October 23, 2016 – As a little child

Pentecost 23   October 23, 2016   Psalm 65, Joel 2:21-29, Luke 18:9-14, 15-17 As a little child *********************************************** Two of my very earliest memories are being carried on my father’s shoulders, walking around the town in which we lived… And sitting with my mother listening to a record of a cowboy song, me about three years old, her encouraging me to sing… All I had to do in those early days was just sit on dad’s shoulders, and sit by mom’s side… and begin to try to sing along… Jesus tells us: ‘Unless we receive the kingdom of God as a little child we will never enter it.’ And once upon a time, I think I actually knew how to do this… without even thinking about it. But its been awhile now since I’ve been a little child. Today life often seems rather full of grown up activity. Now it’s me driving the car with our daughter in the back seat… (It’s been some years since I was last comfortably able to carry her on my shoulders…) Doing my best to do the work expected of me… Which, along with all the many parts I love to do, also comes with a certain amount of dealing with budgets, annual reports, and other things I’d rather avoid… Grown up stuff Jesus also told us would always be with us. Sometimes I have a hard time now remembering how a little child does… what Jesus says… So I asked our daughter Rohi the other day, if she could counsel me. “Can you please tell me something about how to receive the kingdom as a little child?” I asked… She was busy at the time, doing school work, as I recall, but she looked up and said, “Yes, daddy, I will help – when we’re at the dinner table.” Sounding like me, telling her, ‘yes, I will do what you’re asking, honey, but not till I get done with this work I’m doing.’ She’s growing up so fast… And of course I remember Rohi when she was an infant. All she had to do was smile, and we glimpsed the kingdom. I remember her, seven or eight months old, lying on the blanket on the floor with her mom and me, while we were choosing hymns for the next Sunday. Rohi would be eyes-wide-open watching and listening. Fascinated with our singing. Already trying to play her mother’s little electric keyboard, banging away joyfully at the keys…. How quickly time goes by. Rohi isn’t such a little child anymore; she turns 14 this week. But she still knows how to receive God’s blessings as a little child receives. When she lifts her voice in song we still feel her joy… But how does someone my age (or any age, really, past childhood) relearn – how to receive the kingdom of God as a little child? And what exactly is it about being a little child that make them better than grown ups at receiving the kingdom? I asked my wife, who is a teacher and who studied psychology and counseling in college, and she said, “Children have trust. Children are transparent…” (She also suggested I go online and look up child development for further details…and…) When delving into study bibles, commentaries, and child development...

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November 1, 2015 – saints on the road to Zion

All Saints Day (Pentecost 23) November 1, 2015 Psalm 146, Ruth 1:1-18, Mark 12:28-34, Revelation 21:1-6a        saints on the road to Zion ******************************************** Friday morning I drove up to Boston for a grave-side committal service for Jean Gleason, one of the saints of our church. One of the candles we’ve lit today in both of our churches is in memory of Jean. Her memorial service was (here) back in June; her ashes were placed in the family plot in Boston Friday. After the service, several of Jean’s family were talking about their mother’s passing… Her daughter Sally mentioned she had recently broken her wrist, which kept her away from work for six weeks. During this time she said, she felt like she was hearing her mother silently advising her to “take time and re-examine my life… focus on what’s most important.” And after every memorial service I’ve ever done I too find myself pondering… Who are we? What are we here for? Where are we going? These questions keep coming back… Especially on days like today, as we remember saints of our church who have passed over to another shore… Today is All Saints Day, and for clarification, we’re talking about small s saints – saints, meaning ‘holy ones set apart for God’ – saints, meaning also ‘all the people of God.’ Some of St Paul’s letters are addressed “to all the saints” in a particular church or cluster of churches. Other letters are addressed to those “called to be saints.” Today some parts of the church emphasize we’re already saints if we believe in Jesus. Other parts of the church emphasize we’re called to be saints – implying we’re still on the journey to sainthood. Some parts of the church capitalize the apostles and call them capitol S saints – St Paul, St James, St John. Some capitalize others saints also – St Mary, St Margaret, St Jude. We Methodists don’t do that, but our Anglican ancestors still do, as do many sisters and brothers in the church universal. I don’t think any of these differences are huge big deals. I do think it’s a very big deal to remember – all of us, at the very least, are called to be saints. And today we’re marching to Zion with all the saints in all times and places… Zion originally being the name of the East ridge of Jerusalem. Then the name Zion was applied to all Jerusalem. Now Zion’s also a name for the New Jerusalem that descends to this earth made new… And on our way to Zion on high…we’re walking first to the humble village of Bethlehem on the outskirts of Jerusalem… Walking the dusty road with saints Naomi and Ruth… *** In the time of the book of Judges, before there were kings in Israel – an Israelite woman named Naomi and her husband Elimelech (his name means God is my king) left their home in Bethlehem in Judah, and went to the neighboring country of Moab to escape a famine in the land. Bethlehem means “house of bread” – yet, like Old Mother Hubbard, Bethlehem’s cupboards are quite bare… Naomi and Elimelech’s two sons have both married Moabite women. Now first Elimelech passes away; then after about ten years, both sons die...

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October 27, 2013 – Pentecost 23

Pentecost 23 10.27.13   (Ps 32, Luke 18:15-17, 18-30)    Luke 18:9-17 God, be merciful to me Luke 18: 9-17 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” ****************************************************************** Jesus tells yet-another parable– this time because there were some– (no names needed to be mentioned, but some, we’re told ) who,  trusting in their own righteousness, were looking down on others with contempt. Two men go to the temple to pray, Jesus says – a leader in one of the largest, most respectable churches in town – and a tax collector, working for the despised Roman empire (ranking lower on the community respect list than the repo man at the used-car lot). The first man prays –  “thank you God, I’m not like others – not a crook, not an evil-doer, not an adulterer – not like that tax collector over there. I fast twice a week. I give ten percent of my income to the church. I’m a God-fearing  man…” The other man stands far away from others, and won’t even look up, as he beats his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” And we know which of these two guys gets the prayer-thing right – since Jesus comes right out and tells us which it is. And we’ve read on ahead to the next two episodes in Luke’s gospel. So we can see the pattern… We’ve seen children brought to Jesus for a blessing or healing touch, and we’ve seen Jesus’ disciples sternly ordering their families to desist. ‘Get those kids away from Jesus! He’s got more important folks to see today than a bunch of kids!’ There’s a rich ruler waiting just off-stage to talk with Jesus, and probably the disciples are thinking that’s who Jesus really needs to be talking with today, not children. So they’re not exactly singing little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong… And, Lord have mercy, these disciples actually try to drive little children away. No matter how much parents loved their children, children still ranked with slaves, at the low end of the social order, in those days. (And probably this episode makes us realize that the  parable Jesus tells about some looking on down on others isn’t addressed only to Pharisees.) And Jesus says, “let the little children come to me…The kingdom of God belongs to them… And unless you receive my kingdom like a child you’re never going to get there at all.” (And… if we’re not sure of the pattern notice...

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