Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dives and Lazarus

When I was young—in my twenties I went to Mexico to work ‘in the missions’.  I thought I had something that I could give those poor people of my highly educated life to lift them from their poverty.  I was serving in a small town in Central Mexico.  The sisters I was working for usually got up daily for mass at some o-dark thirty that I had never seen.  So I went to the noon mass in the center of town. 
As there are in many places in the world there often beggars who gather around the church at mass time hoping to cull some money off the pious.  There was one crone who was always there.  And being the only blond haired, blue-eyed woman in town she would always engage me.  As in small towns, everyone knows your name if you are a stranger.   Dona Paulina knew mine. 

I tried to ignore her but I knew what she wanted from me.  The upraised palm was enough.  I was constantly told not to give to the beggars.  “You will only encourage them,” the nuns said.  I must admit that I had seen few beggars in my time.  Growing up after WWII we seldom saw beggars in Fort Worth.  Occasionally there would be a disabled vet peddling pencils downtown.  And beggars did not illicit feelings of compassion, but anger that someone would stoop to that.  

Every day she would hail me as I approached.  She would ask me how my day was going, what I was doing, how my classes were going.  Being a polite person—or at least was trying to be, I would answer here questions until one day she asked me to help her grandson.  He was about 6 and was sick.  Would I speak to the doctor on her part?  I knew the doctor fairly well. His child was in my class.  I did approach the doctor and ask him if it was appropriate to speak to him of Dona Paulina’s grandson.  He agreed to see the boy.  From that time on, I began to learn more of Dona Paulina and her life.  She had a husband and a son who had both become victims of alcoholism.  They had died due to their disease and left her without any way of making a living. She lived in a little hut made of sticks and mud in the hills outside of town. There were no social programs in Mexico at the time. 
Slowly but surely over the time I was there I began to engage her and share in her life.  It was an important experience because I had never seen faith like hers.  She depended upon God for everything even the basics like water, food and bed.  She saw to it that her grandson got the best food.  When I broke my hip and had to leave the small town, Dona Paulina joined the group that was saying good by at the bus station.  She pressed 2 small coins worth less than a penny into my hand.

That woman changed my life.  No longer am I willing to pass by a beggar without putting a coin in his cup.  Nothing can encourage begging but poverty and hunger.  

Today’s Gospel speaks of Lazarus who languished outside the door of the rich man.  This is an apocryphal story that Jesus tells.  Jesus was teaching people the meaning of the parts of the Mosaic Law to the Pharisees, the well-off part of Jerusalem.  He was reminding them of their responsibility to the widows and orphans and the poor.  Deuteronomy 15:11 commands the people to ‘open wide their hand to the poor.’  And Jesus was teaching that the wealthy had an obligation to the poor.

 Part of the duty of the faithful is to make sure that there are no hungry among them both in Jesus’ day and in our own.  If there are those who are suffering hunger in our nation it is OUR fault because we are unwilling to see to the programs that feed those who cannot do it for themselves.  And what do we do?  We allow our government to cut the programs like WIC, food stamps, etc. so that we will not be taxed.  

If our programs are not doing the job we need to reform them, not trash them.  All some of our programs need is the technological updating that would make them less of a financial burden. 

When I was working on this sermon I saw a comment on a colleague’s blog that he wasn’t into 'enforce charity'.  But that has been one of the jobs of government since time immemorial.   How else are the poor going to survive if we ignore the poor at our gates?  How else are we to be a Christian in today's world without a place to practice God's mercy? 
‘enforced charity’, meaning that he didn’t believe that the government shouldn’t tax to take care of the poor.

 In Jesus’ day, the government and the religious establishment were both at the mercy of the Roman overlords.   Both the king and the Temple officials were appointed by Rome. Today we are supposed to be a democracy where each and everyone has a voice and a vote. Yet we ignore the needs of the poor.

We are the rich man in the world today.  We consume well over half of the world resources in this nation to maintain our comfortable life style.  And we have an attitude—“I made it, I can spend it however I want.”  But our faith, our humanity, requires that we live cheek by jowl with those who cannot make it, who cannot earn.  We have many older folk living on Social Security and cannot even keep up the payments of their homes.  We have children whose parents are unable or unwilling to take care of them so that often the grandparents are raising them without the protections that most of us have for our children—insurance, medical care, healthy food, etc.  

Now I am even hearing from supposedly Christian preachers that God want us to be wealthy.   I wonder how they can read the Bible and say that.  But they parse the Bible so that their salaries are never questioned.  They say that 'God helps those who help  
themselves’ [NOT Biblical] or that social programs are programs of the Church, not of God.

The purpose of this parable of Jesus is just as valid today as it was in the first century.  It is not about money, however.  And if Dona Paulina taught me anything, it was that this story about   I daresay that if you knew someone was hungry you would take them to dinner or bring food by the house.  If you knew someone who needed medical attention most of you would see to it they got to the hospital.  But if you know someone who needed a job would you hire them?  Some of you would. 
Lazarus and the rich man is about relationship.

I saw an amazing story on line this week that goes with this.  A young guy in NY City who has started a computer gaming business that has taken off like gang-busters kept meeting the same beggar as he was getting off the subway each day.   He needed code writers badly in his business but couldn’t find the people he wanted.  He finally stopped this beggar and told him:  “I am going to come back tomorrow and give you $100 dollars or a chance to learn a skill that is marketable.”  The next day he returned and made his same offer and the homeless guy took the challenge.  Each day the tech guy met the homeless guy for 1 hour and taught him how to write code.  He gave him a small computer and the homeless guy showed up each day devouring what he was learning.  The guy spent the rest of the day learning to write code.  Finally he was skilled enough to hire as one of his code writers for his business.

People are homeless often because of circumstances beyond their control.  It is the matter of relationship.  It is a matter of getting to know people who are not like us.  It is the matter of taking the   It is the willingness to even see our complicity in their dilemma because we have ignored them as we passed by.   It is important to take the time and effort to find out what they can give, we can find that we can alleviate some of the burden that our society places upon the struggling.
risk to find out the circumstances of the person’s poverty.
Our technological age is making us blind to the needs of others.  We don’t engage one another as people once did in small towns, or rural settings.  Our cities are the primary place of our living these days and in the cities we can pass by those sitting in doorways or drive by those encamped under viaducts.

I would guess that few of the people who hear or read my sermon can claim to know a beggar.  Most of us, like the rich man in the parable, never bother to notice much less engage.  Because Dona Paulina refused to allow me to ignore her, I learned to look past the outward and visible.  I came to learn the inward and spiritual grace that her relationship did for me.  She gave me far more than I ever gave her.  

I would invite you to befriend someone who is homeless, poor, dispossessed. If you need unskilled labor, check out some of the guys panhandling.  Be careful, and be wise.  But be genuine. It will change your life.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Five: These are a few of my favorite things!

RevPal Mindy recently shared this quote:
Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction.
Break the habit. Talk about your joys.
~Rita Schiano
So, to focus on those joys, she posted recently about things that she enjoys or loves in life. Her list made me smile!
Sometimes as pastors, chaplains, professors or caregivers, our lives are so very full and our hearts ache with worries for others (or, if we are honest for ourselves!) So for this week’s Friday Five, let’s list things that are on your happy list! (We’ll assume that your family and friends and pets are included, so branch out a little, if you can!)
What are your joys? Places? Food? Activities? Books? Season? Hobbies? Smells? Colors? To inspire you, Mindy came up with THIRTEEN things that bring her joy or make her happy. So go for it! 
Post your list with pictures, if you can, and then tell us where you blogged in the comments. All you have to do is cut and paste your blog post URL and we can find you.

I'm going to have to really think about this.  I have been trying to simplify my life.  I have too many things and want to sort through things and divest myself of stuff.  So favorite things are difficult.

1.   Cooking:  I like having all my stuff that helps me cook from the food processor to the set of knives I use, the spices I have collected.  I hate processed food so I love to do stuff from scratch.  I make my own rubs, sauces, dressings, etc.  

2. Fly box:  I have a fly box for the patterns of the flies I tie for fishing.  It was made by a man who was in my parish whom I married.  We had gone through the painful divorce of his first
spouse together and when he met his new bride, it was incredible to watch what love can do to heal.  The box is about the size of my study Bible.  It is made of walnut and is a warm golden color and opens on both sides.  He is a marvelous wood worker with wonderful gold fittings.  I love sharing it and the flies I tie with other fisherfolk.  It reminds me of him and his wonderful wife how they are growing old together.

3.   Pottery:  We have acquired some really nice pieces of pottery over the years.  My favorite is a casserole dish that I have been lugging to church dinners for years.  It was given to me by my sister-in-law for Christmas on year.  She had found it at a shop near where they lived.  Come to find out it was made by a school classmate that I had gone all the way through school with.  At our 50th HS class reunion I met up with him again.  We hadn't seen each other since graduation.  But some months he asked me to marry he and his girlfriend.  As a thank you gift, he made me a lovely creamer and sugar setNow the casserole pot has some competition for favorite.

4.  Cats:  We have given up on looking pristine and professional.  We have cats!  Tyke is the senior member and only male we have in the house. And he makes up for the void!  And then we have Little Bit--until she started weighing 16lbs!  Now she is just Bit.  She also love to do the affectionate bite routine.  We have had cats ever since we started to room together.  We buy cheap furniture because we have cats.  

5.  Music:  I was a music major in college.  Music is still an important part of my life--spiritual or otherwise.  While I am at the computer I listen to Pandora (free) and listen to all kinds of music.  Mostly classical, but
sometimes Country and Western, Flamenco, Chant, Brass ensembles.  J and I don't necessarily like the same programs on TV so we trade off and I put on my earphones and drift into another dimension.   I also like to play 'name that tune' because they don't announce the pieces that they play.  Right now I am listening to Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #2.  I know it is #2 because it has piccolo trumpet.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Five: If it aint broke...

Friday Five: If it ain’t broke…

Notes appIt was a disappointing download. The new iOS 7 update took away the format I loved for the Notes app on my iPhone and iPad. I admit, these are tiny little First World problems. I will nevertheless miss the digital legal pad with the black brown font, in all its simplicity.
In honor of the dear departed, please name five things in your life that need no improvement.
If you play at your blog, please leave a link in the comments. No need to hand-code html anymore; simply paste the link! (Hey, that’s a good improvement!)
You may also leave your thoughts in the comments here.
I’ll get around to read your blogs after I finish crowd-sourcing replacements on Facebook.

This one is a toughie:  I have a lot of stuff that is broke at the moment so I spend an inordinate amount of my time trying to fix broken things.  It is hard to focus on the things that remain the same and sustain me.

1.  Old Friends:  These are the things that remind me that my life isn't a shambles and the next update of whatever comes down the pike is going to throw me off the track.

2.  Prayer:  It is my go to whenever my world is out of whack--and
in thanksgiving for when I am 'in whack.'  It is that quiet time when even music can be an intrusion.  

3.  Home:  The place where I can go and relax.  We have had many homes in the past 35 years but home hasn't been a specific place, it has been the community that J and I have provided for one another.  It is a place of food, books, cats and welcome.  It ain't perfect but it is HOME.

4.  Church:  Since I have such a small family, church has been the place where I find so much life.  Even here in FTW where the Church is in such disarray, I still find that community where I  live, move and have my being.  

5.  J.  Our relationship is not one of marriage, not one of sisterhood, not just friendship.  It is of commitment to the individual
and the things that we hold most important.  We have made a home for one another.  We don't agree all the time.  We get fussy with one another.  But we both know that somehow we have committed our lives to one another because that is what love does in us. 

    Saturday, September 14, 2013

    The Lost Coin: Proper 18C

    At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse-- a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them.

     For my people are foolish;

                  the do not know me.
    they are stupid children,
    they have no understanding.
    They are skilled in doing evil,
    but do not know how to do good."
    I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void;
    and to the heavens, and they had no light.
    I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,
    and all the hills moved to and fro.
    I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,
    and all the birds of the air had fled.
    I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,
    and all its cities were laid in ruins
    before the LORD, before his fierce anger.

    For thus says the LORD: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
    Because of this the earth shall mourn,
    and the heavens above grow black;
    for I have spoken, I have purposed;
    I have not relented nor will I turn back. (Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28)
    I find this oracle from Jeremiah strangely comforting today. It is September in North TexasWhile the weather has had a break from the triple digits, it is still 90+.  It is dry and we have had no rain to slake the earth.  Dust is a common problem in Texas but during September it is more so.  We haven't had a bad summer--we have had much worse, but for some reason I am very dry.  It takes more iced tea than normal to get me through the day.  And spiritually I am dry.  I have flitted around to various different churches over the last few months trying to give my home church the freedom to be about calling a new rector without my influence.  But I was somehow unaware of how much community is part and parcel of who I am spiritually.  And while I have had some wonderful experiences in other congregations, I know that my dryness in many ways is self-imposed.
    Jeremiah talks about a wind--Texans know about wind--a hot wind that comes to the
    People--God's people.  God is speaking though Jeremiah reminding them of their loss of consciousness and failure to be the People God called out of Egypt. They have failed to celebrate the good times of God's presence among them.  They have been unwilling to live in ways that build up their witness of togetherness with others and with the Holy One.  They are lost in the sandstorms of their own making.
    It is interesting that many of the movies that portray a post-apocalyptic world show this kind of desert scenery.  The idea of the total obliteration of temperate climates catches our imagination.  And I could very easily take this passage to preach on ecology or the sin of pollution.  But that is not where this passage takes me.  What I see in Jeremiah is a statement of what it means to be human today.   
     The hot wind is the searing wind of nothingness that seems to empty humanity of what it means to have meaning in life.   The hot air of rhetoric, whether it is political, economic or theological seems to empty people of the juices that give us the energy to live life to the fullest.  

    In Texas, we don't do much in the summer.  It is like those in the North who don't do much in February but look at seed catalogs.  At least seed catalogs give hope.  Dryness doesn't.   We become befuddled by our dryness and cranky.  I remember how hard it was to start school here with no air conditioning.  The kids were cranky and so was I.  Hope was not on our minds, unless it was for the football team.

    It is hard to be hopeful in the desert.  It is hard to see God’s work being done.
    Even in Jeremiah’s time the wars that were to engulf the People of God were not going to turn back.  In our own day, the consequences of our bellicosity will not be easy, but we are promised that it isn’t the end:   For thus says the LORD: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.” 

    And even in the wars that would come, the Babylonian Captivity would come, the land would lie fallow for seventy-five years, but God would not destroy God’s people because of their failures, because of their evil-doing. 
    I tire very quickly at preachers who rant doom and gloom.  I admire preachers who speak of being willing to accept the consequences of our actions, our stupidity, but are still willing to hear the hope of the Gospel.

    The Gospel reading from Luke is what makes this reading from Jeremiah something more than a rant:
    Luke 15:1-10  All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."

    So he told them this parable: "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
    "Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

    Being lost in our fights whether they are between individuals, with political ideologies, theological differences, family members, dries us spiritually.  The hot wind of antagonism desiccates our life with the Holy One.  It takes away the Divine oil that heals our wounds.  It gives us a crustiness that tells us we can make it on our own. And yet it is our individualism is what keeps us from knowing Gods true love for us. 

    I have always been leery of the evangelical phrase “taking Jesus as your personal savior.”  It connotes a type of individual relationship with God that can be construed as “Jesus and me and nobody else”.   This is contrary to the message Jesus came to preach. We are not called to be the People of God in isolation.  It has nothing to do with us personally and everything to do with us being the People of God.

    The Gospel for today speaks of a God who wants us to be united with the whole.  The shepherd who goes searching for the lost wants the sheep to be returned to the flock.  Or the one who loses a portion of her treasure, rejoicing with others that the coin has been found.  It is the rejoicing that soothes the hot wind.  It is the sense of community that binds us together. 
    And while each person is called to know God intimately, it is not that intimacy that fulfills the Gospel.  It is the willingness of the people of God to work together for the betterment of Creation that stands in the face of the heat.  It is the oasis for our deserts.  It is the cool cup of water for the thirsting.

    All too often in the midst of church fights, political jousts, family feuds, the hot air of our actions dries us out.  However, the way that we absolve those differences is to remember what we have lost—the sense of community, the sense of wholeness that comes when we rejoice with one another. It is why the confession in our liturgy always comes before the table service. The Eucharist is the center of worship.  When we come to the table together every effort needs to be made for us to know that this is a celebration—not a “bounded duty”.  The passing of the peace is the resolution that Christ’s peace has re-entered our lives following the confession of our failures.  The desert dryness has been slaked in the bread and wine that we have shared.  It is the
    Christian’s clearest and most visible form of delight.

    I do not worry about reunification with those who were lost to us in schism.  I do not worry about red and blue folk trying to work out their differences. I do not worry about family tiffs.  I do not worry about the burned out grass in my back yard.  The fall rains will come.  God has promised it.  If I persist in my worry, I just prolong  being found by the God who searches for me just as surely as does the shepherd for the sheep or the lady for the coin.  And in that ‘foundedness’ my dryness is quenched.  Sometimes I have to wait for it.  Sometimes I can find a way to make being discovered happen easier.  But I must be willing to harbor the hope of community, the oil of intimacy, the ideal of gratitude in my heart.  It is the only antidote to the heat of the desert of humanity’s inhumanity.  It is the only way that I can remain human in an inhumane world.  

    Friday, September 13, 2013

    Friday Five: I am not sure...

    friday five!

     Rev Karla posted this FF. 

    oh my, I have really lost track of time!
    but I won’t get into THAT now, because what you really need is an extreme random Friday Five, so here goes it:

    1. How are you?  What’s up with you?

    I am somewhat grumpy.  I couldn't sleep well last night and woke up early.  But I am having coffee with a clerical fishing buddy in a short while.  We will trade fishing stories and if it isn't too hot we may wet a line at one of the local fishing holes.  I haven't cast a fly rod in some time so I plan not to catch much fish but to spend most of my time hooked to trees, bushes and the seat of my pants.

    2.  Last Saturday, I went to the outlet store and stocked up on underwear for the year.  I love a bunch of new fresh underdrawers!  I also love a cabinet full of paper towels.   What silly thing makes you happy?

    Our neighbors are putting in a swimming pool.  It wasn't fun
    listening to the machines and the 8 hrs of tile cracking outside my window, but it was fun to see the progress that has been made.  They have offered to put in a gate from our yard to theirs.  
    3.  Give a shout out to someone you love, appreciate, or want to thank!

    I want to shout to the Golden West Women's Fly Fishers of San Francisco on the occasion of their 30th anniversary.  A great bunch of women.
    4. Miss Kansas has the Serenity Prayer tatooed on the side of her body.  I sadly do not have a tatoo, and maybe you do, but if you were going to get a prayer tatooed on the side of your body, what would it be?

    The only tattoo I have really considered was Yahweh in Hebrew on the palm of my hand.  But I
    am chicken and old.


    5.  Use some or all or a form of the following words in a sentence:   jello, kittens, mercy, dump-truck, tabuleh, terror, skipping, monkey, Rev. , health, and snoring.

    I am up to skipping the clergy conference since the kittens have gotten into the tabbouleh and monkeyed with the jello which will not contribute to the mercy of the day, the health of my terrorized colleagues and will promote only snoring while the dump-truck adds to the chaos.  (With thanks to the patron saint of run-on sentences:  St. Paul)

    Sunday, September 8, 2013

    Giving up our possessions: Proper 18c 2013

    Luke 14:25-33

    Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."

    This is one of the hard sayings of Jesus.  It is not something that we really want to hear from Jesus.  The Lord of Love shouldn't say things about hating, we think.  Maybe someone got mixed up and inserted it by mistake.  But scholars think that because it is such a hard saying that it is most likely to be the original words of Jesus.  

    But what does that mean for the likes of us?  What are we supposed to do if we are to be followers of the Carpenter?   Does that me we have to hate our parents?  Does it mean that we must hate life in order to be a disciple?  And what does the rest of the passage mean about building a tower or going to war?  And must I give everything to the Salvation Army to be a disciple? 

    When passages are so difficult to understand, I often look a the collect for the day:

    Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy;

    All of these passages talk about trusting in God.  And that is what I think that Jesus came to teach us how to do.  Throughout the history of Israel the people who had received God's mercy and liberation were always wanting more.  They whined about the manna in the desert; they wanted a king like the other nations; they strayed from God's commands when he gave them land.  They would not trust that God was enough.  They wanted more.  They figured ways to manipulate Mosaic law so they would not have to live into mercy that God held out to them.

    Jesus preached a radical way of living.  It was not business as usual.  It was a way of living that stood up to the commerce of his day.  It thumbed its nose to Imperialistic economics, the crushing 'Rome first' concepts of that were present in the First Century Middle Eastern societies that had been taken over first by Greek and then Roman dominions.  Jesus taught a way of living that we would today call a minimalist way of effecting the society.  He wanted Jews to understand that Rome did not offer the people of his day anymore than American or western economics are offering people today--an empty way of living within the universe.

    I entered the convent in the early 1970 when everything was changing for religious life following
    Vatican II.  I entered an old order that had been founded in the early 16th century that was struggling with the Church of Europe following the Lutheran split in northern Europe.  We were being encouraged to 'return to the charisms of our founders' and so I learned much about the spirit that underpinned that community of women who had spread all over the world for the sake of teaching young women of Christ.  It was a heady time in the Roman Catholic Church.  It was an exciting time to be a Christian--a new one at that. But at the same time the post-Vatican II reaction curtailed that excitement.  About 30 years ago they were told to go back to what they were. And yet today--some 40 years later that order of women have found themselves unable to carry on the ministry that that community provided for the larger church because they were unable to meet the needs of a world and a Church that has
    become more intensely self-conscious and self-centered.  It was not the fault of those sisters--it was the fault of a hierarchy that could not see far enough into the future to know that you couldn't stuff that energy back into 15th century wine skins.  When I left the community I did not know that the training I had received would serve me so well in the future.  But the training I had received was not in administration, or theology, or pastoral care.  It had been in prayer and I will forever be thankful for those women who gave me the time to know my God in the simplicity of poverty, chastity and obedience.  And even though while I was in the community I had access to  more things as a person who had avowed poverty, I learned that they did not have to dominate my life.

    This morning I attended a congregation of my denomination that does not have a building.  Forced by the schism and the legal proceedings that have rent our Church they have been forced to think of what it means to be Church in ways that don't face many congregations.  They know that they are no longer the congregation of refugees that were forced by the schism out of their own congregations.  They are now  a community of people who are making worship, service, and education available to those who are excited by the Gospel.  They are the new wine of this new diocese.  They will soon be looking to find a new digs.  They have outgrown their present place.  They are no longer looking at 'getting back their building' in some legal proceeding.  They are looking at what does it mean to be Church in the 21st century.  It may mean Church in a strip mall, a school gym, rented space where they can live into the divestment that they have had to endure.  It has liberated them to be about the Gospel rather than just hearing it. 

    In many ways they have turned away from the buildings that their fore-bearers built.  They are 'hating their parents' not with the emotion of adolescents  but have seen that the old ways of being Church--the stone church image--doesn't make the message of Jesus real in their time and place.  Only the love and reaching out they are doing in the community makes their faith palpable.  In a matter of 5 years they have become a new creation---a group of people who are committed to  letting people know that the love of God is alive and well in their mid-cities community.  A group of their
    young people did a mission trip in OK after one of the tornadoes.  Those kids became dubbed the "the Jesus people" by the small community they went to serve.  This parish has been forced to be something new.  I do hope that they do not try to put themselves into old wine skins as my religious order tried to do 40 years ago.  I do hope that this wonderful spirit of putting away the old ways of doing Christianity will endure because it is exciting to be a part of.  

    Granted there is something that I miss of the old Church--the quiet and stately liturgies with arcane music that speaks to me of being tied to something old and deep.  But it is not there that people are learning of Christ any longer.  They are coming to know Christ in the joy of doing for others, in the learning about how God is acting in their lives now and in the incredible holiness of learning how to live with the radical call to selflessness that Jesus proposed in Gospel passages like these.  They have 'gotten it' like often the disciples didn't in the Gospels. 

    Sometimes we must lose it all in order to trust the providence of God.  We must start over to know the ancient story.  That was what Jesus was trying to teach his people over 2,000 years ago.  It is a message that we are still having to learn today.  I remember visiting a 7th century church in France that had been in constant use since before the time of Charlemagne.  It had some of its ancient mosaic ornamentation of its period.  It was a small place in the countryside of southern France, but there were signs on the bulletin board that told of the youth group, the woman's guild, the food pantry and the outreach of the parish.  It was not a museum that many of the churches in Parish had become.  They were a community of people who served their people in the love of Christ.  

    I do not fear the demise of the Church.  The Spirit is alive and well if we allow ourselves to give away all our 'possessions' to see Christ at work in our faith.  The Eucharist is still the center of who we are.