Archive for December, 2016

You Are Being Called!

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Is 7: 10-14; Ro 1: 1-7; Mt 1: 18-35

Deacon Larry Brockman

Isn’t it exciting!  The Lord is coming and he is inviting all of us to follow in his footsteps.  We are being called, all of us.  That’s Paul’s exciting message this morning.

Here again is what Paul said:  “Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,  among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ”.  And that’s exciting for two reasons:  First, that Jesus extended the chosen people from the Israelis to all nations, the Gentiles; and second, that we are all actually being “called”.

Yes, you and I and everyone else are being called by God.  And it is that second part, being called, that most people don’t really appreciate.

I heard a very interesting interview recently with President Elect Donald Trump.  What really struck me were his words about “being called”.  Now this man has been known a real estate tycoon, a business man, and a lot of other things during his life; but now he feels that he has been “called”.  This was the essence of his response to questions in the interview.  He feels that his “calling” transcends the former emphasis in his life in business and real estate.  His focus now is on what he has been called to do, to be president of our country.

Mr. Trump didn’t specify who has called him.  He probably thinks that he has been called by the American people; but I hope that deep down he also feels that he has been called by God.

Now being called is different from other motivations for doing a job.  We can make a conscious decision to go after something.  That’s different than a “call”.   You see, being called means that you are being wooed, solicited, sought.  Someone else is after you.  That’s what is so special, that God is calling all of us.  He doesn’t wait for us to find him; but he is always seeking us.

Now I don’t know whether Mr. Trump’s statements about being called are rhetoric or reality.  For my point in this homily, it doesn’t matter.  Because, on the merits of his words alone, Mr. Trump is describing a conversion of the heart.  When we are “called” by God and we listen to that call, and then respond to it by making a basic change in our focus on life, then we have “repented” and have experienced a change in heart.  Mr. Trump’s words describe the beginning of that process as he approaches his term as President.  It remains to be seen how that process plays out for him.  But his words illustrate the process well.

So, this is an example of what Paul is talking about this morning.  The only thing I would add about the “calling” process is a little more on what it takes for this change to be true repentance.  Repentance is a change in heart, but one in which we change from some sinful path to a righteous path.

Now most people are not interested in change.  The fact is that most of us resist change in general.  We become used to, and in many cases comfortable with the way things are.  And so, when we are “called” to make a change, especially for the better, we fight it, just as we avoid anything else uncomfortable.

Such was the case with Ahaz in our first reading.  The King and his Israeli subjects were simply was not interested in changing things.  They weren’t interested in following some God given sign to reform.   They didn’t want to listen to any of Isaiah’s prophetic predictions.  And so, Ahaz cleverly says that he won’t ask for a sign.  Isaiah responds by chastising the king and the Israelis about their stubbornness.  Whether they like it or not, the Lord is going to send His Messiah.  And that Messiah will be born of the virgin.

A thousand or so years later, the Messiah arrives.  That’s our Gospel story.  And what was striking about that arrival was the way that the Christ arrived.  He didn’t arrive as a well to do citizen anointed by the authorities to shepherd the people of Israel to a renewed worldly greatness like his ancestor King David did.  Rather, he came as a simple peasant boy, later carpenter, later journeyman preacher; and he was anointed by the Holy Spirit, not by the authorities.  He did come as Isaiah had predicted, born of a virgin.  And he came as Matthew quoted the Angel, with this mission:  “For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.    She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Yes, Jesus came and did His Father’s will.  And in doing so, He saved us from our sins.  Now, we are all called to follow after Jesus Gospel example.  It is an example that we can all understand.  It is not hidden or protected; it is not something theoretical and transcendent.  It is the example of one who became one of us and lived in every way as we do, but without sin.  And all of us are “called” to it; we are actively sought to respond to it.  We don’t have to seek it; it is being continually offered to us.

Yes, you and I are called; and that is so exciting!

Building On The Rock

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Thursday of First Week of Advent

Is 26: 1-6; Mt. 7: 21, 24-27

By Deacon Larry Brockman

So, it’s all about doing the will of the Father.  That’s what it takes to enter everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.  

But how do we know what the will of the Father is for you?  Well, you’re in luck, because both our readings help us with that today.  First there’s Isaiah who says two things:  That we need to dwell in a strong city; one with walls and ramparts to protect us.  And the “us” he refers to are those who keep faith and are just.  Then he says:  “Trust in the Lord forever! For the Lord is an eternal Rock.”     

Jesus says basically the same thing:  We are to build our houses on rock, not sand.  Each of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Each of us needs to build a strong dwelling place for our immortal soul that is housed in our body.  But our physical self, our bodies, need a strong foundation.  And that foundation is the teaching of almighty God.

 As both readings imply, the Lord is a rock.  His truth is absolute, immutable, firm, fixed; it doesn’t depend.    One of the most serious errors of our time is the tendency to flirt with relativism.  People who flirt with relativism do think “it depends”.  They think it depends on the times; it depends on the circumstances; it depends on the individual.  But our Church, the rock upon which Jesus entrusted his teaching, says otherwise.  Our Church teaches that the truth is unchanging.  Circumstances and the times may affect our culpability in a given situation, but they don’t change the truth.

Now the Gospel contains some interesting metaphors that build on this idea of a rock sound foundation, and the consequences of not building our abode on a rock sound foundation.  First, there is the contrast between rock and sand itself.  Rock doesn’t move; sand drifts this way and that.  It seems to me that this analogy alone is enough to tell us that God’s laws; his revelations, and the nature of God himself are fixed, and that we ought not drift around from one concept to another.    The world is full of folks today who hold a sort of pluralistic world view.  It’s a given that all trains of thought in the world seem so close at hand these days with air travel, instant radio and TV and the Internet.  And so various people of faith intermingle and move around amongst each other in all parts of the world.

So some folks rationalize that God wouldn’t just reveal himself to Christians; but that he has revealed himself to Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Taoists, etc.  Perhaps he has; but not with the same fidelity.  Either we believe that the rock of the ages is Jesus Christ; and that no other foundation has the same ring of fidelity to it- or not.  Our foundation simply must be Christian; not a watered down pluralistic compromise that drifts around depending upon which previously remote alternate religion now dwells among us.  This is not to say that we shouldn’t and can’t tolerate and live peaceably with these other faiths.  We do that out of love of all of God’s creation.  That’s how we evangelize these others.  But we must always be focused on the rock of the ages and his teaching- that’s how we must live our lives.

The other two interesting metaphors are the wind and the rain.  We routinely associate the spirit with the word “wind”.  Recall that Jesus breathed upon the Apostles to instill the Spirit within them.  But there are evil spirits as well.  The “wind” of these evil spirits blows from all directions, and is aimed at instilling doubt and moving us away from our foundation. 

And then there is the rain and flood.  Rain can be anything from a long term, constant drizzle to a short term overwhelming deluge and flood.   Drizzle is like the effect of the media in today’s society.  The secular media is full of misinformation, pornography, hate and intolerance, and anti-Christian alternatives.  After constant exposure to it we become desensitized and our houses will shift if we don’t have the right foundation. 

A deluge would be something like the rapid fire acceptance of gay marriage and euthanasia in today’s society.  If we don’t focus on the truth, we could be swept away in these deluges, which fail to recognize God’s teaching.

Our best defenses to the wind and rain are knowledge of our Faith and constant contact with the Holy Spirit in a regular and vivid prayer life. 

Yes, it’s all about the will of the Father.  And the will of the Father is that we build our houses on a firm foundation of Faith and Christian Morals.