Love one another, will you?

                                               Love one another

                                                Romans 12:9-21

                                           The Rev. Leonard Oakes

 

“Let love be genuine. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Today’s Second reading was written by the Apostle Paul to the young church at Rome. The letter is full of advice, as Paul gives guidance in the early days of the church to a young community that is already experiencing some problems, some conflict and challenges, as they learn to live together, rooted in love, not a warm, fuzzy, soft-focus love, but a clear, “community,” interdependent kind of love.

Today, we are surrounded by a world that puts its faith more in striking back than in discovering beauty in every single one of God’s children. In Rome long ago, and in the world today, the sweet irony of loving our enemy, of giving our hungry enemy food instead of bombing them, of giving our thirsty enemy a drink instead of striking them down, might confuse and confound them, and perhaps even participate in their transformation as well. We are too conformed to the ways of this world rather than to the ways of the gospel, it seems, and unwilling to short-circuit evil with good. We find ourselves fueling the evil rather than doing the entirely unexpected thing of responding with love. It is the effect of sin disfiguring the essential goodness of our creation in the image of God.

This good creation by God is the reason we should consider our “natural tendencies” to be good and beautiful. Our truest nature lies buried beneath the distortions of sin and self-centeredness, of fear and failure to trust. And yet we are transformed by God, and the actions we choose have a hand in shaping us not in the form and image of a broken world, but in the shape of God’s own dream for us, good and lovely, gracious and giving and kind. Perhaps there have been moments that you can think of when you, or others in your life, in this church, have loved from the center of who they are, times when you have discovered beauty in everyone.

The beauty I am trying to paint here is not like this 54 year old woman who had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. While on the operating table she had a near death experience. Seeing God she asked “Is my time up?” God said, “No, you have another 43 years, 2 months and 8 days to live.”
Upon recovery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a face-lift, liposuction, breast implants and a tummy tuck. She even had someone come in and …change her hair color and brighten her teeth! Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it.

After her last operation, she was released from the hospital. While crossing the street on her way home, she was killed by an ambulance.
Arriving in front of God, she demanded, “I thought you said I had another 43 years? Why didn’t you pull me from out of the path of the ambulance?”

God replied, “I didn’t recognize you”.

 That’s not the beauty we all want to discover, but rather the beauty of our compassion to each other when we committed ourselves to follow Christ. The beauty where God can easily recognize us as we are, His own children,  a genuine beauty of love shared in our unity as one family of God.

We easily forget that we are ever walking in the sight of God. We are easily being overcome by evil rather than trying our best to overcome evil with good.

 Life is short, and we do not have so much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the journey with us. So let us be quick to love, swift to be kind and always ready to forgive. One person put it this way, “I live through this world only once and so whatever good I can do, whatever kindness I can give, whatever compassion I can extend, I must do it now for I may not have a chance to do it again.” Another person puts it this way, “we can live our short life with anxiety and fear, with anger and resentment, with bitterness and strife or we can live our life with peace and courage, with love and forgiveness, with peace and reconciliation.”

 A story is told of a person who had terminal cancer and that the doctor told him he had only a few months to live. Analyzing his chances and mindful of imminent death, he prayed to God what he must do. In a flash, God showed him those people who have something against him, those whom he had hurt over the years. God also showed him those who hurt him, who caused him anger and resentment. He decided to call them one by one or write them emails, asking them to forgive him or telling them he had forgiven them. Every time he forgives a person, one tumor in his body fades away; and every time someone forgives him, another tumor fades away—until all the tumors and cancer cells are gone. In that amazing act, he had gained healing and new life for himself.

 Love, forgiveness, kindness, respect, all the good fruit of the spirit bring healing to our souls because they nourish the wholeness in our hearts. Holiness is the absence of ruptured relationship.

It was said, to love a friend is natural; to love an enemy is supernatural. To love a friend is ordinary; to love an enemy is extraordinary. To love a friend is human; to love an enemy is divine. 

There is a sense of mystery from Jesus’ teaching on perfect love but his explanation was clear and vivid: “If you love only those who love you, what difference does it make? Even the evil people do the same. And if you welcome only your brothers and sisters, how different are you from the others in the world? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

According to the mystics, the fullness of human life is when we have embodied God in our own being.  The purpose of life is not for self-preservation but for self-transformation.  Life in all its fullness is the freedom to love without limits, the willingness to offer one’s life in the service of the others and the commitment to transcend the boundaries of human consciousness and self-limitation.  “Those who save their life will lose it, and those who lost their life will save it” the Master said.  As Francis of Assisi prayed, “It is in giving that we receive; it is in forgiving that we are forgiven, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” 

A newlywed couple would always argue about every little thing that comes their way. The man is always busy at work, comes home drunk going straight to bed. The woman doesn’t have time to take care of herself. There was never a time where they would sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about the good things they have accomplished together. The woman would always say to her husband, “Lasinggo” (Drunkard). The man would answer, “Pangit” (Ugly). Every day, those words are the contents of their mouth.  One day, the man got tired of the babbly mouth of his wife. So when his wife said, “Lasinggo” (Drunkard), He said to her, “Lasinggo man ako ngayon, tao naman kinabukasan” (I may be drunk tonight, but tomorrow I’ll be sober.) “ Ikaw, pangit ka ngayon, bukas, pangit ka pa rin.” (But you, you’re unattractive today, you will still be unattractive tomorrow).

Let us not get ourselves involved into this kind of argument. Love one another and be forgiving. Let the beauty of God’s love be displayed in our togetherness and constant walk with our creator. Let us always remember to remove our sandals because we are walking on a Holy Ground. Always remembering that God has something in plan for us and that although we are a lot of times, like Peter, forget God’s real plan, we are quick to ask forgiveness and restore our relationship as followers of Christ. Let us forgive and forget. Forgetting not the beauty and memory of conflict but the bitterness, anger and hatred we felt for others. It should be a virtue we who profess as Christians should posses. So that others may know who we are and why we believe God who owns us. We cannot appreciate the joy of reconciliation if we do not experience the bitterness of conflict. That scar may forever remind us of that sad ordeal. But instead of feeling anger and hatred and bitterness against someone, we feel compassion for him. Only then can we say that we have truly forgiven those who sinned against us. Thus the Lord’s Prayer would not be an empty skeleton of words and phrases, but filled stuffed framework with skin and meat and blood which give life to those who utter it. Let us therefore give one another a genuine love. Give it to God for the sake of your soul. Amen.

 

What shall we call you?

What shall we call You?

A sermon for Holy Child Episcopal, Daly City

By Rev. Joyce Parry Moore

 

In the name of God who knows us,

 who struggles with us, and who connects us. Amen.

 On Thursday afternoon, I met an A.B. (able bodied seaman) named Dino aboard the MOL Express, a vessel bound for Asia that would visit Oakland again in three months.  Dino and his wife, Maria Theresa, are expecting their first baby at the end of August, while he is still at sea. 

 As we stood in the recreation room after celebrating Mass together, the group of Filipino seafarers laughed and joked with Dino.  They assured me they would throw a celebration for him when the happy day arrived. 

 “How do you feel? “ I asked. 

 The very young Dino smiled deeply, “Scared,” he admitted.  “Excited,” he added.

 He told me that they knew Maria was carrying a boy child.  “What will you call him?”

 “Dino Junior!” the seafarers chimed in. 

 The eldest man, the boson, or boss man, added what sounded to me like “Dino Sur”. 

 I thought of the Philippine provinces – Zambuanga del Sur, or Camarines Sur, and I asked, “Dino of the South?” 

 They roared with laughter.  Then the older seafarer made claws with his fingers and growled as he repeated, “Dino SAUR!”

 Joining in the joke, I suggested, “How about Dino REX!”  “Dino the King!”

 What will they call him?  In what language will he be named?

 I’ve come to understand that most of the names of Filipino seafarers today are inherited from centuries of Spanish occupation, as well as the 19th century decree that changed and catalogued Asian Island names to Spanish ones.  Names like Renato, the chief cook whom I visited on Friday, aboard a vessel where the manning agency does not require the company to issue visas.  Without a visa to allow him off the ship, our conversation was one of the only ones with an outside person that Renato will have for ten months.  He works these long months to pay for the schooling of his two daughters – one beginning college to study as an engineer, and one who soon begins kindergarten, meaning perhaps 16 more years of such work and time away from his family. 

 Seafarers like Renato and Dino might name their children differently – in my six months as Senior Chaplain at the Seamen’s Church Institute at the Port of Oakland, I’ve heard some interesting methods for choosing baby names.  Some babies are named for boxing champions, some for rock stars, still others for flowers, or even after the places where they were conceived.  Naming has always been important; it conveys our identity, and our hopes for our children. 

 The Apostle Peter’s name literally meant “rock” – Petros in Greek, or Kephas in Aramaic; Jesus may have been having a bit of fun, like those on the MOL Express, when he called Peter “Rockie”, upon whom he would build his Church.  This after Jesus asks about how he, himself, is viewed:  “who do people say, who do you say that I am?”  By what identity, what name, is he known?  Was he known as John, the Baptiser, the prophet who preached on the margins of the city; or Elijah, who like Jesus stilled the storms, healed the sick, and even raised the dead?  Or something someone, more?  What name would he be given, and what would be expected, hoped for, from him?

 The baby Moses was given not a Hebrew, but an Egyptian name, one that meant, “to draw out”.  This is another play on words, as the Pharaoh’s daughter speaks of “drawing him out” of the water, not knowing how Moses would eventually draw the Hebrew people out of slavery into freedom.  The Jewish people, like more than 20% of the people of the Philippines, spent years in diaspora, traveling away from their homeland, working in other countries in order to survive.  One of the ways that they stayed alive, that they remembered their identity, was through telling stories of their origins. 

 As we transition this week from one of the Patriarchs – Jacob, then Joseph, now Moses – to another, it is interesting to notice that most of the characters in the opening story of Exodus are women. And the women who are named most specifically are the Midwives, Shifra and Puah.  The Talmudic sages taught that the names “Shifra” and “Puah” indicate different roles midwives play. “Shifra” stems from the Hebrew verb to swaddle or to clean a baby, while Puah comes from the Hebrew word to cry out because a midwife tries to calm a new mother’s cries by offering her words of encouragement.  Taken more broadly, these names can mean to make things better, and to speak with eloquence, two of the gifts talked about by the Apostle Paul in today’s letter to the Romans.  The Exodus text does not clearly indicate whether these Midwives were Hebrew or Egyptian.  If they were Egyptian women, perhaps they saw the rightness of the One God, and made the decision to resist the new regime of their government through wise and non-violent means. 

 Their resistance to oppression reminds me of another name, one that means, “Heart”; the name “Corazon”.  How perfect that the courageous heart of Maria Corazon Aquino led the People’s Power Revolution in the 1980’s, something that not only toppled the dictatorship of “Pharaoh” Ferdinand Marcos, but also earned Corazon the title of first woman President of Philippines, and  “Time Magazine Woman of the Year”, in 1986.  Like Shifra and Puah, Corazon connected people together, and helped them to resist unjust and violent laws, and managed together to change the future for their children.  Like these Midwives, President Corazon Aquino knew that struggle –Makibaka –must not happen alone, but that together they could overcome oppression and keep hope alive. 

 Perhaps today, all over the world, if we could begin to see our current economic crisis as an opportunity to come together, to realize that there actually is enough for everyone, if we broaden our story to include the needs of everyone in society, as well as our individual goals, together, we could find a way out.  How can we, as people of faith, begin to change the story?

 The story of the Exodus out of slavery, out of Egypt, is one of the most central narratives of hope for the Judao-Christian people.  It begins with a formula not unlike other familiar folk tales – the hero born of humble roots, and raised by a family not his own; the baby saved from execution, like Snow White, by the compassion of someone close to the throne.  And the Exodus story begins with women – from the margins of power, and from different cultures – working together, making connections and forming an alliance that overcomes the evil of the Pharaoh. 

 After the Midwives “birth” the resistance, the mother of Moses hides her baby, and then places him in a vessel, and sets him afloat; his sister, whose name we later learn as Miriam, shepherds the baby to the daughter of Pharaoh, who has compassion – another of the gifts of the Spirit.  Miriam helps Pharaoh’s daughter make the connection back to Joshebed, and this baby – who draws out the Hope of Freedom– creates a bridge between the Hebrew and Egyptian women.  Upon this network the liberation of the Hebrew peoples is built.

 As a feminist/womanist, I’ve read many essays and books about how women make ethical decisions in community, by making connections.  According to studies by sociologists, and research by theologians, women consider and make right decisions by connecting with others.  They find their integrity in community.  I have seen this value at work among some of the seafarers aboard cargo vessels, places where rank and hierarchy try to define the identity of each seafarer, where calling someone by name can be an act of resistance. 

 On rare occasions when the officers are in fact women, I have seen these women make decisions by talking with other crew about what needed to be done, and how they would accomplish it as a team.  I have also seen Filipino seafarers working in close community, making decisions together that benefit the entire group, and not just individuals.  For them, the Church, perhaps, is not built upon a solitary Rock, but upon a collection of many different rocks, standing together.  This variety of cultures is reflected in the folk tales from the Philippines as well.

 In a Creation story from the Philippines, we find the sea and the sky, and a bird – a Kite – flying between them, with no place to land.  In the struggle, the many hundreds of islands are born, and from the struggle on the islands a couple is drawn together, and from their struggle, many, many children are born.  These children eventually become the variety of peoples on the islands, with their various gifts and callings.  Like the Tribes of Israel, the People – Tao — are scattered.   What brings them together?

 Hope – Pagasa – and faith brings the seafarers together to worship over a mess hall table at the Port.  They come together from many countries and cultures and religions – Philippines, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Indonesia, Myanmar; Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Buddhist, Muslim.  They gather to tell stories, to laugh, sometimes to cry, to break bread and to give thanks.  They welcome me every day; and I welcome you.

 Come to the Seamen’s Church Institute at the Port of Oakland.  Come and be a part of this network, this fabric of God’s People, working to keep the hope of families and the world economy alive.  Come and tell your story, and hear the names of the oiler, the fitter, the Chief Mate, the Mess Man.  Come and draw them out, help to make things better, encourage them with your voice – bring whatever gifts the Spirit has given you.  Make the connection with the world that comes to our shores every day, and connect their stories to your story.  Whatever your name, you will become part of the Family.  You will be called, Friend.

The Rev. Joyce Parry Moore is a Senior Chaplain at the Seamen’s Church Institute at the Port of Oakland, Oakland California.

Campylobacter: What’s in your chicken?

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost A

(Genesis 45:1-15, Psalm 133, Matthew 15:10-28)

 August 14, 2011

 The Rev. Leonard Oakes

 

 I remember too well the story of Joseph the son of Jacob in the Book of Genesis. I was a passionate listener attending a summer vacation Bible school offered by a local Baptist church during my school age year. The teacher told us, Joseph was left in a pit by his brothers because he was their father’s favorite and they were indignant, they hated him so much. They told their father he was killed by a beast and presented to him his favorite clothing his father made him as a proof that he is dead. Little did they know that he was found and sold to an Egyptian slave owner and was sent to prison due to an accusation brought against him. But the Pharaoh of the land favored him because of his wisdom in interpreting dreams. He eventually became the governor of Egypt and has brought Egypt the abundance of food during the time of famine. 

The first reading this morning tells us that Joseph’s brothers found him and that Joseph revealed himself to them saying, “I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. Go tell your household, come so you will not live in poverty. And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. Go tell my father and bring him here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin and wept and Benjamin wept with him. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Imagine yourself being despised; hated, and sold by your own brothers and after many years you reunited with them. Would you have the same heart like that of Jacob who, despite of what they did to him, his mouth speaks of good heart? Or would you call them and do the same things as retribution to what they had done to you?

I love the ending of the story where Joseph’s father was reunited with him and they lived together in Unity. The songs of Psalm 133 supported this story when it said, “How good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to live together in unity.”

You may remember well when you were growing up, you and your brother or sister used to fight all the time and that your parents longed for the day when you would live together in unity.

 While the story in Genesis presented to us the beauty of what comes out of the mouth and heart of Joseph, the Gospel today presents to us the other side of what might come out of our mouth as dictated by the heart.

I have chosen to include verses 10-20 of the Gospel of Matthew 15, although it is optional, for reason that I wanted to connect the Old Testament reading with that of the Gospel in matters of pure intentions of the heart.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus let out some of the harshest criticisms to the guardians of the laws and traditions. One of the uniqueness of the Bible is that it records the raw things about humanity and society, about divine love and anger, pleasant things and unpleasant things, heavenly hope and human depravity.

The confrontation of Jesus and the disciples regarding Pharisaic teachings in our gospel story points to some important things about us, about the best of our traditions, about our need for healing and salvation, about the heart of religion. It is very compelling however that instead of helping; some traditions became burdens that very few people can keep!

One example of such burdensome tradition is what provoked Jesus, “the ceremonial washing of hands before eating.” Good Jews before they would eat would observe a ritual of pouring water over their hands with the fingers pointed upward. The water used for this ritual is not just any kind of water, but something blessed and kept in special jars and guarded to be free from any impurities! The Jews washed their hands and then poured water again over their hands from the wrist; this time holding their fingers downward. This ceremony had nothing to do with hygiene (washing off germs) but was a symbol of removing uncleanness. The ceremony was originally performed only by the priest for the community, but was required of everyone.

 This ritual has a similarity to what we do before we eat after burial of the dead in the Philipines. We wash our hands with warm water on a basin that has guava leaves on it used for antiseptic. This ritual is not more about hygiene but rather to drive away bad spirits and be cleansed with any disease and sickness.

Such act is also true during Eucharist when the priest would wash his hands before the Eucharist proper. This is not just done with an ordinary water but a blessed water while the priest do a cleansing prayer saying, “wash my hands and I shall be cleaned with any impurities in heart.” It is not more about my hygiene but rather any impurities of my heart before I can receive the body and blood of the Lord of my salvation.

Looking at those rituals, one would say, “So? What’s the big deal about washing hands before eating?” 

Just two weeks ago, I had a meeting with Peninsula Clergy Network of which I am now a board member, Rabbi Jay Miller has invited the director of the San Mateo county health and wellness department who presented to us a widespread bacteria found on chicken meats called Campylobacter.

Campylobacter organisms are spiral-shaped bacteria that can cause disease in humans and animals. It grows best at the body temperature of a bird, and seems to be well adapted to birds, which carry it without becoming ill. These bacteria are fragile. Freezing reduces the number of Campylobacter bacteria on raw meat.

Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. Active surveillance through Food Net indicates that about 13 cases are diagnosed each year for each 100,000 persons in the population. Many more cases go undiagnosed or unreported, and campylobacteriosis is estimated to affect over 2.4 million persons every year, or 0.8% of the population.

What can be done to prevent Campylobacter infection?

Some simple food handling practices can help prevent Campylobacter infections.

  • Cook all poultry products thoroughly. Make sure that the meat is cooked throughout (no longer pink)  you are served undercooked poultry in a restaurant, send it back for further cooking.
  • Wash hands with soap before preparing food and after handling raw foods of animal origin and before touching anything else.

I know, you will say, “I have been eating breakfast at Ihop every single day with sunny side up and I have never had any of those symptoms. The health department is simply saying; proper handling of foods will prevent any of those diseases. I have offered Holy Child and St. Martin to be the pilot center for health awareness on this disease in San Mateo County and I need your support to invite others when they come.

 Now, let us go back to what Jesus meant. Jesus cut through the dead tradition and pointed to the core commandment of God. Jesus was not against the traditions of washing hands but pointed to those guardians of the Laws such as the Pharisees, that there is more important than what comes in to the mouth of man for whatever we eat goes out to the toilet. But it is what comes out of the mouth of a person that defiles or makes a person unclean, for evil things come from within. This diagnosis from the greatest psychologist had withstood for all time. The heart had symbolized the seat of the best and worst of human beings. Human beings on their own have tendencies to go astray. We need God to help us nurture holy things rather than evil things in our hearts. It is what comes out of our mouth that makes us sin says the Lord. Our ears hear, our minds digest; our hearts feel but let us guard the mouth lest we come short to the glory of God. Let us not be quick in our judgments, let us rather listen. Let us not be part of a problem but rather be part of the solution.

Let us strive for cleanliness in heart, body and soul. The truth of our humanity, being messed up at the heart center, is no longer dismal or hopeless, but is victorious and confident in the reality of what God has done for us in Christ.

How many times have you ever felt being driven away or pushed to the wall by the very people you are expecting to grow with in your faith journey with God? Just like that Canaanite woman in the Gospel who was told to go away because she is a gentile and troublesome.

Let us love one another, where love is, God is there. This is the heart of our celebration. So sing your little lips with the song, “Please be careful little lips what you say (2x) for the Father up above is looking down at us, so be careful little lips what you say. Please be careful little heart what you feel….

Give the best to God, to each other and to yourself. Life is so short, don’t spend it trying to destroy one another, it does not merit you at all. Give smile to all that you meet, will you? Give the heart what is due to the heart, the gift of a wonderful and pleasant feeling. Let that feeling flow to the person next to you, from here and when you go back to your homes and works and everywhere. Kindly tell the person next to you how wonderful it is when God’s people live in unity and peace.

Please be careful with your little hearts, you are a child of God. You are meant to be blessed and to bless others. Smile, an everlasting smile, smile is what you need to give. Amen.

 

August 2011 Announcement

ANNOUNCEMENT

August 5-7- Church Summer Camp in Lake Oroville, CA. Please sign up with Richard Lagunte, Aldwin Pailano, Leo Vergara.

August 7, 2011 at 10:30 am, Blessings of School Backpacks. All Students please bring their school backpacks as we surround you with blessings for the beginning of another school semester.

August 13 at 9 am, CPR class. please sign up with Fr. Leonard at revleonardoakes@gmail.com

September 24, 6-11 PM, September to remember dinner dance at Doelger’s Cafe, 101 Lake Merced Blvd, Daly City, CA. 94015

 

Ongoing Activities:

 

1. Free guitar and percussion lessons (Every Friday night at 6 PM) with Collin Mcleod and Fr. Leonard

2. Free trumpet lesson (Every Friday night at 7 Pm) with Lee Cahalan

3. Free glass window making /workshop (Every Saturday at 11 am) with John Watson and Richard Dominguez

4. Free Hip hop dance lessons (wednesdays at 7 PM) with Dannyl Arriola

5. Cultural dance rehearsal (Every Thursday at 7 PM)with Dannyl Arriola

5. Free Movie and popcorn nights (Every last Friday of the Month) with Dio Ronquillo