Although my anticipated audience for this piece is post-menopausal women like myself, I do hope and pray that younger women and all men would read it, too. We do not live this life as isolated individuals but as interconnected companions along the Way. The better we attempt to understand each other’s experience the more compassion we develop. (And I have this secret wish that we all wouldn’t be embarrassed by our natural body functions but I’ll try to be as delicate as possible.)

So, here’s my story:
About 10 days ago I went to donate blood as I do every 60 days and for the first time ever my iron was too low. It wasn’t super low, just .2 what it needed to be. So I rescheduled and made a plan to eat lots of spinach and other iron rich foods to boost it back up.

Three days later I noticed a change in my urine flow (this can’t be said delicately, sorry). It took me longer “to go” than what was typical but there was no pain or irritation so I just chalked it up to “getting older”.

Two days after that my back started bothering me – the same pain I get periodically because of a bad disc so I intended to make an appointment with my doc to get a PT referral. That has always remedied it before. The next day while driving into work the back pain was so severe I changed the plan to go to Urgent Care, after, of course, I got a few things done at the office (and due to the fact that I never got around to making an appointment the day before).

By lunch time the pain had me in tears and I had my hubby drive me to urgent care. The doc listened to my symptoms and said “kidney stones” and ordered a CT. The CT showed no stones. It did show a large mass in my uterus pressing on my bladder and my spine (did I say LARGE?) and the doc quickly got me a transfer to the hospital and referral to a gynecological oncologist and surgeon there. I was medically transported to the hospital not knowing what was next. The surgeon admitted me and ordered an MRI and other tests and said he’d work me into his surgery schedule after the tests were done.

Four days later, I’ve had a total hysterectomy and am recovering from surgery. The pathologist said she saw no cancerous cells. Her exact wording was it was all “completely unremarkable.” I’ve never been so happy to be unremarkable in my life. The cause for the mass is unknown. I do struggle a bit with giving up parts that make me biologically a woman, but I seek my identity in the God who created and loves me, so I’ll adjust. My dear hubby said we could have a funeral for the parts if I wanted. I don’t think I’ll do anything formal but I will allow myself to grieve and lament which is always healing.

Not once in my mind had I connected the three symptoms nor did I take any of them seriously until the back pain was unbearable. I am so very grateful for the first doc I saw who asked the right questions that allowed him to connect two and ordered the scan that began my diagnosis.

Ladies, and men, of every age, we need to take our bodies seriously and get to know them well enough that we can truly listen to what they are telling us. Our bodies are beautifully designed and intricately created by the God who loves us beyond our understanding. This God, the God I know as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, through the writings and experiences of those who have known God before me, and with my own reasoning abilities to recognize God through my experiences and time, gave us these amazing bodies as a gift for us to care for. Yes, there is pain and sickness and sometimes our “parts” malfunction but God does not cause this nor does God desire it. It is the collective result of the human race deciding we know better than God what is good and what is bad. (Before any of this, I’d been writing about suffering which I hope to being posting soon.)

Tend to your bodies, tend to your souls. This is how we become the whole and holy people God created us to be. I’m going to do my best with God’s help to do this better and better through the remaining of the wonderful life I’ve been gifted.

The nurses and doctors and techs who have cared for me at the hospital have been amazing. The medical profession is a true ministry, whether those in it recognize that or not. Each in their own way want us to be well in the gift of our bodies and they participate in the healing God desires for all of us.

“LORD, you have examined me. You know me.
You are the one who created my innermost parts; you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb. I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful—I know that very well.” Psalm 139:1, 13-14 (Common English Bible)

All the Possibilities

A sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake, Canyon Lake, Texas.
The Lectionary readings for the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost are here.

When you hear the name Zacchaeus, what is the first thing that runs through your mind? What about Jericho? I bet one or both of those songs will be running through your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome. Now, besides the songs, what do we know about this man and this place?

Jericho is a city on the northwestern edge of the sea of Galilea and almost due east of Jerusalem, with settlements dating back to 9000 BCE. It claims to be the oldest city in the world and the city with the oldest known protective wall. Most famously known from the Old Testament from the story of Joshua and the destruction of the wall around the city brought about by a marching band of priests.

Whenever a specific place is named in the stories of Jesus, it is good to recall the stories known about the city from the Old Testament. In the battle against Jericho, Joshua was instructed to march his army around the city daily for seven days and on the seventh day to march seven times, when the priests blew their horns, the wall would come down. This is also the story in which we meet the prostitute Rahab who saved the Israelite spies because she had heard of their God. She and her family were not destroyed in the Battle of Jericho and she is the great great great great great great … grandmother of Jesus.

In the time of Jesus, Jericho was a major customs and trade city. Our friend Zacchaeus was there as Jesus was passing through. Zach, we are told, was a chief tax collector meaning he managed a group of tax collectors. From what they collected they had to pay the Empire first and give their ‘chief’ his cut, keeping what was left for themselves, so they would set the applicable tax rate to whatever they needed it to be to have enough of a profit to maintain the lifestyle they chose. And we complain about the IRS.

As we saw last week, tax collectors didn’t have a very good reputation in first-century Palestine. Their fellow Jews considered them traitors because they worked for the financial gain of the Roman Empire. Way back at the beginning of Luke’s telling of the good news story, a group of tax collectors ask John the Baptizer how they should conduct their business and he tells them to collect nothing more that the amount prescribed. Luke also tells us that Jesus frequently eats with tax collectors and even calls one to be in his inner circle of disciples.

And today, we have the story of Zaccheaus, the chief tax collector. Zach knew Jesus was coming through his town and he tries to work his way through the crowds just to catch a glimpse of this great teacher. But, alas, he was a wee little man, short in stature, our translation more politely puts it, and the crowds paid him no notice. Being ever so resourceful because he’s had to learn to live in a world built for people taller than he – I understand his plight well – he runs around the crowd and climbs a tree.

Now, Luke doesn’t give us anything about Zach’s motivation beyond he just wanted to see who this Jesus he had heard of was. Jesus had other plans. He looked up to Zach and invites himself to Zach’s house. And, as typical, the crowds begin to grumble. Why didn’t Jesus come and eat with them? Couldn’t Jesus see they are much more worthy of his time and attention? A tax collector, the chief tax collector, really?

Zach doesn’t give into their attempt to shame him. He stands, full stature, in front of Jesus and refutes the bad reputation the crowd has forced upon him. Our translation has Zach speaking in the future tense but the Greek text is in the present tense: instead of “I will give” and “I will pay”, Zach declares “I give half of what I make to the poor, and if I defraud, I pay back 4 times.” Zach isn’t declaring he will change his ways, he is claiming he already follows the rules, and more than that, he’s a bit of a Robin Hood figure. He makes up for the defrauding done by the collectors he manages, giving half of his cut to the poor and returning 4 times what was taken above the standard tax.

So, in this city once destroyed by the power of God through Joshua’s marching band, Jesus destroys the crowd’s ideas of who is righteous and who is not and empowers Zach to overcome the shame they force on him. The salvation that has come to the house of Zaccheaus is the power of living out the love of God by loving our neighbors well, exercising the justice of God’s Kingdom in all that we do.

Jesus came not to establish a great political, cultural, or even military power but to seek and save the lost. This is not what most Israelites expected in the promised Messiah; they had lost the plot of God’s story. They didn’t want mere salvation, they wanted retaliation and revenge over the powers that be.

The Israelites didn’t expect to capture the city of Jericho with a marching band and the Israelites of Jesus’ day didn’t expect a Messiah who would overcome evil with kindness and compassion. They didn’t expect Jesus to show up as he did – as an ordinary person, not seeking political or military power but gentle, loving influence, transforming the lives of those he spent time with – those on the margins, the ones whom the crowds often overlooked.

How and where do we expect Jesus to show up? Do we, in spite of the crowds, position ourselves to see him better? Do we attempt to look beyond the crowds to see who Jesus would see? Or do we, like the crowds, grumble when we see those we consider short in stature freely receiving the blessings we’ve tried so very hard to procure for ourselves?

The salvation that Jesus brings isn’t at all about social status or political prestige or military might or physical power but about living on earth as in heaven. It is, in the words of the prophet Isaiah “ceasing to do evil, learning to do good, seeking justice, rescuing the oppressed, defending the orphan, and pleading for the widow,” in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. In our jobs, in our volunteer work, in our business dealings, in our neighborhoods and community, regardless of whatever political party is in power, regardless of whomever our neighbors voted for or who they love or how they dress or wear their hair, the color of their skin or their country of birth.

Salvation, as Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica is living in the understanding that it is God who makes us worthy and God’s power that enables us to do the work of faith so that in all that we do, God is glorified. Salvation means we keep our eyes on Jesus and follow his example of loving well, being freed from the power of shame, coercion, and fear in this world.

Together, as the good people of St. Francis and with God’s help, we walk in the faith of following Jesus on earth as in heaven, offering up all that we are and all that we have and all that we do for God’s glory so that the people of our Canyon Lake community, like Zacchaeus, can see Jesus in us just as we look for him in others. Imagine all the possibilities. Amen.

Faithful Persistence

A sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake Episcopal Church, Canyon Lake, Texas.
The Lectionary readings for the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost are here.

When you hear this particular parable, what American proverb comes to your mind?  …  And when you hear “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” what does it mean?  The one who makes the most noise gets the attention or gets what they want?  Do you think that’s what Jesus means with his parable?

So, as we delve into the substance of this parable, let me be very clear – this is NOT a parable that gives us permission to nag God for whatever we want.  The widow is seeking justice, not something unnecessary or frivolous or even something that would only benefit her.  The judge in the story is well known for being unjust, self-described as having no fear of God or respect for any one else. The only reason this particular judge gives this woman what she asks is to make his life easier; his motivation has nothing to do with justice.  

And, so, if this self-centered, disrespectful, unjust Judge manages to do the right thing if even for all the wrong reasons, how much more can we trust in God, who is other-focused, loves unconditionally, always just, and full of compassion.

Let’s look at what bookends this parable: We are told very plainly that Jesus is telling this story to emphasize the importance of praying always and to not lose heart.  And, Jesus ends the story with the question, “will God find faith on earth?”

Do you remember the definition of faith I gave a couple of weeks ago?  Having faith is putting our whole trust in God’s grace and love. It is proclaiming by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; Seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being. Do you recognize that definition from our baptismal vows, how we promise to live as followers of Jesus?  

What about praying always?  What’s that all about?  When Jesus explains the need to pray always, so you think he’s telling us to hide ourselves away in church, heads bowed, eyes closed, saying all the right words at God?  I don’t think so.  The story Jesus uses to illustrate the importance of praying always doesn’t detail any of these actions.  The story tells of a widow, one of little to no social standing or influence, being persistent in her quest for justice, even in light of a judge who has no desire for justice.  

But just what is justice and why bring it into a lesson about prayer and faith?  All people, every human that ever was or is or will be is created in the image of God and, therefore, are to be treated with dignity and fairness.  But, for all of human history, we’ve proven our tendency to use our own definitions of good and evil, looking our for our own advantage and rather than walk in this world following God’s way and God’s definition of good and evil, using other people to get what we want, pushing other people down to raise ourselves up, seeking power and vengeance rather than justice. 

Justice is more than just a set of laws that define wrongdoing and punishments.  Justice, in God’s Kingdom, is about doing the work God has given us to do to restore God’s way in this world – seeking out those who are vulnerable and building relationships grounded in God’s image, working together to meet everyone’s needs.  Justice isn’t one sided but considers the greater good of all.  We hear this definition of justice throughout the Old Testament: 

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” (Zechariah 7:9-10)

“Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

“Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow.” (Jeremiah 22:3)

Justice, and it’s partner ‘Righteousness’ are about being in right relationship – with God, with each other, and with ourself.  Jesus comes and shows us in flesh and blood what living life justly and righteously looks like, even in the face of adversity, even when we don’t feel like it, even when we would rather put our own comfort first.  The widow is persistent.  She doesn’t give up.  She lives in a continual attitude of prayer, the awareness of God’s presence with her so she doesn’t lose heart.  This is what it is to live faithfully with God, seeking God’s vision for this world, not our own.  

So, how do we, the good people of St. Francis, follow Jesus in this type of persistence, this faithful living in an attitude of prayer, seeing the world through God’s eyes?  We’ve been trying to discern the answer to this since I first met many of you over a year and half ago as we had a day long conversation about listening to the prompting of Holy Spirit as we move forward in our ministry and service to the community around us.  

First of all, we come together regularly for worship, knowing that our method of worship is formative, letting the Holy Spirit sculpt our hearts and minds so that the image of God is revealed in our lives outside these doors.  And, as importantly, we gather for the study of scripture and have conversations about what it looks like in our day and time to be the people of God.  We learn together how to rediscover our true selves as God’s beloved. We meet to conduct the business of this parish within the Economy of God’s Kingdom.  We fellowship in relationship with each other, doing life together, sharing the good and the difficult and tragic, celebrating the joys and bearing each other’s burdens as if they are our own.  And we talk about how we can share all of this with our greater community.  Seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves, striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being.

Back late in the summer, we asked everyone to offer suggestions on how we can use our beautiful property for the benefit of the whole Canyon Lake community and we’ve brought the ideas together in a intentionally crafted, well prioritized plan.  It’s going to take all of us, with God’s help, to bring it to fruition, to create a welcoming, hospitable, safe place for all.  

Just like the parable isn’t about what the woman wants for herself but for the greater good, we give of ourselves – our time, our talents, our treasure, to equip us all for every good work we discern we are to do for the benefit of our community.  Together, collectively, with all that we are and all that we have, we listen to the prompting of Holy Spirit, following Jesus in the Way of God. We are being who we are created to be – God’s beloved revealing God’s love and justice to the world.  Whether it is the ECW hosting a charity wreath auction to assist groups around our community to raise funds for their work, or Chris Mitchell teaching others how to process deer meat or all of us picking up extra items at the grocery story to help stock the CRRC food pantry, the DOK preparing food bags for the children in our community who are food insecure, helping prepare goodies to encourage and thank our teachers, offering our space as a county voting site, or giving financially to support the ministries and daily, weekly, and annual business of St. Francis, we are, together with God’s help, living answers to the prayer “on earth as it is in heaven.”  

The thing about squeaky wheels is the squeaking means something isn’t right, they’ve been neglected.  With proper maintenance, they don’t squeak. Living in an attitude of prayer and in faith takes intentionality and regular, ongoing work through the whole of our lives, proper maintenance so that we well equipped and prepared to proclaim the Good News of God with faithful persistence.  Don’t lose heart.  Amen.


A sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake Episcopal Church, Canyon Lake, Texas.
The lectionary readings for the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost are here.

There are stories of archeologists who, while excavating a pyramid in Egypt, finding pots of honey that, after thousands of years, are still good.  The pyramids, built as a supposedly eternal monument to the self-proclaimed deities of particular pharaohs are crumbling away but the honey, the natural product of bees being bees, endures.  

The fruit of the bees’ life endures.  The fruit of the Pharaohs’ lives have not.  The bees lived a faith filled life by being a bee and doing what bees are created to do.  The pharaohs attempted to be something they were not created to be.  

In our gospel lesson today, the disciples ask Jesus to ‘increase their faith’ and what Jesus tries to do in his response is to get them to reframe their understanding of what faith really is.  What prompts the disciples’ request (and the part we didn’t read) is Jesus warning them about causing others to sin, speaking to others about their sin, and telling them that they must forgive over and over again.  And all of this falls on the heals of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man from last week and the parable of the dishonest manager from two weeks ago when we read Jesus’ words, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.”

With all that he says and does, Jesus is teaching how to live in faithful community, building each other up so that we can all be who we are created to be, image bearers of God. 

Through the stories of our faith ancestors in the Old Testament scrolls, we hear often of God’s faithfulness.  It has nothing to do with God’s ability to do anything but all about who God is and his choice to remain in relationship with the people he has called to reveal who he is to the world.  And when God called his people to be faithful, full of faith, he was calling them into relationship with him.  Our faith isn’t measured or proven by how well we pray or perform the rituals and sacraments that express our belonging as God’s children.  Our faith is shown in the way we live our life, every day, revealing who God is through our behaviors toward others.  We are faithful when we live generous, grateful, and forgiving lives. 

Jesus shows us in flesh and blood how to be Children of God, the citizens of God’s Kingdom.  Living the characteristics of justice, mercy, grace, love, in all that we do. Faith isn’t about proving we are worthy of God but living in such a way that is worthy of God’s faithfulness to us.  Jesus shows us how to, like the faithful bee does, get in on what God has done and is doing in and through us by being human.  

When Jesus tells the disciples if you had the tiniest amount of faith, the size of a tiny seed, he isn’t scolding them but encouraging them.  The life he is teaching them to live can be challenging and difficult – living in loving relationship, forgiving, showing mercy, treating all people justly takes strength and courage.  Jesus is saying this life, The Way of God’s Kingdom, takes just a tiny speck of trusting that this is the life we are created for, who we are created to be.  And when we live with that understanding, we will have all the faith we need.

Having the faith of the mustard seed isn’t about a measurable quantity of faith but about trusting in God’s creative purpose for us.  The faith of the mustard seed is that the mustard seed doesn’t expect to be anything but a mustard bush doing mustard bush things.  

The faith of the honey bee is that the honey bee doesn’t make it’s honey as a monument to it’s own greatness; the honey bee makes honey because that’s what God created the honey bee to be and to do. Our faith is about becoming who God created us to be, opening ourselves up to the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us.  

So often we hear Jesus say to others, “go, your faith has made you well.” The disciples had heard this too.  Learning who and Whose we are, beloved children of God, trusting in God’s creative purpose heals our thoughts about earning, deserving, and working to be worthy.  Faith heals us from the struggle of self-reliance and sets us properly and confidently in relationship with God and each other and all of creation.  We don’t have to make ourselves into anything; God has already created us to be who we are intended to be.  We don’t have to earn God’s love, God loves us as he created us.  We don’t have to prove ourselves good, God created us good.  We only have to be and do that which we are created for.  

In the words of the psalmist: 

Put your trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
Take delight in the Lord, *
and he shall give you your heart’s desire.
Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, *
and he will bring it to pass.
He will make your righteousness as clear as the light *
and your just dealing as the noonday.

And this is very good news indeed.  

Having faith is putting our whole trust in God’s grace and love. It is proclaiming by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; Seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being. 

With faith, we will do greater things than our human efforts can imagine because we will be living God’s way, striving for justice, loving our neighbor, seeking the glory of God instead of our own.  

Jesus tells us that faith isn’t a measurable thing but a character trait that reveals the image of God in us.   And just to make sure we understand that faith isn’t a competition, Jesus plainly reminds us that having faith doesn’t make us super-human or even faith heroes. Faith makes us human, simply doing what we ought to do, doing what is ours to do because of who we are, being who we are:  followers of Jesus, beloved children of God, living on earth as in heaven. 

Living life faithful to who God is and who we are produces fruit, like the honey bee, that endures through all of eternity: love, mercy, justice, peace, joy.  

Something else about bees and honey; honey in it’s pure state will never spoil, bacteria can’t grow in it.  Honey lasts literally forever.  If bees can produce something that lasts indefinitely just by being bees, imagine what we can do in this world with God’s help just by being the beloved, generous, forgiving humans he created us to be, faithful to God’s created purpose for us.  We can do things as seemingly impossible getting trees to grow in the ocean – we can overcome fear with love, anxiety with peace, hatred with compassion, revenge with mercy.  When we stop trying to be pharaoh and just be a bee, what a wonderful world it would be, flowing with proverbial milk and honey, heaven on earth.  Amen. 

An Anti-Lesson

A sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake Episcopal Church, Canyon Lake, Texas.
The lectionary readings for the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost are here.

Think for a moment of a person whom, at any time in your life, you admired so much that you made an intentional effort to be like them.  We all have these folks in our life.  For me, it’s my grandmother.  People always said we looked just alike but I have always wanted to love and care for others as well as she did. And even with all of my intentionality to be like her, I pale in comparison.  But that doesn’t stop me from always trying to love as she loved.  

Now, think of a person whom, at any time in your life, you observed and then said, I’m intentionally not going to do things the way they do.  Every time I begin work on a sermon, I think of someone about whom I can say I learned a lot about how not to prepare a sermon, a priest who mentored me well in other areas, but who waited until Sunday morning to even think about the sermon and sat in their office with heavy metal music blaring while they prepared it.  This is what prompts me to start early in the week and give it the time y’all deserve for me to.  

I think it’s safe to assume that most of us think of Jesus’ parables as lessons about how to live, but have you ever thought that some of them are what I like to call anti-lessons.  We listen to a parable and try to decide who we are in the story or at least who we should be like but do we ever think we shouldn’t be a particular person in the parable.  Is there anyone in this parable you aspire to be?  Maybe perhaps the folks who are getting their debt cut in half but other than that, really?  

So, I think this is a lesson in who not to be, of how not to be.  It’s a lesson about the consequences of living transactionally rather than relationally.  The manager sees wealth as a means for relationship and relationships as something he can purchase.  In the economy of God’s Kingdom relationships are both free and priceless.   

Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about Jesus explaining the true cost of following him, of being a disciple, that we had to give all that we have into the service of God’s Kingdom.  And last week we talked about finding the one lost sheep and the one lost coin as a way to teach us that each of us is infinitely valuable to God.  The “wealth” of God’s Kingdom ins’t weighed out in gold coins.

Jesus is telling us a story of a manager getting sideways with his master.  This would have meant a household manager, also known as a steward, someone hired by the master, the owner of the house to oversee the family’s business dealings: the buying and selling of whatever the house needed and produced: livestock, crops, wine, oil, cloth, etc.  A manager, a steward, is trusted to manage these transactions as if the items and money of the owner were their own.  The manager mishandled what belonged to the master and when called to task, cheated the owner out of more in an attempt to purchase relationships he could cash in on later.  And although he is commended for his cleverness, he still doesn’t avoid the consequences of his choices. 

As a conclusion to the parable, Jesus asks about faithfulness and dishonest wealth and true riches, and I think this is the clue that it’s a lesson about what not to do.  Jesus asks:

If you have not been faithful with dishonest wealth, why would anyone trust you with true riches?  

If you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, how can you be trusted with anything?  

Jesus is using these words in the context of God’s Kingdom.  True riches are the riches of God’s kingdom – love, compassion, justice, mercy, the characteristics of God that equip us for true relationship.  This the wealth of God’s Kingdom.  God entrusts us with true riches – life and love and relationship.  How do we misuse them to build the wealth of money and possessions for our own benefit?  If we misuse the very life we are created for, are we using any thing properly – in the Way people and things are designed for in God’s Kingdom?  

These questions of Jesus should lead us to the questions: do I value my relationships more than anything?  

Do I use all that I have to nurture and grow relationships or for my own self interests?  

Do we live as stewards, with the understanding that all that we are and all that we have are gifts from God?  

Do we let Jesus shape our worldview so we move through this world in relationship with God, each other, and all of creation, or do we have a transactional worldview in which we see everyone and everything as something for our use, including God?

When Jesus talks about dishonest wealth, he uses the Greek word mammon which refers to worldly wealth, but it’s not just money.  It is that which we give the power to fulfill our deepest needs and desires: money, possessions, looks, service, excitement, prestige, another person, knowledge, rules, ourselves.  When we look to anything else besides God to fulfill our deepest needs, to give us our identity and sense of belonging and purpose, we are serving the wrong god.

When we look to money or possession or another person or our job or our volunteer work or exciting experiences to make us happy, to fulfill us, to save us, we are worshiping the wrong god.  None of these in themselves is bad, money and wealth aren’t evil, work and volunteer efforts, fun and travel, none of them are bad.  It’s what we do with them and how we use them that matters.

Jesus uses this lesson to help us orient our lives properly.  With God at the center, what we do have, our possessions and wealth, our ability to serve, our skills and talents, our quest for fun and enjoyment are part of how we live into the command to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves.  When we use these as a way to elevate ourselves, we’ve got it wrong, like the man in the story.  He used his wealth as a way to curry favor and earn relationship and relationship built on transaction can’t last.  Relationship, as Jesus shows and teaches us, is a gift freely given and freely received.  

We use the title ‘disciple’ often to describe our relationship with Jesus. Being a disciple means that we learn from Jesus, by following his life and teaching, with the intent of becoming like him. The purpose of being a disciple is to become like the teacher.  Who or what do we allow to disciple us, to shape who we are becoming though the whole length of our life?  Do we orient our life toward the Kingdom of God or the fallible wealth of this world?

This parable is about who or what we put at the center of our life and who or what we choose to serve; it is about knowing Whose and who we really are; It teaches us about living relationally instead of transactionally, letting go of the idea we can earn or purchase real relationships and accepting God’s gift of love and life.  It is about the rich and abundant life of living on earth as it is in heaven, as we are created to live, here and now.  Amen. 

What did he say?

A sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake, Canyon Lake, TX.
The lectionary readings for the thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost are here.

Two weeks ago we talked about the meaning of Sabbath and what it is to cease our work, our way, and intentionally focus on God’s presence as we rest in the truth of who God is and Whose we are. Last week we talked about humility and pride and knowing our place in God’s Kingdom – who and Whose we are.

And today, we have some very challenging words of Jesus that also speak to the truth of Whose and who we are. Taken out of their context, these words can be twisted into permission to hate. But received in the truth of who God is, the context of the whole of scripture, and in the culture into which Jesus spoke, we cannot take them literally but as the dramatic hyperbole they are.

These words of Jesus make us stop and ask “WHAT?” and that’s exactly how we should react. Jesus came to shake up our worldview, to incite us to look at ourselves, the life we have crafted, the culture and society in which we live through the lens of the God’s Kingdom. Jesus came to transform our views of love and hate, success and failure, families and enemies, good and evil, wealth and poverty.

Before we talk about the wisdom this particular passage offers us, let’s look at what else Jesus has to say about love and hate. First and foremost he tells us the greatest commandment is to love and he says we are to love our enemies and those who hate us and that others will hate us when we choose God’s way over our own way, especially those who have benefited most from our way. Taken in the context of all of his teachings, Jesus is setting up the same kind of impossible scenario that he did with the parable of humility and pride we read last week. The point of this shocking statement isn’t to give us justification to return hate for hate but to incite us to consider the true cost of following Jesus, the true cost of loving others as God loves us.

Hate is a much easier path than Love. When we claim to hate someone, we don’t have to deal with them, we can just write them off, not having to consider a greater good that also includes them. We don’t have to treat them as a fellow child of God, desire good for them, or treat them with dignity. Following Jesus in the Way of Love is much more challenging. We have to give up our ideas of revenge and retaliation which are transactional; we have to let go of any idea that we are better or less than any other human being; we have to let go of our thoughts about earning and deserving; accept that we can’t control other’s behaviors because love doesn’t seek control or power; and we have to do the difficult work of examining our own self-serving motivations so that Jesus can transform our hearts as we learn to love better and better through our lives.

This is the mission Jesus sets us on when we choose to follow him. Jesus never tells us we have to save anyone or to fix the world or to fix anyone we don’t think is living as we think they should. Jesus gives us one mission – to proclaim that God’s Kingdom is at hand, by how we love and live. This mission is a purpose, it isn’t goal oriented. Goal oriented implies there is a point at which we will have achieved our mission. Jesus does’t give us a goal for our mission but a purpose, a way of living: loving God with our whole being and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

We aren’t responsible for saving souls, that’s the Holy Spirit’s work. We are to live a life in which we learn from Jesus, every day, how to love well and share our life, grounded in God’s Love and the teachings of Jesus with the people we encounter ever day. Our mission, as Jesus invites us to it is about HOW we live, not just what we do for an hour or so on a Sunday morning or for a few minutes each day, but HOW we conduct ourselves in every relationship – family, friends, community, business, recreation, every possible encounter with another human being.

Our mission as we follow Jesus is to build community with mutual love, to be Image Bearers who look for the image of God in every human being so that we all come to know to Whom we belong.

The most concise way I know of to express the worldview Jesus came to transform is moving from a transactional way to a relational way. Richard Rohr refers to the difference as ‘world of merit’ and ‘world of grace’.

“Everything is a gift—one hundred percent pure gift,” Rohr writes. “The reason any of us woke up this morning had very little to do with us and everything to do with God. All twenty-four hours today are total gift. Only when we stop counting and figuring out what we deserve, will we move from the world of merit into the wonderful world of grace. And in the world of grace, everything is free.”

When we choose to live relationally, our two deepest needs are fulfilled: our need to belong and our need for purpose. When we live in the confidence that God loves us, full stop, not in spite of our failures or because we are good enough, we can let go of our need to try and make others love us by what we do or the way we look or what we know. We can let go of our struggle to earn others love or favor or attention. And we can let go of our expectations of others with the wisdom that to love someone isn’t about whether or not they measure up to a particular set of standards we impose but to see them as a fellow image bearer, a beloved child of God.

I was privileged enough to grow up with a wonderful model of the kind of Love Jesus teaches us. My grandparents knew each other mostly their whole lives. They and their families settled into Martin County Texas when they were young children. They grew up on neighboring farms, got married, made a home and raised 4 boys, helped raise seven grandchildren and several of their great grandchildren. When my granddaddy died they’d been married 65 years. I remember my grandmother saying as she would share her wisdom with us that through their lives there were moments and days that she didn’t like my granddaddy at all but she always, always loved him. My grandparents understood that Love was a way of being together, not a hallmark imposed emotion. They always looked for the good in and wanted the best for each other, sought the best for their family, and served their community through their work and relationships with those around them.

As we live in the Kingdom on earth as in heaven we are accountable and we have responsibility. There is great cost to following Jesus. We have the responsibility to seek justice in this world, to be kind and compassionate and loving, as we walk humbly with God, even when others treat us poorly, even as we live in the difficult consequences of other’s bad behavior, even when we want nothing more than to get revenge. Any life we attempt to craft for ourselves pales in comparison to the life Jesus invites us into – life defined by God’s love and walking God’s way. Let’s mind how we go. Amen.

Humble Pride?

A sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake, Canyon Lake, Texas.
The lectionary readings for the twelfth Sunday after Pentecost are here.

Name something that once we say we have it, we’ve lost it?
And something that once we say we don’t have it, we gain it?

This is one of those Sundays I wish we could all just circle up and talk together about the readings. They weave so well together and each is made more enlightening by the others. I know I sometimes question why the Lectionary group picks what they do but this is a time they’ve done their job so very well!

If we were still in the Great Hall, I might just have us circle up our chairs for a chat but since we can’t circle the pews, we’ll just have to pretend. But, you might want to get our your bulletin and follow along. If I had my flannel graph board, I’d have made a diagram so you’ll just have to imagine it.

We have Jesus telling a parable based on the short bit we read from the Book of Proverbs. And the bit we read in the Letter to the Hebrews is an excellent sermon that wraps together Jesus’ parable and the Psalm for today (yes, I know the author quotes a different psalm but the message is the same). And together all of this weaves a beautiful picture of what it looks like to live in God’s Kingdom, the very life we are asking for in the prayer for today.

Alright, let’s go through it in a bit more detail, shall we? In our reading from the Good News Story as Luke tells it, we have Jesus being invited to a Sabbath dinner at the home of the leader of the Pharisees. Now, remember that Luke tells us many times of the issues the Pharisees take with Jesus and what he does on the Sabbath. They don’t take kindly to Jesus calling into question the difference between what they consider ‘lawful’ and how we do love on the Sabbath. Jesus speaks of God’s intent of the law and the Pharisees are more concerned with the letter of the law as a means to gain power.

The laws and commands God has given through the entire history of God’s people have all been for the purpose of teaching us how to love well; our egos cause us to distort them into ways to control and manipulate.

And Jesus isn’t dumb, he knows they are watching and waiting to catch him breaking the law and yet he takes another opportunity to speak of the true intent of the law and the meaning and purpose of Sabbath. In the parable he tells he sets up this impossible scenario: to avoid being shamed by taking the wrong place, sit in a place you think you don’t belong so that you may be ‘corrected’ and ranked higher. And in giving us this odd scenario, he exposes the false idea that it is possible to intentionally show how humble we are, regardless of what Mac Davis once sang.

Once we’ve claimed humility for ourselves, we’ve lost it. To appear to be humble so that you will receive honor is not humility but pride. Humility isn’t about outer appearance or behavior but inner character. And when we let our inner character be shaped by the life of Jesus, what we discover is that there is no need for ranking in God’s kingdom. We are all beloved children of God, loved beyond measure.

Life in God’s Kingdom isn’t about earning rewards or doing good in order to be repaid, but living compassionately with all people, doing good to do good because it is how we love well. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us to, “let mutual love continue.”

Mutual Love; Kingdom Love; unconditional love. Love that is other-focused not self-serving; Love that makes room at the banquet for everyone and where we sit doesn’t matter.

In his parables and sermons and questions, Jesus drills down to the heart of the matter, what really matters, our internal motivation for doing what we do. In the difficult work of self-examination, honestly answering to ourselves why we do what we do, we are set free from the bondage of our egos that lie that says life is all about ‘me’. We are set free from the struggles that come with wondering if we look too prideful or not humble enough because our worthiness doesn’t come from other’s opinions of us or even our own opinion of ourselves. Our worthiness comes from God’s love for us.

And, learning to love others better does not in any way mean that we are to deny that we have needs or that we shouldn’t also love ourselves. Loving one’s self is not the same as being self-serving. Remember Jesus’ answer to what is the greatest command: to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as our self. True humility isn’t denying one’s self but truly knowing ourselves in proper perspective of Whose and who we are.

Just like sitting in a lower ranked place with the intent of getting moved up is pride disguised as humility, denying we have needs isn’t being humble but prideful. If I insist of taking care of your needs but do not admit I have needs, our relationship isn’t based on mutuality. When we refuse to admit our own needs, it is a false humility. When we claim we aren’t prideful, we do so only from a place of self-centered pride.

My place in God’s Kingdom is no higher or lower than yours. We are all beloved children, created in the Image of our Creator. We all are given the same purpose in this world – to love well, to love on earth as in heaven. This is the life we are created for, God’s purpose for us all, to love and be loved.

Our Psalm for today is a lovely illustration of this Kingdom centered life. Happy are they who fear the Lord. Do you remember a few weeks ago when we talked about what ‘fear-of-the-lord” means? It is living appropriately and responsively knowing who God is and who and whose we are. When we ‘fear the Lord’ we aren’t afraid of God or God’s commands, we delight in God because we live in the wisdom of God’s commands, the understanding that the intent purpose of the law is to teach us to love better.

The upright, those who seek the wisdom of God’s commands, will be blessed, their righteousness will last forever, they are full of compassion and manage their affairs with justice. The wealth and riches in their homes isn’t silver or gold but an abundance of relationships grounded in the love of God’s Kingdom. When the world seems dark, the light of God’s love shows them the wisdom they need to endure. Their heart is right because they put their trust in God’s way of living.

This is the true religion we pray for in our prayer today – to see all people as being created in God’s image, to seek the greatest good for all because of God’s goodness in us. This is how we truly, authentically, walk humbly with God.

So, know your place in God’s Kingdom, following Jesus into the heart of what matters: how to love on earth as in heaven. Amen.

Mind How You Go

A sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake Episcopal Church, Canyon Lake, TX.
The lectionary readings for the eleventh Sunday after Pentecost are here.

We are starting with a quiz this morning. If you don’t want to answer out loud, grab a pencil and make notes in your bulletin. Are you ready?
What does the Hebrew word Shabbat, the word we translate into Sabbath, mean?
Why are we supposed to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy?
What exactly does it mean to remember it and keep it holy?

The verb shabbat means ‘to cease.’ As a noun it refers to the one day a week we are to keep holy. Keeping Sabbath isn’t doing nothing or simply taking a day off and it’s not just coming to worship; I was not sabbathing while home with COVID this past week. It isn’t vegging out in front of a screen. For some of us, it isn’t coming here on Sunday and for all of us it is so much more than coming here on Sundays. Rest and time off and worship are all part of Sabbath for sure but for Fr. David and me and for those scheduled to serve, this is time isn’t Sabbath, it is work. God didn’t put a caveat in there that says, cease from your work unless it’s church work. God commands that we remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, a day set apart for God’s work in us. And so we pick another day besides Sunday to cease.

Sabbath is a time of intentionally stopping from our work in this world and intentionally focusing on God’s presence with us so that God can work in us while we rest. It is remembering that after creating all things, God ceased for a period of time to show us that work and rest are both necessary parts of the rhythm of this amazing world because they are part of the rhythm of the One who created all.

In our reading today of the Good News story told by Luke, Jesus and the woman he heals get scolded for healing on the Sabbath. The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, said ‘you’ve got six other days to do such a thing, don’t do it today.’ This woman had been bound up by the Accuser for 18 years. What’s one more day, they said. Jesus responds by asking ‘what better day than the day God gave us to remember who we are to unbind her, to free her from this spirit?’

The Pharisees had taken what God commanded for good and distorted it. God said to remember the sabbath and keep it holy, to cease our work and give ourselves over to God’s work within us. The religious elite used it to control others. Why had they gone 18 years of ‘six other days’ and not done anything for her? God intended the sabbath to free us from the bondage of these kinds of distortions. The Pharisees aren’t angry with Jesus because he healed; they are angry because he undid a method they used to bind others for their own benefit. He showed them that Sabbath is about life lived God’s way.

Keeping Sabbath is remembering who and Whose we are and our created purpose. Sabbathing is about letting go of our way to make room for God’s way.
For some it is letting go of our need to be in control of all things; trusting that God will keep the universe going while we stop.
For some it is letting go of our need to prove ourselves worthy by our behaviors and accomplishments.
For some it is letting go of our struggle to earn others’ love by what we do.
For some it is letting go of the constant need to keep ourselves occupied because we don’t want to hear what’s in the stillness.
For all of us, it is one way we let God show us how to get back to the core of our being, the image of our loving Creator in each of us.

Sabbathing is intentional, we have to prepare for it. We have to look at the rhythm we’ve made for ourselves and ask what do we need to give up or rearrange to make room for sabbath, a time where we do what enables us to intentionally focus on God’s presence with us. And then we have to make that time more important than anything else on our schedule. Sabbath isn’t an add on to our week; it is an integral part of our week that enables us to do all things from the foundation of who God is and who we are as God’s beloved.

God didn’t create us to earn God’s favor or prove ourselves worthy but to live in the awareness of God’s presence, in the ongoing awareness of God’s Love. Full Stop. No qualifiers, no caveats, no conditions. Our two greatest needs in this life are to belong and have a purpose. Living in the awareness of God’s Love fulfills them both.

Sabbathing unbinds us and sets us free so we can orient our labors properly, or better yet, allow God to orient what we do with who and whose we are.

Sabbathing frees from the artificial success of this world – our purpose isn’t what we accomplish or what we do but to live fully into our humanness which includes rest. Rest is part of the image of God within us. God ceased from work and we must rhythmically cease from our work.

The world binds us with the artificial success of numbers and possessions and personal image. Sabbath returns us to the garden and our true purpose – to abide in God’s presence, to keep that which God has made, to be stewards, not owners.

In one of our many favorite British Detective shows, Endevour, the Detective Inspector Thursday uses the phrase, ‘mind how you go’ as a form of ‘goodbye’. Every time he says it I think, “wow, there’s so much in that.” And now I think I’m going to start using it. Mind how you go. Pay attention, be aware, be intentional with what you do and how you do it. Remember who and Whose you are. A regular rhythm of Sabbath equips us for this intentional, aware, God-centered way of being.

When we step outside of our regular business, we notice things we never did before. And, yes, for some of us this will stir up fear and anxiety.
What if I get still enough to notice what we don’t like about my life?
What if I really do notice that the world can keep turning without me holding the wheel?
How can I show and tell anyone what I accomplished by just paying attention to God’s presence for a whole day?
What will I have to show for it?
What if someone needs something and I’m paying attention to God and not them; what if I discover people don’t need me the way I want them to?

But what if, as we face our fear with God, we notice a feeling of freedom when we no longer carry the burden of running the world?
What if we find peace in no longer worrying about impressing others?
What if we notice that God isn’t put off by our needs and loves us for who we are and not what we do?
What if in the stillness of Sabbath we hear God say, “I love you” without condition or caveat or duty?

When we sabbath we are living from the core of our being, the image of God within us. When we deny we need sabbath or forget it, we are saying we don’t need to live in the very rhythm God created with and for. We are denying our humanity as God gave it to us.

The practice of Sabbath is what equips us to live justly and rightly; loving God, our neighbor, and ourselves; walking humbly with God all the days of our life. Mind how you go.


A sermon preached at St. Francis Episcopal Church, San Antonio, TX.
The Lectionary readings for the ninth Sunday after Pentecost are here.

Good morning, I’m so happy to be here with y’all this morning. I don’t know how much Mother Carrie has told you about me but she and I first met 10 years ago this past June. I had just graduated seminary and been ordained and was assigned to St. John’s in McAllen where she was serving as the Youth and Family Minister. I had the privilege of working with her at St. John’s for over 4 years and then when I moved to St. Alban’s in Harlingen, she did her seminary field-placement there! And now we are both serving at churches named St. Francis in the San Antonio area – I’m the associate rector at St. Francis by the Lake in Canyon Lake. And I hope and pray that our years in ministry continue to weave together as they have.

As we started getting to know each other, we quickly discovered we each had a knack for pranks. Don’t laugh, it’s an important survival skill. So, I believe in an effort at self-preservation, we focused our joint pranking efforts on the rector of St. John’s. So, as we were executing these exquisitely honed skills, we would have to remain vigilant, watching for Fr. Jim to return. And this waiting was the most exhilarating part because we wanted him to discover what we’d done, that was the whole point.

In our gospel lesson today, Jesus speaks of waiting, and vigilance, and being prepared for an unexpected return. It’s all part of Jesus’ response to the man whom, as we read last week, asks Jesus to settle a family dispute over inheritance – a warning against the attitude of scarcity that leads to greed, followed by the reminder of the evidence of God’s abundant provision all around us, in the beauty of the earth and the lives of the animals with the instruction ‘not to worry.’

In our reading today, we jump into the middle of Jesus’ sermon with the words, ‘do not be afraid, little flock.’ Do not be afraid because God delights in giving us what we need. God, delights! Don’t you love the sound of that? It isn’t God’s ‘duty,’ God doesn’t provide for us because he has to. God delights in it, God chooses to give us the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Here and now. Every day. So, do not be afraid.

Jesus says that a lot – do not be afraid. We even have God saying it to Abram in the Old Testament story we read. But don’t think for a moment that he’s telling us to pretend there aren’t things that cause us to be afraid. I mean, have you watched the news? Inflation, war, viruses, political unrest, drought, there is much to be concerned about. When we take Jesus’ words ‘do not be afraid’ in light of all of his teaching, in light of the Good News of God, it isn’t an artificial positivity, it is wise optimism. We are to live in the hope-filled wisdom that God is God and we are God’s beloved children.

It is God’s promise that he will set all things right again, some day when God says it’s time. Our job, our purpose is to live on earth as in heaven, loving God, our neighbor, and, yes, our enemy. This is how we diligently wait, preparing ourselves for the coming Kingdom, and extending the invitation of the Way of Love to everyone we encounter each day. This is the faith that the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of. It is faith that is to guide us, not fear.

But, before we wrap up this message of Love, I want to throw a monkey wrench into the works because I know some of you are already thinking it. What about the line in the Psalm we read that says, “the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him.” The phrase ‘fear-of-the-Lord’ is all over the Old Testament. What do we do with being told we should fear God and Jesus telling us to not be afraid? Don’t these contradict one another? The short answer is ‘no’. But don’t just take my word for it. The phrase fear-of-the-Lord is just that, a phrase that has to be taken as a whole word, not the sum of the words that make it. This is one of the many instances in Bible translation where there just isn’t an equivalent English word to the Hebrew original so we do the best we can. It is more than awe or respect or even reverence.

Eugene Peterson always writes Fear-of-the-Lord with dashes between each word and defines it like this, “the way of life that is lived responsively and appropriately before who God is, who he is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. … a way of life in which human feelings and behavior are fused with God’s being and revelation” (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, pps 40 & 42).

What equips and enables us to not be afraid, in the midst of all of the frightening happenings of this world, is our fear-of-the-Lord, knowing who God is and who we are in relationship with God. Fear-of-the-Lord is how we wait, in active anticipation, alert to who God is and aware of his presence with us every moment of every day. This is the active waiting we are called to participate in by Jesus; this is how we stay alert and prepare for the time that is to come and in the hear and now, as live our lives with the same faith our ancestors did.

There is much to be concerned about in this world; there are many dangers. Following Jesus doesn’t mean we won’t ever face scary events, or that our life will be easy, or even that we will always get what we want. Following Jesus, walking humbly with God means we are never alone or abandoned, that with God’s help, we face whatever is to come trusting in God’s promises and provision, rather than living with the burden that we must fix all the ills of this world.

The Psalmist tells us: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, 
on those who wait upon his love.”

So let me wrap this up with this – don’t get stuck in trying to analyze the details of who is the thief in Jesus’ story. Just as I don’t want you to get stuck in trying to figure out the parallels of this bit of the Good News story and mine and Carrie’s pranks on Fr. Jim. Sometimes we have to step above the details and look at the whole message. The point of me telling you that story is to share some background of mine and Carrie’s relationship and the point of Jesus’ story is to teach us that we all are called to live this faith journey in active relationship with each other as we participate with God in God’s purposes in the here and now. We must always be ready to welcome God because God is with us always, what’s missing is our awareness of it.

So, “do not be afraid, little flock, for it is God’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” Right now. Right here. Amen.

Burials and Baptisms

A Sunday reflection for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.
The lectionary readings are here.

In July, we’ve had two funerals and today we end this month with the baptism of a precious two-year old. Not an extraordinary set of events at a church, and yet these occasions are the times we pause and look at life, lives lived out in this world of God’s creation, a creation both beautiful and dangerous, ordered and not tamed; life lived in the balance of joy and sorrow.

At each of the funerals as folks talked about the person who had died, not one thing was said about what they owned or the power they had over others or even who would inherit what. They spoke of character and love and integrity, faith and kindness and giving; they spoke of wanting to be like them.

In the Baptismal service, the parents and god-parents of this precious child promise to raise her, with God’s help and in the context of our Christian community, to be like Jesus. And we promise that we will do all that we can to help them. Together we all promise, with God’s help, to continue in the apostles’ teaching & fellowship, in the breaking of bread, & in the prayers; to persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord; to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourself; and to strive for justice & peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being (from the Book of Common Prayer).

In my faith tradition, baptism is the full initiation into the Body of Christ, living and active in this world, on earth as it is in heaven. It is the outward sign of God’s grace – the freely given gift of love and compassion to everyone. Being a part of the Body is a relationship with the One who created all of us in love, for love, and to love. Following Jesus isn’t about getting what I want or about being in some elite group, it is about living in loving community seeking the wisdom from Jesus’ teachings to love God and our neighbor and ourselves better and better as we journey together. Following Jesus is about letting God’s image within us shine into the struggles and the joys of this life.

When I talk with the parents and god-parents of children about to be baptized, after going over what they will promise on behalf of the child, I simply put it this way: we are all going to work together to help her love like Jesus loves so we can all be more like him.

We follow Jesus to learn how to be like him. So much of history since Jesus and the first of his disciples walked about in First Century Palestine has taken the easier path – to look to Jesus for the answers we want in order to justify our own behavior, just as the man in our Gospel reading does: Jesus, tell my brother to do what I want.

And Jesus, true to who he is, turns the question back to the man with a parable about a rich man who hoarded all he had for himself only to discover that upon his death all he had served no real purpose. In the framework of baptism and burial, we can see clearly that the purpose of our life is to follow Jesus in the Way of Love, living together in community so that we all flourish and thrive. This is what we are created for. This is the key to living our ordinary lives extraordinarily. Amen.