Thursday, December 18, 2003

All are welcome to keep Christmas at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church at the following services ~

December 24th--Christmas Eve
5 PM Family Mass with Christmas Story for Children and Setting Up of the Creche
10 PM Concert and Christmas Carols
10:45 PM Solemn Procession and High Mass with music for Christmas Eve by Haydn for choir, soloists, organ, and string ensemble

December 25--Christmas Day
8 AM Mass
10 AM High Mass and Procession

See and experience the Episcopal Church at it's best in one of Arizona's loveliest religious settings.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Fr. Smith's Sermon, Sunday, November 16

These next four weeks, two as we end the church year and the first two Sundays of Advent, we deal with the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. Today readings introduce the coming of Christ at the end climatic time of the Great Tribulation. Now we can think about all this as years, or even hundreds of years away- not in our lifetime at all. But isn’t it the truth that some people are experiencing great tribulation in their lives right this very minute? I’m talking about people who have suffered massively from fire and natural disasters, warfare, murders, famine, floods, refugee migration, and sometimes losing everything. When these things happen to you and the people that you love it is great tribulation and it is the end of the world as you know it.
Jesus isn’t trying to play a guessing game with his disciples: who can guess when the end will come? Then, in his day, all along the history of the world, and in our own time, Jesus knew there will be times of great tribulation and distress. And when the great tribulation that effects your life or mine hits-- the big question is whether we will be awake or asleep? Are we prepared with a knowledge of God’s love and care for us that gives us the hope and endurance we need or have we in subtle or not-so-subtle ways postponed knowing God? Are we people of faith in name only or people of commitment and deep trust in God’s providence over our lives? These relevant questions are being forced on us these days--even if “tribulation” seems to have bypassed us.
The scriptures for today are a type of literature called “apocalyptic”. It’s the loud unexpected knock on the door or the telephone ringing in the middle of the night causing your heart to skip a beat. It’s the jumping out of bed and your feet touching the cold floor. It being forced to leave your warm bed and covers. Apocalyptic is a call to wake up to spiritual reality which when it comes down to it is the most real of all. What we call Reality TV is a joke compared to what apocalyptic is all about.
All of us experienced “apocalyptic” on September 11. The world as we knew it was changed in a matter of minutes. An acquaintance of mine wrote about her apocalyptic experience of that fateful day.
“Since September 11, we’re all insecure, frightened, and fearful. If it happened once, it could happen again, at any time. Since then, we’re all struggling to define ourselves and our culture in new ways, taking into account what used to be unthinkable.
The scriptural images of the end of the world used to seem alien. Apocalyptic visions seemed to apply to something long ago and far away. Now, our global village smaller, with so much news from the Middle East, the images from Scripture seem somehow to be coming very close to our lives with wars and rumors of wars in places with biblical names seeming right next door!
Holy wars in the Holy Land aren’t just long ago and far away, and now colonial occupation of biblical places has me smack-dab in the middle of apocalyptic events--even if I don’t choose or didn’t choose to be there. What used to be “there” is here, wherever I live.”
Whew! I said to myself when I read what she wrote a couple of weeks ago. This is how I’m feeling too. Maybe you feel the same way. What are we going to do about it?
First off, it is a perfect time to make a solid act of faith. When things look bleakest in the world around us, when there is no hope for a purely human solution: do everything possible to live in faith.
When we finally realize what scripture has been trying to tell us all along: That the present age is under the dominion of Satan, the world is up to its neck with unrighteousness, that the righteous, even twenty Mother Teresas, are powerless to redeem the situation we find ourselves in and there is no prospect for improvement. The only way out--the only hope we have for salvation the way things are going-- is for the Holy God to intervene. Do you have that “apocalyptic” feeling?
For me, this feeling engenders not more fear, but hope. Satan is not the opposite of God. God has no opposite. The opposite of Satan is Michael, the Archangel, our patron. Appearances to the contrary, notwithstanding, God is in control, God reigns!
The Day of the Lord is coming when all the plans and architecture of this present age will be supplanted by the rule of God. Nothing in our human dimension is permanent. Not our country, not the Constitution. Not the Supreme Court. Not the National Cathedral or this church, a symbol of God’s presence in our midst. None of these things have survival value. Everything we take for granted as center-pieces of our culture and community, in education, government, religion, and economics, will pass away. Only one thing has survival value in this world and the next: love.
So instead of hiding our heads in virtual sand, or giving up all responsibility for this world and just sit around and wait for Jesus to return-- we are called to stay awake and pay attention to everything happening around us with love. Now I was hoping that this Sunday’s readings would lead to a consideration of stewardship at this time of year when we make our commitment for the coming year. If the call is to wake up, then Stewardship, taking responsibility before God for how we use our time, talents, and money keeps us awake like nothing else can and effectively helps us to pay attention in love to what God is doing in our lives, community, and the world.
This week I came across some research by Esther Harding, a personologist and author of a book entitled The I and the Not I. It contains a scientific study about the consciousness of animals. The scientists discovered that an animal sees and hears only what concerns itself and is insensitive to all else. Every animal, in other words, lives in a world of its own.
The study examines the life of a little creature called a wood-tick, which, at certain times in its life cycle, needs the blood of warm-blooded animals in order to reproduce. The wood-tick attaches itself to the bark of trees and waits for a host animal to pass by. With many ticks in the woods and far fewer warm-blooded animals to walk by, the wait for some wood-ticks has been as long as 17 years! During this time there is nothing else that meets the need of the tick, and nothing else to which it responds.
Hardy, who takes this study and applies it to her work as a personologist, says that even though humans have a higher consciousness than “lower animals,” this enclosed world view persists in the human day to day environment as well. We tend to see only what concerns us or meets our needs. And we tend to turn off, or ignore, those things which we deem irrelevant to our situation. All of this speaks to our own consciousness of the “end times” and the wisdom of living awake and sober as good stewards of all God has put into our hands. We might like to stay warm in bed under the covers of unconsciousness, or sit in a piece of bark waiting for life to come to us, but then along comes this Gospel wake-up call to come alive to the world, the living God who created it all, and the church which he called into being, and whatever happens, we are never to despair.
I know what some of you might be thinking. Smith’s sermon can be summarized in one sentence: Stewardship leads to the end of the world! Cute, I agree, but what if its true? Just think of who is coming at the end of the world- being a good steward makes a lot of sense!

Monday, November 03, 2003

A reflection on the Gospel, Sunday, October 26th by Fr. Smith

Sometimes if we really want to "see" or understand something we have take the most radical and trusting step of faith first. Bartimaeus, a blind begger, is squating, begging for alms, and hoping that the pilgrims heading for the Passover celebration in Jerusalem will throw a coin or two into his cloakfolded over his legs. He knows all the best places to beg, and though blind, has survived relatively well over the years.

Bartimaeus' blindness has heightened his sense of hearing. He doesn't miss much of what is going on around him. He has heard that one Jesus or Nazareth is soon to pass by, and when he does he cries out: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. The crown around him tells him to b quiet, but he continues to cry out to Jesus. And Jesus stops! Jesus calls for Bartimaeus to come to him. Bartimaeus jumps up and runs to Jesus leaving behind his cloak!. This is a very significant detail in the story. The cloak kept Bartimaeus warm at night and was the collecting point for the alms he received. It was probably one of his few possessions and leaving it behind as a blind person he would never find it again in the confusion of the great crowd heading for Jerusalem. Seeing his faith and perceiving that Bartimaeus was ready, Jesus asks him the question he asked others: What do you want me to do for you? Bartimaeus had left everything- he could have asked for monetary help, but instead he asks that he might regain his sight. Jesus instantly gives him back his sight. The story concludes with Bartimaeus following Jesus "on the way" as the newest disciple!

All Saints celebration November 2nd- a reflection by Fr. Smith

St. Michael and All Angels church and school celebrates a "full" liturgical calendar remembering each Saint and Anglican hero as their day comes along. But at All Saints we remember the "rank and file" folk "just like you and me" who are baptized in the faith and whose deeds of love and mercy over the years are largely unheralded. There are no natural-born christians. There is no such thing as christian DNA. Surely loved by God from the moment of our conception, each of us still has to be introduced to Jesus Christ the Lord of life. The everyday "saints" our the ones who have done this for us and it is these we celebrate on the Feast of All Saints!

The "saints" we're giving thanks for today have dents in their halos for sure. They merit the name saint not because they are free from imperfection, but because they tried to imitate Jesus in their lives. St. Paul refers to "saints" in all his letters to the churches and chides those same people at times for their wilfulness, quarelsome, self-serving ways, as well as their sexual irresponsibility. But they are still "saints". Even St. Paul, after his conversion confesses "I don't understand my own actions. The very things I do not want to do, I do. And the things I do want to do I don't do."

The children we baptized on All Saints are "canonized" into the joyful following of the Lord. They will need their families, friends, and the witness all of us to come to know Jesus Christ and the happiness this relationship brings. And when life brings sorrow, as it surely does at times, Jesus will be the One who will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Fr. Smith's Sermon Sunday October 19th

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb.4:12)

I’m happy to announce to you that we have a new bishop in the Diocese of Arizona. Canon Kirk Smith was elected and I believe that this person will be a excellent chief shepherd for us and lead us through the difficult times in which we live and help us all to minister faithfully in Jesus’ name. The election of the bishop brought back to mind a question that a wise Monsignor once posed to a group of newly ordained priests: You have to make a decision--do you want to be a bishop or a priest?--and that decision will affect the rest of your life. Now, the old Monsignor wasn’t trying to be critical of all bishops, for obviously there are many fine ones--hopefully the one we just elected. What he was getting at is that a priest has to decide whether he or she is going to be a careerist or a servant of the least and that decision will influence the rest of life and what kind of priest the person will be. Hopefully, Kirk Smith, who we just elected, decided years ago he wanted to be a servant priest and was totally surprised by the Holy Spirit in this election!

And we can’t just pose the Monsignor’s question only to priests and bishops only, for we live in a time when the ministry of each baptized person is valued as essential for the mission of the church. If it is the case that some who begin as fine servant priests gradually get drawn to an upward, hierarchical career track, the same can be true for some lay persons for fall into the same error of clericalism, trading their servant role in for their own needs for importance and power in the church. When this happens it becomes hard to find out what anybody believes in: God? Their Role? Or Power?

Both our election of Bishop and today’s gospel bring this discussion of servant hood to the forefront. In the Gospel, James and John boldly approach Jesus, within earshot of the other disciples, and ask Jesus to do something for them. “What do you want me to do for you?“ Jesus asks. “Give us the highest places in your future Kingdom” they reply. When all the other apostles hear this they are upset and start arguing among themselves. Now the Apostles are portrayed in the Gospels as basically good people, nevertheless, we see them as ambitious, concerned with power, and their own backside. Jesus takes this encounter as a chance to teach them about true greatness. True greatness is found only in service and the high places in Kingdom will be given to the one who serves the needs of all especially those considered the least. Jesus explains that He has come not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for sinners. Jesus is the righteous Servant Isaiah foretold who would make many righteous and bear the iniquities of many and make intercession for transgressors.

Last week Fr. Daniel spoke of the “stuff” that can keep us from serving God and at the same time cut us off from our brothers and sisters. This week the teaching from the gospel is about power. The desire for power can have the same negative effect. When service is the motivation of our lives it will bring us into close personal contact with many of our brothers and sisters in the human family. But when power is the motivation for our lives we will find ourselves distanced from one another and the needs of our brothers and sisters. A life devoted to power disconnects us from both God and other people.

As Jesus watched the power struggles of his own chosen apostles, I think he is watching the struggle that is going on in our denomination today especially around the election of the first “openly gay” cleric to be elected in the Apostolic order. The division is great between some good and faithful people on both sides of the issue. While the main disagreement is claimed to around “faithfulness to scripture”, what if at root it is a question of power in the church? Faithful and committed Episcopalians elected Fr. Robinson bishop. Why? Some think it was just because he was Gay and in a committed relationship for a number of years. I really don’t think this is the case. I think rather that our brothers and sisters in New Hampshire and at convention saw in this man a “servant first” mentality and a servant leader who never in a million years thought he would ever be elected to serve as bishop. He has been such a Good Shepherd to those he has served over the years in “small” daily differences that it was this ministry that made the “big” difference of his election and confirmation. And this “Good Shepherd” quality of his life, acknowledged by those closest to him, adheres Gene Robinson to the “scriptural norm” of righteousness.

Let us be at peace about this matter and see what come of this. Remember the story of Gamaliel in the Acts of the Apostles? The disciples were preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name and get thrown into jail. In the middle of the night an Angel comes and lets them out. The next morning they are preaching and teaching again non-stop. They are arrested for a second time and brought before the Council of the Jews where they are ordered to stop. They respond: “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” The Council wanted to have them all put to death, but a wise member of the Council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel stood up and had the followers of Jesus put out of the chamber for a short time. He then told the council something that I think applies to Gene Robinson’s election and the disturbing movement it portends for some in the church. Gamaliel reminded the Council about a certain Theudas and his 400 hundred men who rose up, aspiring to be somebody. However, Theudas was killed and his whole movement died with him. And the same thing happened with another Judas of Galilee and his followers. Gamaliel made his point: So in the present case, I tell you . . . Let them alone; because if this plan or this understanding is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them--in that case you may even be found fighting against God! (Acts 5:38-39) The wisdom of Gamaliel prevailed, at least for the Jews.

So we can lift up our hearts. God reigns and is in control. And God’s purposes will be accomplished if we let go of petty struggles for power and become servants of one another and this means servants of Christ whose image we bear. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink? Or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? The disciples answer “We are able.” But they don’t really understand what Jesus is asking: Are you ready to be a servant? To lay down your life in a million different ways so that my Kingdom of love will prevail in this world? Jesus asks the same question of us this morning. And two thousand years later, it’s hard for us to say we don’t understand. Our answer may come slower than those first disciples, but hopefully the answer will be: we will serve, we will give our lives, we will be the slave of all, and in doing all this we will help God’s Kingdom come.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

St. Michael's Annual Fundraiser ~ ANGEL FOOD CANDY
Remember an angel you love this coming Christmas holiday with the best Coconut Macadamia Toffee you've ever tasted. The recipe for this confection is an outgrowth of one that dates back to 1866 when a Yankee Soldier's wife took in a gravely ill former confederate prisoner of war and nursed him back to health so that he could return home. Out of gratitude, he taught her the art of candy making.

The modification of the original recipe came to our master candy maker in a dream, hence Angel Food. This product is meticulously made and packaged by the parishioners using only the finest ingredients just as in 1866!

This one pound of heavenly delight is beautifully presented in a red gift box with metallic gold lettering and angel graphic banded in a metallic gold elastic ribbon. For mailing purposes, it is then enclosed in a sturdy, white mailing box. Each one pound box of Angel Food is reasonably priced at $10 plus $6 for shipping box mailed at priority mail.

To order your Angel Food candy, please submit your name, address, telephone and the number of boxes desired, with payment, to St. Michael's Angel Food, 602 N. Wilmot Road, Tucson AZ 85711. Please indicate if your order is to be shipped to a different name and address. Checks or money orders are accepted with each purchase.

Proceeds from this sale will benefit St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church programs.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS' LABYRINTH - take time to visit the Labyrinth in the courtyard near the parish Center.

The design of St. Michael's Labyrinth is modeled after the one located in the floor at Chartres Cathedral near Paris, France. The Labyrinth at Chartres was built around 1200 and is laid into the floor in a style sometimes referred to as a pavement maze and is walked as a pilgrimage and/or for repentance. As a pilgrimage, it was a questing, searching journey with the hope of becoming closer to God. When used for repentance, the pilgrims would walk on their knees. Sometimes this eleven-circuit Labyrinth would serve as a substitute for an actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and as a result, came to be called the "Chemin de Jerusalem" or Road of Jerusalem.

In walking the Labyrinth, the walker meanders through each of the four quadrants several times before reaching the goal. An expectancy is created as to when the center will be reached. At the center is a rosette design which has a rich symbolic value including that of enlightenment. This is where the individual is invited to mediate. You will notice the four arms of the cross are readily visible which provides significant Christian symbolism and also includes a Baptismal pool.

Come walk the Labyrinth--come experience a walking meditation-- every Monday morning starting at 8:00 AM with Fr. John Smith.

A NEW TESTAMENT GREEK CLASS FOR LAY PEOPLE to continues every Wednesday at 8:45 AM in the Parish Center. Fr. Smith will be teaching an Inductive approach to the Gospel of John. There is a $35 workbook fee for this class. For those interested, please call the church office at 886-7292 or email to

YOUNG ADULT BIBLE STUDY AND POTLUCK continues Wednesday evenings at 6:30 PM following Evening Prayer. The Bible Study will be led by the Rev. Daniel Richards and is open to all levels of knowledge or experience with the Bible. The study will be followed by a Mac ‘n Cheese potluck, so bring your favorite recipe and enough to share. Please bring your own Bible. Call the church office at 886-7292 or email to for more information.

RITE 13 YOUTH GROUP NOW FORMING - Rite 13 is a youth-oriented program, for ages 10½ to 13, developed to encourage community service, community building, and life-long relationships. Meetings are held every Sunday at 4 PM in the Parish Center. For more information, contact Leslie Weatherford, Rite 13 Coordinator, at 918-5261.

EPISCOPAL CHURCH WOMEN (ECW) MEETING THE THIRD WEDNESDAY OF EACH MONTH starting at 10:00 AM, in the Parish Center. All women are invited to attend.

SOCIAL CONCERNS MEETING HELD EVERY THIRD SUNDAY OF THE MONTH following the 10:00 AM Mass in the Parish Center. All are invited to attend.

COME HELP MAKE 500 BAG SANDWICHES FOR OUR COMMUNITY'S NEEDY served through the Casa Maria food program. Come join in fellowship every fourth week from Friday, October 3, in the Parish Center.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

The English Faire on September 27th was a great success! Thanks to all the Mayors, Sheriffs, and Town Criers and citizens who helped welcome so many to our church and school campus. We can forget “King” Karl MacOmber who guided the effort and Alicia Basemann, our parish administrator who provided support. The food offered at the Faire was delicious: fish n’ chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie. Thank you Joy Miller, Andy Bruno, and all your helpers! The Episcopal Church Women had a wonderful, sold-out tea! And Amy Bruno won the beautiful PT Cruiser donated by Steve Christy Chrysler Jeep- she really deserved to win as the tip-top seller of over 60 tickets! The English Faire effort netted $5,200 for our Habitat for Humanity House and the PT raffle made $25,000 for the Peace of Mind Organ fund. Thanks again to everyone who participated in our Faire!!

The 10:00am Patronal Mass to St. Michael and All Angels on Sunday, September 28th was beautiful. Our choir sang the Schubert Mass supported with orchestra and timpani. Thank you Jane Haman, choir director and organist, for all your efforts to make this a special celebration. Daniel Richards, our transitional Deacon, preached a message that since Michael, our Patron, has the sword and scales of justice, we can trust God and put away our own swords and judgments which divide us from so many of our brothers and sisters.

On that same Sunday afternoon at the Tucson Community Center four parishioners and Fr. Smith attended the “Families First” agenda rally sponsored by the Pima County Interfaith Council. Mayoral and City Council candidates responded to the agenda which strongly supported the need to fund programs for families like KIDCO, JobPath, and an eastside Adult Education facility. Program funding has been cut sharply and needs to be restored. Formerly at no or little cost, programs like KIDCO are now charging fees that are prohibitive for many families and require them to register with a credit or debit card which many low-income families do not have. Attendance in this afternoon program has been dropping. Idleness after school while parents work leads to crime. Prioritizing city funds away from flashy studies and projects could make these programs thrive again. Register and vote. Registration is offered after services on Sunday.

Sunday, October 5, saw many animals of all shapes and sizes, gathered at Mass with their owners for the blessing of the animals in honor of St. Francis. Fr. Smith shared how Francis lived in time much like we do: constant warfare, political scheming, and tremendous cruelty of people to one another and especially animals. In this context he opened himself to the grace of conversion which enabled him to embrace absolute poverty and the Gospel message of repentance, love, and reconciliation. Great stories are told of his reconciling a terrorizing Wolf with the townspeople of Gubbio and the harmony and love that ensued. Another story told of Francis and his brothers joining the 5th Crusade in 1219 in Damietta where untold crusaders and muslims lost their lives. Walking through the line of battle, armed with nothing but the Gospel message of love, Francis was allowed an audience with the Moslem Sultan Malek al-Kamil. The mighty Sultan could have had Francis’ head in a second, but he was so impressed with Francis’ sincerity and message of love for God that he gave Francis and his brothers a letter of safe passage to the Holy Land which was the goal of the whole crusade whose blood thirst in God’s Name made arrival there impossible! Can we pray for the grace to, like Francis, arm ourselves with nothing but Jesus in our world of constant warring, political intrigue, and cruelty and build a new relationship with God’s natural, animal, and human creation. Make us channels of God’s peace!

Monday, September 22, 2003

European Pilgrimage
For High school Students of St. Michael and All Angels

Escorted by Dr. Elizabeth Zegura and Fr. John Smith
June 10 to June 25, 2004

June 10 American Airlines Tucson to London (over Dallas)
June 11 Arrive in London
June 12 London
June 13 London
June 14 London
June 15 London
June 16 Travel to Paris
June 17 Paris
June 18 Night Train Paris to Florence, Italy
June 19 Florence
June 20 Afternoon Train Florence to Rome, Italy
June 21 Rome
June 22 Rome
June 23 Rome
June 24 Rome
June 25 Return from Rome to Tucson

This will be a great trip! Join this pilgrimage to the center of our Anglican heritage and the major sights of London, Paris, Florence, and Rome. Enjoy a “backdoor” approach to travel that puts you in close touch with the culture and people of the places we visit. Prices include roundtrip air and transfers, hostel accommodations, and breakfast and lunch or dinner each day. The cost is $2300 per person. To reserve a place, please make out a check for $200 to “Pilgrimage 2004” and give to Alicia Basemann, our parish secretary c/o Fr. Smith by October 10th. Early registration is enabling us to get a very good airfare and value for this trip! There is the possibility of raising some of the money needed for this trip as individuals or as a group. Group meetings will be held for detailed planning and preparation. Talk to Fr. Smith for more information after mass on Sunday or at 886-7292.
A fun event for the entire family at the English Faire all day this Saturday from 9 AM to 6 PM. Enjoy visiting the English Townes representing Canterbury, Stratford-Upon-Avon, York, Oxford, and London Towne featuring jumble (rummage, English tea room, antiques, collectibles, art gallery, crafts, all- kinds-of-book sale, graphologists, bake sale, church tours with 3- artist pipe organ concert, and religious books and articles sale. There will be a children's area with face painting, jumping castle, games, and other activities. Free admission; free parking!

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Fr. Smith's Sermon Sunday September 21

Last Sunday, Episcopal School Sunday, it was great to see so many of our parish day school children among us: reading the lessons and Gospel, serving God at the altar, greeting people at the door as ushers. There were four student ushers stationed at the front door and I had baptized each one of them! It blew my mind to think that now these children, whom we had welcomed into the household of God, were themselves welcoming people into the church!
In God’s loving way with us, it is no surprise to me that last Sunday, where children were the highlight and center, is followed by this Sunday’s Gospel reading of Jesus, who, overhearing his disciples arguing about who was the greatest among them, set a child in the midst of his disciples to teach them, and now us, something most important about our following of Him. And that something is humility: being so sure of who we are as God’s children that we can let go of personal prerogative and the judging of others. In the eyes of many appearing weak, but in the Kingdom, finding real strength and the door to true peace in this world.
“It is impossible to overestimate the value of true humility and its power in the spiritual life. For the beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and the consummation of humility is the perfection of all joy. Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul. It is the only key to faith, with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable . . . If we were incapable of humility, we would be incapable of joy because humility alone can destroy the self-centeredness that makes joy impossible . . . A humble person is not afraid of anything . . . Since perfect humility implies perfect confidence in the power of God, before whom no other power has any meaning and for whom there is no such thing as an obstacle. Humility is the surest sign of strength.” (Merton, Seeds of Contemplation)
If there is one virtue that we can open to in our day when we so easily are disturbed by scandals in peoples lives (sometimes our own!), the church, and the concentric worlds that surround us, that virtue is humility. Jesus knew that humility was a foundation virtue for his disciples and for everyone that would follow and serve him. Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, for our salvation.
Humility is the key to all the other virtues especially faith, hope, and love. Think about it: How many people can’t open to the gift of faith in Christ because they won’t accept any Lord over their lives but themselves, or, are tripped up (that really is what scandal means) by something in the church that caused them sadness (like seeing Jesus’ disciples argue about who the greatest one was!). Only the letting go of personal prerogative and the judging of others which is humility is the only way to open to faith in such a person.
But how can humility as a foundation virtue lead beyond faith to hope and love? This is very important, because humility can not be turned on and off like a switch. We think: Oh boy, now I’m going to be humble! Everyone will see my humility and think I’m great (which I am really). Such “chosen” humility is truly only skin deep! One little thing happens to bring turbulence to our “humble scenario” and we’re off and running with disgust, anger, and a “I’m outta here”.
Humility that is turned on and off is, to borrow a word from Wisdom this morning, “convenient”, but it is always false. A humble person can live with lots of inconvenience. False humility, on the other hand, is the breeding ground for all the problems James is talking about (James 3:16ff.) But if humility can’t be turned off and on, where can we get it? We must, as in everything, look to Jesus.
Jesus spoke to his heavenly Father in childlike, trustful and intimate way. Just like a child with his or her father or mother. The secret to humility is learning to say “Abba”. This is what children say so easily. All they have is complete trust in mommy and daddy. What Jesus is teaching is that in order to enter the Kingdom of God you have to learn to live “Abba”, to become again like a child: living in simple trust every minute of the day, in everything. Here and now. A child has very little tendency to live in the past or future. For the child the past hurts and future expectations are overshadowed by the present. With no ingrained anticipations or apprehensions the child does not demand that things happen one way or another. The living out of an utter trust in God is the beginning of real conversion and the experience of living with Abba God in childlike confidence, safe under his protection and conscious always (with our very next thought) of his tremendous love is the direct fruit of humility.
So the Good News this morning is that each of us is invited by means of this simple story to recognize once again that in the last analysis we cannot save ourselves, and, freed by our Father’s love for us, we can accept and choose to put our trust in God as a loving parent. It is paradoxical, but someone who really a sense of their own worth, who can deal with a diversity of people, can cope with all the curves that are thrown in life, who in many ways is strong and successful adult, should freely choose to rely on the Father’s love. This is holy humility. This is what it is like in the Kingdom. This is our way if we choose to accept the “Abba-nature” infused in us by the Holy Spirit and take the radical step of being changed, as the first disciples were challenged to do, to live as child-servants of God.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

This is our brand new "blog" to help everyone know more about what's happening at St. Michaels. Stay Tuned for more! Fr. Smith