Saturday, October 5, 2013


Today we mark a new chapter in St. Luke’s mission
            and a new chapter in Fr. Antonio’s priestly vocation.
We mark the convergence of St. Luke’s mission
            and Fr. Antonio’s vocation.
Today they come together as one.
This is the point in the story when St. Luke’s and Fr. Antonio
make common cause, work hand in hand.

But this chapter is part of a larger story.
It begins with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
It begins with a spiritual jolt to the universe.
God slapped our chest with Jesus,
            like defibrillator paddles shocking us into life.
Our story begins with Jesus who by every word, every healing,
            every forgiveness, by his death and by his rising,
                        planted seeds of the Kingdom of God in our midst.
Jesus was the cosmic game change.

We were on collision course with death.
Jesus knocked us off that course with truth and mercy
            stronger than death.
He cracked the shell so grace could get in.

But all of that just started the process.
The Kingdom of God, the reign of truth and love,
            just began there.
This darkened world has been infiltrated
            by a ray of light, but is still a darkened world.
Violence from Washington, DC and Zamboanga
to Nairobi, Mombasa, Adra, Cairo, Islamabad,
Chicago, and our own streets
                        reminds us that this world, although infiltrated by God,
                        is still as C. S. Lewis said, “in enemy hands.”

In the face of so much cause for despair,
            it might be easy to forget that ray of light.
As Blessed John said, “The light shines in the darkness,       
            and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Our job is to be the bearers of that light, here now, in the darkness.
Down through the years, the saints have reminded us
of the light and that we are called to walk in that light.
This weekend we commemorate St. Francis of Assisi,
            with his immortal prayer,
            “Make me an instrument of your peace.
            Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
            Where there is injury, pardon;
            Where there is error, truth;
            Where there is doubt, faith;
            Where there is despair, hope;
            Where there is darkness, light.”

These are beautiful words about the light.
But their value is to remind us to walk in the light.
St. John said “Let us love not with words or speech,
            but with deeds and truth. . . .
            Whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need
            and closes his heart against him,
            how does the love of God abide in him.”

Christianity is not an idea in our heads.
It is action with our hands.
It is the action of peace standing up against war,
            love standing up against hatred.
It is what we do in our homes, at our jobs,
            in the church, in our communities
            as we participate in the world.
We all participate in the world.
We walk about in it every day
            with our hearts open or closed,
            our eyes open or closed,
            our hands open or closed.

Churches are the ongoing incarnation of Christ.
St. Theresa of Avila said,
            “Christ has no body but yours,
            no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
            Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on the world.
            Yours are the hands. Yours are the feet. You are his body.
            Christ has no body now but yours.”

We are to be the Body of Christ here and now.
Here in Nevada, where we have
            the 3rd worst school drop out rate in the nation,
 here where more women per capita die
in domestic violence than in any other state,
now when 750,000 elderly American women live on less than $15 per day,
now when 11.5 million of us live under fear of deportation,
            this is the time, this is place
            we are to be the light of Christ.
Ours are the hands; ours, the feet; ours, the eyes.
Christ has no body now but ours.

This matters for how we treat each other at home.
It matters for how we treat each other at work.
It matters for whether we raise our voices for justice
            or sit by silently in the face of a merciless system
that chooses to close the government rather than
afford medical care for the poor.

This Church is the place where we will be formed for mission.
It is not automatic that a Church will do
what Christ created the Church to do.
Some churches teach hatred.
Far more are private little enclaves of like-minded people
            pretending the rest of the world isn’t there.
If each of us individually falls short of the glory of God each day,
            so does the Church.
But after we fall, by the grace of God, we get back up
            and resume God’s mission.

This church is the place where we learn how to turn hatred to love,
            injury to pardon, error to truth, doubt to faith.
Fr. Antonio is not here to do these things on behalf of the Church.
He is here to coach the church to do these things.

When St. Theresa said, “Christ has no body now but yours,”
            she was not talking to a priest.
She was talking to the laity, to you brothers and sisters, to you.
For this Church to be the Body of Christ in Las Vegas,
            it will take every one of us doing our part.
No part is too small.
Ironing the altar linens is not too small.
Greeting people at the door is essential.
When Nevadans for the Common Good meets to work on immigration
            or school drop outs or to support the vulnerable elderly,
we need some of you there – not just the priest,
            not just your usual representatives – though we are grateful for them.
We need new faces from St. Luke’s bearing the Christ light in Las Vegas.

Now here’s the kicker.
When the new Kingdom showed its face as the Early Church,
            the first generation of Christians,
            it showed up multiculturally – as Jews and Gentile
                        serving God together, having become one in Christ.
As Paul said,
            “In Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew,
                        neither slave nor free, mal
            and there is no male and female
                        for you are all one in Christ.”

 I now say to you, as a word from the Lord,
            “In Christ there is neither Filipino nor Latino,
                        neither Republican nor Democrat,
            and there is no straight and gay.
            For all are one in Christ.”

This is how we see God’s Kingdom breaking into the darkened world.
When old divisions rear their heads,     
            It is the fighting back of the old system of domination.
When you join hands across the lines of old divisions,
            that is God happening here and now.

Fr. Antonio is here to help you find your part in Jesus’ mission
and to help you bridge differences for his sake .
Fr. Antonio is here to guide you and to help each of you
find your part -- not to draft you into it,
not to coerce you into it,
                        but to help you find your part.  

This is where it stands.
The world is broken, in pain, groaning under the heel of oppression.
But God, through Christ Jesus, has infiltrated the world for our salvation.
He has infused the power of grace and mercy.
Christ Jesus is the tip of a wedge that will split the power of evil asunder.
But we are the wedge. We are the only wedge.
We place our trust in God. Praise Jesus.
But don’t forget God has placed his trust in us.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Our Old Testament lesson is about a real estate deal.
You might well wonder
            why Jeremiah’s buying a plot of ground
                        is important enough to be in the Bible.

Well the point depends on the context.
For years and years, the Kingdom of Judah
            had been doing well enough economically,
                        but not so well morally.
They had not treated the poor kindly
            and they had not been faithful to God.
So, for decades, Jeremiah kept prophesying doom and judgment.
When Babylon invaded Judah, Jeremiah said, “Give up.     
            Babylon is here as an agent of God’s judgment.
            So just give up.”

You can imagine how that went over
            with the Judean Department of Homeland Security.
Jeremiah found himself behind bars charged with treason,
            of which he was conspicuously guilty.
Things weren’t looking good for Jeremiah’s personal life.
Things were looking even worse for Judah.
The Babylonian army had occupied the whole countryside
            and had now laid siege to Jerusalem itself.
It was only a matter of time – and not much time –
            until the city would be overrun, the temple sacked,
            and the people carried away in slavery to a far off land.

Jeremiah had been predicting this all his life.
“Judah,” he said, “you are going down.”
Now it was happening.
Judah was going down.
Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah,
            and said unto him.
“Jeremiah, buy land. Buy agricultural real estate in Judah.”
It’s pretty obvious why there was land for sale.
People wanted to liquidate their assets and skip out to Egypt.
But what kind of a fool would want to buy Judean real estate
            with the Babylonian army at the gates?

Nonetheless, that’s what God told Jeremiah to do,
            so that’s what Jeremiah did.
Jeremiah, the lifelong prophet of doom and gloom,
            now at the moment when his dire predictions were coming to pass,      
            invested in the future of his country.
He bought land.

What was he thinking?
Was Jeremiah trusting in the mercy of the Babylonians?
They committed atrocities against the Jews
            that would have made Saddam Hussein weep for pity.
Was he relying on Egypt, the only other world power
that could possibly have resisted Babylonian might?
 Jeremiah despised the Egyptians and any pro-Egypt factions in Judah.
Egypt was being driven back to its own borders
and would soon be fighting for its own life.

Where did Jeremiah expect help to come from?
Who was going to send the cavalry?
40 years later it came from Cyrus, King of the Persian Empire.
But at the time Jeremiah bought the land,
            Cyrus was five years old and the Persian Empire did not yet exist.

So whom was Jeremiah counting on to justify
            his real estate investment?
God. Jeremiah, the lifelong prophet of doom and gloom,
            trusted God to turn disaster into joy.

So what might we learn
from Jeremiah’s counter-intuitive investment strategy?
Our story tells us something about God
            and something about life.
Sometimes, when things are going well,
            we get a bit full of ourselves.
We think, “Look at us. We got it going.”
We think we’ve done all this
            and we trust in our own strength
            to hold on to what we’ve got.

But God keeps saying, “Don’t get too high and mighty.
            What goes up must come down.”
Our strongest fortress in this transitory life is a house of cards.
When we are feeling strong,
            that’s when we hear God’s voice reminding us to
            “do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.”

But then when things get hard, when fortune turns against us,
when we see nothing but clouds on the horizon,
            when everything we cherish is falling apart,
            that’s when we hear God say,
“Rejoice. I reverse the ways of the world.
I overturn the judgments of the world.
In my grace, whatever goes down must come up.
Fear not for I have redeemed you.”

These are hard times at St. Timothy’s – uncertain times.
That’s why your wardens asked me to come
            and bring you some word from the Lord.
By his grace, I found it right here in the Bible.
When we feel like the Babylonians are at the gate,
            that’s when the Lord invites us to trust in his grace.

Jeremiah also gave us this word from the Lord,
            “I know the plans I have for you,
            plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
            plans to give you hope and a future.”//

I don’t know how Mike’s health is going to go.
But I know whatever befalls, he will flourish in God’s hands.
I don’t know what decisions you’ll make or how your part of God’s mission
            will unfold in the coming years.
But I am confident that God will see you through.

Keep your hearts engaged in the Christ’s Mission.
That’s what it means to buy real estate in the Kingdom.
Keep your hearts engaged in the Mission
            and trust in the immeasurable mercy and providence of God.

We can’t see what form that mercy will take
            anymore than Jeremiah could have foreseen
            that a little boy a thousand miles away in Persia,
            a child worshiper of a foreign God called Ahura Mazda
                        would return the Jews to their homeland.
We can’t see what form God’s mercy will take.
But we trust it anyway.
That’s why they call it faith.