely some place else. The Holy Spirit is so ephemeral as to be for all intents and purposes non-existent. Thank God for Jesus! We hold on to him. But many think he came to save us from God the Father who required Jesus to suffer an excruciating and humiliating death in order for us to be “saved.”
How did we come to think of God as the Eternal Threatener? This is not the Father Jesus loved, the Father Jesus called Abba, Daddy, the one he told us to call our Father. God is not an object in the sky or elsewhere. God is the Life Energy who flows into the Son and through the Spirit, in a self-giving, creative love—a trinitarian dance of love that flows through everything, without exception, and has done so since the beginning. Thus, everything is holy—from subatomic particles to remote galaxies, from people around the world to those of us in this room. God saw what he created and saw that it is good.
In one word, Relationship is the deepest characteristic of God. A Trinitarian relationship embracing all of us. The very nature of Being is relationship, is love. The very shape of Being is first of all communion. Inside that love we were created. Every time we inhale, the Spirit immerses us in the flow of the Father’s love for the Son and for us, and vice versa. Connection is why we are here…is what gives meaning and purpose to our lives.
If we understand the Trinity as the basic template of reality, our minds will slowly transition from the concept of a pyramid or triangle with God remotely on top, to a circle with all of us together, which utterly changes our consciousness. Although a circle is a metaphor, it is a better image of our relationship with Father, Son and Spirit and each other. People hold hands and dance in a circle. Father Richard Rohr calls it the “Divine Dance.”
The implications of this understanding of God as all-embracing Trinity are enormous: For example, God’s love is never determined by the worthiness or unworthiness of the object. God loves each of us (and everyone else in the world) not because we are good, but because God is good. That love makes us exist and be worthy. We repeatedly fall into the illusion that we must earn God’s love, that we can be in control of God by being a good boy or girl, man or woman. In true fact, we are all already united to God in this universal dance and flow of love, but only some of us know it. Most of us doubt and deny it. It’s just too good to be true. It’s the Good News, Grace, unmerited acceptance. We are already loved, like the prodigal son who acted like a self-centered jerk, but who was always loved without limit by his father. That’s how we are loved, no matter how hard it is for us to believe it and accept it.
So when we get caught up in what Father Rohr calls “worthiness games” or “achievement rewards,” we become dis-eased. We cannot imagine a love that is not evoked by the worthiness of the object. We lack the ease that comes from accepting in surrender to an all-embracing love. No amount of effort will make God love you any more than God loves you right now.
The flow of Trinitarian love doesn’t have to do with you or me being perfect. It doesn’t have to do with our being right. It is never about our belonging to the right group. We don’t have to understand this. How can we? When Jesus met the man who was blind from birth, he didn’t ask him what he believed or how good he was. He just asked the man, “Are you willing to let me touch you? Do you want to be healed?”
You are precisely the gift God wants, as you are right now—in full and humble surrender. We learn so much more by our mistakes than our successes. Sin is not a way we hurt or anger God. Sin is a way we hurt ourselves despite the ongoing embrace of the Trinity. All the time, however, we have been “in Christ.” As Carl McColman wrote, “Because we are in Christ, we see the joyful love of the Father through the eyes of the Son and with every breath, we breathe the Holy Spirit.” Our humanity is just a matter of allowing and loving the divine flow, which Christians usually call the Holy Spirit. What finally motivates one in the spiritual life is gratitude, never fear. The end of history is a banquet to which all are invited.
Father Rohr ends his book with this prayer:
God for us, we call you Father.
God alongside us, we call you Jesus.
God within us, we call you Holy Spirit.
You are the eternal mystery that enables, enfolds and enlivens all things,
Even us, even me.
Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see who you are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing—
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
So be it.
My friends, the readings for our edification today should both comfort and challenge us. Sirach, being the prophet that he was, could be expected to speak of justice and of the God of justice–that is what prophets do—speak the words that need to be spoken, whether the words are accepted or not, on behalf of the God who loves us all so much, and wants good for each of us. The comfort that the righteous should feel at the words from Sirach, in our 1st reading today, will come out of their honest attempts to live out in their lives, the law of love.
The gospel reading calls us to make a distinction between being righteous and being self-righteous. Those who are truly righteous are humble people, being fully aware of their inadequacies as well as those things that they have accomplished in life. Humility’s place comes with the righteous person’s realization that their God who loves them, has additionally gifted them with so many good things, that can then be shared with others. There is the realization that without God’s strength, manifested in the good of others; there would be so much that they couldn’t do. Humility also allows the righteous to be fully aware of those places in their lives that need redemption.
It has been said that “kids say the darndest things,” and this week, spending time with our grandson, I was reminded of this truth. One day, Elliot and I were playing with some flash cards and we came upon one that was torn in half. I asked him what had happened and his mom gave the explanation saying that he was a lot younger when that happened. Elliot had an explanation too that I thought was perfect to describe the process of sorrow and reconciliation in our lives. Elliot looked at me in response to my question about what had happened and with appropriate sorrow on his little face said, “I teared it and I’m so sorry—what can I do about it?”
The self-righteous are those individuals who are fully aware of their goodness and aren’t shy about letting others and even God know all that they have accomplished, like the Pharisee in today’s Gospel. These people generally are not the humble among us, because they aren’t aware that they have indeed been gifted, but by God, with so much, or for whatever reason, have maybe never experienced what it is like to have everything taken from them, such as those who have encountered the forces of nature recently, or to have struggled with the hardships that can come in life, just by the nature of our human existence; loss of job, illness and more.
I have shared before that I’m struggling to get some sciatica pain under control and the experience of having something that I can’t easily and readily fix has left me feeling very humble and realizing that I depend on so many for so much. It seems that my mornings are the worst with this affliction and while visiting our family in Kansas City, our daughter Eryn was so good to me, making sure all my needs were met.
As much as I don’t wish pain or suffering on anyone, it does call attention to the fragility of life and of how we are each called to be of service to and for others. The psalmist’s prayer today is one of comfort in the times of struggle knowing that our God is there and understands our cries for help.
One of the most disturbing aspects of politics in the recent past and through this presidential campaign season is the level that we seem to have stooped to in fighting for what we apparently believe in. When we seem to become in our own actions and language what we say we are against—then we must ask, what do we really value?
When a woman, the first woman ever to run for president and will probably be elected can’t catch a break from the news casters in all that she has done over 30 years of public life, working tirelessly for women, children and the down-trodden in general, one has to ask if there isn’t some real pharisaical action afoot; if the objection by some of having a woman be our president just as it was for having a black man hold this office is so strong, that it blinds some eyes and hearts to the inherent good in us all, regardless of gender, then we have a problem!
We have a country, Church, and world that are still very patriarchal and it behooves us all to understand that fact in order that we as a world, in all its aspects can truly treat people with justice, mercy and love.
I recently heard a commentary on the insidious nature of gender disparity and the speaker was saying that we all have been raised to discount women by nature of their gender and even those who would deny that they have a gender bias act as if they do. Shortly after hearing this commentary, I heard a news analysis concerning Hilary Clinton and it was so obvious as I listened the bias that was being projected. The comments concerned her choice of clothes, the sound of her voice (not what she was saying) as well as an inability to judge her on the same criteria that they would a man.
So my friends, let me be clear; I am not advocating for how you vote as much as I am for checking out how we look at all people, no matter the issue–can we hear and see others for what they put forth in life—judge them by their actions and not on how they happen to have been born!
It is apparent that Jesus isn’t holding the example of the Pharisee up for our edification, but that of the tax collector, the person who can only say, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This gospel story, like so many that Jesus gives us, calls us to a standard above this world. Jesus is very good at flipping the picture to call us to the truth that we must be about—his very telling words that conclude the gospel are evident of this; “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, while those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Each of us is called within our own life situations to do what we can to make our world more just. In the selection from Sirach, there is a line,verse 15 that has been omitted, but I think it is good for us to look at because this prophet is calling his society and especially its men to task for its harsh treatment of widows. He says, “Do not the tears that stream down her cheeks cry out against the one that causes them to fall?” In light of my thoughts on gender disparity, this might be a good reflection. The righteous people will be challenged by these words—the self-righteous, probably not.
It has been said that Paul in his letter to Timothy demonstrates both tendencies, that of the Pharisee who is aware of all that he has accomplished and also of the tax collector who is fully aware of where the ability to do good really comes from. “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race…To Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever!”
For each of us, we are challenged by his words to keep on with our struggles in life doing all that we can to bring justice. If our lives at their completion can be said to have been about continually striving toward this end, then we too can say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race—I have kept faith.
As we reflect on Paul’s life, we must remember that these words were spoken because he knew what it was to struggle for the right—it has been said that someone who was totally into himself or felt justified simply in believing, could never have uttered these words.
Prayer was Paul’s strength as it must be ours in all of our work for justice. We need the company of friends too to sustain us. I think of those who have been soul mates throughout my life and hopefully, I have been to them as well. Paul had gathered many friends around him and we must do the same. We need others and others need us.
And finally friends, today’s readings call us to truth about ourselves–there is no place for arrogance in Jesus’ kin-dom. We must always be vigilant against this tendency to think ourselves better than others or more worthy of the good that life holds for the just—the righteous. The point on the continuum between righteousness and self-righteousness is very thin. Let us pray for each other today that we can always keep our eyes on Jesus and model our lives on his.