Monday, December 12, 2011

Who is Jesus for You?

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is one the most fascinating figures in history. Despite his humble origins, short life, and very short public career, Jesus is the central focus of the world's largest religion and has meant many things to many people since his death over 2,000 years ago. But, who is Jesus Christ from a Catholic theological perspective?
When I was a child going to Catholic School, the good Sisters taught us that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. At that time, I just accepted the phrase as another one of those things that adults say to children that makes absolutely no sense what so ever. When I asked what exactly that meant, I was told “it is a mystery”. Well, that certainly clarified things for me. As an adult, I still don’t think I understand exactly what that means although now I know why I don’t understand. I think that the concept of the two natures of Jesus Christ is a hard concept to grasp. So, I guess an easier question is, “What should I as a Christian believe about Jesus?” I will attempt to summarize what I feel are the four major beliefs regarding Jesus.
First, Christians believe Jesus to have been a historical human being who was born of a virgin named Mary, in the town of Bethlehem, between 7 and 4 BC. The humanity of Jesus is perhaps one of the least controversial areas of Christology, but this was not always so. In the early years after Christ, some thought that Jesus' body, suffering, and death were merely appearances. He was not fully human, but only appeared to be.
Second, Christians believe Jesus is the Messiah, the "anointed one" predicted in the Jewish Scriptures. The word "Christ" comes from the Greek word for "Messiah". He is the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of all mankind and the Reconciler between God and humanity by dying for our sins. It is interesting to note that although Jesus appears to see Himself as the Messiah in the Gospels, He does not go out of his way to identify Himself as such, and those who do identify Him as the Messiah are commanded not to tell anyone about it.
Third, Christians believe that Jesus is the "Son of God." Jesus does not refer to himself as the Son of God in the Gospels, but the term is used in the writings of Paul and in the epistle to the Hebrews. The Gospel of John refers to Jesus simply as "the Son," which may have a similar meaning. Paul uses the term for both Christ and Christians. Christians become children of God by adoption, but Jesus is the rightful Son of God by nature.
Finally, Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God. This concept seems to be stated explicitly in the New Testament especially in the writings of the Gospel of John. In addition, some important titles and functions applied to Jesus in the New Testament indicate early belief in His divinity. The statement "Jesus Christ is Lord” is found throughout the New Testament and was one of the earliest Christian confessions of faith. “Lord" had come to be almost synonymous with God in Jewish thinking by the time of Jesus. New Testament writers apply functions to Jesus that are associated only with God. Jesus is the savior of humanity; it is appropriate to call on the name of Jesus in prayer and to worship him; Jesus reveals God directly “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
What does this mean to me in my ministry? I think it is important to remember that Jesus is all of the above. There is not a choice of one over the other. It is also important to understand that Jesus became human out of love for us. He gave up His life for us as the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate expression of love. He is our God and Savior, but He is also our brother and our friend. Jesus is our gift of love, a God who loves us unconditionally.
I was reading a book yesterday called "Spiritual Direction-Beyond the Beginnings" by Janet K. Ruffing, R.S.M. In her book she states that "God longs for us as much as we long for God". "In the beginning of the spiritual life, we feel as if all the desiring is on our side. . . God's longing evokes and fuels our own. That God's own self initiates these longings."
If God loves us first, then the above statements make perfect sense. Our relationship with God is a mutual relationship of love. Jesus ministry to us was one of bringing us back into relationship with the God who loves us first. Think about that as you go through your day. How magnificant a gift we received from Jesus. His death on the cross was an indication of the length that God goes to let us know how much he wants to be in relationship with us. God's will for us and desire for us is not just that of an authority figure wanting subjugation from his servants. God's will for us is that of one who loves wanting the best for the object of his affection, us. This would also indicate that the desire of God is that we love him back. This for me was a startling realization.
So, who is Jesus? Jesus is the God who wants us to be in relationship with him. Jesus is the God who loves us first. Jesus is our ultimate Christmas gift.
As we go through this joyful season of Christmas, as we give gifts to one another, let us not forget the greatest gift that all of humankind has been given. We have been given the gift of God's love through God's gift of Jesus, the Christ. The true gift of Christmas is God letting us know that we are loved and that we are never alone. We celebrate the gift of the "servant" King. We celebrate the gift of being one with Jesus. We celebrate the gift that is love.

Merry Christmas!

May God's love and God's blessings fill you with the true Spirit of Christmas!

Peace and love,
Rev. Sue Provost

St. Valentine Faith Community
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-998-2220 Church Office
702-523-8963 Rev. Sue Provost Cell
Mass: Every Sunday at 10am

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Should Women be Ordained?

I am a priest in the National Catholic Church of North America. I was ordained by a male bishop who holds the belief that women as well as men should be ordained into the church ministry. I was asked for scriptural texts supporting women in ministry or in authority, in a class I am taking to become a certified chaplain. I do not believe that the Bible should be used to ever keep someone from working for the Lord. I believe that if Jesus were asked to provide an explanation as to whether women and men can be ministers and priests of equal status, he would provide such a confirmation. It is not Jesus who would keepwomen from being prophets of his word, but men and women who interpret the Bible for their own purposes.

In looking for a scriptural answer to the question about women's role in the church, we all have a clear-cut decision to make. We can take

1 Corinthians 14:34-35:
34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.


1 Timothy 2:11-12:
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be silent.

as definitive statements on the issue and then have to distort, twist, and try to explain many, many other statements and accounts throughout the Old and New Testaments that are at variance with those statements.

Or, we can take the entire scriptural context which supports the full equality of men and women in the church as being the norm and look upon these two passages as intended for some local situations, the details of which are not known to us in modern times. The entire holiness movement, has tended to accept the full equality of the sexes and to view the Corinthians and Timothy references as special, localized situations.

The full equality of male and female in the governance of this world is clearly stated prior to the Fall.
Gen. 1:27-28:(dominion was given to them both)
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Full equality is restated as a basic principle of our relationship "in Christ"
Gal. 3:28:
28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In the Old Testament, there were several women who were prophetesses, serving as the voice of God in instruction and leading men: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah. The prophet Joel predicted that in the coming age the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon men and women alike, and they would prophesy.
Joel 2:28-29
28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
28 Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter declared that this was now being fulfilled.
Acts 2:16-18:
16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days,and they will prophesy.

Women prophetesses spoke the Word of the Lord in the early church.
Acts 21:9:
9He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

Paul himself speaks of women prophesying and praying publicly in the church services as a normal thing, however their heads were expected to be covered (why? So as not to distract "men" by the beauty of their long hair).
1 Cor. 11:5:
5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.

Furthermore, throughout the gospel record, prominence is given to women as the more faithful of Jesus followers. In the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts, Priscilla is mentioned ahead of her husband, Aquila, five times out of seven references to this couple, and she took the lead in instructing Apollos, one of the most prominent preachers of the New Testament age. The oldest Greek manuscripts put her first in this passage.
Acts 18:26
26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

Paul refers to Phoebe as a "deacon," not a "deaconess"
Rom. 16:1:
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.

Some ancient manuscripts appear to refer to a woman apostle by the name of Junia, and Paul at different times lists women among those he calls his "fellow-laborers."
Rom. 16:7:
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

One rule of scriptural interpretation is that passages that are unclear are to be interpreted in the light of clear ones. We are left with the clear examples of Jesus and Paul, the clear statements of Joel, Peter and Paul as our scriptural mandate. Just as the Lord provided opportunities for Old Testament women to lead, and just as the examples of Jesus and Paul in the New Testament provided increasing opportunities for women to lead, so we are called to enact this redemptive action. To live within the teachings of Scripture, we must work counter-culturally to provide women with increasing opportunities to answer the call of God.

What We Should Know about the Character of God

Throughout the Scriptures we see that it is like God to work in ways contrary to traditional human systems of authority. God has never limited revelation to kings, rulers, or government officials. To the contrary, we see God divinely empowering the poor, the prostitute, the virgin, and the widow. Even Jesus came to earth as a poor carpenter. God has always worked counter-culturally to bring about the revolutionary Kingdom of God.
1 Cor. 1:26-31:
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

It is in keeping with the character of God that women are called to ministry. We should also recognize that it is essential that anyone serving in the ministry must be chosen by God— not man or woman. Men and women both must testify to such a call and confirm it through their holy outworking of this mission.
Furthermore, we should recognize that women are also called to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing . . . and teaching them" (Matt. 28:19-20). If a woman's call to fulfill the Great Commission is in the form of ministerial leadership, then it is not only her privilege, but her obligation to obey the Holy Spirit.

This is just a tidbit of information to support a woman’s call to ministry in Christ’s Church. There are many more Scripture Passages that I could quote, but this page would be gigantic and I think that the point has been made. God gives us many gifts and we are only limited by our own prejudices and self-doubts. I encourage all women who seek ordained ministry to follow the "call" that God has given them, and not be limited by what others say they can and cannot do.
Peace and love,

Reverend Sue Provost

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Are You Waiting in Joyful Hope?

November 27, 2011
Mark 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.

What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'"

We begin a new church year this Sunday with the First Sunday of Advent.
We mark the passing of time by celebrating special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. Some days are more special for us than other days. Wedding days are special days and wedding anniversaries are special days. In one sense those special days are the same as every other day because the sun rises and sets in the same way and everybody else goes about their business in the normal way, but for the happy couple such a day is a special day, a day to be celebrated, a day for which to be thankful and grateful.
Today is a special day, and not just a day, but the beginning of a special season, Advent. During Advent we focus on waiting, waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus, and during the week before Christmas our waiting changes to waiting for our celebration of the birth of Jesus. Anytime we wait we do so because we expect something to happen; we wait for a bus or train because we expect it to arrive. When we are wait for a bus or train we cannot see it coming but hope it will come. During Advent we are waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus because the Second Coming of Jesus will bring all God’s plans for the world to completion. As we wait in hope for the Second Coming of Jesus we know he is with us in so many ways especially in the sacraments. So during Advent we are conscious of the fact that God is present with us while we wait for the fulfillment of God’s plans.

The words of Jesus in the Gospel today express the mood of this early part of the Advent season,

“Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:33)

We ended the Church year last Sunday with that apocalyptic vision where Jesus returns and we are judged. Judgment for the Hebrew was not like for an American. While we mostly think of justice as good being rewarded and evil being punished, for the Hebrew person, justice meant that the world would be put in the right order, as God had created it before the Fall.
Today, then, in the Gospel of Mark, we pick up that theme. But instead of focusing on the end, we now focus on the waiting – that time of waiting – when we can best prepare for whatever the end will be – whether it be the end of our lives, the second coming, or the remembrance of Christ’s birthday.
We are reminded that we do not know the day or the time when this will be. And that is frustrating! Look how many people seem to try to discover that time – and walk around with signs that say the end of the world will be on such and such a date. Especially in this year of 2012 just arriving. Christ tells us not to worry about that. Live in the present with an eye to the future. If we drove our cars only looking at the rearview mirror to see what was coming in the immediate future, we would crash into something! We cannot know when the end will happen. No-one knows the future. And so, what do we do in the interim – we watch, we wait, we acquire patience, we prepare by reviewing all of the teachings of Jesus about how to inherit the kingdom, and we practice. That is really what Advent is all about. It is not about fear – it is about HOPE.
We are called to watch, to be attentive to the presence of God. The returning, which is a major theme today, is not just the return of Jesus but the returning of ourselves to God. We need to spend time examining our lives in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s first coming, and in anticipation of his second coming. We must learn to be patient – and we Americans are not a patient people! The birth of Christ into this world and into our hearts is well worth the wait. Even though we know that this birth has already happened, we also know that in a surprising way, it hasn’t happened at all: we are still mean to our neighbors, we still hide the truth from those who love us, we envy and lust over things that are not ours, and there are horrible evils all around us in this emerging twenty-first century. We need the birth of Christ in our hearts and into the world. We need patience.
Advent, then, is an expression of our faith in the possibility of a better world. We don’t have to be at each other’s throats. We can ‘do right’ in the areas of race relations, family obligations, and personal responsibilities. We can ‘do good’ to the poor, the elderly, the homeless, and to all our brothers and sisters at home and abroad. We can become blameless, beacons of social justice, examples of faith and love, peacemakers.
The message of Advent is to be on the watch! We base this constant watch not on fear but on hope in God’s promise of eternal life. The promise of Christmas is a joyful anticipation that The Lord will shower his gifts, and our land will yield its fruit.

Peace and love,
Rev. Sue Provost

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Feast of Christ the KIng

Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment,but the righteous to eternal life."
(Matthew 25:31-46)

The Parable This final parable in Jesus' final sermon in Matthew brings home the reality of judgment. It predicts that the Son of man will come in his glory with the angels, and there will be gathered before him all the nations for judgment. They will be separated into two great groups: sheep on the right hand and goats on the left. To those on the right will be spoken words of warm welcome and pleasure, inviting them to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and declaring the reason for his commendation. But those on the left will be rebuked in anger, and will be reminded of duties they have failed to perform. A feature of the judgment is the ignorance that both groups display towards the reason for their respective judgments. Finally, the righteous enter into life eternal; and the wicked receive everlasting punishment. The general meaning of the parable-prophecy is clear on a casual reading of it, but important principles are unfolded when close consideration is given.

Sheep and Goats: The figure of sheep and goats is used for the accepted and rejected because of the habits and color of the animals.Could you tell the difference between a sheep and a goat? I couldn't.•goats always have horns, some kinds of sheep don't•sheep have wool, goats have hair•goats graze on branches, sheep graze on grass Apparently in the ancient world, sheep were more valuable than goats. At night, goats need to huddle together for warmth, while sheep need open space. Because of this, a shepherd would separate them. This is the picture in Jesus's story. Of course, for his hearers, this picture was familiar from their everyday lives.

The nature of the difference between sheep and goats that pertain to this Gospel passage: Sheep are inoffensive and easily led; they are noted for their mildness, simplicity, innocence, patience and usefulness. Goats are naturally mischievous, wayward, quarrelsome, lascivious, and ill-centered, and as such are a symbol of riotous, profane and impure men. Innately selfish, they represent those nations and individuals given up to their own passions and lusts, and who fail to see the needs of others. They are found quarrelling with or opposing God's people, whether it be Israel as a nation, or His true sons and daughters, and will reap the fruits of their action from the hands of him who will render a proper re-payment of vengeance in due time. Goats are extremely destructive. I once learned in a study, that the Jews had no success in restoring forests in certain areas, until they banned goats from it, and then, immediately, they had success. The goats feed on the tender shoots of the trees and shrubs, and so prevent growth. Even in color and habits there are significant differences between the two animals. Sheep are usually white whilst goats are black, speaking of righteousness and sin. Moreover, the two animals maintain a measure of separateness, for though goats might mingle with sheep, there is no disposition on either side for more intimate acquaintance. When drinking, around wells, they appear instinctively to classify themselves apart; at night, they settle down in separate, distinctive groups.

So this is a picture of separation: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another...' (Verses 31-32) This picture comes straight out of the Old Testament, from the book of Daniel: 'In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.' (Daniel chapter 7 verse 13) The Jews believed that God was going to judge all the nations. The change in Matthew 25 is that Jesus says that he himself is going to be the judge. When he talks about the 'Son of Man' in verse 31, that's how he refers to himself. He's going to separate the sheep and the goats. In verse 34: 'Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are spoken well of by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.' Notice that the Son of Man is now described as the King. He talks about God as his Father. And he talks about a kingdom prepared for his people since the world was created. Then in verse 41: 'Then he will say to those on his left, 'Go away from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' So it's a picture of judgment and separation. Jesus says that he's going to come back. When he does, he will rule visibly and powerfully. We shall all be brought before him to be judged. This judgment will lead to a separation between those who are his people and those who are not.

A verdict: What is the basis for the separation? •I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, or you gave me nothing to eat. •I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, or you gave me nothing to drink.•I was a stranger, and you welcomed me in, or did not welcome me in.•I needed clothes and you clothed me, or did not clothe me.•I was sick and you looked after me, or did not look after me.•I was in prison and you came to visit me, or did not look after me. It's very important that we get hold of this: Jesus isn't talking here about being kind to people in general. He's talking very specifically about how we have treated him, how we have served him. He says: 'I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger... I needed clothes... I was sick... I was in prison...' So the basis for this judgment is going to be how we have treated Jesus Christ himself. His verdict on us will depend on how we've responded to him.

Surprising evidence: There will be evidence, but the evidence will be a surprise. Both the wicked and the righteous are surprised by the verdict of king Jesus. Verse 37-39: 'Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 'The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' And similarly in verses 44-45: 'They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not serve you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

So what's going on here?: The key is in the little sentence that Jesus puts in at the end of both verdicts: 'Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Verse 40) 'Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' (Verse 45) So Jesus isn't just talking about the poor, the hungry, the strangers in the world. It is right and important that we should care for them, but Jesus is saying something more specific here. He's talking particularly about those who count as his brothers and sisters. And it's because they are his brothers and sisters that they're hungry and thirsty, naked and strangers, sick or in prison. So there's going to be a judgment. Jesus will reach his verdict on us depending on how we have treated him, how we have responded to him. And the evidence on which this verdict will be based is how we have treated his people. If you read this quickly, it sounds as if Jesus is saying that he is going to judge us based on our works, on our deeds. But surely we're saved by our faith, not by works? Surely it doesn't depend on what we do, does it? Our being forgiven and accepted by God depends entirely on what Christ did for us on the cross. It doesn't depend on anything we do. All we have to do is to trust him and accept what he has done for us. Remember what happened when Jesus was dying on the cross. The thief who was being crucified beside him said: 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' How did Jesus reply? 'Today you will be with me in paradise.' The thief didn't have time to do any good works. All he did was to trust Jesus – and that was enough. But the Bible is also clear that if we have really trusted Christ, this will make a difference to how we live. If our lives don't show our faith, we have to ask just how real is that faith?

Look at what James says: 'What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.'20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James chapter 2 verses 14-18, 20-26) I want to say this to you gently, but also clearly: if you are relying on your faith in Jesus to save you on judgment day, but you are carrying on living the same kind of selfish life as the people around you who don't believe in him, watch out. Watch out. The Bible doesn't give you any reassurance at all that you will really be saved. Good works aren't the reason we're saved; but they are the evidence that we're saved. Someone once asked, 'If you were put on trial for being a follower of Christ, would there be enough evidence to convict you?' Jesus is saying here in Matthew 25 that on judgment day, he will look for evidence that we belong to him – evidence in how we've treated his brothers and sisters.

Who is he talking about, specifically?: At one level, as we've seen, he's talking about all Christian believers – all his brothers and sisters. But we can also see some particular groups of people:•If you relate it back to what Jesus said in chapter 10, it's clear that one of the groups he has in mind are those whose work involves taking his message to others, ministers, missionaries, evangelists. Such people often face poverty, overwork, stress, culture-shock, being strangers, being ill, all because of their work for the Good News. Do we care about them? Do we pray for them, support them practically, encourage them, and cheer them on? This is one of the marks of true Christian faith.•Then what about people who are persecuted for their faith? More people were put to death for their Christian faith in the past hundred years than in the whole of the time since Jesus lived. Countless people today are in prison, or have lost their jobs, or have been rejected by their families, because of their faith. Do we care about them? Do we pray for them, support them practically, encourage them, cheer them on? This is another mark of true Christian faith. 'I was in prison and you visited me.'•What about nearer home? What about people we know – perhaps even in this fellowship, who are ill, who are poor, who are strangers? What about overseas students who have come here? Do we care about them? Do we pray for them, support them, encourage them, cheer them on? If we're really followers of Jesus, this will show itself in love and care for those who count as the least of his brothers and sisters. And on the other hand, if we don't have much sympathy for them, this may be a sign that we don't really care all that much about Christ himself. Jesus identifies himself with his followers so closely that he takes what we do for them as something we've done for him. And he says that our destiny will be measured out by how we respond to his family. The good things we do for them show where we stand in relation to him. The evidence on which Jesus will reach his verdict on us – if you like, the evidence of whether or not we really do have faith in him - will be how we have treated the least important, least significant members of his family.•So it's a picture of judgment: Jesus is going to come back, and we are all going to face him. •His verdict on us will depend on how we have treated him, how we have responded to him.•The evidence on which he will base his verdict on us is how we have treated our Christian brothers and sisters.

A sentence: Finally, there's going to be a sentence. Look at the contrast between the outcome for the righteous and the wicked: 'Then the King will say to those on his right,'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.' (Verse 34) He describes them as blessed by God; he says there's a kingdom that's been prepared for them since the world began, and now is the time for them to inherit it. But in verse 41: 'Then he will say to those on his left, 'Go away from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' He describes them in exactly the opposite way to the righteous. Instead of being blessed, they're cursed. Instead of a kingdom, they're going to a place of fire. The kingdom was prepared for the righteous, but the fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. So, verse 46: 'Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.' The same word is used for 'eternal' punishment and for 'eternal' life. You can't make one of these eternal and the other only temporary. There's going to be a judgment, and the outcome is incredibly serious. It has massive repercussions that last forever. Either an eternal kingdom, or unending fire. Of course, I know as well as you do that talk of God's judgment is extremely unpopular today. It's very politically incorrect. Perhaps, even as a Christian believer, you feel very uncomfortable with what Jesus is saying in this story. In the end, we have to make a choice: who do we believe? Do we believe the people around us, the people on television, or do we believe Jesus? Do we think that Jesus knew what he was talking about? You see, if we say that we today know better than Jesus did, what we're really saying is that Jesus was just a man. He wasn't really the Son of God. And if we believe that, we can't honestly say we're Christians at all – because the most basic defining thing about a Christian is that they believe Jesus is the Son of God. On the other hand, if he really is the Son of God, then doesn't that mean that he knows what he is talking about, and means what he says? Who do we believe? There is going to be a judgment, and that judgment will lead to sorrow or joy – to the fire prepared for the devil and his angels or to the kingdom prepared for the righteous; to eternal suffering or eternal life. That's pretty important, isn't it? Is there anything else more important that you're going to think about this week?

What does this story have to say to us today?: This story challenges us at two different levels:1.This story says that Jesus is coming back, and when he does, it will be a time of judgment. This judgment will lead to a separation between those who are his people and those who are not. The outcome will either be joy or sorrow – eternal life or eternal fire. Now if all this is true, you need to get sorted out with him before it happens. 2.The challenge to us is, are we showing our faith by how we live? Particularly, are we showing it by how we treat other Christians. Jesus says, 'whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' It's so easy to read this part of the Bible, but then we carry on with our lives and nothing has changed. I would like to invite you to think of one specific thing that you will do for one particular person this week, to show them compassion, and to show that your faith in Christ is real. If you were put on trial for being a follower of Christ, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Jesus says that one day, you will be.

The lessons of this are not hard to apply: In the parable portion of the prophecy, the sheep are described as following the lead of the shepherd by helping his people; whereas the goats please themselves. In the final apportioning of judgment, the sheep are gathered at the place of honor on the right hand of Christ, as he is on the right hand of the Father; whereas the goats are placed on his left.

The Reward: The righteous will be invited to inherit the kingdom prepared "from the foundation of the world." For preparation of the kingdom has been proceeding from the very beginning of time. From the days of Adam onwards, God has supervised both His people and events, guiding the latter to a predetermined end, that ultimately the whole earth should be filled with His glory. To their surprise, the righteous will be told that they will enter the kingdom because of their actions towards Christ. They will confess that they have never been in a position to assist Christ personally. But it will be explained that in as much as they did it for the least of his brothers and sisters, they performed it for him. This can be understood on a national basis (as far as Israel, or the Ecclesias are concerned), or on an individual basis (in personal relationship one towards another). Little actions long since forgotten, but performed in a brotherly spirit, will be credited as actions done for Christ himself! The common gestures of courtesy performed because Christ desires it thus, or kind deeds done in his name, accounted as services performed for Christ personally, and will be rewarded with the gift of life eternal. In this scripture, Jesus is explaining the judgment of nations and what is required for salvation. Our very salvation depends upon what we do. Christ did not say it was just enough to believe that the poor should be fed, we must feed them. Christ did not say it was just enough to pray for those that are ill, we must care for them. From this passage it is easy to understand that if we do not act we are in fact neglecting Christ. One of the most significant parts of confession is asking for forgiveness for the sin of failing to take action. So many times we do not do as we should, we do nothing, a sin of omission. Those who have done good deeds for the love of Christ receive the reward of eternal life. I suspect just "thinking" or "believing" is not enough. We must act.

Peace and love,

Reverend Sue Provost

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What are you doing with your talent?

Gospel Mt 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master's money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.'
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
'Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master's joy.'
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
'Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.'
His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'"

In various religious texts, there can be found some interesting personal development gems. One from the Bible is “The Parable of the Talents.”

The Parable of the Talents is one of the stories Jesus told to teach a moral lesson. Although the word “talents” in the story refers literally to money, you can obviously extend the meaning to other areas. It’s interesting to read it using the common definition of “talents.”
This simple story makes some interesting points that are applicable to the pursuit of personal development.

The parable of the talents is found in Matthew chapter 25. It actually deals with the subject of money, but has broader application as well. The master gave three different amounts of money to three of his servants to invest as each was able, according to his ability. The servant with the most invested his amount wisely and so did the second, each according to his ability. The second man’s return was not as much as the first, but then he did not have as much to start with. God commends the first two servants as being faithful with what had been given them. But the third servant with the smallest talent did not use it and gave the master no return on His investment. His master called him unprofitable, lazy and “wicked”. Obviously God takes this business of being faithful with what you have been entrusted with, very seriously.

I feel sorry for the unfaithful servant, because he made a tragic mistake. I do not believe he was necessarily “lazy” on purpose, he may have just failed to realize the significance of what he was given, and, as a result, failed to put it to good use. It was “only one” talent, and compared to the five talents given to the other man, what use was his one? Why even try and compete?

Many people today are making this same mistake. How often have you heard this………”Oh, I can’t sing very well, I don’t think I should audition for the church choir.” Or……“My guitar playing isn’t very good, I could take lessons, but what’s the point, there are so many much more talented than I am.” Or the budding songwriter / author whose efforts pale in comparison to those seasoned in the industry, giving up after their first big “no”.

There is a huge mistake being made by these millions of one-talent-holders in the kingdom, and it is this - the vast majority of kingdom business must be done by these people, and if they fail to do their part, the business of the kingdom is largely left undone. Not many people are given five talents and even fewer are given ten. The majority of people in the Kingdom are just one talent people, and most of the work of the kingdom is going to be done by the vast majority of these people. There are very few “gospel stars” or famous Christian authors or well-known evangelists. Most people are not saved by the eloquence of the worlds most gifted speakers. Most people are saved by the faithful workmate or relative who shares the gospel with them – imperfectly, but effectively nevertheless. Most people do not go to their local church to have some famous gospel group lead them in worship. No, it is the humble church musician who faithfully gives his one talent every Sunday, doing his best to honor the Lord with what has been entrusted to him. What would the forest be like if only the birds who sang the best were allowed to sing? It would be a very silent place. Where would the church be if only the world’s best were allowed to sing and play their instruments before the Lord? It would be a very quiet place. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”

The earth is robbed of God’s plan of bringing ministry to a hurt and dying world when the gifts He sends into the earth are despised by those who receive them. Have you despised your talent? Have you hidden it somewhere, too discouraged or too self-centered to see beyond your own poor self-image? It’s not about you. When God gave you a gift to sing dance play write or whatever, He wasn’t thinking about you, He was thinking of somebody else. We need to stop thinking about ourselves and comparing our gift with others, and just get on with the business of being faithful givers of what we’ve got. “They that compare themselves among themselves are unwise” ( 2Cor.10:12 ) “Let every man prove his own work and then he shall have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” ( Gal.6:4) Acknowledge the uniqueness of your own calling, and give yourself to the world. Do not be unfaithful to those God has called you to by holding back your gift, because you are too proud to admit to the world that you are only a “one talent” vessel.

Another reason every person should be faithful with their “talent” is for the sake of authenticity and uniqueness. When God made you He made you uniquely different. He gave you a background and perspective on life that no one else has. That means you have a story to tell that no one else can tell. He gave you a voice like none other, and like a finger print it uniquely identifies you. There is a beauty to your voice that cannot be matched by any other, and when you sing it has a sound that captures the ear because of its uniqueness. Rarity is what gives something it’s value. Diamonds are more valuable than coal because there is less of them. You are unique, and therein lies your great value to the world. No one will ever sing like you. No one will ever write songs like you. No one will ever minister quite like you. So who is going to sing your song if not you? No one can compete with you. You are the best “you” there is. It may only be one talent, but someone somewhere in the overall scheme of things needs what you have. That is why God judges so harshly the unfaithful servant, because by despising the gift entrusted to you, you deny someone something that was your responsibility to supply.

Peace & love,

Rev Sue Provost

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Are You Ready for the Feast?

Gospel Mt 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
"Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast."'
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.'
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, 'My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?'
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'
Many are invited, but few are chosen."

This Gospel is the Parable of the Wedding Feast, which is not easy to interpret unless you have a good understanding of Jewish customs and traditions.

What is Jesus saying here in Matthew 22:14, which reads, “For many are called but few are chosen?” Some of the things that Jesus said were hard to understand. Why would some be called and not chosen to be with the Lord? It seems that if He called them He would certainly choose them. This question makes us wonder if there might be more to understand in the verse. If He was saying it was their choice then wouldn’t the text read, “Many are called but few choose to go?” There is more to be revealed here and a look at the Parable as a whole will render more understanding.

First - Context.

Context is always vital in understanding any single verse in the Scriptures. Chapter 22 begins by saying that Jesus began to speak to them [the religious leaders] again in parables, and we can infer by looking back at chapter 21, that He is trying to make a strong point to the Chief Priests and Pharisees when He begins to teach about the Kingdom of heaven.

Jesus was known as the friend of sinners and here He explains why He went to the sinners and the irreligious people. The parable he tells is about a king who invites all the important people [the so-called righteous of Israel] to come to a wedding banquet [the wedding feast of the Messiah]. Though upright and moral they had no time for Him, nor were they interested in what He was saying about the Kingdom of Heaven. God was calling them through His Son, Jesus; but they were not receptive. So he sent His servants to the highways and byways where they gathered many to come – good and bad alike. Now, all these were gathered at the feast and the King notices one who does not have the proper wedding attire [dressed in the righteousness of Jesus or according to rabbinical teachings- dressed with repentance]. In verse 12 the King addresses this person and asks him where his wedding clothes are, to which the person has no answer. And the King them commands that he be taken out and cast into outer darkness. Then we arrive at verse 14 where Jesus says, "Many are called, but few are chosen."

This Parable deals more with having a true change of heart than with being one who simply and without thought says yes to Jesus, but then goes and does as he pleases. When there is no change of heart, no desire to follow the tenants of the Lord and no repentance, then there is no righteousness. Jesus is our righteousness, and in submission to Him, which is reflected by repentance and obedience, we are “clothed in righteousness.”

This saying that refuses entrance into the kingdom based on proper attire is more about rebuking the one who says yes, I will follow, but relies not upon the Lord. Rather he places trust in his own methods and personal works to achieve salvation. It also speaks volumes to the ones [Pharisees and Chief Priests as well], who thought their position in the temple or as Abraham’s children gave them the right to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is plain here and He says they cannot partake of the Wedding Banquet if they(1) don't come and (2) are not properly dressed.

It is clear here that the Lord’s message is that though many have been invited to come, and while some think they have earned the right to be there, that only those who put on Christ will enter and feast with the King.

We must all ask ourselves "Am I prepared to put on the mind and heart of Jesus in order to be properly dressed for the wedding feast". If not, who do we need to ask for help?

Peace and love,

Reverend Sue

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy

Spiritual practices from all traditions . . . the letters to know to read the world spiritually and to spell meaning in daily life

ATTENTION: Pay attention. Stay awake and totally alert. See with receptive eyes and discover a world of ceaseless wonders.
BEAUTY: Walk the path of beauty. Relish and encourage its inward and outward expressions. Acknowledge the radiance of the creation.
BEING PRESENT: Live in the present moment. Don't obsess about the past or worry about the future. All you need is right here now.
COMPASSION: Open your heart, mind, and soul to the pain and suffering in the world. Reach out to others and discover the rewards and obligations of deep feeling.
CONNECTIONS: Cultivate the art of making connections. See how your life is intimately related to all life on the planet.
DEVOTION: Express your feelings of praise and adoration through devotional practices. Pray with words and pray through your actions.
ENTHUSIASM: Celebrate life with this intoxicating passion. It adds zest to everything and helps build community. Hold nothing back.
FAITH: Recognize and accept that there is another dimension to life than what is obvious to us. Live with obstacles, doubt, and paradox, knowing that God is always present in the world.
FORGIVENESS: In both your private and public lives, discover the sweet release that comes from forgiving others. Feel the healing balm of being forgiven and of forgiving yourself.
GRACE: Accept grace and your world will be larger, deeper, richer, and fuller. Look for its intimations everywhere. Let this seed of the Giver of Life bloom in your words and deeds.
GRATITUDE: Spell out your days with a grammar of gratitude. Be thankful for all the blessings in your life.
HOPE: Let this positive and potent emotion fuel your dreams and support your service of others. Through your attitudes and actions, encourage others never to lose hope.
HOSPITALITY: Practice hospitality in a world where too often strangers are feared, enemies are hated, and the "other" is shunned. Welcome guests and alien ideas with graciousness.
IMAGINATION: Give imagination free rein in your life. Explore its images and ponder its meaning-making moments, and it will always present you with something new to be seen, felt, or made known.
JOY: Rejoice and be exceedingly glad. Find t his divine energy in your daily life and share it with others.
JUSTICE: Seek liberty and justice for all. Work for a free and fair world where oppression and inequality no longer exist.
KINDNESS: Let Spirit flow through you in little acts of kindness, brief words of encouragement, and manifold expressions of courtesy. These deeds will add to the planet's fund of good will.
LISTENING: Cultivate the art of deep listening in which you lean toward the world in love. All things in the universe want to be heard, as do the many voices inside us.
LOVE: Fall in love over and over again every day. Love your family, your neighbors, your enemies, and yourself. And don't stop with humans. Love animals, plants, stones, even the galaxies.
MEANING: Constantly try to discover the significance of your experiences. Seek further understandings from sacred texts and spiritual teachers.
NURTURING: Take good care of the best that is within you. Self-exploration and personal growth continue throughout our lifetimes and equip us to tend to the needs of others.
OPENNESS: Hold an open house in your heart for all people and all things. Practice empathy with others and receptiveness toward the universe.
PEACE: Protect the earth's future by promoting peace every day. Your small steps will link you with others who are combating violence in the world.
PLAY: Be playful. Express your creative spirit in spontaneity. Hurrah the pleasures of being, and let loose your laughter.
QUESTING: Savor questions and thrill to the quest. See your life as a journey that quickens your faith and deepens your soul.
REVERENCE: Practice reverence for life. The sacred is in, with, and under all the things of the world. Respond with appropriate respect and awe.
SHADOW: Give up trying to hide, deny, or escape from your imperfections. Listen to what your demons have to say to you.
SILENCE: Slow down. Be calm. Find a place where you can regularly practice silence. There you will find the resources to revitalize your body, mind, and soul.
TEACHERS: Be willing to learn from the spiritual teachers all around you, however unlikely or unlike you they may be. Always be a sensitive student.
TRANSFORMATION: Welcome the positive changes that are taking place in your life. Open up the windows and let in some fresh air. Wholeness and healing are waiting in the wings.
UNITY: In this age of global spirituality, respect differences but affirm commonalities. Work together with those who are trying to make the world a better place.
VISION: Practice the art of seeing the invisible. Use the wisdom of your personal visions to renew yourself and your community.
WONDER: Cultivate a vibrant curiosity and welcome the reports of your senses. The world is alive and moving toward you with rare epiphanies and wonderful surprises. Remember you are standing on holy ground.
X - THE MYSTERY: Accept the unknown as part of life. Don't try to unravel the profound mysteries of God, human nature, and the natural world. Love the ineffable.
YEARNING: Follow your heart's boundless desire. It takes you out of yourself and fosters an appreciation for the multidimensional pleasures of life.
YOU: Accept that you are a child of God. Sing your own song with gusto. Fulfill your mission as a copartner with the Holy One in the unfolding drama of the universe.
ZEAL: Be passionately aroused by life. Cherish every moment, honor your commitments, and treasure your kinship with all.


Rev. Sue Provost

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Do you say "yes" when you mean "no"?

Mt 21:28-32
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
"What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'
He said in reply, 'I will not, '
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, 'but did not go.
Which of the two did his father's will?"
They answered, "The first."
Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him."

Today’s Gospel contains one of the shortest and arguably one of the most straight forward of all the parables, and it seems we don’t even have to think much about it because it is even explained or interpreted to us by Jesus. But maybe it is more complex than we think. This parable is really one about honor, and in defining ‘honor’ it would be good to keep in mind the fourth commandment “Honor your mother and father.”

Jesus addressed today’s short parable to the chief priests and elders who approached him while he taught in the Temple and asked for his credentials, saying: “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority? We, who are the legitimate Temple authorities, didn’t commission or license you.” What they are doing is challenging Jesus’ honor. So I want to say a few things about honor, and in particular the concept of honor in the Middle East, which can be quite different from our own.

A Christian missionary in the Middle East used to share this parable about the two sons – the one who says “yes” and doesn’t do what the father asks, and the one who says “no” and ends up doing it – with Middle Eastern villagers that he visited and he would ask: “Which was the better son?”

He was amazed when the vast majority answered that the son who said yes to his father even though he did not go to work in the vineyard was without doubt the better son. Why? Because the son’s reply was honorable and respectful. It was what the father wanted to hear. That the son never went to work in the vineyard is beside the point, which in the Middle East is always honor. To lose one’s honor in the Middle East, especially publicly is one of the worst things that can happen to a person.

Remember that life in the Middle East was very public. Honor, which is the core value of this culture, requires such onlooking. The dialogue between the father and his sons in this parable takes place not in private, just between two at a time, but rather in public, within view and earshot of many villagers. Like their modern-day descendants, the Middle Eastern villagers in this parable favor the respectful but disobedient son over the disrespectful but obedient son.

Like the modern Middle Eastern hearers of Jesus’ parable, the ancients too would believe –against reality–that giving an honorable answer is enough. In their mind, conforming to the ideal of speaking respectfully is sufficient to fulfill the commandment to “honor one’s father and mother”

However, Jesus did not ask which son behaved honorably. He asked: “Which of the two did the will of his father?” Modern Middle Easterners would certainly echo the judgment of Jesus’ listeners: “The second son,” that is, the one who ultimately went and worked in the vineyard as he was directed by his father. But even though they recognize the importance of obedience, the honorable appearance would be more important.

This parable of the two sons allows Jesus a way to defend his honor and present a counter-challenge to his adversaries in this reading, the chief priests and elders. The point of the parable would have been quite clear to the listeners. With his explanation, Jesus rubs salt into the wound his parable has opened.

The tax collectors and prostitutes acted like the first son. Initially they said no to God, but hearing John the Baptist’s preaching they converted and are doing what pleases God.

The chief priests and elders are like the second son. They too heard John’s preaching and saw the responses of the tax collectors and prostitutes. They pretended acceptance of God, but refused to accept John as a messenger from God. Jesus says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” It is the first son, not eh second who will merit heaven. It is the tax collectors and the prostitutes and not the Pharisees who will merit heaven – because they have not done the will of the Father.

This is what it means to be a “hypocrite”. Many of us have said no to the church but here you are today and every Sunday in church doing the will of the Father. Yet there are many people say “Yes”. They believe in all the rules and in going to church, but never go.

The parable in today’s liturgy is one of three or four parables that we have been hearing and will hear for these next three weeks. Last week we heard about the hiring of the early and late grape pickers who all got the same check. Today we hear of the “Yes and No” sons.

Again Jesus is directing his teachings toward the scribes and elders of Israel. The tax collectors and prostitutes had said with their lives,” No!” to the call of the vineyard. Yet, by listening to the call of Jesus their choices are a strong “Yes!” as they repent.

The “elders and scribes” have been living a “Yes”, but do not respond to the invitations of Jesus. They do not gain entrance into the kingdom as do the former sinners.

Even more, the religiously upright elders have a problem with Jesus’ being so mercifully inclusive. They hear this parable and understand it to mean that though they have said yes, by their refusal to follow Jesus, they do not belong. Note the implication of the parable’s use of the father-son image: the chief priests and elders are brothers to the tax collectors and prostitutes! Just making them members of the same family was insulting! This is a very hard saying and a difficult little story.

What does it mean for us?

First of all, it means that God prefers actions over words. We are both yes-ers and no-ers. Our faith is an orientation toward trusting God’s care and mercy. Yet we stumble over that “yes” when the difficulties of life spin our minds and hearts around and we say “no!” by our not wanting to deal with, accept, or live through all that life might give us.

We can live a “No” as well by not allowing ourselves to go into the vineyard of life, because we can not accept the forgiveness that Jesus brought. The tax collectors and prostitutes were included, because they allowed their lives to be changed, their images of themselves to be rearranged by Jesus’ merciful touch.

Actions do speak louder than words. Our actions can move beyond our feelings. The “no” brother took his place in the vineyard with many of the early followers of Jesus. Peter protested his “no”, but got up and followed Jesus.

It is easy and honorable to say that we are going to do something to please our bosses or our pastors or our husbands and wives. But the real honor comes in doing. If we really want to honor our God, we must find ways to do the will of God. Sometimes it won’t be easy, sometimes it will put us out. Those can be the little crosses we bear that Jesus spoke of two weeks ago.

Just as the religious leaders have had their world upended by the teaching of Jesus, so too have tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. They had to change their minds about themselves: they were not beyond redemption. They, too, were beneficiaries of the blessings Jesus brings.

The call to repentance upends everyone’s world—the righteous and sinners alike! It should also upend our world, because we too are being told that there is hope and redemption is available for everyone. We pray in the Our Father – thy will be done! Even though we have often said ‘no’ to God’s call, the proof is in the pudding. There is always still time to go out into the vineyard. The pay will be the same! This is the great blessing that Jesus brings to us today, and this is the Good News that he wants you to hear!

Peace and love,
Reverend Sue

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

We are in this kingdom together!

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that 'every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.'
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you,
if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them." (Mt 18:15-20)

The Gospel of Matthew suggests to us that the kingdom of heaven of which Jesus preaches continually, exists in the present age. It is here now. However, it hasn’t reached its fullness yet, and we are still waiting for that fullness to come – Thy kingdom come, Jesus has us pray! So there is a tension set up in Matthew’s Gospel between the present and the future, and much of what Matthew talks about is how we live out that tension in our daily lives. What obligations do we have to not only live in as much of the fullness of the kingdom as we can right now, but make sure that we and others are ready for its completion, its consummation.
In the present kingdom, right now, as Matthew describes it, the Apostles and their descendants have the power to bind and loose. He had already given that power to Peter two chapters before, but it becomes clear here that it is a communal apostolic function which has two parts – the binding – which can be seen as the attempt to help others to achieve perfection and the loosing – which can be seen as offering God’s forgiveness to those that fail. It becomes clear that the Church has attempted and needs to attempt to influence the conduct of its members but also through the sacrament of Reconciliation, to forgive them in their imperfection.

This Gospel from Matthew involves our obligation to be our brother and sister’s keeper as a member of the church, the body of Christ. “If your brother or sister sins against you” is an interesting phrase. Jesus doesn’t say, “if a brother or sister sins” but he says “if either sins against you”. What does that mean to sin against you. Generally, it has come to be interpreted not as a private thing, but a sin against the community. “You” means the Christian community. Today’s Gospel is about how we treat insiders, members of our own community, and is not advise on what to do when we have problems with others outside the Christian community.

Jesus clearly talks about what one should do if there is a breakdown in the relationship of a member to the community. In fact, Jesus outlines a three-step method for dealing with it, and reconciling that member to the community. First of all, Jesus recommends a face to face meeting with the offender in which you explain the transgression or problem. If that doesn’t work, he recommends what we would probably call today an intervention by a number of members of the community. Finally, if that doesn’t work, the whole community can come together and decide what to do with the person who will not repent. Evidence has to be given before a decision can be made, but the community can decide to make that person leave the community. Sounds a lot like democracy to me! According to Jesus, the will of the Christian community is binding. As is the forgiveness of the community. In the new kingdom on earth, such power is available. It may not seem so bad for us who are American’s to be thrown out of a community and to have to go it alone. Individualism seems to be one of our strongest traits. In the world of Jesus, however, to be without a community would be one of the worst things that could happen to a person because the community was their protection.

It is because of what Paul describes as the law of love that the kingdom of heaven exists now. Christ came in love, preached love and is love. “Love does no wrong to a neighbor”, says Paul. Again, we are talking about the relationship of one member to the rest of the community, and that sin is a breakdown in the relationship between that person and the community, or between that person and God. Our obligation as one who is chastised is, to be humble enough to listen to what others are telling us about our relationships, and to try to change.

The last few lines of our Gospel today also reveal another quality of the kingdom which is present to us right now. We have been given a link to the kingdom to come, in that if we agree on anything as a church, God will listen and agree to it as well. And lastly, of course, the promise that Christ is present to us right now, today, this very moment – where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. And where Christ is, there also is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus is truly present where two or more are gathered, because he said he would be, both because being together in his name his presence is spiritual. Let us rejoice in the Good news today, recognize our obligation to love our neighbor and realize that Christ is among us in many ways in this kingdom of heaven of which we have a taste right now. Let us remind ourselves of this Good News often during the week as we strive to help each other through this kingdom of God!

Peace and love,

Rev. Sue

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

GOSPEL: MT 16: 21 - 27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
"God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you!"
But Jesus turned and said to Peter,
"Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

Then Jesus said to the disciples,
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny themself,
take up their cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for someone to gain the whole world
and forfeit their life"
Or what can one give in exchange for their life?
For the Son of Man will come with angels in the Father/Mother's glory,
and then he will repay all according to their conduct."

IN LAST WEEK’S GOSPEL we saw the disciples riding high. They had, through Peter, acknowledged that Jesus, their teacher and friend, was no less than the long-awaited Messiah-King of Israel.

"You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." It must have been a really exciting moment for them. This, in turn, brought from Jesus a commission of the highest responsibility to Peter and his fellow disciples. Through Jesus, they were to be given the authority of God himself within their future communities. Peter himself is spoken of as a rock, firm and unshakeable, on which the ekklesia, the Church community, will be built.

It is hard to imagine that this was not a moment of particular joy and satisfaction for the disciples. They now were thinking that Jesus, in line with Jewish expectations, would be a glorious and powerful king. And they, of course, as his followers and companions would have a special share in the glory and privileges that went with it.

However, the euphoria was not to last very long. Very soon after this, "Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day." This, undoubtedly, comes as a terrible shock. This was not at all part of the scenario for the coming of the Messiah! What is worse, the agents of Jesus' humiliation and death will not be some hostile outsiders (like the pagan and barbaric Romans) but the leaders and most distinguished people of their own community. The elders, chief priests and scribes were the people who formed the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews in Palestine.

Furthermore, it would happen in Jerusalem, the holy city, the site of the Temple where God dwelt among his people. It might be remembered, however, that Jerusalem was the city where prophets died. ("O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you!' – Jesus' words to the Pharisees [Matthew 23:37].) The disciples must have felt very disturbed and confused indeed.

So, it is not surprising that at this point, Peter, still flush with his newly-acquired status, takes Jesus to one side, speaking to him almost on equal terms. "Heaven preserve you, Lord! This must not happen to you." How can this happen to the Messiah-King of Israel? The angry reaction of Jesus must have come as somewhat unexpected, to say the least. Turning to face Peter, Jesus says: "Get behind me, Satan!" These are strong words for someone who just now was being given leadership of the community Jesus would leave behind. It is not to be understood that Peter is literally a demon but the disciple's words are understood as a real temptation to Jesus to turn away from the path he is to follow. Unwittingly and with the best of intentions, Peter is doing the devil's work – trying to steer Jesus away from the path laid out for him by his Father. How often have we been such a temptation or stumbling block to others? Perhaps more often than we care to think.

"You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God's way but that of a human being." Peter is seen as an obstacle, a scandal, a stone in one's path which causes one to stumble. Ironically, the 'rock' which Jesus just now had said would be the foundation of his ‘church’ is now seen as an obstacle to Jesus' work and mission!

Jesus is angry for, though his disciples may have acknowledged that he is the Messiah, they clearly have no idea whatever what kind of Messiah-King Jesus is going to be. They are, as he says, thinking in purely human terms and have not yet got "the mind of Christ" (Philippians 2:5).

They shall have to change completely their ideas about what the Messiah is going to be like. He will not be a great political and military leader who will sweep away all of Israel's enemies. Even after the resurrection they were still thinking in those terms. "We had hoped that he was the one that would redeem Israel", said the two fellows on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:21), not realising the irony of their words. "When will you restore the kingdom of Israel?" the disciples asked Jesus as he prepared to leave them at the Ascension.

Yes, Jesus will be a King, but he will be a King of love, a King who will rule by serving. Because he loves and serves them, he will, if necessary, be prepared to die for them, for this is the greatest love that a person can show for his friends. This is not to say that Jesus wants to die on the cross but he is totally prepared to suffer and die, if the service of love demands it – and it will. Ultimately, the disciples will see that the death of Jesus was the source of his greatest glory and power. "When I am lifted up from the earth [on the cross and into glory], I will draw everyone to me" (John 12:32).

Today's Gospel goes further than just asking us to understand why the glory of Jesus our King and Lord was to be found through suffering and the shameful death of the Cross. There is a further call for us to walk the same road with Jesus. "If anyone (not just the heroic martyr or the saint) wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me." Jesus is asking each one of us to dedicate our lives in totally loving and serving others even if, at times, this involves misunderstanding, ridicule, pain and even death itself.

It would be altogether wrong to think that Jesus is asking us to lead miserable lives in order to be good Christians, although one gets the impression that some people interpret the passage in that way. To follow Jesus fully, we must be able to see life as he sees it, we must have that "mind of Christ".

When we have the mind of Christ then we can only see our lives in terms of loving and serving others and not in the pursuit of purely self-centred or even family-centred ambition. When we have the mind of Christ, the whole direction of our life changes. Our whole concept of happiness changes. Jesus is calling us not to a life of sacrifice and suffering but rather to a life of total love and freedom. The person who can go to jail for his beliefs is more free and usually a lot happier than the one who is tied to the pursuit of material things, social position, pleasure and the fear of pain.

"Renouncing oneself” is not a suppression of one's personality. It is rather to let go of oneself so that one can really find oneself.

This is what today's reading is saying, namely, that Jesus is calling us to where true success and happiness are. Maybe when we walk the way of Jesus there will be people who criticize us, think we are stupid and even attack us. Yet those who have chosen the way of Jesus again and again confirm that their lives are full of freedom, happiness and peace. Isn't that what we all would like to experience?

Peace and love,
Reverend Sue

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Mission Statement

We will do no harm as we strive to improve the condition of the poor in Haiti. By empowering poor people with food, medicine, and the ability to get an attainable education, we will work to bring these goals to the attentions to whoever will listen. We will spread the news that together we can make a difference for the poor. We are challenged as religious people and as human beings to help those who have less or nothing. We will identify which medicines are needed for better health. We will identify what food is needed and try to get it there. We will identify who has the education skills but lack the resources to achieve their goals to make Haiti a better place to live. We will locate Haitians who want to be educated and turn their skills into making Haiti a better place in which to live.

If you would like to help us in this work, please visit our website:

You can help us make a difference in Haiti!

Peace and love,

Reverend Sue Provost

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Annual Wine and Cheese and Silent Auction Fundraiser

Dear Friends,

Our organization, The Friends of Haiti, Inc. would like to invite you to attend our first wine, cheese, and silent auction fundraiser being given on October 7 and 8, 2011 from 7PM to 10PM. The cost for the event is $35 per person.
The Friends of Haiti Inc. are dedicated to Haiti and its needs. We are a charity that supports education, specifically educating the people of Haiti. Our organization has decided to assist in the mission of helping to educate those Haitians who wish to become doctors and nurses. We have partnered with the University Notre Dame d*Haiti in Port au Prince, a medical university, to assist students who have found it difficult to pay their tuition. These students wish to give something back to their country, and it is a reality that Haiti needs good doctors and nurses. What better place to recruit needed medical help, than in Haiti itself?
In a country that has 60 to 70 percent unemployment, finding a job is very difficult. We feel strongly that we need to fight the circle of poverty for the next generation by helping to educate them. Unlike other professions in Haiti, there will always be jobs for doctors and nurses. So this is where we have placed our focus.
We have invited Mgr. Pierre Andre Pierre, Rector of the University Notre Dame d*Haiti, to be our guest speaker. We feel that your presence and participation in this fundraising effort will greatly enhance our ability to help many Haitian students who would not be able to attend the university without financial assistance.
It would be our great honor if you would agree to attend this function. We know that you can help us make a difference in helping Haiti. We have enclosed in this letter, information regarding the event. If you wish to attend, please cut off the bottom of the information sheet and mail it with your check to the address listed above.
We thank you for your kind attention to this invitation. Please consider attending and helping us with this fundraiser. Please call 702-561-4119 or 702-523-8963 for information regarding the locations for the event.

Rev. Susan Provost

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Take a leap of faith!

Gospel Mt 16:13-20

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Matthew presents a central moment in the life of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus asks his disciples who people say he is. At first they give the answers they've heard muttered in the streets. There were many opinions about Jesus' identity. Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist returned to life (Matt. 14:2). The return of Elijah was expected to accompany the coming of God's kingdom. Others recognised the similarities between Jesus and the suffering prophet Jeremiah. Then Jesus asks not for popular speculations but for the disciples' own assessment. He pushes them to their own answer. He has waited a long time. He has allowed them to witness his works and given them access to his parables and stories. Now they must decide.

It is Peter who responds. He calls Jesus 'the Christ, the Son of the living God' (v. 16). He identifies him as the Messiah - the Hebrew word messiah, meaning 'anointed one', is equivalent to the Greek christos. Jesus is not just another prophet. He is the one for whom God's people have been waiting and longing. Jesus recognises that Peter's confession is a moment of genuine revelation, a revelation that can have come only from God.

Peter's judgement about Jesus is a decision of faith. We are not dealing simply with friendship or admiration. It is one thing to see Jesus as a good and holy person. It is quite another to see this good and holy person as a revelation of God. In order to recognise Jesus as the Son of the living God, Peter must have had some sense of who the living God is. It's because Jesus supremely corresponds to the image of God's anointed presented in Hebrew Scripture that Peter is able to make the leap of faith.

This leap of faith is something that can be made only with God's help. Humanity of itself can't know God. God is only known when he lets himself be known. And so Peter's recognition of Jesus as God's Son can be made only through God's revelation of himself. This is something that we can come to appreciate in our lives of faith too. We can spend hours in prayer and study of God's Word, but it is only through God's gracious revelation of himself to us that we can truly know him.

'Father, open my mind to recognize Jesus as the Lord of all, and to allow him to reign in my heart!

Peace and love,

Reverend Sue

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Friends of Haiti Wine and Cheese Silent Auction Fundraiser

Put the 7th or 8th of October on your calendar. Come join the Friends of Haiti fundraiser! 2 locations!
For Info contact Rev. Sue Provost for details

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jesus and John

Musings from Bishop William A. Wettingfeld, National Catholic Church of North America

Jesus and John are the protagonists of a great drama of ‘Follow the Leader.’ Reflections upon this monumental drama have far reaching implications for our modern times. Leadership and discipleship are the glues holding the keys to Christian
Spiritual and community development revolve around finding the qualities of some others to be so precious that people desire to cherish them within themselves and use them for their own commitments. This is what it means to follow the leader – or discipleship.
Leadership, on the other hand, is the type of influence someone has when people find your qualities and gifts worthy of esteem and imitation. Nothing spells more doom and gloom within a church community than when individuals live vicariously through others and bask in their talents rather than harvesting their own God-given gifts.
Jesus was a person who both followed and led others (“It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.” - Mark 1:9). For an indefinable period of time, Jesus was solely a follower of John the Baptist (After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee…As he was walking along by the Lake of Galilee he saw Simon and Simon’s brother Andrew casting a net in the lake, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me….” - Mark 12-18). The relationship with the Baptist created the benefits that formed the foundation for Jesus’ own ministry. It seems to be that the amount of time that Jesus spent living with the Baptist was substantial. I doubt that it was merely something like a couple weekend retreats. Moreover, there probably was a time when Christ was both a follower of John and a leader of His own followers (“Now it happened that when all the people had been baptized and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in physical form, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son; today have I fathered you.” – Luke 3:21).
As a follower of John, Jesus still thought for Himself and acted from His own inner locus of control. There were things about John that Jesus deeply respected and incorporated into His own life.Yet, there were still other respected values about John that Jesus did not make a part of His ministry (“John’s disciples are always fasting and saying prayers, …but yours go on eating and drinking….” – Luke 5:33).
Not many contemporary intellectuals of Jesus joined wild John in the desert. Jesus did, however. When Jesus was baptized by John, He identified Himself with the goals of John and his followers. Jesus was viewed as a part of John’s religious criticism His contempory religion and society. Richard Rohr stated regarding John in the desert, “…Jesus trusts him and accepts his non-temple, offbeat nature ritual while also going far beyond him….This son of the priestly temple class does his own thing down by the riverside; he is a superstar who is willing to let go of everything, creating his own water Baptism and then saying that what really matters is the baptism of Spirit and fire.” (*)
”Not withstanding, John’s influence did not place a damper on Christ’s personal beliefs. Both John and Jesus realized that they had something unique to offer one another.

* Rohr, Richard, Preparing for Christmas, St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2008. Page 20.

At the same time, they maintained healthy boundaries and distances from each other. What was shared was modified and transformed into something uniquely personal for
both of them. (“Then Jesus appeared: he came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. John tried to dissuade him, with words, ‘It is I who need baptism from you, and yet you come to me!’ But Jesus replied, ‘Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that uprightness demands, then John gave in to him.” – Matthew 3: 13).
Simultaneously as a leader and as a follower, Jesus was still always Lord and Master. He still is both. Through His Spirit, He follows His followers into every part of the world who are participating in every possible form of ministry. He goes before them to prepare their paths, heal their mistakes and inspire others through them. Today as yesterday, He continues to lead them further.
Therefore, the rhythms of discipleship and leadership still characterize the post-Resurrection Jesus in His Mystical Body, the Church. Jesus greatest miracles were, and still are, His friends who follow(ed) Him. In fact, Jesus did not work any miracle until He created His personal circle of friends. It was at Cana of Galilee where and when His ministry began.
When John followed Jesus, and when Jesus followed John, they did not require one another to be perfect mirrors of their own beliefs, personalities and life styles. They learned from each other while maintaining their personal boundaries (“The disciples of John gave him all this news, and John, summoning two of his disciples, sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?” – Luke 7:18).
To follow someone else does not require us to give up our own thinking. It does not supersede conscience or own personal responsibility. Following someone else’s lead
does not involve disloyalty to one own self. We do not become blind objects of someone else’s history when we follow their lead.
I know blind discipleship has occurred over and over again but it does not have to be that way. Granted there is a justifiable fear of leadership due to people like Jimmy Jones, Hitler, Stalin, 911, Islamic and Mormon fundamentalism, the genocidal movements in the Sudan, Uganda and other parts of Africa and the Shinning Path in Peru.
Even accomplished people like Carl Rogers and Buddha himself, taught that “if you see the Buddha in your path, slay him.” This has been the mantra of the ‘everyone is their own leader’ movement.
However, having faith in others is also a virtue that society at large has lost to some degree or in large measure. To insist that my way is my only way is to insist that all others must see me as a fearless leader - loner. We do not need Buddhists to think like we do to work well with them; we do not need any other Christian denomination to think like we do before we can work together; we do not need Democrats or Republicans to think like we do before we negotiate, we do not need atheists to think like we before we respect them and listen. Let’s keep the focus on working towards a better world and not on dogmatic tenets. A careful reading of Paul’s Epistle to Philemon and the Gospels teach us that virtue cannot be obtained by legislating behavior or insisting in perfect compliance with dogmas or laws. It is the spiritual vitality underneath compliance and belief that makes all the difference between theological dictatorship and spiritual direction.
We must not judge or compare Christian leadership with any other form of political or social leadership. The reason is that Christian leadership is basically a servant form of leadership. We want to develop leadership in others even more then leading ourselves. It is a way of serving others so that their gifts and ideas flower into personal and social success. This is leading and following at the same time – something Christ and John did well.
We strive for this kind of leadership in the NCCNA and pray that he Holy Spirit gives us the strength to do so.

The previous article was taken from the writings of Bishop William A. Wettingfeld, NCCNA

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)