Thursday, May 22, 2014

Homily Notes for St. Thomas Sunday -Easter 2 Cycle A




We look at our gospel reading as story which we often view as one of faith and doubt…yet if we look beyond the drama of the disciples we get a glimpse of the person at the center of the Easter event, Jesus Christ! Here are some thoughts about Jesus, about who he is, about his ministry which we find as we meditate on this lesson

1. Jesus , The Risen One-
Our text begins identifying the first day of the week as the day of the Resurrection, and this is central to the gospel story- Jesus crucified, now risen!  In our lesson from Acts , the Apostle Peter stands as a witness along with the twelve declaring to the multitude: "...This Jesus, God raised from the dead, and of that we are all witnesses..."  John in his vision in the Isle of Patmos adds to that witness speaking of Jesus as the “Firstborn from the Dead”! Here we should pause and acknowledge that the resurrection is not a simple resuscitation of a dead body,!
Luke 24:36-43 (ESV)

"...As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,[b] 43 and he took it and ate before them..."
This risen Christ is not bound by doors, he enters into a room closed, he bears the marks of his suffering, but feels no pain! The gospels describe the resurrected Jesus in very physical terms, he is touched by his disciples, he eats fish and honey yet he is not limited by the laws which define our universe…! He has taken our humanity and raised to a new dimension.The risen one is said to hold the keys of death and the grave, and to have promised that one day death will forever be swallowed up by his victory!                                                                            

2. Jesus Saviour and Healer 
A room full of anguish becomes one full of hope! Guilt , fear, despair dissipate as he stands before them and utter the words Peace be with you!  Peter in his Epistle perhaps refers to this moment when he speaks of a living hope , brought about by the resurrection of Christ! His death reveals the depth of God’s love….while we were still sinners Christ died for us, his resurrection attests to his power to save and heal! 
Peace with God, Peace within, Peace with others and Peace to the whole of Creation, we have been saved, we have been reconciled! There is a remedy to what ails us!!! It not RELIGION NOR science, EDUCATION or politics! In the end we need a healer, we need a Savior! It is Christ to speaks the word of love and power that saves even as we find in the Gospel accounts!
* Jesus speaking to the raging waters of the lake, Peace be still
* Jesus speaking to the woman plagued by the issue of blood, go in peace
*Jesus speaking to his distressed disciples Peace be unto you-
* Jesus speaking to you and to me, bringing hope , salvation healing!!  

3. Jesus The One Who Baptizes with the Holy Spirit!
Matthew 3:11 John the Baptist said of Jesus...
"...I baptize you with water so that you will give up your sins. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!..."
In this interesting scene, Jesus blows on his disciples saying as the father has sent me so I send you.... receive the Holy Spirit....whosoever sins you forgive are forgiven them!It is Christ who makes it possible for the Spirit of God to dwell in us, it is He who calls us, changes us, equips us and sends us to do what he has purposed in our lives!My boss is a Jewish Carpenter- though we may work with others and be accountable to others, it is Jesus who is the boss- He is the one who calls and commissions the disciples and equips them! He is the one we are ultimately accountable to!  THERE CAN BE NO TRUE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY APART FOR THE CALLING OF GOD AND THE ANOINTING, THE PRESENCE, THE ACTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN A PERSON'S LIFE! 

4. Jesus the author and finisher of our faith
The Greek word translated “perfecter” in Hebrews 12:2 appears only this one time in the New Testament. It means literally “completer” or “finisher” and speaks of bringing something to its conclusion . 
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion ..Philipians 1:6
There is a lot hat could be said about that but here are some examples from the gospels and our lesson of this Sunday in particular- We are all different when it comes to waht awakens and strengthens our faith.
John the disciple ran to the empty tomb saw the burial lines set aside and believed! The gathered disciples see Jesus appear and see the wounds in his hand and side, they believe! Thomas needs more than that! He is not content to hear or see , he has to touch
Jesus gives to each what they need, he is in the business of faith! Our faith is something we can entrust to him! He was present at its beginning, at its high and low points and we can trust He will give us what we need as the work of faith is made complete in each of us!

5. Jesus the Lord!
My Lord and my God, the beautiful words of a doubter  about Jesus- Great encourament to me and you in our moments of doubt and disbelief. 

Blessings

Seraph

Monday, May 12, 2014

In Memoriam

 Felipe Aragon, 1958-2014
Cigarrita I will miss you very much! May you find peace in the presence of God!







Monday, October 7, 2013

Y Que Pasa con Halloween?


Tal pareciera que cada otoño, cerca de la fiesta de Todos los Santos, algun creyente bien intencionado comienza su campaña de advertir y disuadir a los padres que no permitan que sus hijos participen en las fiestas populares que marcan la noche antes de esta solemnidad; La Vispera de Todos los Santos conocida en ingles como Halloween. Es una fiesta diabolica! afirman algunos, tiene sus origenes en una  celebracion pagana, no glorifica a Dios, es el día de las brujas y el diablo! Estas advertencias sinceras, muchas veces infunden temor, de lo oculto, del mal, de ofender a Dios o incurrir en pecado si participamos! 

Aqui razones por las cuales yo no comparto dichas ideas:

Es cierto que las raices de Halloween provienen de un festival pre-cristiano. Los Celtas y otros pueblos antiguos de las Islas Britanicas marcaban el dia primero de Noviembre como el festival de Samhain. Era el comienzo del invierno, dia en el cual, ellos creian, que los espiritus de los muertos podian andar por nuestro mundo con impunidad. En esta noche se encendian fogatas, se usaban mascaras con la intencion de asustar, de  alejar a los espíritus y a todo mal. Al llegar el cristianismo a esas tierras, cambia el concepto de la muerte, a la luz de la resurrreccion de Jesus! Por esta razon, el temor que infunde Samhain, cesa entre los creyentes y pasa a ser una celebracion de recuerdo y honra a santos y fieles difuntos que estan en la presencia de Dios.

Si consideramos que muchas festividades cristianas ocurren en fechas  en las que, en la antiguedad, se celebraban fiestas y ritos paganos, las objeciones de que esto ocurre en Halloween pasa a ser un dato de menor importancia. Nuestra celebracion de la Encarnacion, la Navidad, en el mes de Diciembre, reemplaza la Saturnalia y festividad del Sol Invicto. El periodo de cuarenta dias en el cual observamos la Cuaresma fue anticipado por los dias de preparacion para la resurreccion del dios Tamuz. La Pascua, en ingles, Easter ,lleva en si el nombre de la Diosa de la primavera entre los Anglo- Sajones . 

Nuestros antepasados en la fe no retrocedieron al rozar su fe con la cultura que les rodeaba. Cristo, para ellos, era vencedor sobre todos los poderes de la oscuridad y del mal! Cristo, ellos proclamaron, es rey de todas las naciones y su adoracion y culto reemplaza cualquier otra celebracion.  Todos los dias pertencenen a Dios, ni uno se cede al diablo ni otra deidad! Por eso cada dia y cada estacion fue, para ellos, de manera muy natural otro motivo para adorar a Dios!

Claro que es possible que fiestas como el Halloween y otras se usen para propositos malevolos! Sin embargo, nuestra cultura popular lo celebra como una noche inocente, de fantasia, disfraces infantiles, golosinas y diversion. Ademas de esto, las festividades religiosas que conmemoran a todo el panteon de heroes de la Biblia y aquellos que han pasado a la eternidad  nos recuerdan la verdad que recitamos en el Credo; “…Creo en la communion de los Santos”. 

Cristo vence la muerte! Cristo es la luz que brilla en las tinieblas y las tinieblas no han podido apagarla! En esta noche y dia recordamos llenos de alegría y esperanza que Cristo visito y liberto a los espíritus cautivos, que vencio a los poderes de la oscuridad, que los hizo objeto de burla en la cruz! Cristo esta sobre todo espíritu , principado y postestad! No tenemos que temer a la oscuridad como temian los paganos! Aun en la noche festejamos que Cristo es vencedor! 

En medio de todo el misterio de vivir, lleno de retos y duras realidades que se evocan de manera mas palpable con los cambios del otoño e invierno, un poco de alegría nos sirve de medicina! Nos disfrazamos, no en temor sino en diversion, intercambiamos dulces y golosinas, permitimos que la fantasia y la risa encuentren lugar en nuestras vidas a veces demasiado cargadas por el trabajo, el estress y aun el legalismo de la religion!No dejamos de hablar de las buenas noticias con nuestros vecinos y amigos, enfatizando todo lo que es bueno, puro y digno de alabanza.  Educamos a nuestros niños en medio de sana diversion, dejandoles saber que son hijos de Dios, hijos de luz, llamados a caminar a la luz de Cristo sin temor alguno!

No, no cedemos Halloween al diablo, a las superticiones, al legalismo ni al temor religioso! A Dios pertenecen todos los dias y las noches y sea que celebremos en la Iglesia, en nuestras casas o salgamos con los niños al barrio en busca de golosinas, vamos proclamando el poder de la vida y la luz, sin temor!

“ En el amor no hay temor sino que el amor perfecto echa fuera el temor…”!

Bendiciones!

Seraph



Friday, September 13, 2013

What is Going On With The UTO?



Even as Episcopalians fill the little blue boxes with offerings designated to the work of the church, rumors and disturbing news about the fate of the United Thank Offering are dispersed all over the web.

Let us join in prayer for this vital ministry of Episcopal Women as the UTO and its leaders discern for a way forward. 


Follow the links for more information on this sad situation!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ex Gay Apologies...





Yesterday, another ex-gay minister issued apologies for the heartbreak and deep emotional pain that , for years, he feels he caused members of the gay community by telling them a change in sexual orientation was possible.  He describes the disappointment felt by many of those he counseled, self-destructive behaviors,  guilt and to make it all worse the condemnation from some in the church!

Okay I get it! Sexual orientation is not something you can change like changing a channel! That this ever was a question is surprising! People like him and others, who gave testimony of life changes, prayed and counseled others, and who began ministries such as Exodus, should have been more cautious with their claims, more transparent with their own struggles. Yet, as he speaks of the harm that he and other ex-gay ministers have caused, I can not help but wonder at their sense of self importance!

In over twenty years of listening to, treating patients and praying with people as a friend, counselor, physician and priest of a progressive outlook, I have encountered perhaps a handful of people disappointed or hurt by  a sexual orientation which was not changed by prayer or counseling! These numbers pale in comparison with the many which I have cared for, suffering from the stigma of HIV, the emotional pain of  unfaithfulness in a relationship, STD’s, the ravages of AIDS, depression, substance abuse and a general disillusionment all too common with humans.  Even among the out and proud, I have friends, now approaching their fifties, who live their lives lonely after serial attempts at relationships and a host of one night stands which have not helped their longing for love, ex gay ministries notwithstanding!

“The problem is the way we treat each other”, are the words from a longtime friend.  Another speaks of the lack of commitment of the many men he has allowed into his life; “It is not worth trying anymore…”. On a reflective note a dear friend, single, professional, successful in many areas of his life, says of an aspect of the male gay culture, as he has experienced it ; “…You have to be young, good looking, have money and be hung”. That is fine and dandy except for when you are aging, overweight and struggling with the realities of being human, of illness or loss! 

The Cuban author Reynaldo Arenas, poet and outspoken critic of the Castro regime gives a powerful witness of his own life as a gay man in Cuba and the United States.  “Homosexuality is not monogamous” , he states in his famous memoir Before the Night Falls.  This was true in his particular experience, but it does seem to mirror the experience of others and what statistics show to be true , even in committed gay male couples. Perhaps, the saddest and most telling portion of the book is the account of a visit to a bathroom frequented by gay men in search of sex. Of the experience, then forty-sh Reynaldo writes; "No one gave me a second look, no one noticed me, I was no longer desirable, I was old...". That will work for some people just fine, but for many others...not so much!    

I am sure we all have friends who have balanced, wholesome, stable lives while gay: married, partnered, single and a few in a relationship with an opposite gender mate!  Their stories are inspiring and remind us that faith, love , commitment , joy and success are not exclusive to certain society approved heterosexual relationships. However we would be remiss not to tell the whole story! It is not the joy of being gay and out that drove many people to Exodus and like ministries! It was the pain, rejection, despair of life in the fast lane, their search for acceptance in a  culture which very often  favors youth, beauty and distraction! 
  
Perhaps, as Christians feel the need to repent or apologize, we should encourage others to do so as well! Maybe the owners of gay bars and bathhouses, not always therapeutic environments! Certainly the publishers and writers of gay magazines which seem to promote a careless attitude towards sex, no better than their heterosexual counterparts! Perhaps those, who rightly tell younger people that “it gets better”, should also apologize for not warning that it could get worse! Call me insensitive but, most of the suffering in the gay community does not seem to have been inflicted by ministries like Exodus, there is enough culpability to go around!  I have never seen a person die from too much prayer, Bible reading, fellowship with people of faith, but I have seen plenty of young men full of life, sicken, some die, from embracing the myth of a “gay life” devoid of consequences! 


Then again, maybe its about time we get off the whole apology bandwagon and be bolder about the love of God! Sexual orientation change not promised, but a life of fulness, faith and integrity not dictated or limited by  the labels of the day is part of the heritage and promise of our faith! After all, the Good Book does say that people, gay or straight, if united to Christ are a "new creation", something beyond the understandings and rigid rules of this world! 

Now is the time to more consistently teach our children, some of which may be gay, about the love of God, their inherent dignity as human persons, the value of their bodies! Perhaps we should do much more to teach and encourage young people to aspire to chastity, true friendships and long lasting love! Despite all the things Christians may do wrong these are things they surely can do right with the help of God! There is no need to apologize about that!

Blessings

Seraph


Monday, July 22, 2013

Martha, Martha, One Thing Is Needed…





Monday is here again, so soon, and I must admit to feeling quite tired.  I did take some time to loaf, but am more certain today that, a vestry meeting Saturday and three services on Sunday probably were not helpful to an overall restful weekend.  Then there was the gospel lesson!

"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing". 
 No disrespect intended but, if that exchange would  have taken place on a Monday like today, I can envision her dropping the apron and saying with the sweetest smile ever; “…great, make your own dinner, I am in need of only one thing …and it is not this”. 

It is not that I disagree with the Lord about choosing the “better thing” , nor that too much busyness can spoil our perspective and rob us of the joy in service! It is just that, sometimes, there are many things that do need attention, few people to help tend them, and too many who seem intent on making the tasks just a bit harder.  Nothing like a busy Monday morning when you are already tired to bring these reflections to mind!

The gospel scene with one sister working and the other one sitting calmly and perhaps choosing not to notice the chores mirrors real life way too often. I have often asked the Lord about this, but keep running into the passage in the gospel where Jesus tells his disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his field. Perhaps, my thoughts chime in, that would be a solution, if said laborers would come willing, docile and trained! 

In my experience, more hands do not make the work necessarily lighter…according to my mom, more hands can mean more mess! Sometimes the adage does hold true that, too many cooks in one pot spoil the brew, or perhaps the one where there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians! And then there is the case we read about Sunday, there were enough hands in that house all right; one Messiah, 12 disciples with assorted skills and a sister…not a one in the kitchen!  

Monday is in full bloom!!!! I have a schedule filled of people who come with concerns and physical ailments, several unanswered calls and emails, a music minister to hire, people drama at church, and a host of demands for my limited time and attention…never mind the requests for authorizations, records and assorted mountains of paperwork on my desk!.The chance of any of that disappearing if I just take time to sit, or that there is help forthcoming for the day is nil! 

On this busy day what part can I choose? Not every Mary has the luck of a Martha to enable her choices, even if grudgingly!  Today it is crystal clear that choosing the better part does not always seem to include laying down your apron, your computer or stethoscope, or choosing not to listen! And never ever does that happen on a Monday!

Well here it is; I am going to repent….yes already! Then, pray, smile, slowly and deliberately tend to my duties at hand and thank God for his presence in the midst of busyness and turmoil. I will do what I must and at the end of the day, the rest can just wait!   

Next Friday I must revisit my scheduling priorities, after all, I have it from good authority that ; “there is only one thing needed!  

Blessings

Seraph