Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Woman needs our help

A woman has just moved in close to our parish is starting life again from scratch. She needs the following items:

A bed and linens
A kitchen table and chairs
Kitchen Utensils
A futon-like sofa
A small rug or piece of carpet
Toaster Oven and/or microwave

If you have any of these items to share/give please let Fr. Smith or Alicia know. Arrangements can be made for pick-up. Thanks!!

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Resolutions for the New Year that will probably work: Fr. Smith's Sermon for Second Sunday after Christmas

When I was called to serve in this diocese in 1987 my first assignment was St. Michael’s in Coolidge and Christ Church in Florence. On my days off, Kathleen, the kids, and me would sometimes come to Tucson to shop. I remember going down Wilmot in those days and seeing the Sign in front of the parish: It’s a sin to build a nuclear bomb! Almost eight years later, when I came to this parish, the Sign had been changed to: Jesus was a refugee. The idyllic scene of the Christmas story and crèche didn’t last very long. The picture on the prophetic sign was of the Holy Family, Joseph leading Mary and the child Jesus on a donkey as they fled to Egypt. And they stayed in Egypt around six or seven years before God-inspired dreams guided Joseph to bring his family to settle down in Nazareth.
All of this divine guidance and moving around was due to Herod’s slaughter of innocent children two years old or younger. Just ten days from the Christmas celebration we are given a stark reminder that the plan of our redemption always involves suffering and death. As T.S.Elliot wrote. In his end was his beginning. Remember the question to Jesus: Are you a king? Herod orders the death sentence of innocent children to end the threat to his earthly kingship. Then, as in our own day, the ones who suffer most in this world are innocent children, gassed at Auschwitz, napalmed in Vietnam, starved to death in Africa, always at the hands of fear, greed, and power. The ancient story repeats itself over and over again, “wailing and loud lamentation are heard in Ramah, Rachel is weeping for her children.”
The question that we wrestle with: Where is God when innocents suffer? This is the scandalous question which plagues us and yet is answered during the season of the Incarnation we are celebrating. The answer is that God is never far off at all. God is so close to us, in fact, that God has become one of us in Jesus, a human being born into poverty, rejected by respectable people, and executed as a criminal. In Jesus, God meets us at the very core of our suffering. Any pain that the world can manufacture will ultimately be swallowed up in God’s compassionate and gracious love.
In the Gospel today there are no less than three occasions where God’s presence in a dream resulted in deliverance from harm for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. God is still at work today, acting for our good if we, like Joseph, prayerfully listen to our dreams, act on them, and go with the flow of God’s love in communion with the Church, God’s word, and Sacraments. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” We might find ourselves in an “Egypt experience” as Joseph did, at first glance awful, until we realize God is with us in that place, there’s a shortage of skilled wood-workers, and we can obtain food and every basic need by his skill as a carpenter.
The Good News is God is with us. And God will bring us back. Jeremiah saw his nation conquered and his people marched into exile in Babylon. But in faith, Jeremiah knew this was not the end. There would be a return. “For thus says the Lord: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.’ See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here . . . I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow, I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the Lord.”
So God brought Israel back. He brought the Christ child and his parents back. Has he ever brought you back? Once, twice, many times? Amen? Just as Jesus’ life was spared so that the way was cleared for his ministry, so to we are spared, brought back, given every spiritual blessing, so the way can be cleared for our ministry as baptized members of his body. We are spared, brought back, healed, forgiven, for a purpose. To witness that God is with us and can do great things through us if we are awake and attentive. Today’s Gospel teaches us to listen to God’s voice in all circumstances, even in dreams and intuition, as God uses all these means to prepare us for service.
The other day, Annie, my daughter, turned to me and asked: Dad, have you made a resolution for the New Year? I confessed that I hadn’t made one. But maybe this could be a resolution for me and for you: that we really try to listen to God this year, realize God is with us, and is leading us back, not to live for ourselves alone, but for ministry in his church. Let’s back up this resolution appropriating Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, a community of the church not much different than we are. “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.” So, four gifts for the New Year: wisdom and revelation, hope, riches of a glorious inheritance, and power. Believe and it happens!
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