Monday, June 27, 2011

The Bread of Life!

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world."

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever." (John 6:51-58)

Many of us, when we hear the name of the feast that we celebrate today, the Body & Blood of Christ, think of the consecrated bread and wine. And, on one level, our thinking is true. If, however, our experience stops with this understanding and goes no further, then we miss something that is most significant. It is true, as I said, that the consecrated bread and wine are the Body & Blood of Jesus, but equally important, so are we. The ramifications of experiencing this second reality as well as the first and of experiencing only the first are enormous.

When our focus is limited to the consecrated bread and wine as the Body & Blood of Christ, we eliminate the need to love our neighbor. We confine our relationship with God to the spiritual and, in particular, what we do here in this building. In effect, we are able to separate our lives into the spiritual life (my life with God) and the profane life (my life without God). This artificial separation causes the profane life to become what is truly important to me.

When our spiritual life is solely connected with a church building or religion, we use the word holy to mean "to separate that which is sacred from that which is profane." Many of you remember when the sanctuary of a church (where the altar is) was separated from the nave of a church (where people are). Only those who had been separated out (ordained) through the use of holy oils were permitted to enter the holy space of a church building. This separation was reinforced by the use of a rail that clearly defined the area called holy (the sanctuary) from the profane (the nave).

Jesus uses the word holy in a different way. He tells us to be holy as God is holy. God, in the way that Jesus experiences God, is both separate from us and with us. The ramifications of such an understanding of the word holy is seen in the analogy that St. Paul uses when he speaks of everyone being a member of the Body of Christ.

St. Paul combines the holy with the profane. He says that each of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit, not because of what we have done, merited or earned, but because of what God has done for us. In Jesus the divine becomes human (we call this incarnation) to inform us that it is God's intention and design that the human become divine. The two are forever inseparable.

Recognizing Jesus in the consecrate bread and wine is good. It simply is not the total picture. When we make it the total picture we seek to limit God, and God can't be limited. It allows us to make distinctions. When St. Paul uses the analogy of the Body of Christ, he makes no distinctions. All, he says, are members of the body. In everyone and in everything God is present. Recognizing - experiencing - God present in me and in you, in each other, in everyone, in the world, is the whole picture. Only when we begin to see God incarnate - present - in the world (in the person that I hate, in the child that won't behave, in my spouse, in the person who has abused me, in myself) and stop belittling that which we call flesh, will the mystery of the consecration bring us to a sense of awe and thanksgiving. When God's presence is incarnate for us in the bread/wine and in all of creation we most often live in a holistic worldview. Instead of approaching myself and others with a dualistic mind (either this or that), I see life as one (both this and that). God is present in me and in you. Importance is therefore not based on who does or doesn't have God (or intelligence, or power, or money, or beauty). Importance is found in sharing who I am with you and you with me, because all is a gift. Being of service to each other, and the world around us, becomes a way of life. If everything belongs, then nothing can't belong.

This is what happens when we celebrate the Body & Blood of Christ, that we are the Body & Blood of Christ. We celebrate God present in me, in you, in all of creation, and in the bread that we break and the wine that we drink. We celebrate God not only in this building but also in our homes and at our places of employment. We respect the earth and the environment because God is equally present here. We are drawn into an internal struggle when we see injustice and want to condemn. We suffer with those who don't have enough to eat, or have to endure bombs being dropped upon them. We grieve with the parents who see their child being convicted of a crime committed. We rejoice with the person who has received the promotion ahead of us. We seek clarification rather than taking offense over a statement made. We beg God to help us forgive when another does something against us.

When we find ourselves living in this way, we will begin to know how to be holy as God is holy. We will meet the divine that is always and forever one with our flesh.

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)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

As the Father has Loved Me so I Have Love You

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
The Work of the Holy Spirit
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:9-27)

What you do with the words of Jesus matters. For those words are not merely the words of Jesus, but above all the words that He brought to us from the Father, the Words that are alive with His Spirit. Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we will keep His words. To do so is to be loved by the Father and to be given the promise that the Father and the Son will come and make their home within us.

Conversely, Jesus states that whoever does not love him does not keep his words. So you can easily check it out for yourself: do you love Jesus or not? The answer is not in how you feel (for feelings can deceive you). The answer is simply in this: do you keep his words? Do you guard and treasure them, hold onto them, reflect on them, and let them shape how you believe and how you act? If you don’t, then says Jesus, you do not love him -And not to love Him is the greatest tragedy of life.

You can well imagine how the disciples must have been feeling when Jesus said this. Jesus had taught them so many things and they had tried to remember His Words, but they kept on forgetting! Forgetting the words of Jesus, and so not living in Him, not letting His words shape their way of thinking, of interacting with each other and the world. So when he says that the measure of loving Him is in whether or not they keep hold to His words, their hearts sink. As do ours. But Jesus knows that and so He promises more.

The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in Jesus’ name, HE will work a miracle within those apostles. He will teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all the words that Jesus said. Do you realize that we have the fulfillment of that promise to the apostles sitting up there on the altar in the Holy Book of the Gospels? There we see how faithfully Jesus kept His promise, how the Spirit came to them to help them, how the Spirit brought again to their minds with crystal clarity the words that Jesus himself had given them. And by that same Spirit they were written down for us!

But there is a danger there. Stop and think for a second about the way you operate. Why do you tend to write things down? You might say: “So that I will remember them.” But think about that. Is that really so? Isn’t it in fact the exact opposite? We write things down so that we do not have to remember them, so that we can put them out of our minds and not have to think about them. Do we bring that attitude, then, to the Holy Scriptures? To the way we listen to the words that Jesus brought from the heart of the Father to give away to us? Do we think that because we have the Bible in written form, we need not bother with putting its contents inside of us in living form? The answer to that is found by asking yourself, when is the last time you worked on learning a portion of God’s word by heart? “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.”

And do you know why Jesus wants you to keep His Words? He tells you: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Jesus wants you to have His peace within you, and His peace is the presence of God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who came on the Apostles today in flames of fire and opened their mouths to witness to Christ Jesus IS the Personal peace and love and joy that eternally proceeds from the Father and eternally rests on the Son. That means that Peace is a Person! Love is a Person! Joy is a Person! And that Person, the Holy Spirit himself, which Jesus receives from the Father, is His gift to you in His words so that the Spirit can live and dwell within you – that is what Jesus wants for each one of us!

Now, the peace that flows from the Holy Spirit’s presence is different from the world’s peace. Luther said that the world’s idea of peace is getting you out of trouble, while God’s peace is getting trouble out of you. Get the difference? The peace that Jesus would impart to you, the peace that comes from His Words, because the Spirit is in His Words, that peace can exist even in the midst of all kinds of heart-aches, trials, troubles, sufferings and pain. That peace flows to you from the Holy Spirit’s promises to you in the Word of God.

Peace that comes from your sins being forgiven: “And Jesus breathed on His disciples and said: Receive the Holy Spirit; if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven!” (John 20:19,20)

Peace that comes from your death being defeated: “Whoever believes in me, even if He die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25,26)

Peace that comes from having a home that no one can take from you: “In My Father’s house are many mansions, and I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself that you may be with me where I am.” (John 14:3)

Peace that in the Eucharist your Lord Himself dwells in you: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:54) So “greater is He who is you than he that is in the world.”

I could go on and on, but you get the point, don’t you? The gift of the Spirit, the gift of peace, this comes to you concretely in the gift of words, of promises. Words that Jesus gave you to find a home in you, that you might live from them and that they might chase away every anxiety and fear from your heart, that you might know in the depths of your being the unshakable peace that is nothing less than the Gift of God Himself indwelling you.

Jesus' Peace and Love be with you,
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, June 12, 2011

Thank You

I just want to thank all of those people who helped me to celebrate my father's life. I was so touched by all of the people who came to the service and showed me their genuine love and support. This is what life is all about, caring for each other, helping each other and seeing each other through all of the rough spots that life brings.
It was a great demonstration of how much better life can be when we allow others to help us.
My appreciation for my family, my brother, my husband, children and grandchildren, good and loving friends, cannot be expressed in words alone. My heart is filled with the goodness of God and all the fantastic people he has placed in my life. God truly does make good come out of bad.
My dad is in heaven; I have no doubt in that. He is my own special angel, who with all the loved ones who have gone before him, prays for me, protects me, and loves me.
My wish is for everyone to experience that love and support in their hour of need. We must never forget to ask for God's help and to take special notice of all of the wonderful people he puts in our lives.
God's blessings to all.
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)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dedicated To My Dad

I’ll never forget
That terrible day
Someone rang to tell me
That you’d gone away

The hurt goes through me
My heart has been bound
And there are some days
I don’t utter a sound

The heartache grows stronger
It comes through in a wave
A dark sinking feeling
Like the depth of a grave.

I’ve shut my door
And let no one come in
Locking myself in silence
Feeling empty within

You were like a rock
Strong, faithful and true
My life is diminished
Since I no longer have you

In New York you were born
On a cold autumn day.
Through your life you worked hard
No one showed you the way.

You served your country with pride
A Kings Point graduate were you
An officer and gentlemen
Handsome, loyal, and true.

A family you supported
A daughter, son, and a wife
To give them the best
You dedicated your life

I was your first born
Daddy’s little girl
And I took my own path`
But was still part of your world

I was not the best
Perhaps guilty of neglect
But you know in my heart
I had so much respect

I have always loved you
My dad and my star
Now all I can do is
To worship you from afar

I love you now
As I did back then
I just hope... one day
I will see you again

I am so proud of you
Brave and strong to the end
Despite all your struggles
A kind heart did you lend

I love and miss you so much,
Now in heaven you dwell
Take care of all who went before you
As you have always done so well.

So long Dad! I’ll see you later!

By 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)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

For the Journey

That very day, the first day of the week,two of Jesus’disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this,it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying,“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.(Luke 24:13-35)

We turn to Luke's Gospel for his unique resurrection story. Two of Jesus' followers, who failed to see Him in the breaking up of their personal hopes, and failed to see Him in the breaking up of His companions, will now recognize Him "in the breaking of the bread."

As a "companion," literally, "with-bread," is how Jesus comes alongside these two dispirited disciples. Their heads are down and they see the earth without any hope for the new life they sought in the teachings of Jesus. As a companion, He joins their darkness and gently leads them through their reflections on what recently happened in Jerusalem. Their eyes are more dim than their spirits and they find it hard to believe what they saw and what they have heard about His Resurrection. They didn't see it happen, so for them, it didn't really occur.
We watch and listen to their sharing in the rising of Jesus, as their hearts burn within them while they listen to this mysterious companion. He is a "collector," a "finder" and He has risen to raise both those who seek Him and those who take the road back to Emmaus. When Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, after his resurrection, they didn't know He was with them. They were quite caught up in their discouragement. Good Friday had been devastating to the "hopes" they had. They were so down because their expectations died on that Friday. In their self-pity, there was no room in their imagination for the Good News that God was trying to reveal to them.
We very often find ourselves on our own road to Emmaus. We are absorbed in our problems, discouragements and worries, which prevent us from seeing Jesus as being with us.
We want to focus on two key parts of the story. Jesus makes the "breakthrough" in two ways. He begins by "opening up the scriptures to them." This is very much what Jesus will be doing for us during the reading of the scriptures. We have come to understand the story and to appreciate how He came to enter our lives completely. We now know the challenges we face of not wanting to embrace our lives completely, resisting our own diminishment and death. The temptations to riches, honors and pride abound. Jesus has been confronting our discouragement by revealing Himself to us and inviting us to fall in love with Him and His pattern of giving His life away. And, we have seen the "scandal of the cross" as His revelation that his gift of self is "for me." How often our hearts have burned within us!
Jesus then comes into their home with them and ritually gives them a way to recognize Him and remember Him. When He "took the bread," they must have seen Him as the one who is there to nourish them with the daily bread that He promised would sustain them. When He "blessed it," they must have remembered how He gave thanks to God and placed His life in God's hands. When He "broke it," they knew He was the one whose life is broken open to reveal servant love to us. And, finally, when He "gave it to them," they knew who they were again - His disciples. Is this not how we come to recognize Him today?
We find comfort and great joy in watching Jesus compassionately seek out those who have their hearts and hopes broken. It is so human to doubt and want to turn towards where ever our Emmaus hiding place may be. We freely turned to our own tombs, burying our frustrated plans and fractured friendships. Our self-chosen tombs can be such comfortable resting places. These men are going back, and in meeting Jesus they will want, not to go back, but to return.
We have been praying often about our own tombs and hiding places. Their walls of fear, the locked doors of self-negativity and regret, have been abandoned and yet we know their comforts and the easily-found roads back to their ever-opened portals. It is very dark in our tombs and Jesus constantly invites us into the sunshine. The word "consolation" literally means, "with the sunshine" and conversely, "desolation" means "down out of the sunshine."
The men we watch this day experience the warmth of the sun in them being invited out of their darkness. We pray this day with the joys of having been found, having been called out into the sunshine. We also pray with the joy in the awareness that He will always be gathering His followers when their hearts and hopes are broken. He has risen so that we might have confidence in His grace more than our fragile selves.

Peace and love,

"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, June 5, 2011

"The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
(Matt 28:16-20)

If Jesus had remained on earth in His physical body, even resurrected from the dead, the Good News would be too limited. In assuming our human nature Jesus set aside His unlimited Glory, so to share in our limitedness, our finiteness. It is estimated that Jesus never traveled more than 100 miles from where He was born. In His physical, human body, He would be limited in how many people He could proclaim the Good News to. Also, His Apostles would remain merely followers; allowing Jesus to do all the real work of preaching.

In Ascending to Heaven, Jesus assures His Apostles that He will send them the Holy Spirit who will empower them to go to the ends of the earth, and to the end of time, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. In addition to being followers of Christ, the Apostles become Witnesses, spreading the Gospel far and wide. As the Mystical Body of Christ all the baptized become the hands of Jesus as they heal the sick, the voice of Jesus proclaiming the words of eternal life, the back of Jesus helping people carry the burdens of their lives. In the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, the finiteness of Jesus’ physical body is now set aside so that His Infinite Glory, which He has had for all eternity, can shine out into the world.

The Ascension of our Lord also makes clearer our goal, our real destiny, what will make us ultimately happy, or as it is put in the Gospels, Blessed. While honoring the material world, Jesus always called His disciples to a deeper reality. He reminded them, and us, that our real home is heaven, and therefore we need to look at things in this world with spiritual eyesight. This supernatural – that is that which is above the natural – reality, perfect communion with Christ Jesus, is the ultimate destiny of every person. Yet we can become so distracted along the way by the more immediate things of this world. This is not to say that everything in the world is evil. No, God created the world so all in it is good, but we cannot allow the things in this world to distract us from our destiny. The people and things in this world should always be pointing us to Jesus, to our destiny. When they cease doing that, and become the focus of our desires instead, they become idols.

Let us not merely be people “standing there looking at the sky,” as the Apostles did at first when Jesus ascended into Heaven. Rather let us do the work of ministry, as St. Paul reminded us today, “for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God….”

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)