Homily

God Speaks Peace over Political Storms

1.22.2021 – Homily


Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

Mark 4:35-41

Does this passage have anything to say about our current day politics, God’s rule and reign, and our response?  

First, a quick word from NT Wright, Anglican Bishop and scholar:

“the Jews were not a seafaring people; they left that to their Phoenician neighbours to the north. The sea came to symbolize, for them, the dark power of evil, threatening to destroy God’s good creation, God’s people, God’s purposes. In books like Daniel, the sea is where the monsters come from.”

Wright, N. T.. Mark for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 52). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition. 

The story of the Storm and the boat has a few symbolic tones.  For one, we think of how the Jews viewed the sea:  as a dark, evil power who needed to be subdued and conquered.  There are a number of Psalms and Old Testament passages depicting how God delivered His people from the evil waters:  the exodus and parting of the sea, Jonah and the big fish, Jesus walking on water.  

All of these stories point to a second reality:  the God-made-flesh sleeping in the boat is the One who created atmospheric pressure, the sun, rotation….which impacts wind and rain, waters and waves.  The Creator napping is the One who has sovereign rule over all of creation.  Here’s the point:  God’s kingdom is at hand with all the power needed to speak life and order from chaos and death.  

On Thursday, January 20th, 2021, if you’re a republican who wanted Trump to win, you feel like you’re in a boat and there’s a storm that’s about to affect the economy, the stock market, and the policies you believe in deeply.  You might even be afraid and angry.  

On Thursday, January 20th, 2017, if you’re a democrat who wanted Trump to lose, you felt like you’re in a boat there was a storm that was about to affect the policies you’ve been fighting for, mourning the Obama administration era coming to a close, and wondering what’s going to happen to the leadership in this country.  You might even be afraid and angry.

I’m not as smart as some political and economic strategists and consultants are. My life is but a blip, a grain of sand compared to the big dynamics happening in Washington or on the news channels. But as a chaplain who listens to leaders and employees discuss their fears and longings, I think about what the Gospels have to say about our current day realities.

In both January 20th days, Jesus was in the boat listening to his disciples share their fears and anger.  Jesus was speaking peace to the storm and telling sailors to not be afraid.  More so, Jesus was rhetorically asking when they were going to stop by afraid and to have some real faith?  

Whatever political spectrum boat you find yourself rocked in today, the Creator is speaking peace over the storm and is telling is not to be afraid.  To have real faith.  

Have the kind of faith that will trust God to rule and reign over your business, finances, but mostly your heart.  Guard your heart from fear and anger.  Guard it from pessimism and polarization.  You and I have lived through different administrations and as we submit to God’s rule and reign, will God not speak peace over our storms?  Will God not call us to a deeper trust?  

Like the disciples, when I disagree with policies and personalities, I get angry and afraid. I might lash out. I might criticize.  I might bemoan.  And I’ve had to repent several times.  I’m not always right.  But I’m trying to get it right.  

Lord of Creation, we offer up to you our anger and fears, our hopes and desires.  We ask that you speak peace over our political storms and call us into a real faith that submits to your Lordship, your rule and reign.  Amen.

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Homily, lent, pastoral care

Crying out for God’s Presence – Lenten Homily 3.13.2018

William Seymour, Azusa Street Revival

William Seymour, Azusa Street Revival

Reading 1, Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12
Responsorial PsalmPsalms 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
GospelJohn 5:1-3, 5-16

In the early part of the 1900’s, there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit (HS) in a converted Los Angeles warehouse, off Azusa st.  The leader, an African American, was leading a group of people in prayer, bible study, and worship as the Holy Spirit descended upon them [side note:  I don’t think that it’s a coincidence to have the HS pour out over a struggling, pain-filled community…people experiencing racism, prejudice, etc).  There are many stories of people experiencing healing–emotional, mental, spiritual, relational–as well as people giving their lives to following Jesus.  A river was flowing through the gathered community and washing over them.

In the Ezekiel passage, there is imagery of temple/water/river/flow/life/fruit.  That’s the flow.  But it starts with temple, which represents God’s presence among the people.  From God’s presence among the people, there is healing, life–a picture of a community flourishing.

Charismatic belief has held that when we seek God’s presence, the river flows!  Pentecostal/Charismatic movements are the fasting growing in the world.  What might a deeper dependence on the Holy Spirit look like in our lives?  And what might happen when we are intentional about seeking God’s presence (temple/river/flow) in our lives and with those we do work and life with?  The promise and picture is that we will see healing, salvation, wholeness, and the community flourishing.

The other day, I was really struggling with a relational issue.  I couldn’t shake the feelings that were messing with me.  I went to our bedroom, closed and locked the door, and threw myself on the floor to cry out to God!  I asked God for a breakthrough in this area.  A breakthrough of wisdom, a paradigm shift, a revelation and insight into next steps.  After some time (it felt like hours!), I wiped my tears and sensed God’s presence and words of wisdom.  I had a new perspective that was not my own.  I cried out to God for something beyond me.  I followed this up with a trusted friend and told him what I was going through and experiencing.  His words echoed what I had experienced with God.

This river stream experience caused gladness and a deeper awareness of God’s presence (temple) in my life.  The promise of the Holy Spirit includes healing, miracle languages, insights, discernment, and words of wisdom.

St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuit Order) has a simple but profound rule:  Look for God in all things/inner movements/relationships/work.  It is a very charismatic approach to life!

 

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Homily, lent, pastoral care

The Gospel in My Context: Beloved and Belonging (Lenten Homily, 3.11.2018)

Reading 1Second Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23
Responsorial PsalmPsalms 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
GospelJohn 3:14-21
Reading 2Ephesians 2:4-10


I remember when I was in junior high school, there was a gangbanger (GB) who was constantly picking on me.  I’m not sure why.  I was a church boy, played in band, and played basketball during my lunch times so I can’t think of why I was a threat to him and his homies.  One day I was playing basketball and this GB comes on to the court hollering at me:  “ROY!  ROY!”  He was getting louder and closer.  So I decided that he crossed the free throw line where I was standing that I was gonna throw a punch.  Sure enough, he crossed the line and I became “fist-a-cuffs!”.

The next day, this gangbangers friend–who was half my size–came and “hit me up!”…with 10 of his friends.  I was all alone, with my drumsticks in hand heading to band class.  I thought, “I’m dead!” but I’ll bust out a few paradiddles on some heads before I go down.

After some pleasantries, I heard a voice behind me and a bunch of footsteps.  By now, a mob of people are surrounding us and the voice says, “Roy!  We got your back!”  It was my friend “Filo” (look it up) and his friends.  The year prior to me being at school, my cousin had attended the same jr high school and told his friends to look out for me.

Sometimes when I listen to a man’s story, it is shortcoming that I’ll hear them allude to a feeling of a parent figure not being “there” for them.  The story somehow conveys a belief:  who is “for me”, who is “with me”?

I obviously do not condone bullying or violence.  But I was sure glad that someone was “for me” and “with me”.  🙂

I think and feel differently about myself and others when I experience being loved and belonging.  One of the greatest miracles that I feel the Gospel has done in my life is transform the way I feel about myself and others.  I know Good News has more far-reaching implications than my “measly” self.  🙂 But I also know that God’s redemptive choosing involves “little ole me”.

When I read these passages, what I hear is “I chose you.  I love you.  You belong to me.”  Thanks to Scot McKnight (his blog is way better than mine) and his book “A Fellowship of Differents“, when I hear the word love, I hear “I’m with you, for you, and unto you”.  It’s not just a “feeling” from God but a disposition that He has towards us.

The readings today convey this sense that God does all the initiating in our lives to love us and chooses us.  I hear way too many stories of people not feeling beloved or that they belong.

What happens when you and I feel like we belong and that we’re loved?  We begin to act that way with God, others, and our selves.

These powerful truths have rearranged my life.  I can look back at this photo of my jr high self and know that I’m loved and belong by a God who chooses us.  May these words bless you as well…because you’re already chosen, beloved, and belong.

 

 

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Homily, lent, pastoral care

You’re More Religious Than You Think

Reading 1Hosea 14:2-10
Responsorial PsalmPsalms 81:6-8, 8-9, 10-11, 14, 17
GospelMark 12:28-34

Lenten Homily – 3.9.2018

 ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”

The greatest commandment that Jesus shares starts with the word “hear” and the strongest word that catches my eye is “Lord”.

There is only one who can be called Lord Jesus Christ so it is right that he receive all devotion.  Religion involves great devotion and as human beings, we love to devote ourselves to all kinds of things.

That’s why I believe that you’re more religious than you think.  We are “devotioners”.  We give ourselves over to people, work, hobbies, ideologies, projects, NFL teams.  We devote our energy, time, attention, and even money to our causes.

What does it mean to love God?  It seems that it starts with “hearing”.  The rest of the mandate seems to spell out “devotion”.  Whatever the call is, it begins with listening.  That presupposes that I have something to hear, to learn, to receive.  This puts me in a posture of being the student.

I was running the other day and when I got to my turnaround point, I felt compelled to stop and listen.  Ears attentive, heart open.  What was being said and spoken?  It’s a great exercise to make room to listen every day.

Religious people are listening people.  What do you hear today?

May you hear that as much as God calls us to love Him and others/self, we are loved with an everlasting love.  That is the first word we all need to hear.

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