Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jesus Holds the Scales

“If the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” St. Matthew 18:17

There is very little direct teaching in the Gospels about the church and its life. What there is, though, is found in Jesus’ discussion with his disciples in the central chapters of Saint Matthew’s Gospel, from which this evening’s lesson is taking.  These chapters have come to take on a kind of special importance, especially among Christians who try to base everything the church does on a literal interpretation of the Bible.

For example, this three step process that Jesus describes for dealing with a member of the church who sins against another has been treated by some as judicial proceeding. First, confront the person with the sin. Then bring some witnesses. Then present the person for judgment before the entire congregation. One commentator[1] compared it to reading someone his Miranda rights—did you “Matthew 18 him?” one Christian might ask another in talking about how an inter-church controversy unfolded.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The "Real Doctor's" Message

“And [God] gave skill to human beings that he might be glorified in his marvelous works.”
Sirach 38: 6

“Down in Guatemala,” he told me, “I had to be a real doctor, and it scared the heck out of me.”  Now don’t get me wrong, according to the standards of the American Medical Association and the licensing agencies of his rather lucrative specialty, my parishioner was very much a real doctor.  He had been in practice for decades and was highly regarded in our community, sought out by people in need of surgery.  But things were different, he was telling me, when he went to Guatemala on a medical mission trip with his son’s church. 

They were working in a remote area, with very minimal equipment, you see.  There were no MRI machines and it was a day’s journey over rugged roads for an x-ray.  They could do simple blood tests, and had a few diagnostic tools, and some basic medicines but that was about it.  My parishioner said he had learned all about diagnosis back in medical school, but it was so much easier just to run a test and be sure.  Here in Guatemala, he had to listen to the stories, mark just how people described their symptoms.  It was really challenging work, and he wasn’t certain about a few of the cases he had seen.  There were some maladies he just couldn’t treat. 

Malpractice insurance companies, of course, don’t tolerate this much guesswork here, and that’s probably a good thing.  But it was interesting to me that my parishioner didn’t think of his work within these narrow limits as useless.   “A real doctor,” that’s what he called himself, someone stretched to use all his ingenuity, to listen more carefully, to treat the whole person and not just the symptoms.  He left that time in Guatemala a bit wistful about the more accurate and lucrative way he practiced medicine the rest of the year, and anxious to get back again to a place where he really do justice to his profession.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

We See Jesus-A Sermon for Pentecost XIX

“As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.  But we see Jesus.”
Hebrews 2:8-9

It’s been a heavy week, hasn’t it?  The Russians have launched extensive bombing raids in Syria, massively escalating the civil war, with numerous civilian casualties expected.  News continues to surface about the extent of Volkswagen’s emissions switch scandal, with maybe more than 11 million cars effected worldwide.  Several drug companies have admitted to massive price gouging, with one pill used to treat cancer and AIDS patients rising from $13 to $750 per dose. 

And of course, there was another mass shooting, this time at a community college in Oregon, the 294th shooting this year.   It was a shooting in the kind of place where things like that don’t happen, except there aren’t any places like that any more.  We don’t know all the details yet, but eyewitnesses reported that events unfolded in a distinctive way.  The shooter stormed into the classroom with an agenda.  He wanted to know who was a Christian.  And our brothers and sisters who stood firm and confessed our faith, those who claimed to be one of us, he shot them point blank. 

“As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”  We believe of course, that the Bible is God’s Word to us, but if we’re honest, it sometimes seems like a word from long ago and far away.  But not this week.  Not this word. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Made for Praise-Why we need the Daily Office

From the WORD, the newsletter of Saint Timothy's, Herndon

“Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” 
 Ps. 51:15.

I was talking with one of our vestry members this week about his prayers.  He told me that each day he tries to set aside some time to review what has happened to him.  He’s looking for the good things, the unexpected blessings, the little joys that might otherwise go unnoticed: a child’s smile, a conversation that went surprisingly well, a moment of tenderness.  “I see them, and thank God for them.  They show me He’s always working in my life.” 

It can be easy to lose track of just how gracious God is to us.  We never forget to turn to Him when we’re in pain or afraid of dangers ahead of us.   We quickly remind Him when we’re disappointed.  But we often take His kindness for granted.   Even when we notice a blessing, how many times to we remember to offer our thanks?  How often do we praise God for the ways in which a particular good thing reveals to us His wisdom and love?
We are made to sing God’s praises.  He opens our lips, the Psalmist says, so that we can respond to Him with joy.  Our minds are designed to catalog His mercies, our creative gifts to communicate His beauty to others in music, art and movement.  Our final purpose, the destiny for which God is equipping us now, is to join with saints and angels in the great Alleluia around His throne in heaven.