From the Beginning, with the End in Mind

A Homily for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: St. Mark 6:14-29


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who claims those whom the world has rejected. Amen.

To my mind, one of the most satisfying feelings in the world is re-visiting a story and making new connections. I’m sure many of you have a favorite book or movie: one to which you return frequently and are always surprised to find some new detailed contained within suddenly grab your attention.

A good tv show or movie is worth watching once. We all know what a beach read is – a bargain book that you take with you on vacation. It might be worth reading once while listening to the waves and trying to keep an eye on the dog or the kids.

But a truly great movie or book is worth revisiting time and time again. Each time through, some new detail emerges, a new theme grabs your attention. The second, third, tenth time through, you’re still catching subtle foreshadowing, shades of irony, jokes that are set up three episodes before the payoff, plot lines discretely seeded in the first pages that culminate in the final chapters. Notes that start subtly but soon dominate the score, meaningful echoes that play out at different levels. Continue reading “From the Beginning, with the End in Mind”

“Where is your brother?”

Pope Francis’ tenure as the Bishop of Rome has been striking in many ways, but perhaps none more so than his concern for migrants and refugees.

Perhaps it is because Jorge Bergoglio’s family fled fascist Italy. Perhaps it’s because the Pope is from a continent that has seen so many migrants flee violence. Perhaps it is simply the work of the Holy Spirit at work in the life of a bishop. (For my part, I think it is all three.)

Whatever the reason(s), Francis’ time as the heir to Peter has been marked from the very beginning by his love for migrants. His first trip outside of Rome as Pope was to Lampedusa, the Italian island and landing point for many migrants and refugees in peril on the sea.

Some five years after that trip, Francis invited migrants, refugees, and rescue workers to Saint Peter’s for Mass. In his homily, the Pope revisited his sermon from Lampedusa five years ago, the theme of a God who searches us out, asking, “Where are you, Adam?” and “Cain, where is your brother?” It is a question, Francis tells us, directed at us. Where are our siblings, those suffering and in need of God’s loving kindness?

Building on that theme in this year’s sermon, the Bishop of Rome brought in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Addressing the assembled faithful from Spain in his native tongue, Francis says:

I wanted to celebrate the fifth anniversary of my visit to Lampedusa with you, who represent rescuers and those rescued on the Mediterranean Sea. I thank the rescuers for embodying in our day the parable of the Good Samaritan, who stopped to save the life of the poor man beaten by bandits. He didn’t ask where he was from, his reasons for travelling or his documents… he simply decided to care for him and save his life. To those rescued I reiterate my solidarity and encouragement, since I am well aware of the tragic circumstances that you are fleeing. I ask you to keep being witnesses of hope in a world increasingly concerned about the present, with little vision for the future and averse to sharing.

The Prophet in the Hometown

A Homily for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Ezekiel 2:1-5; St. Mark 6:1-13


 

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends us out as prophets proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Amen.

No prophet ever, upon receiving God’s call, jumped for joy. “Woohoo! I get to speak truth to power and tell the people how their actions have afflicted our Lord! Where’s the King? I wanna go tell him his actions cause God grief. But first, let me go tell the landowners that the Lord plans to cut them down. I wonder, when I flee into exile, if I’ll go longer without food or water. I can’t wait to find out.” Continue reading “The Prophet in the Hometown”

#EveryFamilyIsHoly

Under the banner “Every Family is Holy,” Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis has “detained” the Holy Family.

In a timely reminder that Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary fled with our Lord into Egypt as refugees, the Cathedral has placed figures from a nativity scene in a fenced enclosure, similar to the ones used by ICE to detain families. (As an aside, these detention facilities are often run by for-profit companies.)

The priest behind the prophetic action is the Rev. Canon Lee Curtis, one of my classmates at the Candler School of Theology. Even in seminary, Fr. Lee was a constant prophetic voice, a defender of the interconnection between social justice and Christian orthodoxy.

You can learn more about the work of “that church on the circle” in this report from the Indy Star.

Becoming Poor to Be Made Rich

A Homily for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who made himself poor that we might become rich. Amen.

Our society is a little bit obsessed with money, isn’t it?

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Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, Germany

I know, this isn’t exactly a groundbreaking claim, but consider the old show, Life Styles of the Rich and Famous, or if you’re my age, its spiritual successor, MTV’s Cribs. These programs went out of their way to showcase the opulence of modern celebrities – penthouses, mansions, yachts, cars that cost more than some people could possibly hope to earn in a decade. These shows glamorize the life of “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”

Funny how you never see a show praising the resilience of the working parent who drives a ten-year old minivan or the family that relies on public transportation.

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Part of the sprawling  Domus Augusti, Rome, Italy

But of course, it’s not just our society – it’s not as though such wealthy extravagance is unique to the past century in the United States. As a kid in Germany, one of my favorite things to do was to tour the magnificent Schloesser of centuries past, the massive palaces that bear witness to the feudal age. And in Rome, that eternal city, you can wander up the Palatine Hill and see the ancient foundations of the Caesars’ estates.

 

Lest we forget, the Church has not been immune from such greed. From the palatial residences of medieval bishops to modern prosperity preachers boasting a fleet of private jets, our obsession with financial wealth is widespread. Church-wide greed sowed the seeds for the Reformation centuries before Luther. This preoccupation with earthly wealth infected the Church early on: a fourth century Roman aristocrat and pagan high priest once remarked upon the Pope’s life of luxury, “Make me the Bishop of Rome, and I shall become a Christian immediately.”

But, dear ones, “y’all know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake became poor, so that by his poverty y’all may become rich.” Continue reading “Becoming Poor to Be Made Rich”

Who Eats with Sinners and Tax Collectors?

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The Feast at the House of Levi, Veronese

In the continued saga of the current administration’s immigration policies, restaurants have become places of protest. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen have both been confronted with protests while dining out. Secretary Nielsen was jeered by protesters, while Mrs. Sanders was asked to leave the the establishment.

Predictably, this has become “a whole big thing.” Opinions are divided about whether or not these actions were correct. Continue reading “Who Eats with Sinners and Tax Collectors?”

Calm in the Storms

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Job 38:1-11; St. Mark 4:35-41


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who calms the tumultuous storms. Amen.

What shall we say about Job? This novella is one of those books in the canon of Scripture we tend to ignore. Sure, we might make passing reference to it, but we often keep it – and its tragic events – at an arm’s length.

Here’s a quick summary to jog your memory:

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Job Hears of His Misfortune, Gustave Doré

Job is doing quite well for himself, living the dream life. He’s wealthy, his estate boasting a thriving herd of sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys. His large family gets along, dining with each other frequently. The prologue tells us “this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.” To borrow a phrase from social media, he was #blessed.

Cut to the heavenly court, where the Accuser wanders in and strikes up a wager with God: Job is only pious because his life is perfect. But would he remain faithful if his posh life were taken away? What follows is a series of tragedies that in short order leave Job bankrupt, alone, covered in sores, sitting in an ash heap, waiting for death, using a broken vase as a backscratcher, as his wife tells him to just give up.

Sitting alone among the ruin, Job’s “friends” – though I use that term lightly – wander by to tell him it must all be his fault.

And it’s at this point that we all remember why we ignore this depressing section of the Bible. We’re not even at chapter three yet, folks. Continue reading “Calm in the Storms”