Anakin and Mussolini
March 13, 2022 Abbey Church Abraham
We know the story: Jesus was a good guy doing the right thing – healing and helping people with love and compassion; Herod was a bad guy doing the wrong thing – controlling and exploiting people with greed and fear. Our own stories are not so obvious.
Helping and healing people is never wrong, but sometimes we can do it in ways that are not best for everyone. Wielding power and authority and keeping public order and tradition in place are not always wrong – in fact, those things can be a means of helping and healing people. Many evil tyrants do not start out that way. They truly want to do the best thing for people, but allow fear or ego to take over their motives. Many people who start out helping and healing people and speaking out against corrupt and hurtful governments and traditions become evil tyrants in their own way, allowing fear or ego to take over their motives, and becoming rigid in their rules of how to be helped and healed.
We need to be always checking our motives and methods and never be smug about our correctness and our foes’ incorrectness. Healing and helping people is never wrong, but the way we go about it might need some refining. Keeping public order and safeguarding tradition is usually not wrong, unless it keeps people from being helped and healed.
We must always be open to the possibility that we are wrong and the people who oppose us might be right. It takes a lot of maturity, prayer, and advice to make sure our motives and methods are good. It is important to do the right thing, but it is even more important to do it in a way that is helpful.
We don’t have all the answers, but we can open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit so that we can be always learning. We can stop obsessing about ourselves so much so that Jesus can grow in us, helping us to be more helpful and healing. We can watch ourselves, so that when the Herod part of us takes over, we can catch it and put the Jesus part of us in its place. It takes time and effort, but God’s grace is always there to begin and complete the task. We can start by coming to be fed at this table by Jesus, who wants to fill and satisfy us and give us strength for the work ahead of us. AMEN
II Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Policy of Truth
February 27, 2022 Abbey Church Abraham
Hazrat Rabia from Basra in the eighth century has given us this beautiful prayer:
“O Lord, if I worship you because of Fear of Hell,
then burn me in Hell;
If I worship you because I desire Paradise,
then exclude me from Paradise;
But if I worship you for Yourself alone,
the deny me not your Eternal Beauty.”
Fear and hope are self-centered, while love is God-centered, but the truth is: everything revolves around God, not around us. So, getting rid of fear and even hope as motivators and living solely from love is a good thing. It is a goal we might never reach, but at least we have been given the next several weeks as a special time to work on it.
We work not to gain salvation, but rather to clear our eyes so that we can see it. Like the disciples on the mountain, when we see God, it can be confusing and scarey, because it is so different from the way we are used to living. But like Moses on the mountain, we can also be a source of God’s light to those around us, even if it is confusing and scarey for them.
All of this is a reason to keep looking at God alone, so we can always be getting more used to it. It is confusing and scarey because it is not our usual way of living (which is mostly thinking about ourselves). The more we get used to having God in the center of our lives, the more beautiful the light becomes to us, and the more we can see reality.
May this be our goal for the next several weeks: looking less at ourselves and more at God, so that when Easter finally arrives, it is the most real one we have ever experienced. AMEN
Epiphany II Year C
I Corinthians 12:1-11
January 16, 2022 Abbey Church Abraham
We are all important. We are all created by God. We are all made in God’s image. We do not need to do anything to become important; we already are. We are all so important, God gives each of us important things to do. That makes all of us more important. We do not need to be successful in the tasks that God gives us. In fact, we really have no idea of how to be successful in those tasks – only God knows, and God simply wants us to do the tasks. God simply wants us to be ourselves.
Our second reading from Paul to the Christians in Corinth gives a list of tasks that some people have been given. Our task might not be on that list, but that does not make it any less important than the tasks that are on that list. The Gospel story tells of people doing tasks: Mary telling Jesus what people need, Jesus telling people how to meet that need, people doing what Jesus told them to do, and Mary telling them to do whatever Jesus tells them. The outcome of the tasks were not dependent on the people doing them – God changed the water into wine, the people simply had to fill the tanks.
Sometimes we do not know what our tasks are. That is ok, we will find them eventually. Many times, we are doing them and do not even know it – we just need to make sure we are not doing things that hinder our Godgiven tasks. Such hindrances would be things like hate, greed, and self-righteousness.
So, even when we are not sure what our tasks are, we still need to remember that we are important, simply because God made us. God loves us, like Isaiah describes in our first reading. God is giddy about us, like a couple getting married are giddy about each other. In fact, even when we are not doing the tasks we know we should do, and even when we are actively and intentionally doing those things that hinder our God given tasks, God still loves us. God is grieved about how we are hurting ourselves and those around us, but God’s love for us never diminishes.
So, as Mary said: “Do whatever he tells you.” And until we figure out what that task is, it is ok to simply “Be whoever he made you.” AMEN
July 18, 2021 Abbey Church Abraham
We’re one, but we’re not the same. That does not mean that we should cultivate eccentricities, or allow them to grow into problems. As we grow in Christ (if we are truly growing) our differences become ever greater gifts to the whole, rather than becoming messes that others have to clean up. And true growth in Christ means that he is the foundation – not our own whims and desires. Not allowing our own self-centered impulses to control our lives is not equal to squashing our personalities, nor is it self-hate. It is actually deep self-love: learning about the many aspects of ourselves and laying them on the foundation of Jesus, so that they grow into blessings that help ourselves and the world around us, rather than allowing them to grow into monsters that hurt ourselves and the world around us. Building ourselves on the foundation of Jesus rather than on our own egos also allows and helps other people to grow into their best selves, because it frees them from always having to fearfully clean up the tragedies that our unsaved monsters make.
As we all grow individually, we all grow together in Christ: our healthy differences blending together, making up for each other’s deficits as they make up for ours. The Holy Spirit then fills the structure. But the Holy Spirit has been there all along as the one who builds: it all comes about by Grace. The Holy Spirit shows us our strengths and weaknesses and gives us the ability to lay them all on the foundation of Jesus so that they can be healed.
We’re one, but we’re not the same. And we are not completely there, yet. We all have a lot of growing to do, as individuals, as groups, and as the Church in its universality through time and space. God is infinite, so we might never reach the point where we do not need to grow into a fuller temple. That is ok, we can keep giving each other the slack to grow, as they give us, and we give ourselves. With constancy and joy, every day and every moment we lay our peculiar selves down on the foundation of Christ. And every day and every moment the Holy Spirit works on us and fills us. Every day and every moment. AMEN