Monday, April 13, 2009

Lukewarm Easter Leftovers


Easter Sunday is finally over. The lamb or ham has been removed from the board, and sits in a plastic bag or container in the fridge. The kids are back to school. We're back at work. And Christ, that welcomed guest on Sunday morning, has been turned out again, to stand on the doorstep while we go about our lives inside.

Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

We don't always let Him back in. Is it more convenient to leave Him standing on the step? The neighbors will drive by and say 'oh, hey, they've got God!' and we won't actually have to take Him in to our home... or heart. It's a beautiful pretense.

So God stands outside the door. Inside, there is turmoil. Where is Christ? Every fiber of your being is seeking him. You drag behind, overwhelmed by the world, never once looking outside to admire your lawn art. And Christ still stands right outside the door. Waiting.

In time, we forget about Christ's Gift completely. We might have to take extra steps to mow around him to keep our walkway clean. He's just an object, a symbol. We're no longer on fire for the Lord. The neighbors don't admire it anymore. They now whisper 'we thought they had God, but look how everything's crumbling along the walk.' Worse would be 'oh, so this is what it's like to have that ugly eyesore, God, in our life. Well, that's not for me. It's a sick pretense, to be sure.'

I've never been comfortable with verse plucking, and I do think the passage verse 20 comes from is integral to everything.

To the Church in Laodicea
Revelation 3:14-22
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.'
But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

The passage is one of my favorites... aren't they all?... because it lets us know that we, sinners and fools, have a chance with God. Some of us grow complacent in our walks, neither on fire for God nor turning from him. Lazy Christians. We think we can glide by just because we have a large Jesus in our front yards. Look how rich we are by having that! We need nothing but Jesus out there!

This passage is sometimes confused with the concept that we have to tell all the sinners off, to tell the world how wrong it is, because not doing so makes us lukewarm. Pardon me, but it's not a matter of telling the world how it's going to hell. We must embrace Christ, invite Him inside, allow Him to stay there, and allow Him to reshape us during our spiritual rebirth. If we do not, and if we simply sit there and 'be Christian with yard art', we're lukewarm and lacking the Fire of the Spirit in our lives. Better to have the Fire or to turn away from the Glory than to go around trying to impress the neighbors with our poorly kept walk(way).

It's not easy finding a balance between warm and cold, and most Christians try to stay as Fired up as possible. God cuts us a bit of slack in Revelation chapter 3. Above the letter to the Church in Laodicea, we find a letter to the Church in Philadelphia... and I don't mean the city up the way from me here in PA.

To the Church in Philadelphia
Revelation 3:7-13
(NIV) "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no
one can open.

I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole
world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon.

Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

God is very clear on this: I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have no denied my name. Wouldn't the lack of strength indicate a lukewarm walk? I don't believe so.

The Church in Philadelphia endured things patiently, in great spirit. Jesus is not yard art. They invited Him in, and rejoiced for it. They were not mighty... the Philadelphia city was in the interior, southeast of Sardis, and had never attained the eminence of most of the other seats of the Seven Churches. That the church itself was poor and wanting in worldly endowments seems to be indicated by Revelation 3:8. Yet this church and that of Smyrna alone escape censure.
By modern standards, many 'fundies' would judge this church as lacking conviction, and accuse it of being lukewarm. Christ chose what He chose, despite the Church in Philadelphia not having the strength to stand up and tell the rest of the world what to do with itself. Surely, even with the praise and reproof, it couldn't have been lukewarm!

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
3:7-13 The same Lord Jesus has the key of government and authority in and over the church. He opens a door of opportunity to his churches; he opens a door of utterance to his ministers; he opens a door of entrance, opens the heart. He shuts the door of heaven against the foolish, who sleep away their day of grace; and against the workers of iniquity, how vain and confident soever they may be. The church in Philadelphia is commended; yet with a gentle reproof. Although Christ accepts a little strength, yet believers must not rest satisfied in a little, but strive to grow in grace, to be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Christ can discover this his favour to his people, so that their enemies shall be forced to acknowledge it. This, by the grace of Christ, will soften their enemies, and make them desire to be admitted into communion with his people. Christ promises preserving grace in the most trying times, as the reward of past faithfulness; To him that hath shall be given. Those who keep the gospel in a time of peace, shall be kept by Christ in an hour of temptation; and the same Divine grace that has made them fruitful in times of peace, will make them faithful in times of persecution. Christ promises a glorious reward to the victorious believer. He shall be a monumental pillar in the temple of God; a monument of the free and powerful grace of God; a monument that shall never be defaced or removed. On this pillar shall be written the new name of Christ; by this will appear, under whom the believer fought the good fight, and came off victorious.

Where is your Christ today? Is He beside you, a part of you? Will you grant Him access year round, or is He nothing more than a decoration one or two days a year?

Listen... He is knocking!

Sunday, April 12, 2009



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It was Mary Magdalene who walked down to the tomb in the early morning hours, without the escort of the Apostles or other men, to set the embalming things up so the other women could help her prepare the body. She picked her way through the deserted trails that lead to the tombs, with a low fog blanketing the land during that quiet spring morning. This was a woman whom Jesus had healed of 'the demons' of epilepsy, and the love she held for him was more pure than any physical love. As she walked, she remembered her life before he healed her, and all the pain that went with daily living. She reflected upon the last moments he spent with her, reassuring everyone that his Father's will would be done, and that the promise of his resurrection would be kept. It didn't sooth her much...

She was weeping when she arrived at the tomb. Through her tears, she saw the heavy stone rolled back, and looking around, she saw no Roman guards, and the body was gone. In terror, she ran back to the Apostles, and told Peter what she saw. The men ran with her back to the tomb, and looked around, and finding nothing, returned to their place of hiding, leaving her standing there alone. Had they doubted her words when she first told them? Or did they feel this was the final hammer fall... the body was gone and the hope of Jesus' return seemed impossible.

Mary continued to weep, drawing closer to the empty tomb. Suddenly, she realized that there were two strangers standing there, bathed in brilliant white. The spoke to her, asking, "Woman, why are you weeping?"

Mary, in her grief, cried out, "They have taken away the body of my Lord, and I do not know where to find him!" How could she possibly convey the terror she felt in her heart? Didn't they understand? Was this a way of Rome mocking him one last time? Was this a cruel trick?

A second voice called out, and she turned to see the gardener standing quietly beside the opening. "Woman," he asked her, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

Mary was a bit shocked. How can anyone living here not know about Jesus? She would not play that game. She pleaded to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

The man replied, "Mary." And she knew... she knew that voice. It was impossible that she was hearing it again, yet had he not promised he would return to them? Was he not broken, and yet there he stood before her? He was alive! Jesus was alive!

She cried out, "Rabboni!!", which is Aramaic for 'teacher', meaning to throw her arms around him in joy, but he told her, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

Mary ran back to the others, her tears now ones of joy, and proclaimed, "I have seen the Lord!" She told them all that had happened.

Hallelujah! Christ is risen, and Christ will come again!

(Based on John 20)
Happy Easter to my friends!
May the Lord bless you this day, and every day.

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(Orig Published 4/15/06)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception


Holy Day
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

First Reading
Gn 3:9-15, 20

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree,
the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden;
but I was afraid, because I was naked,
so I hid myself.”
Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked?
You have eaten, then,
from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”
The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”
The LORD God then asked the woman,
“Why did you do such a thing?”
The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”

Then the LORD God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
on your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”

The man called his wife Eve,
because she became the mother of all the living.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

R. (1) Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

Second Reading
Eph 1:3-6, 11-12

Brothers and sisters:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.

In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.

Gospel Reading
Lk 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Homily Pope John Paul II

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday! What are you giving up?


‘What are you giving up for Lent this year?’ It’s a question I’ve been hearing all week. All during the time leading up to this special day… Ash Wednesday… I pondered what I was going to give up. People from all walks of life, and from all denominations, were proudly declaring what they’d go without. I’m not meaning to imply that my dear friends are hypocrites, but I was drawn to today’s reading, especially as it pertains to fasting, as I listened to them.

‘I’m giving up cigarettes’ said one, and another joked and said ‘I’m giving up sex!’ Yet another said ‘fattening foods and beer.’ Some people resolved to do more for the poor this Lent, and others vowed they would spend more time with their family. All these are really good things to try to accomplish, and I wish them the best of luck. But then I’m drawn back to that verse, where Christ is telling us that declaring to do something then running around telling everyone we’re doing it… well, are we really doing it or just saying we’re doing it so we look good to others?

Of all the things I could give up, I choose to give time. I’m giving up time to God. Instead of spending a few hours doing ‘me’ things, I’m giving God those hours in prayer. My prayer closet… which happens to be my office… is going to have a lot of activity.

Hmmmmmm… prayer time? You gotta be kidding!

I challenge you, each of you, to give up a half hour to God this season. Not 3 hours. Not 2 hours. Not a full hour. Just 30 minutes. It’s a lot harder than you think! No reading the bible. No watching TBN or any of the other Christian stations. No Christian music… no radio in the background. Nothing that could distract you. Just you… and God… alone for 30 minutes a day.

So why is the alone part so important? Christ says ‘When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.’ Are these verses an admonishment about public prayer, where two or more are gathered in His name? I don’t think Christ was contradicting himself when he spoke these words… I think Christ was trying to tell us that, when we go to our prayer closest and pray to our Father in secret, we aren’t distracted by outside things or the need to look good. There is no competition to pray the most eloquently or the most fervently. There is no ego involved at all. We are sequestered with God, and in a humble, quiet state. Scary thought, if you’re one of those people who is used to being distracted by rosary beads, bible verses, music or moving images on the tv screen.

Some people pray constantly, on the fly. They pray while they’re stuck in traffic, or when they’re doing dishes. They pray as they rake hay, prepare dinner, wash the cat… that usually requires extra prayers for patience… or as they tuck the kids into bed. If you’re one of these kinds of people, someone who prays when the free moment hits them, you have my respect. It’s hard to fall into human trappings when our minds and lips are busy for God.

Most of us only pray at set times, when we remember to make time for God at all. Many people nod to Him in the morning, and then don’t check in until they go to bed. Many don’t check in at all. We run through our week, and come Sunday we offer our little hour up to the Lord. That hour is filled with all sorts of entertaining things. We visit with friends, we sing, we recite our prayers, we sing some more, we kneel, we bow, we take communion. Somewhere in there is a quick homily. If it’s a good day, there’s donuts and coffee in the parish hall. Oh my, isn’t Sunday fun?!

Our first reading today, Joel 2:12-13, reminds us ‘Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.’

Our second reading, 2 Corinthians 5:20, then says ‘Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.’

It’s hard to be an ambassador if we don’t take the time to talk to God daily and get some Spirit filled instructions. It’s even harder to hear God if we don’t take the time to give our whole heart, and to purify ourselves so that we can be an empty vessel waiting to be filled by that Spirit. To do so, we have to put aside our egos and give God some of our precious time. God isn’t just God on Sundays; God is God every day. The best gift you can give to the Lord is not your abstinence from junk foods, alcohol, sex or other activities. The best gift is the gift of time, time spent in honest and unhindered prayer with our Creator.

I leave you with today’s Gospel: Matthew 6:1-18
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, 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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

"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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
"This, then, is how you should pray:

" 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.'

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

For answers about Ash Wednesday, you can visit
Where does Ash Wednesday get its ashes?