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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Homily, lent, pastoral care, prayer

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….
let
them
sink
in.

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”.

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