Category: Member Posts

Use Your Gifts ~ The Rev. Shawn Gisewhite, OPI


Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus tells us that one day a man went away on a journey. But before he left, he entrusted his assets to three of his servants. They were each given “talents.” The Greek word talanta literally means “weights.” Back in those days, a talent or weight was valued according to the kind of metal of which the weight consisted. It could be a talent of copper, gold, or silver. The most common talent was silver. Assuming that these were silver talents, then they could have been worth more than $1,000 each. So one servant was given five talents, or over $5,000; another two talents, or more than $2,000; and the last servant was given one talent, a “measly” $1,000 or so. How many of you could use even a measly $1,000 right now?  I know I could!

Now Jesus told many of His parables as a way to explain what the kingdom of God is like. The parable of the talents is another one of those. And so, you see, the characters in the story represent various types of people in the kingdom. Who is this rich master who went away to a far country? It’s the Master…JESUS.

When He told this parable, Jesus was well aware that within weeks He too would go on a long journey. He would depart from the top of the Mount of Olives and ascend up, up and away to a far land—to the distant heavens—and there take up His place at the right hand of the Father. In the same way that verse 19 tells us that the rich man would be away for a long time, Jesus knew that His return would not be as soon as some people might think. Yet Jesus also knew that He, like the rich man, would return to receive back His property and obtain a careful accounting from each servant.

Now who are these three servants in the parable? They represent you and me, and every other person who is called to serve the Master. They symbolize every servant of God who is born into His house, bought with His blood, and employed for His praise and profit.

1. God has entrusted much responsibility to His servants.

Verse 14 says that the man “called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.” So the first point I want to make is that God has entrusted a lot of responsibility to His servants.

While the rich man called his servants to manage his financial empire, the Lord Jesus has called you and me to manage His earthly kingdom. We have been given an enormous responsibility. We manage the earthly affairs of the Master of masters…the Lord of lords.

God has entrusted much to us. King David in Psalm 8:3-6 expressed his wonder at how much trust God has placed into the hands of human beings: 3 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Think of it! God went to all that work to create a perfect world; yet He put man in charge of it all. What incredible confidence He has in His finite and fallible creatures!

Verse 14 tells us that the servants were commanded to manage his “goods,” or his property. Servants in those days owned nothing themselves. Everything they had, even their spouses and their children, were the property of the master. And even when he would go off to a far country, they had no right to say, “The boss is gone now, let’s take our money and run.”

Let’s face it, everything we call ours is really His. Even our own bodies are not ours. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19,20: 19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

As servants of Jesus we own nothing. We are managers of God’s property. Our knowledge of the “mysteries” or “secret things” (1 Corinthians 4:1) is still the knowledge of the mysteries of God. Our husbands and our wives, our sons and our daughters, our houses and our land, our spiritual gifts and our ministries, our time and our talents—they are all His property, entrusted into our care until He returns to receive them back.

Now if we would only realize that we are but tenants on His land, we would be less selfish and demanding; if we would only realize that we are not the king of the castle, but He is the King, then we would not be so quick to run away from our responsibilities. In fact, we would ask His permission before we did anything.

Now before I leave this point about God entrusting great responsibility to us, we must not ignore the fact that not all of us have equal responsibility. Verse 15 of our text says, “ ‘And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability….’ ”

Not every servant was entrusted with the same number of talents. One was given five talents, another two, and the third servant was given only one. What we discover is that God makes us managers according to our “manage-ability.”

The master in this parable is not only wealthy; he is also wise. He knew that his servants did not have equal ability. Likewise, God never gives to us more than we can handle. He knows our strengths and He knows our weaknesses. God never demands from a man abilities which he has not got; but he does demand that a man should use to the full the abilities which he does possess. Peter said it well in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

2. But many of us don’t make the most of what we’ve got.

So my first point is that God has entrusted to each of us some kind of important responsibility in the kingdom, though it might not be equal to the responsibility given to someone else.

The second point I want to stress, and it’s something that Jesus wished to stress, is the fact that although God has entrusted something to each of us, some of us who have been entrusted with little don’t make the most of the little we’ve got.

Servant number three was given only one talent to invest. We’re told in verse 18 that upon receiving his talent, he “went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.” Now at first glance, this doesn’t appear to be such a terrible thing to do. His master told him to look after one talent and so that’s what he did. He buried the talent for safekeeping. In those days, it was common to hide some of your money in case some invading army conquered the land and took over the banking system.

So this third servant perhaps said to himself, “I’m going to keep my master’s money safe and sound by digging a hole and burying the talent it might get a little muddy, but at least it wouldn’t be stolen.”

But what did the master think of this servant’s logic when he returned? He was not impressed at all. We’re told at the end of the parable that not only was he fired from his job, but the master ordered that he be thrown “into the outer darkness,” a place where there would be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

It’s scary to admit this, but did you know that many of us are just like that poor one-talent servant? Many of us don’t make the most of what we’ve been given. And because we don’t make the most of what we’ve got, even the little we have will one day be taken away.

I want us to take note of the behavior and attitudes that characterized this third servant and caused him to displease his master so much.

The Fear of Failure

Upon the master’s return to ask his servants for an accounting, the third servant tries to justify himself, saying in verse 24 of our text that he knew his master to be a “hard man.” And then in verse 25 he says that he was “afraid,” and therefore went and hid his master’s talent in the ground. So we see that the first thing that characterized this third servant and that caused his master’s displeasure was fear.

He buried his talent because he was afraid.  Afraid that if he took the talent and invested it, he might risk losing it all and then have nothing to return to his master. For fear of losing everything, he did nothing.

Fear is probably the most powerful enemy of success. So many people miss opportunities to do something significant with their gifts or talents or possessions simply because they fear failure. You may have been blessed with a natural ability to sing, but much of this talent has gone to waste because you fear you’d fall apart once you stepped on the stage. Or fear of being booed by an audience. What a tragic thing it will be if you bury your God-given talent.

Some of you have been given a naturally warm and loving personality. Yet you’ve never allowed yourself to get close to anyone because of the fear of rejection. And so you’ve buried a treasure. It’s buried so deep that most people don’t even know that you have it. Instead of warmth and love, they see you as cold or shy. Only you know that deep down inside there is something in your possession of great worth.

Some of you have been given a marvelous gift of communication. But because you think that you might say the wrong thing, you freeze up, you lock your lips, and you’re paralyzed because of fear.

How many of us, because we fear to step out and invest the gifts and abilities God has given us, are missing opportunities to use and develop our talents to their full potential? We leave the treasure lying buried in the dirt.

That’s the first characteristic of the third servant: He was paralyzed by the fear of failure. Now let me mention a second characteristic: laziness.

Laziness

Servant number three had one more tragic flaw. When the master returned to settle accounts, he indicated what he thought of that servant’s decision to bury his talent. In verse 26 the master called him a “wicked and lazy servant!”

If fear of failure is a great enemy of success in the kingdom, laziness at least runs a close second. It probably took servant number three all of five minutes to dig a hole and bury the talent. He saved himself all the time and energy needed to think through all the investment options that were available to him. He couldn’t be bothered researching the possibility of buying a house or a piece of land at a bargain price and finding good tenants. Nor did he even have enough ambition to make a trip to the bank and take the time to decide on whether to invest the talent in a daily-interest shekel account, or a fixed-interest foreign-currency account, or whatever. This man was just plain lazy.

The Bible has a lot to say about lazy people. Proverbs 10:4,5 declares: 4 “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. 5 He who gathers in summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.” Proverbs 20:13 advises, “Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.” And I love this line from Ecclesiastes 10:18, “Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks.”

We can be lazy at school or work. And we may be too lazy to pray for other each day.

So we have seen that God has entrusted us with much responsibility; yet even when this responsibility is smaller than that received by others, many of us fail to make the most of what we have been given. Like servant number three in Jesus’ parable, we may be paralyzed by a fear of failure, or we may be lazy, or both. Now I want to make a third point: There are serious consequences for a person who doesn’t make the most of what he’s got.

3. There are serious consequences in failing to make the most of what you’ve got.

Losing What You Have Been Given

The first consequence of fear and laziness for servant number three was the loss of even the one talent that had been entrusted to him. When his master returned and found that the servant had been negligent and had buried his talent, he was angry. He said in verse 28 that the talent should be taken from him and given to the servant who had 10 talents. Now in this parable Jesus is not justifying taking from the poor and giving to the rich (a kind of Robin Hood principle in reverse). What Jesus is doing is teaching a simple principle of life: If you don’t use it, you will lose it.

This principle has been proved in my own life. Many years ago I played the trumpet and the drums. I practiced hard. I developed a talent. But if you were to hand me a trumpet or a drum right now and I were to try and play them for you, you would plug your ears! I can’t play the trumpet or drums today. Why? Because I haven’t used my talent.

That’s what can easily happen to buried talents. The third servant not only didn’t achieve a profit on his master’s money; he even lost the one talent he was given to manage. This fearful and lazy manager had dug a hole, little realizing that he was digging it for himself! He didn’t realize that if he didn’t use it, he’d lose it.

Sometimes we wonder why others seem to succeed but we don’t. Maybe it’s because we are not using the talents that God has given us. How would you feel if you gave a friend a gift (one you were sure they would like and use) but then you noticed that they never wore the shirt you gave, or never took the game you bought out of the box? Wouldn’t you be a bit offended? You might think twice about ever giving another gift to that thankless person.

I wonder if God sometimes feels that way about us. He has given us gifts. We have buried them in the ground out of fear, or because we’re just too lazy to do anything with them. Why should God ever give us more gifts and more responsibility if we aren’t faithful to use what He has already given us?

Jesus said to a group of “religious” people in Matthew 21:43, “ ‘Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.’ ”

Future Everlasting Darkness

If losing the only talent he had was not enough, then the third servant heard his master call him an “unprofitable servant” in verse 30, and order that he be cast “into the outer darkness,” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Here was the second consequence of his failure to make the most of what he had.

What could Jesus possibly mean by these harsh words? Remember, we learned in verse 19 that the master returned to settle accounts with his managers “after a long time.” This speaks to us of Jesus’ own return. Yes, it’s been two thousand years and He hasn’t returned yet. But this “long time” is coming to a close. The signs are clear. And one of the reasons He is returning is to settle accounts. Paul warns us in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Jesus will look for a profit on his investment.

Here Jesus is not talking about just our natural gifts or talents. Here He is talking about how we will deal with the greatest gift of all, the one gift that God has offered to everybody…the gift of salvation. The greatest gift that you have been offered is the gift of Jesus, God’s Son…the gift of the Savior. We read in John 3:16-18:

16 “‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’ ”

God has given us the one gift that, if accepted, will give us eternal life, a life in heaven full of reward and personal fulfillment. But if we reject it, because we’re afraid or too lazy to receive it and act upon it, then even the life we have now will be taken from us. In place of eternal life, we will be cast “into the outer darkness,” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

To conclude, I don’t know about you, but I want to be most like the first servant, not the last one. It says in the parable in verse 16 that the one “who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.” In another Bible version, we read that this man “went AT ONCE.”

One thing that set this servant apart from the third servant was his faith. And there were two things that showed that he had faith. First of all, he took a certain measure of risk. He could easily have taken the safe route and buried his talents too. But instead, he took his money and invested it.

Another indication that this was a man of faith was the fact that he “went at once.” Alexander the Great, when asked how he had conquered the world, replied, “By not delaying.” This servant didn’t waste any time in investing his master’s money.  He didn’t want to lose even a day’s interest on that money, so he “went at once.” He wasn’t fearful or lazy, but he believed so strongly that he could make a profit with his master’s money that he “went at once.”

There’s a man named Lee Iacocca and he was the chairman of Chrysler Motors. Iacocca said, “Obviously, you’re responsible for gathering as many relevant facts and projections as you possibly can. But at some point you’ve got to take that leap of faith…because even the right decision is wrong if it’s made too late.” “You’ve got to take that leap of faith.” Very few things are ever accomplished unless we step out in faith and take certain risks.

Many of us have problems making decisions, taking steps of faith. And we end up being poor managers of God’s resources.

It’s no accident that I’m sharing this message with you. God planned this encounter before you and I were born; He wanted you to receive this message. God is offering you His free gift—His son Jesus. You can take Him or leave Him. But before you leave Him, before you reject Him, at least take a good look at Him. Take a close look at this gift, this treasure.

Read the instruction manual, the Bible, before you say to yourself, “Jesus doesn’t work for me.” I can tell you from life experience that Jesus works! I’ve read the instruction manual. I’ve read the Bible. And one day I decided to believe that Jesus works, and at that moment God flipped on the power switch and Jesus started working in my life. I have never been the same since.

God has given you gifts and talents. Use them. And God has given you the greatest gift of all, Jesus. Don’t reject that gift. Don’t bury Jesus. Take a step of faith and believe and follow the instruction manual. He’ll work for you too!

Amen.

 

Advertisements

Got Oil? Are You Prepared?~The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI


MT 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

 

Lets paraphrase this story and make It a little easier to understand. There was a wedding, to which ten young virgins were invited as participants. It would seem that in some way they were instructed to bring lamps, so that at the right time they could form or lead some kind of torchlight procession. All ten virgins brought their lamps, but only five brought the necessary oil as well. They all waited for the groom to arrive. Time passed and darkness set in. The groom tarried longer than expected and so all ten bridesmaids (virgins) slept until he arrived. Suddenly, at midnight someone cried out that the groom was approaching. All ten virgins are awakened by this cry, and they begin to prepare their lamps for ceremonial service. The need for these lamps is now particularly obvious (it is midnight, pitch dark). The five foolish virgins ask the five wise virgins to share their oil, but their request is denied. It wasn’t that the five wise virgins didn’t care; it was because there would not be enough oil for all ten lamps. Better to have a torchlight parade with five working lamps than with ten non-functioning, lightless, lamps. The foolish virgins were told to go purchase their own oil, which they did. But during their absence the torchlight parade took place, and the groom, accompanied by the five wise virgins entered the celebration hall. The doors were then closed. Later, the five foolish virgins arrived, with oil, but it was too late. That part of the festivities had already been completed. There was no need for the services of these five virgins, and they were not allowed to enter and join in the wedding celebration. Even though the five virgins pled, “Lord, Lord … ,” they were sent away with the words, “I do not know you!” Our Lord then concludes this parable by applying it to His disciples (and thus the church). He urges His disciples to stay alert, because they, too, do not know the day or the hour of His return.

Isn’t today’s technology great? Today’s cars tell us when the tires are low on air, when the engine is low on oil or coolant, and when the gas tank is low on fuel. We are spoiled actually. The lamps of Jesus’s day did not come equipped with low oil light and a chime to let them know that they were low on olive oil. There was no roadside service or trip  AAA to refuel your lamp, people needed to be prepared for every situation, so lamp oil was a staple of every household, and people actually traveled with lamp oil. The five who were unprepared for this situation were left out of the celebration and therefore wasted a trip. This parable teaches us that no one knows the time and date when our Lord will return, but that we should be prepared always. In Matthew chapter 24, the disciples want to know what sign would signal our Lords coming and the end of the age. Jesus spoke to them about the last days and made it clear that the end would not come immediately, but only after considerable time and troubles. Since no one can know the day or the hour of His return we must be in a state of constant readiness  We might illustrate the need for readiness in a different way. Firemen are trained and equipped to fight fires. They know there will be fires, but they don’t know when. And so they are in a constant state of readiness, even when they sleep. Their clothing is all laid out so they can quickly dress and get to the fire. We, too, must be ready, Jesus tells us. We do not know the hour of His return, and more than this, the coming of the Son of Man will be at a time that we don’t expect. I am tempted to think that while His return will be preceded by very difficult days, the actual day of His return will appear to be trouble-free, much like the day Noah and his family entered the ark. (I’ll bet the sky was blue and clear all day long.) When Jesus returns, people will be going about their normal routines because there will be no sign of imminent danger. We therefore must be ready at all times. Take some time to get ready for the return of our Lord. Have everything on hand that you will need, pray diligently and love one another.

Heavenly father give us the strength and foresight to be prepared in every situation that we face; and give us the wisdom to know that you are in control. Even though we can not know the date and time of your coming, help us to know the season. Amen

 

Practicing Our Preaching ~ Br. Jake Vogel, Aspirant

Often, we find ourselves at points in our lives where we must obey the instructions of those who do not practice what they preach, it is a humbling process to go through because we are forced to acknowledge that what they are asking is right in and of its self and by their authority but that them also setting double standards makes it hard for us to want to obey them because they themselves do not follow their own standards. Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel reading that while we should listen to the the authorities around us by, “…observ[ing] all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.” I was reminded of the gospel reading a few Sundays ago that tells us to “…Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. (Matthew 12:17) Jesus teaches us that we should, “…not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy it… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)”. All of this reminds us as Christians that we should practice what we preach because people should know us not by the sincerity of our words but rather the sincerity of our actions.

Jesus further goes on to tell us that they (the Pharisees), “…tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. [because] All their works are performed to be seen.” Here we are reminded that we should,

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others… But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret…  And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. (Matthew 6:1-5).”

No should we, “…love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces…” because we, “…have but one teacher, and… are all brothers.” Instead, “… when [we] pray, [we should] go into [our] room, close the door and pray to [our] Father, who is unseen. Then [our] Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward [us]. (Matthew 6:6)” When we do actions of good will because of our sincere faith in Christ and his love for us, only then are we doing what Christ has truly called us to do.

As a Dominican and a Christian who chooses to wear a cross as a testament to my order and faith, I find it crucial to make that not only am I trying my best as a Christian to practice what I preach but also that when I do things of good will or things religious in nature, that I am doing them to honor Christ and his sacrifice for me and not to honor myself as unfortunately too many Christians of today’s world do. As my best friend’s mom used to say to us all the time when we were growing up, ‘…people should not be able to tell that you are Christian because they see you go to church every Sunday or because you wear a cross around your neck, rather they should know we are Christians by our love and compassion towards others.’ If we can do all these things with Christ’s help Jesus finishes this we gospel by telling us that, “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Heavenly Father,

Help us to show others that we are Christians by our love and compassion to all humankind so that they may receive your love and your compassion.

Also, help us to humble ourselves so that those around us may understand the humility of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

And now, Father, we ask that you send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord,

To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever.

Amen.

(Adapted from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.)

 

The Feast of All Souls ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

All Souls

Reading 1: WIS 3:1=9

R psalm : PS 23:1=3A,3B=4,5,6

Reading 2: ROM 5:5=11

or ROM 6:3=9

Gospel: JN 6:37=40

Today we come together to pray for all the Souls of the dearly departed. We pray for our passed loved ones, we pray for those who to our earthly eyes, lived a faithful and Holy life, those who loved and followed the Lord, those who passed who cared for the poor and hungry.

But we don’t only come together today to pray for the good who have passed as we are not the judge, so we also come together to pray for the Souls of the departed of those who passed to our earthly eyes having lived by earthly values and a life that sadly seemed far from God. We pray for all the departed, both the faithful and unfaithful. We pray for all the departed Souls, entrusting them all to God’s tender mercy, knowing that in the Communion of Saints, that our prayers are heard and are able to be of help to all the Souls of the departed to attain the mercy of God and eternal salvation.

We never know what sins the departed =including our loved ones, may have kept hidden out of fear or weakness, only God truly can see all the heart, so it is vitally important that we come together today to offer our prayers and to offer to our Heavenly Father, the body, blood, soul and Divinity of his dearly beloved Son, in expiation for our sins, for the sins of the world, and the sins of the departed.

We pray in hope today that our dear Lord Jesus will receive our expiatory sacrifice that we offer in faith, and applies them to the benefit of all the deceased if they are in need of our prayers and sacrifice.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May all the Souls of the departed rest in peace. Amen.

What About You? ~ The Solemnity of All Saints ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints (also called All Saints Day).

All Saints’ Day, All Hallows Day, or Hallowmas is solemnly celebrated on 1 November by many Western Liturgical Churches to honor, literally, all the saints, known and unknown; those individuals who have attained Heaven; all the holy men and women who have lived their lives for God and for his church, who now have attained Beatific vision and their reward of Heaven.

In early Christian history it was usual to solemnize the anniversary of a Martyrs death for the Lord at the place of their martyrdom. Frequently there were multiple martyrs who would’ve suffered and died on the same day which led to multiple commemorations on the same day. Eventually, the numbers of martyrs became so great that it was impossible for a separate day to be assigned to each individually, but the church feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a feast day to commemorate them all on the same day.

The origin of the festival of All Saints celebrated in the West dates to the month of May in the year 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.  In the 730’s Pope Gregory III moved the Feast of All Saints to 1 November when he founded an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.”

From our Readings today, we hear of the vision of St. John from the Book of Revelation:

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.  They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Who are these nameless saints?  Their anonymity teaches us that sainthood is not reached through great achievements or rare acts of bravery.  Sainthood comes from simply loving God and doing our best to live our lives in a way consistent with Jesus’ commandment.  I would dare say that none of the saints actually set out to be saints.  They simply loved God and lived their lives to follow Him.

Revelation goes on to remind us that giving our lives over to God will not protect us or insulate us from hardship.  Living in, for, with, and through God, however, will make sure that we can and will endure whatever “great distress” comes our way.  In this passage of Revelation, John is speaking specifically of those who have given their lives for their faith.  Christians throughout the Middle East are being martyred by forces opposed to Christianity, but in reality, it is very unlikely that any of us will be called upon to sacrifice our lives for our faith.

Our challenge, then, is to live for Christ, rather than to die for Christ.  Jesus does ask to lay down our lives for Him. Peter said to the Lord, “I will lay down my life for Your sake,” and he meant it (John 13:37). Has the Lord ever asked you, “Will you lay down your life for My sake?” (John 13:38). It is much easier to die than to lay down your life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling of God. We are not made for the bright-shining moments of life, but we have to walk in the light of them in our everyday ways.  For thirty-three years Jesus laid down His life to do the will of His Father. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

If we are true followers of Jesus, we must deliberately and carefully lay down our lives for Him. It is a difficult thing to do, and thank God that it is, for great is our reward.  Salvation is easy for us, however, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in our lives is difficult. God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, “Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful.” And Jesus says to us, “…I have called you friends….” Remain faithful to your Friend, and remember that His honor is at stake in your bodily life.  We are called to remain faithful, despite the reasons the world gives us to not, despite the “great distresses” in our lives.

Who are these dressed in white robes?  It is my prayer to be counted among them.  What about you?

It’s About Love! ~ The Rev. Dcn. Brenden Humberdross

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and Our Redeemer.

Today’s gospel is one that we have all heard many times, it’s short and sweet and epitomises what it means to be a Christian. In the words of Jesus that we hear today we see the whole Gospel, the whole Judeo-Christian system summed up in one word; love!

To fully appreciate what Jesus is saying in today’s gospel it’s important that we take a closer look at where it is located within the scriptures and what is going on in Christ’s life. If we examine the previous chapter of Matthew we see that Christ is nearing the end of his earthly mission. He has recently had his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey with throngs celebrating and lining the road with palms at a time when the city was full of people gathered to celebrate the Passover.

For a moment, I want you to put yourselves in the place of the Jewish establishment. The city is full to overflowing with people come to celebrate at the Temple. There is a sense of expectation amongst the people; expectation of celebration, but also a sense of imminent redemption. Passover is the celebration of the redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt and a type and shadow of the future redemption of Israel by the Messiah. The Roman occupiers are pressuring the Jewish leaders to control to crowd or face consequences. And amongst all of this an upstart preacher from Galilee is welcomed into the city like a king; how would this make you feel, what would you do?

As we examine how we might feel if we were the Jewish leaders I am sure that ideas of worry, fear, and concern enter our minds. I certainly know it did me; how can I retain my power, how can I calm the mod so that the Roman occupiers don’t react badly, how can I put this up-start preacher in his place; and it is precisely here that the Jewish establishment went. From examining the scriptures the period after Jesus entered Jerusalem was a time where the Pharisees and Sadducees tried time and again to trap Jesus and show the people that he was a fraud and most certainly not the messiah.

While in the Temple the Jewish leaders tried to question Christ’s authority to teach. However. Knowing the intent of their heart Jesus quickly turned the question back on the leaders in such a way that it was clear to all that Jesus was not just another teacher. Having failed once, they again tried to trap Jesus by asking him about taxes.

Asking a preacher about taxes while they’re preaching and teaching in Church may seem a little weird to us now. However, we have to remember that at the time of Christ the Jewish people were oppressed and occupied by the Romans whom they despised and wanted to overthrow. By asking Jesus about taxed the Pharisees were hoping to use the Roman’s against Jesus. If he said not to pay taxes the people would celebrate him by the Roman authorities would arrest him for sedition; if he said to pay taxes, then the gathered Jews would likely turn against him. However as before, Jesus confounds the Pharisees by giving a truly inspired response.

Now you’d think after two failed attempts the Pharisees and Sadducees might stop, but they didn’t. In true tag team style the Pharisees retreated to contemplate their interaction with Christ whilst the Sadducees made an attempt to discredit him. This time they tried to trap Jesus teaching immorality regarding marriage and to prove his belief in the resurrection as false. However, again, Jesus could see through there plan and he shot down their flawed understanding of sacred matters.

It is at this point that today’s reading fits into the story; after multiple attempts to discredit Jesus the Jewish establishment tries one last time. The Pharisees think they’re onto a winner and ask Christ to tell them what the greatest commandment is. In the mind of the Pharisees is Jesus puts his foot wrong here he will have committed blasphemy and in the Jewish system that would mean death! However, true to his form Jesus doesn’t fall into a trap but instead gives an answer that not even the Pharisees and Sadducees can find fault with. Jesus tells them that the greatest commandment is Love; particularly love of God.

So, why is this answer so perfect? Why did it stop the establishment in their tracks and start them planning a much more direct and drastic course to rid themselves of Jesus? It was because there was no way that they could combat the truth of Jesus which was evidently of divine origin.

When I examine this reading I am always drawn to a phrase at the end as being the crux of the message: “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments”. Jesus tells us that everything we have ever been asked to do by God is based on love. Our hearts and our lives should be full of love if we are to be true followers of Christ.

In rebuffing the trap of the Pharisees Jesus was not rejecting their teachings, he wasn’t saying anything revolutionary. Instead he was confirming what had been taught by all the prophets and teachers of God; he was simply stating that the primary objective of all truth is love.

It is this love that should motivate all that we do. Our dear Presiding Bishop has said to me many time that we may be the only Bible a person ever reads and the only sermon they ever hear; it’s for this reason that I truly believe love is key. If we look at all people with the love of God, if love motivates our thoughts, our words and our actions then others will feel motivated to do the same. If we could all live the perfect love of God then the Kingdom of Heaven would truly be found on earth.

I want to challenge each and every one of us this week to go out of our way to demonstrate this love. Before we leave our homes let’s pray that the love of God may flow through us and motivate everything we do. If we can do this I know that we will touch the lives of many around us, even if we don’t realise it.

Be the love is going to be my motto this week and I hope that it will be yours too!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, a d of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Sheetrock ~ The Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, two Apostles about whom we know almost nothing. They are mentioned in all four Gospels, but only Jude is credited with more than being listed: he asks, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Simon is identified as a Zealot, probably not the ones who caused the Romans to destroy Jerusalem and the temple, but still an ardent foe of the Romans and the oppressors of the Jews. Jude is known as the son (or brother) of James. We are not positive which James he is related to, however. And neither are we sure if he is the author of the Epistle of Jude. Most Catholics believe that the two are the same. Most Protestants do not.

Legend has it that they both went to Persia to preach where they were both martyred, Simon by being sawn in half and Judas by being felled with a club.

Then of course there are other stories and legends about them. But does that matter?

Maybe. Maybe not.

What does matter on this feast day is the Responsorial Psalm from today’s Mass:

  1. (5a) Their message goes out through all the earth.
    The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
    Day pours out the word to day,
    and night to night imparts knowledge.
    R. Their message goes out through all the earth.
    Not a word nor a discourse
    whose voice is not heard;
    Through all the earth their voice resounds,
    and to the ends of the world, their message.
    R. Their message goes out through all the earth.

Two apostles of the Twelve are celebrated today by recognizing their works, their mission, and their triumph – they listened to the Lord, heard his Word, and now pass that word on to everyone they meet…to the ends of the world, which could be Persia…or Syria, or Lebanon.

Most commentaries spend a lot of print on their names and who they really are. Nothing is said of their works, their ideas, or their results. And that is the case with most of us in this world. Most of us will never have an entry in Wikipedia. Nor will our names be found in the Depths of the Library of Congress. And if we really think about Jesus’ message, isn’t that not surprising?

As Paul says in today’s Reading, we are members of the household of God. In Jesus we are also being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. So whether we are the Front Door of the dwelling, or simply a piece of sheetrock in the hallway, if we are gone, there is an emptiness in the house, a missing piece.

But who knows if we are missing?

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Therefore, God would know if we are missing. And who matters more?

The other day I was thinking almost exactly these thoughts. At my advanced age, I have begun to dwell too much in the past. Not good, I know. But I said to my wife that I wasn’t really sure that I had lived up to my potential, etc. etc. Yes, a little whining from this corner. We had a fruitful and fulfilling conversation that took me off the pity pot and set me straight. The upshot was that today’s Mass was directed, once again, directly at me.

Yes, I’m not in Wikipedia nor the Library of Congress. But I am in the hearts of our children and grandchildren and the many close and beautiful friends I have all over the world. I’m sure that if this piece of sheetrock called Me were to go, quite a few people would miss me.

And that’s what today’s Psalm tells me, and all of us. We’re part of the continuum of God’s word. We heard the message, we consumed it, and we passed it along in our turn, after which it will be passed again, and again.

All of us are in the chain that Simon and Jude passed on. Jesus’ message continues to go out through all the earth. And today’s Gospel concludes with naming the Apostles, so somewhere, down the line, we can see our names. Now it’s up to us to keep the house a-building…pass it on!

Lord, we have heard your good news. Give us the courage, strength, and wisdom to help spread your message through all the earth.

Amen.