Eight Sunday After Epiphany A 2011

Eight Sunday after Epiphany A 2011

Matthew 6:24-34

Someone called me one day saying, “Fr. I am worried about not being able to find job these days. There are just too much unemployed people waiting in line just like me. I am worried about not being able to pay my rent and end up nowhere.”

Another person called me on the phone saying, “Fr. I am worried about losing my family because I am not able to pay my monthly house rent. I have received an eviction notice and if I am not able to move out from the house by next week, the sheriff will take my family away from me and it will surely destroy our very foundation and being.”

And yet, another call I received two weeks ago saying, “Fr. Have you heard about the prediction of the end of the world in May 2011, an earlier prediction than the previous one from the Mayan calendar December 2012? It looks real and surely is happening around the world.”

 

I was sharing my own worries to Lynn one day, “I’m worried that I will have an early dementia due to stress. And she told hers, “I can’t find my phone and my keys, they were just here a few moments ago.”

 We all worry. We worry about the economy we worry about our health and our families. Worry seems to be the basic state of people in our society. If people are not worried about one thing they are worried about another. They worry about global unemployment and life security. I once had someone tell me they were worried because they had nothing to worry about and that there must be something they should be worrying about but had forgotten and that worried them.

The end result of all this worrying is sleeplessness and high blood pressure. Most of the time what we worry about, we can do nothing about, so worrying just robs us of joy.

I once told my Nephrology Doctor about my worry of not being able to get life insurance because of a significant amount of protein in my urine test which disqualifies me from the standard insurance requirements. My doctor scolded me saying, “Your life insurance is when you modify your diet regimen and lose weight. When you do that, you will live your life to its fullest.” She is right!!!

Our Lord Jesus Christ is right too when he said, “Don’t worry about how you will live” Jesus is not saying that we should just take on an optimistic attitude that ignores the very real problems and dangers of our world. However he does tell us not to worry. At the same time he tells us not to worry for a reason. He gives some very good reasons.

So what reasons do Christians have for not worrying? One is that life is more than food and the body more than clothing. We know that there is something greater than this material world. We know that there is spiritual reality that is deeper and more meaningful than these things. We know that things like love, compassion, faith and hope are more basic to human existence than mere food and clothing. So we don’t ignore the dangers that we may lose the physical things we need. Rather we look beyond those physical needs to more basic things.

We also know that there is a life beyond this one. I can’t imagine how people who don’t believe in an after life face death. To them the prospect of starvation must always loom over them. If the world were to come to end by nuclear war or natural disaster, to them that would be the end of their existence. But we know that there is more to life than this mortal existence. There is an eternity of life after this body turns to dust.

Don’t worry. What is the worst that can happen? The world economy falls apart and we starve. But we know that the source of love and hope and faith, Jesus Christ, is not dependent upon things as fragile as the environment. God will always be there for us. And when we die, whether by violence, natural disaster or extreme old age, we have an eternity of peace and light waiting for us. That sounds like a good reason not to worry!

Jesus gives us another good reason not to worry. In fact he seems to make the same point twice in this passage. First he says, “Look at the birds. They don’t worry about their next paycheck and yet they have plenty to eat.” God takes care of them. If God is going to go to the trouble of feeding the birds that are a dime a dozen, isn’t He going to care for us? Then he says, “Look at the wild flowers. They don’t read fashion magazines or run to the mall all the time; they don’t get chemical peels and face lifts and tummy tucks, but they are more beautifully clothed than all the movies stars in Hollywood.” God made them beautiful. If God goes to the trouble of making mere grass beautiful how much more will he cloth you in beauty?

The point is: God will provide. God made you. He will provide for the material things you need. You may not have all the luxury items that the world likes. But what God provides will be more beautiful and meaningful in its simplicity.  Worrying often accomplishes nothing. In fact it just seems to make matters worse. If you worry about being sick you will make yourself sick. If you worry that your life will not have meaning or good quality, you will rob yourself of quality and meaning in life. Worry is useless.

Now I think this is a good time to make a distinction between worry and concern. There are definitely things to be concerned about. We should be concerned about what we eat and how we will eat and have clothing and shelter. But if we have concerns we should act on these concerns and do something about it. The problem is we often have concerns about things that we can’t control, like rouge nations or the global environment or economy. And so we worry about those things. If you can do something about a concern then do it. Eat healthy, get involved with the community. If you have a concern and you can’t do anything about it, give it to the Lord. He is bigger than any problem you are worried about. He can handle global warming, nuclear proliferation and the hole in the ozone layer before breakfast. Do what you can about the small things with God’s help, and let God worry about the big things. If you can do something about a concern then do it. We have to start modifying our way of expending our resources. Do not spend more than you earn. Remove fast foods on your list of places, cook at home instead. Avoid delinquencies in your house payment, you will find the overcharges to be overwhelming. Avoid promises that may not be accomplished, they will destroy relationships. Be patient in your search for job and do not lose hope. Walk with faith in your heart.

“Why worry”, goes the song of Dire Straits, “There should be laughter after pain, there should be sunshine after rain, these things have always been the same. Some people can be bad, the things they do the things they say, but why worry now?”

 Let us continue to do the will of God. Compassion is what our people need, give them compassion instead of breaking them into pieces, for what profits a person if he/she gains everything because of power and pride but lose them all when we meet before the Lord our maker. If you can do something about a concern then do it. Peace be with you all, peace that surpasses all understanding may soothe your hearts and souls even when man persecute and revile you. Come, be at peace with your God, let tomorrow worry about itself. Come be one in the body of Christ and gain your strength from the very root that sustains you, the love of God through His Son Jesus Christ and in the fellowship of the Holy spirit, Come, we are here for you. Come with a smile in your face. Amen.

 

 

Sermon on Sixth Sunday After Epiphany A February 13, 2011

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany A  February 13, 2011
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes                                                          

Holy Child and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church
777 Southgate avenue Daly City, CA 94015

Matthew 5:21-37

Today, I want you to feel you are loved and I ask you to love each other. Know that you are welcome in this blessed place and that you were sent here for a reason. Seek further for that reason and you will find that it is because of the love of God that you were found and indeed you found others in this place.

There is so much hate, anxiety and uncertainties that we see happen around us and around the world and we are hurting our relationship with God so much as we hurt our relationship with each other, our country and ourselves. Love, when it gets in our way will take us all in the stream where God wants us to be. So I want you to feel that space where you feel fit, comfortable and in the care of our loving God.

Love each other – not with the love that depends on mood, and feelings – nor even with the love that depends on the behavior of others, but love each other with the kind of love that Christ refers to in today’s reading from the Gospel. Our Lord Jesus Christ came not to destroy the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them. Not what one man says, “Walk the talk” but does not do it, but rather “tend my sheep and find those who are lost”

The love that I mean is the love that goes beyond what seems right according to the letter of the law, and enters into the Spirit of what God wants for us, the love that enters into feeding others, into healing others, into showing grace to others, into giving peace to others, the love that values others, regardless of who they are or what they have or have not done. The love that does not despise others when the going gets tough, a true love and compassion to those who needed us the most when confronted with difficulties in life, in their struggle to protect and find shelter for their family. For what profits a man if he gains everything but will lose his soul in the end because he has no love and compassion.

With love – my friends – there is no loophole, no escape hatch, no clauses that say the deal can be revoked if this or that condition is not met. Love is total – it is unconditional – or it is not love at all. Feel the words of Jesus we heard read this morning. They were words addressed to a people used to compromising – to altering love’s demands as they are found in the law of God so that those demands would be easier to fulfill. In each of the four cases presented in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus sets for his followers higher standards than the Pharisees. Such might have shocked his disciples because the Pharisees were considered by all to be righteous. Yet, Jesus interpretation of the law called for a far greater righteousness which included outward behavior and inner motive. Jesus’ statement implies an imperfection and incompleteness. Each of the contrasting ideas presented in the Gospel is introduced by the formal “You have heard the commandment” and followed by a verbatim quotation of the law with this, “But I say to you” Jesus pushed for a broader interpretation and wider application than the letter of the law. Jesus was clear in saying; he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill them. His aim is at the motivating force behind one’s actions. You have heard that it was said “you shall not murder” –Jesus elaborated this by saying, “but I say to you that if you are angry with your brother or sister – you will be liable to judgment.” “You have heard that it was said, “you shall not commit adultery,” “but I tell you that everyone who looks with lust at another has already committed adultery…” “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool.” “It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” “But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery;

Now, if I may add, you have heard that it was said, “Walk the talk” But I say unto you, “Do it! And don’t be saying something that comes from the side of your mouth, or say something contradictory behind your back.”

There are no loopholes to be found in Jesus’ words, no compromises, No deals, No escape hatches. What Jesus does is crystallize the issues involved in loving God and our neighbors so that we can know – without doubt – just where we stand, and exactly what we need to aim for. Think about where you stand for a minute – Think about how you love others and ask yourself – is my love up to the standards set by Christ? We greet those who greet us, we do good to those who do good to us, we lend to those who will pay back, We welcome those who welcome us. As for everyone else – well – if asked, most of us have a reason for what we do, and an excuse for what we do not do. What we aim for as Christians – is to break through the limitations of our excuses, we aim to destroy all reasons that we might offer to treat one person as less than another and to enter into relationships with each other that are based upon our equality before God.

 An old pilgrim was making his way to the Himalayan Mountains in the bitter cold of winter when it began to rain. An inn keeper said to him, “How will you ever get there in this kind of weather my good man?”  The old man answered cheerfully – “My heart got there first, so it’s easy for the rest of me to follow.” The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that we can meet all the demands of love that are expressed in the law in one way – and only in one way – we can do so if we our hearts go there first.

Today – this day of Love – I urge you – let your hearts go -love God and love each other as deeply as you can. When you do – you will find, no matter how many mistakes you may make on the way, that goodness and blessedness will blossom along your path, and all that God has planned will come to pass. Let neither fear nor anxiety deceive and make you turn your heart away from God. But Love one another.

Today is also youth and young adult Sunday. Let me tell you that I have been on that road before. Youth is life’s summertime. It is the period of time when one feels strongly the tender throbs of life. But it is also a time of pain, hurt, disappointments, frustrations, fear of failures. Most of it is because of the absence of the love of Christ. A young person’s life is not complete without Christ. Let Christ lead you and you will find the greatest adventure of your generation in the company of Jesus, to be the agents of his love than can set the heart of man on fire for God. This Church is a house of prayer for you. When life is so unfair, come and be at peace with your God. Do something out from your love and offer it as an offering to God. Be at peace and feel secure here. Dream together as a youth and explore every possibility of doing service to others as your way of serving God. Do you feel being called to visit the elderly at home and in long term facilities by offering them your time to read news papers, sing songs or simply just being there to listen? Do you feel called to teach our young children who are following you as their models? These are just few of many things that you can possibly offer to God. I ask you my dear young friends to open your hearts to every possibility of loving God, your neighbor and yourself in this place.

Now to amplify more of what I said today, and just to make sure that the message has touched your heart, let me say that in the form of song to make you feel better and inspired. I love to sing you the song, “All you need is love” from the Beatles;

(Sung) “Love, Love, Love. All you need is love, love is all you need.
There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
It’s easy.

Nothing you can make that can’t be made. No one you can save that can’t be saved.Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
It’s easy.  All you need is love. All you need is love. Love is all you need.

My friends let us love one another and walk humbly with our God. Be at peace with one another before you come and receive the body and blood of Christ. Be transformed with that love and go out from this place renewed and tell others the miracle that made you whole. Amen.

February-March 2011 dates to remember

February 9 & 23, Cultural dance lesson with Ms. Christle Arriola. (Pandanggo sa ilaw, Tinikling)

February 12, 2011 at 6:30 PM, Valentine’s Sitdown Dinner at HCSM hosted by The Episcopal Church Women (ECW). Fr. Leonard to entertain with vocal & guitar serenade. The Rev. Dr Lynn Bowdish, Mariterie Adams and Maja Milanes to lead the Hula dance. Come one, come all.

February 13, 2011- Youth and Young adult recognition day 10:30 am service.

February 27, 2011- HCSM General meeting at 12 noon with Lunch. (Election of new Bishop Committee members, Diocesan and Deanery representatives; budget   proposal for 2011 approval).

March 8, 2011 at 6 PM, Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras)

March 9, 2011, Ash Wednesday

March 17, 24, 31, April 7, 14, 2011 at 7 PM- Lenten Bible study with Ruth Hoppin, author of Precilla’s Letter. HCSM Church Hall.

 

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany A 2011

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany A 2011
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes
Holy Child and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church
777 Southgate avenue Daly City, CA 94015

Matthew 5:13-20 “You are the salt and light of the earth”

Good Morning!! I can see a sea of lights present in every pew today!! Your presence gave brightness to our coming together to worship God.

Allow me to be your teacher in Christianity this morning. The first lesson today is; “You are the salt of the earth.”

Now I don’t know about you but I like salty foods. I love Binagoongang rice, adobo and kilawin and anything that has salt on it (Although I prefer now low salt diet to control my blood pressure). When you hear the word “salt” the first thing the comes to mind  is the flavor. And to relate that to the words of Jesus, we immediately say he is  saying that Christians should give flavor to life.

But there is more to Jesus’ statement than just flavor. While Jesus and his hearers might have thought of the flavoring aspect of salt, that probably was not their first thought. You see in Jesus’ day, they didn’t have ways of preserving food like we do. And one of the major sources of protein in Israel was fish. Most of the fish that I have in my house is either frozen Bangus or canned Sardines. I would be lucky if we have a left over canned Igat or eel from Apayao. You know they do that now and you must be clever enough to escape the strict inspectors at the airport customs.

Back in Jesus’ day they didn’t have freezers or, to my knowledge, canning. They used salt to preserve their fish. And the salt preserved the fish by killing bacteria. This we do also back in the Philippines when we dry and preserve our food meat by spreading salt to prevent the germination of bacteria. Hence we have etag or salted meat.

So Jesus and his followers probably thought about the preservative qualities of salt. Jesus is saying that it is our job to preserve people. It is our job to put them in touch with God, so that they can live forever and not rot with the Devil. Some would even say that we preserve the world because only our presence prevents God from destroying this sinful place. But it is more than just preserving. Here is where the flavor comes in. When someone comes to Christ, they not only are cleansed of their sins and preserved for eternal life; they are also given an eternal quality of life. Jesus spices up their life as well as preserving it. So like salt we should preserve and spice up people’s lives. That we always do when we come together to renew our relationship with God and each other and when we meet new friends at church and everywhere.

Salt was also an important part of sacrifices in the Old Testament. So when they heard “salt” they probably thought of the salt added to sacrifices. This was the “salt of the covenant” and represented holiness. So just as the priests salt sacrifices to make them holy, we are to spread holiness and salt the world.

What is the next thing Jesus says? Look back in verse 13 again: “if the salt has lost its taste how can its saltiness be restored?”

While it may be hard for us to imagine, salt can lose its taste. It can become contaminated so that it is no longer of any use for flavoring or preserving food. Have any of you seen road quality salt? That is, salt that is not good for human consumption. It looks like granite. It is gray with white streaks. Because it has other minerals in it, it lacks flavor and would probably make you sick. It’s only use is to throw in the road to melt snow. In one sense such salt is no longer salt. It’s just sand.

In Israel it wouldn’t even be good for that because they don’t get much snow in the holy land. You wouldn’t want to throw it away in your garden so you would throw it on the road and use it like sand. That’s what a Christian is who has lost his or her flavor for life. If they are no longer doing their job they are useless. They are like salt without any salt in it. Do you think you are likened to that kind of salt?

So Jesus’ first lesson in being a Christian is that we are like salt. We are supposed to be holy so that we can spread holiness. And by spreading holiness we purify and preserve the world. And if we aren’t doing that, then we are good for nothing. In a sense, a Christian who no longer lives Christ is no longer a Christian, at least not in the way they live their life. They are no longer Christians in the same way that salt which has lost its flavor is no longer salt.

The second point in Jesus’ opening lecture on Christianity is, “You are the light of the world.”

Many people, including myself, look at this and think it is saying the same thing as the first lecture. And it is close, but there is more emphasis here on doing.

Jesus goes on to say that you don’t light a candle to cover it up but to place it high so that many can see. In the book of Revelation the churches are symbolized as lamp stands. The church holds up the light of Christ just as a lamp stand holds up a lamp. Some people use a lighthouse as a symbol or metaphor for the church. The purpose of the lighthouse is to shine a light in the darkness so that ships don’t hit a reef or rocky shore.

Jesus says that like a lamp we must shine our light before people so that they see our good works and glorify God. Jesus is not talking about showing off. He deals with that kind of false piety later in the course. Here he is talking about true acts of love and mercy and justice. As Christians, we should live so that others see what we do and give glory to God.

There’s a story of a church that was built way in the highest mountains of Switzerland.  It was a beautiful church that had been built with great care by the villagers who lived nearby.  But there was one thing that the church didn’t have.  It didn’t have any lights.  You couldn’t just go into the church and switch on the lights like we do here.  Yet every Sunday evening the people who lived on the mountain side opposite the tiny church saw something magic happen.  The church bell would ring and worshippers would wend their way up the mountainside towards the church.  They would enter the church and then all of a sudden the church would light up brightly.  Yes – you see, the people had to bring light with them – so they brought lanterns.  When they arrived at church they would light their lanterns and hang them around the church on pegs set in the walls, so the light would spread all around.  If only a few people came to church the light would be very dim because there would only be a few lanterns.  But when lots of people came to church there would be plenty of light.  After the service the villagers would take their lanterns home.  At this time, to those who watched from a distance, it was as if a stream of light poured out of the church and over the mountainside.  For many it was a sign that all was well.  God’s light was with them and in them.  The only time the little church lit up was when people were there.  That’s when it truly became a church.  That’s when the light shown most brightly. So it is here today – we carry in us the light of God – and we gather here – this place truly becomes a church – a place in which God’s light is seen.  Jesus says that we are the light of the world – and he asks us to show his love to everyone when we leave here so that his light might give hope to those who see us.

The points therefore to remember are these: #1 You are the salt of the earth. It is your purpose in life to be a holy influence in the society at large and bring others to eternal life in Christ. If you don’t, you are like salt that has lost its flavor. #2 You are the light of the world. You are supposed to shine God’s light through your good deeds. That way people can see them and be saved from destruction.

I was told to shorten my sermon today due to the superbowl event, but I think I covered so far what you need to know and do for the rest of the week. So, thank you for your time, class. I will see you next week.  Don’t forget to read your textbook in the mean time. Oh, by the way, there will be a test on the contents of today’s lecture. It begins right now and lasts for the rest of your life. Your next assignment is to read Matthew 5:21-37.

Happy Superbowl to everyone, Please take low salt diet and be a bright shining light among others, even when your football team losses.