Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lord, In Your Mercy...

Second Sunday of Easter
Divine Mercy Sunday
Today's Word:
Acts 4:32-35 (The community of believers was of one heart and mind)
Psalm 118:1-2, 13-15, 22-24 (Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love is everlasting)
1 John 5:1-6 (The victory that conquers the world is our faith)
John 20:19-31 ("Receive the Holy Spirit;" forgive sins in Jesus' name; 'Doubting' Thomas)

Also: Philippians 1:3-11 (He who has begun a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ)

Today I have added a fifth passage from the Bible - the first four are from the Catholic Lectionary for today, and I don't want to let it pass without reflecting on John's story of the Apostle Thomas' witness. I'll come back to it.

My son and I were at Cornerstone today for the first time in six weeks, though; and I'm posting after I went there instead of earlier this morning, it is most appropriate that I include the passage from Philippians, which is the subject of the next six weeks of sermons there. I won't get to them all, and I'll more than likely miss their inspired take on Philippians 2:6-11 (see April 5, Palm Sunday); but the weeks following Easter is a good time to think about the 'good work' begun.

Having hung out in a strictly Catholic environment for the last six weeks (including two funerals last week) had me anticipating and somewhat edgy about heading back to work with a group of people I deeply and seriously appreciate. Even though both congregations are Christian, they are different in theology and diehards of either group have been known to be critical of the other for some obtuse reason.

I post this passage once more, because of it's great relevance to me as a wandering minstrel and a fence straddler:

The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We're sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. (Romans 8:34-39, "The Message" by Eugene H. Peterson)

I should remember this passage (it's one of Paul of Tarsus' better ones) every time I'm in mixed company; which is just about all the time. Consider that a few of my Catholic musician colleagues are more of the religion of musical theater...

Just a comment on something I noticed - and I was not the only one who picked up on it. The Cornerstone youth have a food concession going in the church foyer; they're doing this to raise funds for their summer mission camp work. Good idea. But when an announcement was shown on the multimedia screen, and then the lights dimmed as the service was about to start, I got the feeling I was attending a showing of Fireproof at the Bijou. I was thankfully reminded that this was indeed a worship service as it wasn't followed by 25 minutes of previews of coming events.

...and my extended family is at times so far removed from reality that commenting on them might nauseate the good reader. In fact, just mentioning them is more attention than I intended to give them.

The series started off with Pastor Calvin taking a turn at the pulpit - he's the associate/assimilating pastor at Cornerstone, and I've known him almost as long as I've known Mike...

Sidebar 2:
BTW, I realized I did a huge disservice by not including Calvin in the list of folks who see this automatically. My apologies, my friend - and I hope you have time to go back and read a few of the better things I've hopefully written since I began this blog. And Pastor Paul gave me the impression he had a classic Lent. I pray that whatever the challenge was, he's through the worst of it now.

...Cal started off with a remark about how all of us need to open up the Scriptures and let the Word speak to us - something which was a product of the Reformation, as Catholics were of the mindset that Sacred Scripture was the exclusive province of the ordained clergy. Well, for centuries it indeed was - first, until Gutenberg invented movable type, Bibles were copied by hand, under less than ideal working conditions. Second, there was a feeling among the hierarchy that putting the Bible in the hands and language of "Joe the Plumber" of 1500 or so would lead to all sorts of false interpretations. But there was also the mindset of "Joe the Plumber" and "Joe the Blacksmith" and "Joe the Farmer" and even "Trader Joe" that perhaps the Church wasn't being completely honest with that sacred trust. Both were right.

My point is: after cloistering myself for six weeks, Cal's statement put me on edge; it got under my skin momentarily, like an itch begging to be scratched. As quickly as it hit me, though, the thought was dismissed. We're on the same side. One day, perhaps, people will be able to put all sorts of division behind them. It would be nice if it happened in my lifetime. I have my doubts about it, but there is always hope. And there will be love. Dwelling on this in the wrong way has happened one too many times. Things are different now. I will never be the same again.


Back in 1995, I was given the honor to exercise one of my faculties as a deacon and preach on the Catholic readings for this day. There's a built-in theme (three, in fact); so putting together a 10-15 minute reflection on it is not such a tremendous task. More often than not, though, real life throws better curve balls than most major league baseball pitchers. During Easter Week in 1995, the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed by a domestic

That, to me, was too significant of an event to ignore. As close to the celebration of the Resurrection as it was, this shattered the joy and was a cold slap in the face. Tragedies of this nature beg of me to ask where God's hand is. Where would the hope of the risen Lord be in its wake? Did this not give rise to doubt? Could this not demand proof of all I believe and profess by wanting to see Jesus with my own eyes?

Needless to say, I gave it my best; asking God to speak the words through me that would remove the sting of tragedy and reaffirm the power of faith, the strength of belief in the resurrection; that God would prevail.

I have no doubts that God's words were indeed spoken. Though unbeknownst to me the wheels of change were being set in motion that would soon change the landscape and push my journey into darkness for a time, this last opportunity topreach was all His. It was not the proudest moment of my life; anything I said then has been lost from memory. That I only remember the event and nothing more is what should be. That I am reminded again and again that the story of man persists in staring God in the face unholy should deepen my resolve to be guided by His way of compassion, mercy, justice, and forgiveness. While I must live among the evils of the world, I must not - for the sake of the people I love and serve, for they too hold an image and likeness of God - fall prey to it.
terrorist and 168 people lost their lives.

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