Saturday, May 30th is the annual Christ Church Clean-Up day. It may sound like a drudge but it's actually a fun time to work with the folks you see every Sunday, have a good chat and help clean-up our lovely old church. This year, it is particularly important that we have Christ Church looking her spiffy best for the visitors at dear Deacon Janis' ordination!! We're going to have a fantastic lunch when the work is done. (Episcopalians always have great food!) So bring your rake, your rags, your clippers and join us between 9am and 1pm for a cleaning frenzy and lots of fun.
It can be a little difficult to find our former shepherd, Father Todd Young, on the internet. First you have to wade through the Google entries for Rep. Todd Young, a conservative congressman from hoosierland, Todd Young the network marketing professional (and "life enthusiast, entrepreneur, mentor, leader and friend"), Todd Young the author of erotica, Todd Young the self taught artist, Dr. Todd Young, DDS, Todd Young the Baptist preacher, and by page 5, you give up. But don't give in. You can find Father Todd's pearls of insight, biblical research and personal reflection in his weblog, The Wednesday Word - (http://revrefwednesdays.blogspot.com/)! Need a break and a spot of illumination? Take a nice visit again with Father Todd! (And I hope this post will help his Google ranking!)
Have a blessed week!
The Very Reverend Stephen Brehe, Whitsunday, May 24, 2015
A joyous Pentecost to all. This is the day when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the Christian movement. The Greek word for spirit means breath or wind. The Hebrew means desert-wind, a powerful and unseen force that blows unpredictability across the face of the earth. The Spirit, as we know, “blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.”[i] The mystery of God’s Spirit sometimes perplexes Christians, so this morning let us spend some time discovering more about God’s enigmatic power in and around us.
Let’s start with that Acts 2 text. It reminds us how God’s Spirit empowers and emboldens. Before Pentecost, the disciples were a motley, disorganized crew. Yes. They had experienced the resurrection. But they were far from a cohesive group. That all changed when the Spirit came upon them to make them the church, the on-going presence of the risen Christ in the world. It was a sensational event.
Yes. It was incredible. So much so that Peter became inspired enough to preach a sermon that led to three thousand baptisms. Not bad for somebody who less than two months earlier had denied even knowing Jesus. Now, empowered by God’s Spirit, Peter was filled with incredible zeal and courage.
The Acts text tell us that God is always ready, willing, and able to supply the power and energy to us. In some sense, God’s Spirit is like the fuel that powers our cars. With God’s horsepower (let’s call it God’s Spirit power) we can become high-performance disciples. All we need is the courage turn on the ignition and get down the road. That’s our part. Are we ready to “fill ‘er up” and get going?
Okay. Maybe we’re not ready to go. What keeps us from turning on the ignition and gettin on the road? Paul gives us the all-too-familiar reason: We are weak. Or afraid. Maybe apathetic. But there is a solution. Paul says, in this morning’s Romans text, that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
That brings us to our John text. Jesus tells us that there is the “Advocate” who will come along side us to provide both guidance and strength to get us going. What comes to mind when you think of “Advocate?”
The word in today’s text, in Greek, is parakletos. It can be translated in several ways: Advocate, helper, counselor. It means called alongside to encourage, to defend, to support. In the Greco-Roman world, parakletos was used in legal settings to refer to a lawyer arguing in court for a defendant. Think about God sending an Advocate into our lives to strengthen us, to stand beside us in our temptation and trials. Moreover, the Holy Spirit isn’t just alongside us; the Holy Spirit lives inside us. We proclaim that every Sunday when, in the Nicene Creed, we call the Holy Spirit the “giver of life.”
In a sense, the Holy Spirit is like an “invisible Jesus.” That insight comes from the great Roman Catholic scholar Raymond E. Brown[ii]. He writes that the parakletos’ image in John’s gospel is strikingly like Jesus. The Advocate is, in fact, the presence of Jesus after Jesus ascends to the Father. Brown writes: “Virtually every quality ascribed to the Paraclete has a parallel in what was said of Jesus.” It’s also interesting to note that Jesus says in John 14:16 that the Father will send another Paraclete to guide disciples in the way of truth, namely Jesus. So, I like to think of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate as the unseen but very present risen Christ in our lives.
That’s what the disciples experienced fifty days after the resurrection. The risen Lord, unseen but present with boundless power, had come among them. Impossible to define literally, they described their experience like a mighty wind. Fire ranging among them. Ecstatic words. Disciples so loosened up from their fears and apprehensions that some bystanders thought they had stumbled out of a tavern.
That’s because they had an Advocate. They had received the Holy Spirit. No more were they a motley, disorganized crew. To use my car image, they became super-changed, high-performance disciples. The power of the risen Lord was with them.
What happened to those disciples some two thousand years ago happens to us in our baptism.
On our own, we cannot do these things. We’re just another motley crew. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the One who makes the risen Christ a reality in our lives makes it possible. All we have to do is turn on the ignition and get moving as God’s Easter people.
Today, the closing words of the mass are: “Let us go forth rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Are you ready, Christ Church? Ready to be empowered by the risen Lord? Ready to make him known in Sheridan and beyond? Ready to hit the road in the power of the risen Christ? Amen.
If you are, say Amen. So be it. Let’s get rolling.
[i] John 3:8 NRSV
[ii] From Bernard L. Marthaler’s The Creed: The Apostolic Faith in Contemporary Theology (Twenty-Third Publications: New London CT, 2007) pp. 275-276.
Father Bruce McNab, 6th Sunday of Easter, Year B. Mothers’ Day. May 10. 2015. Christ Church, Sheridan MT. (Text: John 15:9–17)
Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
It’s easy to get confused about love. When we talk about love, we habitually think of the emotion we call “love” —affection for family members (like mom), or romantic attachment to our sweetheart, or friendship for somebody we’ve known since high school. Emotions just happen. Emotions are more or less reflexes, or hormonal responses. Emotions can’t be commanded. Nobody can tell you what to feel. Oh, they can tell you. But you can’t obey. (Not even mom can dictate your emotions!)
The love that Jesus says is “his commandment” is a form of behavior that we are free to choose or reject. This love that can be commanded is characterized by three things, all of which involve our free choice: (1) commitment, (2) loyalty, and (3) unselfishness. This “chosen love” takes the form of treating the other person the way we’d treat ourselves if we were in their shoes. . . with deliberate patience, generosity, empathy, and kindness. . . . EVEN if the person in question really gets on our nerves! (Even if we’re mad at them at the moment.)
In order to be people who can choose to love others like this, we must first be loved this way. The great biblical example is the love Jesus showed by giving his life for us. —But since it’s Mothers’ Day, I want to give you a home-style example of what I’m talking about.
It’s a tribute to all mothers, everywhere, that most people see their mothers as the perfect illustration of the intentional, deliberate, and sacrificial love of Jesus. I’ve asked church groups this question many times, “Who first showed you the love of Christ?” Mom is invariably the first answer. Sure, we know there are always some bad apples in the human “barrel” of moms. But the majority of people will tell you that the one person who was always faithful to them, stood up for them, looked after them, took care of them, and put their needs first was mom.
My wife Joan is not here this morning because she’s staying with our grandson, whom we’re looking after while his folks are away. So I can tell you about her without making her blush and ask me to be quiet. Joan was a single mom for many years, and she literally laid down her life for her three children. Of course she gave them the natural affection a mother feels for her kids, but—more than that—she chose to put them first. She sacrificed for them. When there was a choice between buying something for herself, or doing something just for herself, versus something for them, she always chose for the children. She never missed a ski race or a basketball game or a concert or any other event that was special for one of her children. She poured out her life for them. —And I’m sure there are mothers just like her sitting here in church this morning.
Laying down our life for others doesn’t have to include physical death. But it does mean “dying” in other ways: dying to our private agenda. Dying to our self-centered plans. Dying to our ego-driven ambitions. Dying to our appetites. And dying to our need to be in control. We have to choose to die to ourselves if we’re going to choose to love others.
The harvest of the love Joan gave her children became visible, not just in the love they grew up to show as adults for their Mom (which is beautiful to see), but particularly in the way the three came to love their own children. As an “outside observer,” since I am their step-father, I’m able to see how the selfless love that was passed from mother to child now shapes a third generation. And these young people will someday be parents who understand how to love. Human life is not long enough for us to be able to reciprocate to our moms and dads the love they gave us when we were kids. What we do is pass that love along to the next generation and to the world around us.
Even if we had “problem parents” rather than loving parents, we who are gathered here have all received a great love we can pass along. We have a love to share because Christ loved us, unconditionally and sacrificially. That’s my point this Mothers’ Day.
If we’re touched by a deep awareness of the goodness, loving-kindness, and mercy God has shown us, then we want to give that same kind of “chosen love” to the people around us who seem never to have received any of it before. And we love such people indiscriminately. We offer this love even to those who the world would say don’t obviously “deserve” it. We give it to people who aren’t even going to thank us, much less love us back. But, then, if we only love people who will love us back, that’s not love. It’s just a transaction.
Jesus died for us long before we could demonstrate that we would care about him or about anyone else. Jesus loved us first—just the way our moms (and dads, too) loved us first. Now we have that love to pass along.
God’s love is its own source. Our love is a response to God’s love. Here’s a basic principle: “You can only give away what you’ve been given.” To give what I call “chosen love” away to others, we must first have received that love. I think most of us here had the human example of a mom who loved us unconditionally. —And ALL of us have the example of the sacrificial love of Jesus, who is asking us to follow where he leads the way.
The 1st Letter of John says, “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
People who decide to pass along the love they’ve received show that they ‘know God.’ Their theology is the best! As for those who refuse to love, no matter how much else they may know, they don’t know God. For God is love.