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!


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.



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.

Prayer: God’s Nearness

Reading 1, Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9
Responsorial PsalmPsalms 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20
GospelMatthew 5:17-19

“…God is near us whenever we pray to him…”
[wind has been a sign of the Holy Spirit]

Are you freaking kidding me?!  Read those words again…slower….

Big themes in the bible again….one of them is us being made in his image and likeness.  We are very impressionable people, influenced by what we read, watch, think about, and who we allow to speak into our lives.  It makes sense to me to create the space to be with the Lord Almighty–who is, who was, and who is to come.  God, the one who saves, redeems, heals, and imparts wisdom through his decrees and word, longs for creation to reflect His image.

So when we pray, we are promised His Presence.

I don’t always “feel” God.
I don’t always “sense” God’s presence.

But time and experience tell me that God is present–directing, guiding, loving, blessing, healing.

I have a friend’s face in mind.  A family member of his was sick.  He asked for prayer.  We wrote down the prayer and he shared it with the family member.  I received a call a few hours later that all the symptoms were gone…miraculously!  His face went from down-trodden to sheer joy and shock.  “Your God listens to you!”

I am also picturing a young man who is experiencing some deep pain from past trauma.  During our times together, we sat in silent prayer, staying present to the pain but all the while staying present to how God was with him in the pain and what God might be saying to him.  Tears.  Relaxed.  Rested.  Hopeful.  Those are the words he uttered after praying.

I’m also aware that there are some prayers that feel like they’re falling on dead ears.  My friend being shot at multiple times (gun violence).  A friend who has cancer and it’s getting worse (health issues).  A friend who didn’t get a career opportunity because he didn’t fit the typical role (systemic racism and injustice:  he’s latino and NOT aggressively charismatic).

We don’t stop praying when we don’t hear the response we’re looking for.  We lean into God’s faithfulness to hear the words, “I’m with you…I’m sorry…Be strong and courageous”.

Lenten Homily – 3.6.2018

Psalm 25:4-9
Matthew 18:21-35


Psalm 25 is a great pre-reading text to prepare the reader for Matthew 18.  The Psalmist is shaped by God’s great mercy and love and is appealing to God’s goodness from of old.  God has a history track, one that is consistent through and through.

One principle to constantly keep in mind when reading the Bible is to remember the big storyline and major themes, especially as it relates to God’s character.  For this gospel text, I’m thinking about God’s compassion, justice, and his covenant faithfulness to us.

The Gospel passage is about having a heart of forgiveness, one that mirrors God’s compassion and covenant faithfulness.  That’s why it’s somewhat ridiculous that Peter is asking how many times he should forgive someone.  I think that’s why Jesus’ response is a bit cheeky.  And yet Jesus uses the opportunity to share a story about a forgiving heart.

I’ll confess that I have a hard time forgiving others who continue the same patterns towards me.  But God’s covenant faithfulness and mercy call me to be FOR and UNTO them.

In marriage, the goal is to keep our eyes on God’s character so that we might reflect it in our relationship.  Too many times, I’ve seen the speck in my spouses eye and am fixated on it.  There is no mercy or compassion on my part.  I’m right.  She’s wrong.  Fix it!  I’ll be honest, it’s exhausting to be like this.  And my wife doesn’t feel any sense of compassion or understanding.  She feels a “self-righteous” spouse.  And I’m self-righteous mostly when I’m afraid to share my own pain and losses.  I turn inward, not showing myself any mercy, and then turn outward with self-anger towards the other.  Not a good cycle.

But God’s mercy is tender, compassionate, and just.  His anger over sin and brokenness last but a moment.  But His love is enduring.  We need more imaginative prayer and thought life over His covenant faithfulness to us.  It should seep into our words, feelings, and inner movements!  The truth that we are the beloved and are called His own melt away my fears and projections, causing me to see God’s covenantal love and faithfulness.


Lenten Homily – 3.5.2018

Reading 1, Second Kings 5:1-15
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4
Gospel, Luke 4:24-30


A few years ago, I was doing a personal retreat and I had the opportunity to meet with a Benedictine monk for spiritual direction.  During one of his retreat talks, he said that God mediates himself through creation.  I imagine that a theology of mediation is crucial in Catholicism especially because of their view on the Eucharist.  I usually “feel” or intuit things first and then my brain needs to catch up.  So when he said those words, I got it…in my gut.

I thought about how the Psalmist says that the heavens declare His glory.
I thought about how Paul in the Romans says that creation is waiting for the manifestation of God’s glory.
I thought about how I’ve been on beautiful backpacking hikes and have been in awe of the beauty.
Just yesterday, wifey and I went to the beach.  “I just want to feel how small I am and how big the ocean is.”  I thought about how big the ocean is and how God made it.  It worked.  I felt small again.

In the first reading for today, God mediates healing and a wise word through three acts of creation.

Act 1:  God mediates his word of healing through Elisha the prophet.  God has always spoke to and through people who follow him.
Act 2:  God uses the river/water.  Naaman is told to wash himself 7 times in the river to be healed of a skin disease (leprosy).  Water, throughout the bible, is a property of cleansing and new life.  That’s why we baptize.
Act 3:  God uses Naaman’s cohort to give him communal wisdom.  Naaman gets upset because there a lot of rivers in his village that he could have washed himself in.  But Naaman’s cohort give him some “community wisdom” so that he ends up the river.  God has used people to learn from as we make decisions in life.  Some even push back on our original thoughts, showing us that we’re limited in our thinking.

As we encounter God in our lives, see how he uses creation to mediate his purposes and word in our lives.

“Jesus, give us eyes to see and ears to hear how you are mediating your will and guidance in our lives.”

Lenten Homily – 3.4.2018

Reading 1, Exodus 20:1-17
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 19:8, 9, 10, 11
Gospel, John 2:13-25
Reading 2, First Corinthians 1:22-25

Somewhere in my upbringing, I heard a phrase that was similar to this:  “What you revere, you resemble, either for ruin or restoration” (Beale).  It was implanted in my head and heart.

I also grew up in a Pentecostal church that had a high reverence for God.  I grew up feeling that God was to be highly revered (high respect, with a twinge of fear because of how powerful and holy God is).  I heard teachings such as “you respect heights?  Fear of the Lord is like that”.  I got the analogy in my heart but my mind played tricks on me, thinking I was supposed to be afraid/scared/fearful of God.

The passages for today depicts a God who is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving.  As a rule of thumb, those three traits should not be separated.

In todays Gospel reading, I find it fascinating that when Jesus starts clearing the temple court “swap meet” (using religious relics for economic gain), the religious leaders question the authority of Jesus and he refuses to give into their tactics.  I think one reason the religious leaders questioned him is because they truly did not revere God.  What they revered was money and self-respect.  It was resembled in their allowing of temple court economics for temple gain.  The temple did not reflect the Father’s house of prayer.  And they didn’t reflect the likeness of God or else they would have recognized Jesus.

I also believe that as we entrust our lives over to Jesus (on a daily basis), we will reflect/resemble Him, which is the best response to living a holy/good/right life.  As Christ followers, we put our efforts into being with Jesus, learning from Jesus, so that we might have his heart and mind, resulting in resembling His actions/deeds/words/attitude…thus keeping us from sinning.

I have seen this in my own life as I’ve struggled with vices, resentment, and anger.  I’ve seen how the power of God has broken generational patterns of womanizing, alcoholism, and violence.  It was deeply entrenched in my generational lines for at least 3 generations.  I should add that the transformation started with my “apa”.  “Apa, te amo mucho!  Gracias por to ejemplo de servir a Cristo Jesus!”

Here’s a quote from John Calvin on the fear of God.  🙂

Piety, Calvin wrote, is ‘reverence joined with love of God’ (Institutes I.ii.l). It is evoked by the presence and power of God. Piety was central to Calvin’s theology and to his ethics. Without it there is no genuine knowledge of God; with it people willingly serve God. Piety is not the pretentious display of religion or ‘great ostentation in ceremonies’ (I.ii. 2), which Calvin despised as much as anyone; it is an attitude of reverence and trust, a sense of dependence and gratitude, a readiness to ‘observe his authority … , advance his glory,

. New Dictionary of Christian Ethics & Pastoral Theology



Lenten Homily – 3.3.2018

Reading 1 Micah 7:14-15, 18-20
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
Gospel, Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

I was reading a book the other day and was struck by the gravity of our inauthentic existence.  The concept of sin in the bible is this sense of being a stranger to God and to our true being and existence.  Somehow, our purpose of being and destiny is tied to being in an intimate relationship with God/others/self.  When this harmony is disrupted by our “strangeness” of being, we become less human and loving.

The book reminded me of another layer that is affected:  the victims of our wrong living [if there is a notion that the words “wrong living” might seem too sharp or too black/white, I’m aware that sometimes it just fits the bill].  We are not isolated individuals.  Our actions and attitudes affect those around us.  We are made to do life together.  So it goes that we impact each other.

Recently, I was wrestling with my own inauthentic existence and wondered how it has victimized those close to me.  When I saw threads of how my “wrong living” has hurt my wife, my boys, and the people I serve, it broke my heart.  I realized that when I’m making personal moral (or immoral) decisions, others will either benefit or become victims of my shortcomings.  As we bring judgment on ourselves through our own wrongdoings, we must confess that we were given mandates to live truthfully and authentically in Christ.  We know better.

In todays readings, God is depicted as the one who pardons sin and forgives our wrong living ways.  It uses words like: delights to show mercy, compassion, dumps our wrongs in the deep ocean, faithful, redeems, heals, shows his love!

As you and I are made aware of how our wrong living victimizing those we love, lets remember that God is also faithful to make the wrongs RIGHT!  My wrong living doesn’t have the final say in my life.

A healthy response to the Word today is to lament (grieve/mourn) how our wrong living has affected our self and those around us.  Don’t move too quickly to try and “feel better”.  Allow the Holy Spirit to heal the dis-ease in our hearts as grieve our actions and attitudes.  Let the Holy Spirit make the wrongs right in your life.  Pray for wholeness and confess your brokenness.  Like the Prodigal son, you too will be embraced and welcomed.

Lenten Homily – 3.2.2018

Readings:  Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28, Psalm 105:16-21, John 3:16, Matthew 21:33-46

I have a few dreams that, to be honest, haunt the crud out of me.  I have this love/hate relationship with them.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t dream because I feel like they haunt me to keep pursuing them.

Dreams cause us to endure and persevere as we chase dreams.  I don’t think I’d be a corporate chaplain or drummer if it wasn’t for deep seeded dreams that were planted in me years ago.

There have been people in my life who didn’t believe in my dreams.  I’ve had people tell me I’m crazy to be a minister in the workplace.  That’s never really bothered me.  I’ve had people discourage certain dreams in me and they’ve been well intentioned.  No harm.  No foul.

God has a dream to see creation and humanity healed and empowered to flourish.  As God’s sons and daughters, we are called his beloved.  The readings for today paint a picture of a son who is deeply loved.  He also has dreams.  These dreams get Joseph sold into slavery.  Whatever he believed about these dreams, they somehow preserved him through great adversity.

I Psalm 105, we get the redemptive part of Joseph’s story:  he becomes the prime minister of Egypt and counsels the Pharaoh through a time of great famine.

I sure hope that my dreams are realized, even as I go through my own struggles.  I hope my dreams sustain me through the questions and doubts that I experience.

Part of dreaming is lament:  anguish, loss, doubt, unwanted, unloved, not being believed in, loss of opportunity, growing pains…

It seems like God too cares about dreams.  I wonder if he’s the dream giver and I wonder if that changes the way I live out the hope…

Lenten Homily – 3.1.2018

Readings:  Jeremiah 17:5-10, Psalm 1, Luke 16:19-31

The prophet Jeremiah lays down some truth:  we’re sure to fail if we SOLEY trust in our own abilities and our “hearts turn away from the Lord”.  Verse 6 paints a picture of a person in a desert without water.

The blessing is found in verses 7 and 8:  the blessed person is one who trusts and puts their confidence in the Lord.  Compared to the “my-own-ability-I-don’t-need-anybody” person who is in a parched desert, the person who takes on a posture of humility and admits that they don’t have all the answers or resources is a tree planted by streams of water.

In my experience of following Jesus, there’s a stark difference when I begin the day, decision-making, parenting, marriage–pretty much all things–with a profound sense of knowing that I can trust a God who loves us:  who is for us, with us, and unto us.

I love the 12 Step tradition because it starts with a confession and admission that we don’t have the power to make our lives work on our own.  I’ve screwed up so many times in my life that pain has brought me to my knees.

One and I truly want our lives altered and changed.  We don’t really want to live petrified, anxious, irritated, and busy all the time.  We’re like hurried humans who aren’t human-being.  We have such a fear of missing out, not being good enough, not having enough, or feeling overwhelmed by political/world events that we forget our true north:  Jesus calling us friends and breathing his life into us.

One of the temptations I’m currently confessing is the spirit of distraction.  Our focus is to be Christ centered, with our minds and hearts meditating on the One who loves us.  And yet social media, the news, and my own petulance distract me from the One who calls me His own.

Father, I confess my tendencies to do life on my own.  Help me to trust you in all things.  Amen