Homilia 1.15.2020

The intro to this gospel can conjure up all the big, existential questions we ask ourselves:

  • What is the meaning of life
  • How did we get here
  • Is there something bigger at work
  • What or who is the source of life
  • How did this all begin

This is a book a child could read, and scholar could be perplexed by.  

“Words create worlds”

Whoever said this must have been influenced by Gen.1 and John 1.  

In Genesis 1, the text says that “God said”, and then it happened.

In John 1, the spoken Word becomes flesh to come live with us.  

It’s our words (and actions) that give expression to imagination, fear, love.  We use words as the medium to communicate longing, dreams, hopes, hurts. It’s a word that can change the trajectory of your life:  you’re hired, fired, promoted, you’re doing a great job.  

Jesus comes as the principle Word to give light and life.  And our response, based on his activity in us, is to receive and believe.  In some ways, I think it must be in that order: to receive his grace and truth, and that turns into believing.  Not the other way around.  I’m sure it’s a both/and paradigm.

Jesus…the Face of God

There’s no doubt who or what this book is about.  Maker of heaven and earth. The One who existed before the beginning.  The one who is light and gives life. The phrase “through him” is repeated three times, not including all the “He” statements followed by the action (i.e. made).  And why does this matter? Does it matter that you and I believe and receive this figure who makes these claims? Does it matter what you put your trust in, hope in?  

v. 10-12 says that his own didn’t recognize or receive him.

“Why do we struggle to believe and receive Jesus as the One True God? “

I know I do.

Something happens to me when I visit the beach. I feel so small and displaced as the center of the universe.  I’m grateful that I’m not the center or the one who is fully in control. That comforts me.  

  • If you want to know who the source of life is.
  • If you want to know who the CEO is…
  • If you want to know who God is….

John is going to tell you right up front:  look long and hard at Jesus.  

v.18 – No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

I remember visiting an employees neighbor who was given weeks to live, and during our conversation, I asked him what he hoped would happen after death.  He said he was an atheist and didn’t think anything would happen. I asked him how he felt about that. “I guess I really don’t want that.” I asked him, “What WOULD you like?”  

“To see my wife and be young again.” 

We talked a little about my faith tradition and asked if we could pray.  He was very open and receptive.  

Jesus is moving into the neighbor, our hearts. Would you recognize him and receive him? He receives and recognizes you. He believes in you. He’s had you in mind even before the beginning. I know…it’s a scandalous statement that Jesus makes. But it’s comforting, isn’t it?

Peace be with you.

Changing the Abortion Debate

This constant argument is hurting our common good and civility. It’s time to reframe it.

“If we get beyond the old two-sides framing, we can drop the old pro-life versus pro-choice binary entirely. The fact is that life and choice are not mutually exclusive, and in a democracy, we can hold our own moral convictions about life and choice, rooted in our religious traditions, without feeling that others should be forced to live by them.”


The Work of Prayer and Mindfulness

The work of prayer is to do all the RE’s. I’m also sharing some prayer responses below of I’ve sensed God at work.

  • remember
  • reorient
  • reconcile
  • renew
  • redeem
  • return
  • restore
  • revive
  • replenish

God is in the business of STAYING active in our lives, even when we feel hopeless, tired, spent, hurt, weak, lifeless.

Prayer is asking…”God….
– How are you with me in this moment
– What might you be saying to me
– What do I most need/want

Mondays at work are a great way to start the week with prayer. We can pray for our workplace: tasks, culture, leaders, conflicts. God is with us in all of the work.

We can also, as we get away from family and sit in our workspaces, pray for our families, relationships, hopes, needs, hurts, etc. God cares about the daily material of your life!

Just the other day, I was praying for someone without them knowing, and within two minutes, I received a text message from them. It was a moment of affirmation that God cared.

Another example: I was wrestling with a decision I had made and in the middle of the night, I had a dream with a specific mandate of what to do. I woke up the next morning and addressed the situation. The weight I was feeling fell off and I was reminded of goals I had been praying about.

Confronting Mostly Leads to Defensiveness

I remember someone telling me one day that they grew up with a very critical authority figure in their lives. The client described being publicly shamed and criticized, leading to anger and resentment. Over the years, the client became sensitive to criticism. When I asked if he saw any connections between the critical figure and present situations, he said that he felt voiceless in the previous relationship and promised himself he was never going to be mistreated again. Unfortunately, such a promise cannot be kept since there will be present and future circumstances where there will be conflict.

This is one reason why confronting someone most likely won’t work. But reframing the conversation and sharing with them how you feel and what you see may be more beneficial. In Chuck DeGroats book, “Toughest People to Love”, he says,

I find that a better approach entails sharing what I see and feel with the narcissist, modeling vulnerability. I see this as a kind of back-door approach, a way of getting around the defensive ego to the vulnerable heart beneath. I once said to a particular client, “I find myself wanting to admire you, but I feel disconnected from you. I feel like you’ve set us up to be competitive, but I don’t want to be. To be honest, I just want you to find one safe place where you don’t have to be ‘on.’ Maybe we can have that.” I’ve found often that men and women who struggle in these ways secretly long to shed the narcissistic posture for a taste of authentic connection.

DeGroat, Chuck. Toughest People to Love (p. 52). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

What DeGroat does is model vulnerability and empathy. He shows interest and care for the person, but also communicates how the actions makes him feel and perceive the situation.

I can hear someone saying, “Well that’s too touchy feely for me. I just like to be direct and to the point.” This tends to be a one directional, transactional conversation without involving dialogue, empathy, or understanding.

Advent Hope

Psychology has done a wonderful job of giving us words and concepts such as vulnerability and the false or shadow self to talk about our weaknesses.

The AA or 12 step program starts with the admission of powerlessness.

The Bible starts (in Genesis) with two concepts of humanity:

  1. Original goodness
  2. Original sin

We need a way of looking at both our God given identity (of original goodness) and admitting our sins (the shadow self). It’s how we become most human and reflect a divine image in this world.

The appointed prayer of the week during the Advent season helps us to be vulnerable about our sins but also looks toward the coming of Christ in our lives so that we might reflect a new “original goodness” identity. We admit that our powerless to be this new type of original goodness person and need help from a Higher Power.


“Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.†”

Ten Missiological Principles

Many moments of learning to be faithful lead me back to simple things like God’s desire to be near and close to humanity and creation. The God of the Bible is not one to be distant, full of vengeance, or cold-rigid-frigid. Incarnational, caring, compassionate, just. That’s the God of the Bible.

Followers of Jesus are called and sent into the world to be a certain type of person, live by a certain morality, and represent a King that is transcendent…yet in our midst. We are to live a compelling life that looks and feels like the heart of Jesus.

Ronald Rolheiser has become a spiritual mentor through his writings. I hope to have coffee, lunch, or dinner with him one day. In the piece he wrote here, there are ten missiological (being on a mission) principles to help us live out our faith in a secular society.

This spoke to me at a profound level:

“3) Spirituality is peoples’ birthright. The secular culture hungers for spirituality, but is largely spiritually illiterate. People go where they get fed.”

Ron Rolheiser

You’ll have to read the article for the other 9. Worth the read.

Vices To Avoid, Virtues to Adopt

In Nehemiah 9, there are two words that I’m curious about. They’re marked by a transition in the storyline, “But they…”, which signifies a turn.

The writer had just recapped all the things the Lord their God had done for them. It should have translated into a life of gratitude and humility. Instead, Nehemiah says they “became arrogant and stiff-necked”.

There is pride that is about a worthy pleasure or satisfaction of a hard days efforts. But this sort of pride being described is about arrogance. And arrogance is about about an exaggeration of someone’s importance or abilities. It reminds me of certain presidents we’ve had in our history, business leaders that have come and gone, and certainly spiritual leaders who struggle with this vice.

Arrogance…an exaggerated posture of our abilities and worth.

The other phrase is being stiff-necked. A commentary says,

“The imagery is that of an animal that struggles against having a yoke placed on its neck.”

Breneman, M. (1993). Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (electronic ed., Vol. 10, p. 239).

This image and phrase is about being stubborn. To be stubborn is to be so fixed on one’s position, even in the face of truth or good reasoning.

Arrogance and stubbornness.
Exaggerated views of self and an inability to be be open to sound reason.

A posture of gratitude and humility however, acknowledges that we have reasoned enough to know that we are limited in our knowledge, don’t know everything, so we’re grateful to receive from others, especially from God.

To live by virtues of gratitude and humility is to own our deficiencies and our limited resources and reasoning. That’s why we can follow leaders who are transparent, vulnerability, and who own their limited resources and reasoning.

In the context of a God-humanity relationship though, the stakes seem higher. The Nehemiah 9 passage is labeled as a confession of sins storyline. It acknowledges that there is a God who has chosen a people, is from everlasting to everlasting, glorious, exalted above all, gives life to everything, and is faithful. This God also hears our cries and sees our suffering, and then delivers and makes it right.

The writer does another “But” to transition yet again. This time, the transition signals a turn to acknowledge who God is:

  • forgiving
  • gracious
  • compassionate
  • slow to anger
  • abounding in love
  • does not abandon us in (even when we abandon God)
  • Gives His good Spirit to instruct
  • Sustains them in the wilderness

Sounds like the kind of life I’m looking for. For my marriage, parenting, work, friends, and inner life. These are great virtues to live by which are shaped and formed in the context of a covenantal relationship and Lordship to Christ Jesus our Lord.

I keep turning to God because I met by his loving kindness, compassion, and sustaining power! God keeps abounding in love for me and the world! That’s enough for me to keep devoting my life to Jesus.

Lebron James and Home Building

Home is still the primary place where we shape and form the future. It’s a great reminder for me to be (and live out) what I want my kids to become in this world (what a tall order!).

And it’s also a reminder that the Church is called to be a social communal reality of God’s presence as family. It’s why there are more and more people who don’t care to show up to a church service on Sunday, but will share a meal during the week, spend time with others in other settings for the sake of having honest, loving, truthful relationships.

“You can have all the support in the world while you’re at school or while you’re at basketball and while you’re playing sports or anything, but if you go home and it’s not stable and you don’t have any stability there, you can resort back to the negative things or the bad habits that you might have.”

Lebron James, https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/28007714/lebron-james-help-build-housing-promise-school-families

The Laundromat Movie – Theology Review

“The meek will inherit the earth…” Matthew 5:5

A movie about power, money, and corruption has this two characters that quote this verse. One quotes it in a church after hearing the priest preach about it. The other quotes it after their husband dies and is looking for justice.

Both characters were taught that to be meek meant to be passive. One had an eschatological view (end of time) that the meek would inherit the earth sometime when Jesus returns. But certainly not in the present time.

To be meek, biblically speaking, is to not abuse power or not to be arrogant and oppressive. It means to use power under the Lordship of Christ. We use our power for the benefit of others; not at their expense.

In the movie, The Laundromat, both characters had a different biblical interpretation that in some ways, shaped their lives and decisions. It matters how we interpret and how we theologize. It’s partly why I’m constantly reading and reflecting. I’m seeking integrative truth to believe and live from.

The one character (Meryl Streep) who is seeking justice from a corrupt political and banking system ends up going under cover to expose the companies for their deceitful practices. She used meekness to seek justice. The other character (Antonio Banderas) misused his power and knowledge to take advantage of others, not wanting to know what these shell companies were actually doing. They called it privacy. But this was not privacy. This was a sin of omission…a failure to know their clients and their business purposes. In fact, they did know what their clients were doing but kept hiding behind “privacy laws”. This is the exact opposite of what meekness and justice are.

From an eschatological perspective, we don’t wait for Jesus to enact justice at the end of time. We’re to seek justice with an attitude of meekness. If something is wrong, we’re to do something about it. And we’re to do it with meekness and Jesus does.

The movie is a great reminder to keep doing the work of theology to deepen our understanding. It takes work and effort to think through ethical matters and biblical understanding. We need an integrative approach to keep seeking truth. And it’s a great reminder that integrative theology affects how we do business, runs companies, and do life together.

Oceanside Church Planting Update

Letter Ethnos Network Global Church Gathering 2019

To My Ethnos Network Fam:

Hi!  Roy here from Oceanside, CA (San Diego North County).  I wanted to say how sad I am that I can’t be there with you this week.  

Some Family Updates

Recently, my mother in law had life saving surgery.  She was going into septic shock and the doctors were able to find what was happening and correct it immediately.  Unfortunately, she has had some setbacks and my wife Christina and I have become her caretakers. She has been in and out of the hospital several times these last 6 weeks.  

The good news is that the doctors now think that she is improving and needs to keep resting.  My mother in law is a strong woman of faith and I’m grateful for that since she’s been through a lot.

As you could imagine, I could not–in good faith–leave my family and be out of the country.  While Christina does much of the attending to her mom, we have two young teenage boys–Christopher and David–to attend to.  My family is my first church to pastor.  

Church Planting Updates

We’ve had to put the church plant on hold for now to attend to my mother in law.  But God continues to give me a love for our beautiful city. I ask that you help pray for the following:

  • My mother in law’s health.  Her name is Victoria.
  • Our marriage and immediate family so that we might be good caretakers.
  • My ministry as a pastor in the marketplace.  I pastor 600 employees, supervise two chaplains that each serve different clients.  In total, we serve close to 1000 employees in the San Diego area (and their family members).  God is up to something in the marketplace!
  • For the City of Oceanside.  That God would plant vibrant, multi-ethnic/cultural/class churches that serve the marginalized, the poor, and underserved for the sake of Jesus.

We’re grateful to be in partnership with you and hope you have a deep time of refreshing and renewal!