I friend of mine is something of a daredevil. He loves those extreme sports we see on the internet or on some special TV sports report about such daring do. He thinks its cool to jump off a high cliff and then open his chute right before he hits the ground. He thinks its great to jump out of a perfectly good airplane! But what’s worse, he wants me to do it with him. Uh, no!
Today is the Indiction of the Church Year. We begin again the familiar rhythm of fasting and feasting that baptizes our time and Christianizes our year. Once again we are given the gift of mercy and wisdom lavished on we who are unnaturally rebels. Being our own worst enemy, the Lover if Mankind once again stands at the crown of time with arms open wide to wake us from the slumber of…
Today, you only lack one thing that is hindering your life from fully knowing God’s peace and joy. The temptation is to confuse the shallow symptoms of our sins as that one thing lacking. This is the error of the rich young man in our Gospel Lesson today. If we make the same mistake, we too will leave in sorrow.
I knew a man once who loved to hear sermons about fire and brimstone. He was, himself, an indulgent man who wasted his life on behaviors that we should not talk about in polite company. And yet, every year he went to the annual “revival meetings” at a church he had gone to in his youth, looking forward to hearing about the fires of hell and the impending judgment God was to finally give to every man on the Last Day. He would go every night (at least every night he was sober) and sit and listen to the fiery sermons and genuinely be moved by them.
And he never changed. At least, not that any of us ever knew. But who knows the grace of God and His infinite mercy?
Perspective changes everything. Just take for example the modern tendency to hold up the anti-hero as someone to be admired or at least respected, and sometimes, even cared for.
This is especially true in several contemporary television series. From Tony Soprano to Walter White, it seems our modern media is desperate for us to see the “good side” of being evil. They seem to be telling us that “see, even though these characters break the law, they aren’t all bad.” On the other hand, we also live in a day when there are so many laws and regulations enacted that the average person can’t help but break at least four laws before breakfast every day! If the police are looking to arrest someone, they usually can find some reason to do so. And our local police are increasingly looking like a paramilitary organization. Forgive me for being pretty nervous about “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” in this clash of consequences!
Between the obsessive law-making of our modern world and the media’s obsessive glamorization of law-breaking, one has to wonder if we’ve all somehow missed the point in today’s society.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, an American poet of the early 20th century, wrote a wonderful poem called “Sympathy” and the third stanza is powerful in it’s pathos and beauty and heart-breaking truth:
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings.
I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I loved public speaking. I loved it because it allowed me to flesh out my ideas and communication tools with real people and get real time feedback about the effectiveness of those tools. Plus, it drove down deep the very truths I was attempting to communicate into my own soul. Add to this the terrifying and encouraging words said by some when they told me something I’d said helped them change their lives, and, well, I was convinced this was what I was called to do.
There are two things that get more difficult as you age; the first is the ability to remember things, and the second is …. well, I forgot. I know, a corny joke, but there is a kernel of truth. This was driven home to me the other day when, for the umpteenth time, I forgot my glasses. As I was getting in the car with my daughters the next day, they both asked “Daddy, did you remember your glasses?” Great, now my daughters have taken on the task of helping me remember!
But, let’s face it, it’s easy to stay focused on those things we always enjoy, but a bit harder to stay focused on those parts of life that may be more “mundane” or “not as much fun.” You know the things: “Where’s my keys?” “Is it trash day again?” “”What was his name?” “is it time to pay that bill again?” “What was I suppose to do for that committee I volunteered for?” You know the stuff.
Today we hear the story of two debtors. One debtor owes a huge debt to his king, and when the king decides to collect what is rightfully his, this debtor falls to his knees and begs the king to have patience with him and he will repay the debt. The king knows the servant will never be able to pay, so, out of pity, the king simply forgives the man his debt.…