Remembering to Forget

Deut 8: 2-3, 14-16; I Cor 10: 16-17; John 6: 51-58

There’s a rather obscure movie out right now, or at least I think so, called Dean.  The basic crux of the story is about a young man and his father who just keep clashing with one another because of this nagging grief that they share for the loss of their mother and wife.  They both have very different ways of dealing with what life has given them and neither understands the other.  Long and short of it, without even knowing it, separate themselves from one another to deal with their loss before they can once again come to a deeper understanding of their own relationship with one another and remember the love they have and share.  Quite honestly, it would be true of all of us here.  These deepest parts of ourselves, love, loss, grief, hunger, desire, all of them run so deep within us and often need to be found in our own way before we begin to see the oneness we have with the other and a shared love.

These two weeks now we’ve heard different versions of the story of the exodus of people Israel.  Today’s account comes to us from Deuteronomy.  The very first word out of Moses’ mouth today is simply to remember.  For the people today it was about this deepest hunger in their lives that they continue to seek out and to fill.  Much of their time, as it is with us, is forgetting who we really are in life and in our deepest self and love.  Israel was no different.  And, of course, over time, you begin to believe that you’re something other than you are.  You no longer remember.  For them it has been about their experience in the desert and the experience of slavery in Egypt.  They’ve thought God had abandoned them and somehow rejected them over time, punishing them for some reason.  But Moses simply reminds them today to remember.  It’s almost as if, as Moses points out, that they had to have this experience of the desert and to come into awareness of this deeper hunger in their lives before they can begin to remember once again.  So much, not only in their lives, must be forgotten and let go of before they can begin to question and remember and once again come together as community, more deeply rooted in their truest begin, in love.

Some who followed Jesus in those early days had similar experiences.  Shortly following today’s reading many will begin to disperse and fall away from Jesus.  They hear what he says, often taking it literally, and realize they just can’t do it.  Even in their own experience of separation from doesn’t necessarily lead them to the deeper places of their own lives.  They want to believe, as we often do, what we see and exactly what we hear in words.  But that’s not the Jesus we encounter in today’s Gospel or who we encounter in this Eucharist week in and week out.  In his own way, John through Jesus and Christ through him is trying to move them to a place of remember their deeper identity as well.  As if, what speaks to us in this Eucharist can only somehow communicate with the deepest parts of ourselves.  It’s hard because we want to stay on the surface and go with what we feel, but this remembering takes us deeper than all of that.

Paul consistently tries to lead communities to that deeper place of understanding in their own lives.  They find other ways to separate themselves but in ways that often lead to divisions within their communities.  Even today, the larger context is to warn them about having more than one God.  That too is easy for us in our own process of forgetting not what we need to let go of, but forgetting that deeper love that we are.  We begin to satisfy those deepest longings and hungers within ourselves with something other than God, creating gods for ourselves, often fooling ourselves into believing that it will somehow satisfy, forgetting what is most important to us.

Over time all of this that we celebrate begins to be forgotten on the deeper levels.  We become more about worshipping, distancing ourselves not only from the drama of our lives but the drama that unfolds before us here.  We, over time, find ways to separate ourselves while this God, as it was for Israel, continues to offer manna, food that will satisfy, even in our desert experiences.  Yeah, in some ways I stand before you in a privileged position.  I stand at this altar celebrating the highs and lows of life, even my own.  I know the stories that flow through this table and Eucharist.  I have seen it unfold, trying to lead others in their deepest grief, their unsatisfied longings, and all the rest, to a place of remembering.  No matter what we may be experiencing in our own life, this Eucharist we celebrate and share it stands as a reminder of who we are and the life we are called to, a life of not simply worshipping this God, but allowing ourselves to be transformed by this God.  As we move to this Eucharistic celebration, remember.  Remember not only what you are but who you are in your deepest self, love.  In the midst of our own forgetting in life, the Eucharist calls us back to continue to be transformed into this love for an often divided and separated world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hungering from Within–Our Deepest Call

1Sam 3: 3-10, 19; 1Corinth 6: 13-15, 17-20; John 1: 35-42

Our pastoral council has spent some time looking at our mission and vision statements and where we’re going as a parish. If you pull up the website you’ll see a vision that says on the headline, “manifesting God’s love in Govans and beyond.” That came to mind as I read these readings today for this weekend and the call of Samuel and the disciples. How are we manifesting that love? It’s been what the readings have been about these past weeks. We heard that with the birth of the Christ, the visit of the Magi and then last week that manifestation in the Baptism and in the Sacramental sign, but today it now becomes the learning ground for the disciples and how it will be manifested in their life. Jesus begins to spell out his own mission and vision for the disciples.

For beginners, because I think there’s at least two maybe a third call in our lives, it can seem quite simplistic. Jesus simply peeks their curiosity in his response to their question. They leave what they did and began to follow. They don’t know where they’re going or what they’re doing, but something that Jesus says and is spoke to something deep within them that they leave and go. Somehow THE Christ was speaking to the Christ within them. You may remember a few years ago when there was that movement, “what would Jesus do?”. I think that’s a lot what it was like for the early disciples and even ourselves. They first set out to emulate the qualities of Jesus and do what Jesus did, but eventually that call to manifest goes deeper and begins to unsettle the disciples and us. It begins to ask more and to give up more,including one’s life, and in John’s Gospel, many are turned off he tells us in the sixth chapter and they leave. With John, there seems to be many miscues. Jesus is trying to lead them to one place and they’re still not there, needing to see, and do what he did, but ultimately, the cross of Christ will catch up with them, deeply rooted and embedded in their greatest hunger and longing, that will lead to the second call to leave everything and do more than just emulate what Jesus did but begin to manifest the Christ within to the world, their and our gift to the world, coming from deep within the soul.

The Corinthians, well, they’re often lost. They have hunger but it is in no way fed in proper ways. They loved to party but in the process, neglect those in need, the poor, those they deemed less than themselves, and Paul wanted nothing to do with it and proceeds to try to lead them to that place within themselves as individuals and community where they can experience the deeper connection with humanity. He was calling them to become aware that there is something deeper that unites them and the cross of Christ would eventually catch up to them as well. Deep within, they fed that hunger and it manifested itself to a life of immorality, as he says, and divisiveness. They weren’t even at a place where they could emulate what Jesus did let alone the manifestation of the Christ through their lives in the world! The call from God runs deep and yet is quite still and quiet and will remain until a response of yes from the individual and community. The catch, once there is a yes, there’s no turing back. Nothing else will satisfy or fulfill.

Obviously Samuel is still young in his own call from God and is questioning what’s going on around him; he still hasn’t become aware that it’s coming from deep within him. Much will be asked of him and how his vocation is manifested. Heck, not even the elder Eli can at first begin to understand what’s going on in Samuel’s life. Yet, until there is an acknowledgment and a response, the call persists. God keeps nagging at young Samuel until there is a response to the God who calls. We don’t hear what he’s going to be called to, but long before Jesus even steps foot on this earth, the cross of the great Christ will catch up with young Samuel. Again, that nagging keeps driving his deepest hunger to respond yes, despite the fact that he will be called to be the bearer of bad news to the people. He will be called to warn them of their waywardness in life and the need to seek that deeper hunger. You can run all you want, but that cross of Christ, imprinted on our very souls, will catch up with us eventually as well. We won’t feel fulfilled. We won’t feel joy in life. We’ll start to feel empty and overwhelmed by life. So often because we avoid the call to “come and see” what we can’t see in the depths of our souls, stirring a hunger that can only be fed by God and a daily yes to the will of the Father in manifesting His love in the world.

As we enter these weeks of ordinary time, how are we manifesting that love, the deepest call of God our lives can bear, in Govans and beyond? God is always calling. There’s nothing wrong with God. We pray for that stirring of the Spirit in our own hearts and souls and an awareness to it. The call to discipleship is not limited to certain people. God’s love is to be manifested in many different ways and in many different places and deep within, God has placed that call within you and me. Deep within, God awaits our yes to our deepest human hunger, mirrored in the cross of Christ, our yes to manifesting God’s love in the world through our very lives through our call as people and community.

Passing Through

Isaiah 55: 1-11; Mark 1: 7-11

Life seems to become much more manageable when you can finally accept the fact that we are simply passing through this life. We come from God and are called to return to God along the way. We are all visitors, guests, immigrants to this land making the journey home, to God. As is this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. I couldn’t help but to think of my time in the Holy Land back in October because the Jordan River was one of our destinations. We visited the spot where it’s believed that Jesus had been baptized by John in the Jordan. The fascinating thing about getting there, though, is the drive to the Jordan. We had to pass through this long road that seemed endless at times. The further we got along on the road, you began to see large fences on the sides with signs warning you to stay off the land because of land mines. As we passed through, I couldn’t help but to be enthralled by it all that in making our way to the Jordan, to be baptized for some, we would first have to pass through old war zones, battlefields from fought wars on both sides in Israel and Jordan.

The trouble for us humans, is, that the passing through, like going through a battlefield, is often the most painful and most challenging. When we finally get there all is but forgotten or viewed through a different lens, but passing through the battlefield of life can be challenging at times to say the least. Now it may not be the battlefield of Paris or Ferguson. It may not be the battlefield of Iraq or New York, but a battle nonetheless, and one that comes at great cost, the battle that often ensues within for the life of our heart and soul. It is a battle for the right of our soul and the soul being reclaimed in its true identity, its identity in Christ.

People Israel knew it all too often in their own journey. They didn’t always understand their place and God’s and how they too were passing through this world. They took hold of the land and possessed it, attaching themselves and often finding themselves on the outside looking in through exile, exodus, even having to pass through the Red Sea. This first reading we hear this weekend from Isaiah we will again hear on Holy Saturday when we celebrate the Easter Sacraments. They are once again in that place of being outside and looking towards the promised land, longing and waiting. There is a thirst and hunger, as Isaiah says, leading them to the water to quench thirst and hunger, a loss of their identity in relation to God leaves them elsewhere longing to be home again with God, but first again this passing through, painful, as we know, in giving birth.

Just when you think you’re there and you are about to have your thirst quenched and hunger fed, we come to the bank of the Jordan River. There is that final push. Think about how upset people Israel was with Moses when he led them to the Sea, questioning and doubting where it is that they had been led, and yet, another invitation to trust that the great passage through the waters would lead to the land that was promised, a life that was and is promised. Just as we find ourselves passing beyond the battlefield of life and the one that lies within us, there’s that one more passage into the Jordan.

They say it’s like it was at the time of Jesus as we hear in today’s gospel. It’s milky white and quite murky. It’s not like the Caribbean or some other Sea where you want to just jump in. There’s hesitation because we don’t know what’s beneath. We don’t know where we’re stepping. Will I sink? Is it deep? Will I get swept away, although unlikely? All these things hold us back at the bank of the Jordan. From the very beginning of Jesus’ journey in Mark’s Gospel, we find ourselves with hesitation to where he leads because it will require trust and faith of us to take that step off the banks of the Jordan and into the unknown, even though we know it’s where we are being led and need to go. It is an immersion into the depths of our being that we must be willing to take, the Jordan of our being that identifies us in Christ.

At that very moment, the empty crib and the fullness of the crib become one in the waters of the Jordan. At that very moment, life and death become intertwined. At that very moment, the heavens and earth unite. At that very moment, our true identity is revealed in Christ. You see, when we pass through the waters of Baptism, it’s not just about membership. It’s not just about being a part of this group or another. It is a revealing of our own identity and participation in the great mystery of our faith, an outward sign, as we define a sacrament, of an inward reality, our true identity in Christ. This is not just something receive in the waters of Baptism. It’s who we truly are and the mystery we are invited into each and every day of our lives as we seek to be plunged into the depths and to be raised to new life.

As we close out this Christmas Season and prepare for these weeks of Ordinary Time, we must ask and be honest with ourselves as to where we are on our own journey of faith, as individuals and as community. Do we find ourselves still in the battles of life, fighting for the right to our soul? Do we find ourselves lost in the weariness of it all, longing and hoping as people Israel? Do we find ourselves at the banks of the Jordan River, at peace with many of our battles, passing through the many land mines, waiting with great faith and yet fear to step into the waters to be swept away and taken to new depths? Wherever we are, it’s ok because this season is our constant assurance of God’s forever faithfulness and presence among us, leading us into the depths of baptisms to reveal our true identity as sons and daughters of God, ever seeking the great Mystery of our lives as we pass through, seeking to once again experience the fullness of our destiny.

A Hungering for Life

Genesis 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7; Romans 5: 12-19; Matthew 4: 1-11

In the beginning God created.  Male and female he created them; in his image and likeness.  And it was very good.  Then this happened, the fall.  Adam and Eve in the garden who have everything except one thing.  It wasn’t enough and they became envious of God and wanted to be God and the fall happens.  Born in his image and likeness and it’s very good and yet, not enough for the two of them.  Deep within them and us, there is a hunger that can never seem to be satisfied by anything.  It’s as if God created us with that longing to return to Him!  The entire commercial industry is based on that one premise, that we’ll never be satisfied and always want more and if I just have that one more thing…I’ll feel “full” and it never happens and the fall happens and we begin the journey home once again.

Much has been written about these creation stories of Genesis from those who see them literally as historical figures, giving room to easily blame them for the downfall of humanity and all that goes wrong to myself who sees them as the great mythological, iconic figures who aren’t someone out there or of the past, but rather, Adam and Eve are me and they are you, born in God’s image and likeness, very good, and yet, at times, unsatisfied with what we have and wanting more or to be God, thinking somehow we know better than God and constantly try to fill the hunger and longing within and again, fall.  It’s not that we can avoid the fall or that it somehow won’t happen; it’s going to happen.  Leaving the garden is part of life only to find ourselves wanting to return.

Yet, it is the story of salvation history that continues to unfold within our very lives.  It was the journey of Adam and Eve, it was the story of the Israelites, seeking out the Promised Land, and it is our story.  When we fall, and we will fall as we learn from these iconic figures, the pilgrim journey and the journey of this Lenten season is about going home, back to the Garden, returning to God with our whole heart.  Yet, like them, we are tempted to believe in the midst of our own doubts that somehow we are less than we are and something that we are not.

The temptations or testings of Jesus aren’t just about this one moment in time when he is driven out into the desert.  He enters the scene already hungry, Matthew tells us.  He is at a vulnerable time in his life.  Before he begins his public ministry and is confronted with the realities of his time, he is tested in the same way as Adam and Eve; his story is enfolded in their story and journey.  He will confront these same temptations throughout his ministry through the aspirations of his own disciples and their own misguidance and wanting to be him.  He will ever so gently try to lead them back to the Garden, reconciling their sinfulness and the sinfulness of the world with who they really are; born in God’s image and likeness and it was very good.

Paul continues in his Letter to the Romans today that where sin increases in our lives grace overflows all the more.  It so often seems that we have a much easier time believing in our fall then the grace that flows from the fall.  We tend to identify ourselves with our sinfulness, our hunger and longing, and try to hide it as Adam and Eve do, in shame they cover up their bodies seeing themselves not as who they really are but how they have identified themselves.  It wasn’t enough to be born in God’s image and likeness they wanted to be God and nothing else is going to compare.  Yet, that’s how we get ourselves into trouble and yet at the same time, open ourselves up to the grace of God.  It seems as just when we are on the cusp of believing it and returning to the Garden through conversion in our own lives, we fall and the process begins anew, to a deeper understanding of who we are.  We aren’t our sin as much as we want to tell ourselves.  Yes, a part of us but not our whole or our worth.  It’s no accident that just prior to the fall of man in Genesis and the temptations of Jesus in the desert, their true identity is revealed.  Born in God’s image and likeness; this is my beloved Son.  And yet at that moment, we stumble and fall.

As we begin this journey as individuals and as a community, we enter into it mindful of who we really are…sinners loved by a God who is always calling us home, even in a mess of temptations that exists in this battle of good and evil that we often find ourselves.  We are a people who long and hunger for God and a return to the Garden and everyday we will go every which way to try to get there, thinking something will fill the hunger. How are we filling that hunger in our lives? It will only be in God’s voice calling us back to the Garden that will fill us and we know it’s where we belong because deep down, despite and in spite of and even through our fall, we still know who we really are.  In the beginning, God created.  Male and female he created us and it was and it is very good.