Do you care?

Fifth Sunday in Lent B

John 12:20-33

The Rev. Leonard Oakes 

“Do we care if God sacrificed His only Son?”

In today’s gospel, among the huge crowds that had come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast were some Greeks. By the time of Jesus the Greeks had become among the most broad-minded people in the world. Various religious and philosophical traditions flourished among them and strive for popularity. It did not take these Greeks long to see that all was not well in Jerusalem. So they came to see Jesus. Why did they come to see Jesus? It is more probable that they came to alert Jesus to the seriousness of the danger surrounding him and to suggest to him to flee with them to Greece, the land of freedom.

The response that Jesus gives to their request shows that it has to do with his impending death and that he has chosen to stay and face it rather than seek a way to escape it. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say– `Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.

Jesus explains to his apostles that it is by his suffering and death that he is bringing life and liberation to the sinful world, just as a grain of wheat sown in the field ceases to remain itself, “just a seed,” by germinating and then growing into a plant which produces many new grains of wheat.

In many different occasions, Jesus spoke to his disciples about his death, but one may wonder do they really appreciate his impending death and understand what it means to them?  In our own contemporary understanding of salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross, do we comprehend the price that was paid for our salvation? Does living in the resurrection mean anything to us?

 Today, I wish to share a moving story I read From Hank Hanegraaff. A story about a man from Oklahoma named John Griffith who was in his early twenties – newly married, and full of optimism.  Along with his lovely wife, he had been blessed with a beautiful blue eyed baby. John wanted to be a traveler.  He imagined what it would be like to visit faraway places with strange sounding names.  He would read about them and research them.  His hopes and dreams were so vivid that at times they seemed more real than reality itself.  But then came 1929 and the great stock market crash.  With the shattering of the economy came the devastation of John’s dreams.  Brokenhearted, he, like so many others, packed up his few possessions and with his wife and little son, Greg, headed east in an old Model-A Ford.  They made their way toward Missouri, to the edge of the Mississippi River, and there John found a job tending one of the great railroad bridges that spanned the massive river.

 Day after day John would sit in a control room and direct the enormous gears of that immense bridge over the river.  He would look out reflectively as bulky barges and splendid ships glided gracefully under his elevated bridge.  Then, mechanically, he would lower the massive structure and stare meditatively into the distance as great trains roared by and became little more than specks on the horizon.  Each day he looked on sadly as they carried with them his shattered dreams and his visions of far-off places and exotic destinations.

It wasn’t until 1937 that a new dream began to be born in his heart. His young son was now eight years old, and John had begun to catch a vision for a new life – a life in which Greg would work shoulder-to-shoulder with him, a life of intimate fellowship and friendship.  The first day of this new life dawned and brought with it new hope and a new fresh purpose.  Excitedly father and son packed their lunches and, arm in arm, headed off toward the immense bridge.

 Greg looked on with wide-eyed amazement as his dad pressed down the huge lever that raised and lowered the vast bridge.  As he watched, he thought that his father must surely be the greatest man alive.  He marveled that his father could single-handedly control the movements of such a stupendous structure. Before they knew it, noontime had arrived.  John had just elevated the bridge and allowed some scheduled ships to pass through.  Then, taking his son by the hand, they headed off for lunch.  Hand in hand, they inched their way down a narrow catwalk and out onto an observation deck that projected some 50 feet over the majestic Mississippi.  There they sat and watched spellbound as the ships passed by below.  As they ate, John told his son, in vivid detail, stories about the marvelous destinations of the ships that glided below.  Enveloped in a world of thought, he related story after story, his son hanging on every word.

 Suddenly John and his son were startled back to reality by the shrieking whistle of a distant train.  Looking at his watch in disbelief, John saw that the bridge was still raised and that the Memphis Express train would be by in just minutes. Not wanting to alarm his son, he suppressed his panic.  In the calmest tone he could muster, he instructed his son to stay put.  Leaping to his feet he jumped onto the catwalk and ran at full tilt to the steel ladder leading into the control house.  Once in, he searched the river to make sure that no ships were in sight.  And then, as he had been trained to do, he looked straight down beneath the bridge to make certain nothing was below.  As his eyes moved downward, he saw something so horrifying that his heart froze in his chest.  For there, below him in the massive gearbox that housed the colossal gears that moved the gigantic bridge, was his beloved son.

 Apparently Greg had tried to follow his Dad but had fallen off the catwalk.  Even now he was stiff between the teeth of two main moving parts in the gearbox.  Although he appeared to be conscious, John could see that his son’s leg had already begun to bleed profusely.  Immediately, an even more horrifying thought flashed in his mind.  For in that instant John knew that lowering the bridge meant killing the apple of his eye. Panicked, his mind probed in every direction, frantically searching for solutions.  Suddenly a plan emerged.  In his mind’s eye he saw himself grabbing a coiled rope, climbing down the ladder, running down the catwalk, securing the rope, sliding down toward his son and pulling him back up to safety.  Then in an instant he would move back to the control room and grab the control lever and thrust it down just in time for the oncoming train.

 As soon as these thoughts appeared, he realized the ineffectiveness of his plan.  There just wouldn’t be enough time.  Perspiration began to drip on John’s brow, terror written over every inch of his face.  His mind darted here and there, vainly searching for yet another solution.  What would he do?  What could he do?

 His thoughts rushed in anguish to the oncoming train.  In a state of panic, his agonized mind considered the 400 or so people moving inescapably closer toward the bridge.  Soon the train would come roaring out of the trees with tremendous speed.  But this – this was his son – his only child – his pride – his joy.  His mother – he could see her tear stained face now.  This was their child, their beloved son. He knew in a moment there was only one thing he could do.  He knew he would have to do it.   And so, burying his face under his left arm, he plunged down the lever.  The cries of his son were quickly drowned out by the relentless sound of the bridge as it ground into position. With only seconds to spare, the Memphis Express – with its 400 passengers – roared out of the trees and across the mighty bridge.

 John Griffith lifted his tear stained face and looked into the windows of the passing train.  A businessman was reading the morning paper.  A uniformed conductor was glancing calmly at his large vest pocket watch.  Ladies were already sipping their afternoon tea in the dining car.  A small boy, looking strangely like his own son, pushed a long thin spoon into a dish of ice-cream.  Many of the passengers seemed to be engaged in either idle conversation or careless laughter. But no one looked his way.  No one even cast a glance at the giant gearbox that housed the mangled remains of his hopes and dreams.

 In anguish he pounded the glass in the control room and cried out, “What’s the matter with you people?  Don’t you care?  Don’t you know I’ve sacrificed my son for you?  What’s wrong with you?”

No one answered; no one heard.  No one even looked.  Not one of them seemed to care.  And then, as suddenly as it had happened, it was over.  The train disappeared, moving rapidly across the bridge and out over the horizon.

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This story is but a slight glimpe of what God the Father did for us – of what Jesus did for us in offering up for us his own life. Unlike the Memphis Express, that caught John Griffith by surprise, God, in his great love for us – determined to sacrifice His Son so that we might live. 

 But do we care? Do we even have the time to look or open our eyes to the reality of what God have done for us? Are we willing to lend our ears and look deeper to the meaning of the cross? Or will it be just another ordinary day, another ordinary news?

In our several stations of our walk to the cross, let us ask ourselves the question, are we willing to stand up for Jesus and raise the cross up high so that others may see Jesus? There are many of them out there in isolation wishing to “see Jesus” and we can not just be sitting here and not doing anything about it. We’ve got to stand up and tell others the wonderful life in God through His Son Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let go of darkness and let light guide you

Fourth Sunday in Lent B 2012

John 3:14-21

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

We are now on the fourth Sunday in Lent. We are gradually entering the most solemn part of our liturgical year, the season of the Holy Week. On your personal journey with God, how are you doing so far? Have there been things in your life you promised to change that came into effect? Or are you still clinging to the very things that keep you in darkness?

How’s your relationship with your family, your community? Did you find it more wonderful and worthwhile? Or are you still staying in your most comfortable zone unwilling to give up your emptiness?

I must say, it’s not too late if you are catching up. In fact, it’s never too late. God is loving and just. Be willing to let go of those things that hinder you from following Christ. Let go of your comfort zones and explore the possibilities of loving God in all others. Let go of darkness and let light guide you.

 

There was a story about a beautiful little girl whose name is Hailey. Hailey loves to go to the department store with her mother. In their window shopping moments, Hailey saw a pearl necklace at $ 1 dollar. She started jumping up and down and pulling her mother’s dress begging , “mom, mom , I want those pearls.” Her mother said “are you sure you want those pearls?” “Yes mom, I want those pearls, they’re beautiful.” So dear mom bought the   $1 dollar pearls for Hailey. In the evening, Hailey’s loving father found out what the mother bought little Hailey and just smiled, read a book for Hailey and kissed her goodnight.

One week after, the father as usual would read a bedtime story for little Hailey. After the bedtime story in that particular night, the father asked Hailey, “Hailey, do you love daddy? And little Hailey said, “Yes daddy, I love you.” And the father said, “Hailey, give me your pearls” And little Hailey pouted and said, “Ah, ah, you can have my dolls, you can have my Barbie and her friends, but not my pearls.” And daddy said, “Oh it’s ok. I don’t need a doll. Thank you, I love you, good night” and he kissed the girl.

One week after, the father read another bed time story. After closing the book, the father told Hailey, “Hailey, do you love daddy?”  and the little girl said, “Yes daddy, you know I love you.” And the father, said, “give me your pearls” and little Hailey said, “No daddy, no. you can have my top, you can have my doll house, even my little white pony with a pink tail, but you cannot have my pearls, they’re my favorite.” And daddy said, “Oh it’s ok, I don’t need the toy house, I don’t need the pony with a pink tail.” And daddy kisses his little girl and says goodnight. Seven days after, the father again began reading a bedtime story, and at the end of the bedtime story, the father said again, “Hailey, do you love daddy?” and little Hailey, with tears in her eyes, picks up the pearls from a toy closet and says, “Daddy, I love you, here are my pearls, you can have them.” And the little Hailey had tears streaming down her cheeks and the father smiled, pulled out from his pocket a blue velvet case, opened it and picked out real pearls, a necklace with real pearls and tells Hailey, “Hailey, I want you to have this. What you have now are plastic toys. I didn’t want you to have those; I want you to have real pearls.”

That is a wise exchange. That is a logical exchange. That is the kind of exchange God wants us to have. You see, the evil inside us always tempting us to exchange foolish things. Work and work and work, forget your kids, forget your wives, husbands. Foolish exchange, watch tv and watch violent and disturbing movies.

But God wants you to give him your bad habits so that he will turn them into good. Give God what you don’t deserve and He will give you so much more.” God will give you your dream, he’s going to fulfill your ambition, and He’s going to lift you up from loneliness and depression. He’s going to relieve you from you bodily pain. Let go of those things that put you down and things that separate you from the love of God. They are not worth it.

 

When I was in elementary grades, I used to cut school by sneaking out the back door just for the love of spiders (Gagamba), marbles (Holens/bolintik) and rubber bands (Lastiko). Oy aminin, yung mga mahilig ng jolens at lastiko nung bata pa. What’s your favorite childhood game? Kindly ask you neighbor what’s his/her childhood made believe experience. Remember those days when you pretended to be a  mom or dad, building a house ? (bahay-bahayan/ bal-ballay)

Anyway, so i had to sneak out from class to have more fun. I had to be careful; I did not want anyone familiar seeing me wander around when I was supposed to be in class. I took back streets and went to places none of my relatives would normally go.  While I took these precautions all the time I was sneaking around, I would wonder if the teachers would call home, or whether or not I could forge a note the next day that would convince the teachers I had been sick. It all worked out. Later on however, things didn’t work out so well. My mom found it and I was called to the principal’s office. In those moments of discovery, I realized, often painfully so, that all the works I’ve gone through, all the attempts to hide and conceal my actions just so I could have a bit of fun, was not worth it. I had to let go and say, “in every thing, there is a season. Now is the time to learn.”

I just wonder if those kids at serramonte malls, jollibee or at 7 eleven during class hours have ever been caught?

I could imagine, each of us had our similar experiences as a child. You have done something wrong, whether deliberately or by mistake and then lo and behold, you were caught and you wished then with all your heart to have not been caught and hadn’t done what you did.

Something always seem to mess up our secret pleasures; something always seems to happen to us when we do wrong, and it happens to us whether or not we are caught right away or not.

Jesus speaks to this situation in today’s gospel reading. There we find these words, “For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

 

The lesson is clear here, but bears repeating because we are a people who continually test the truths of God, we continually turn from what we know is right in the hope that somehow it might not be true in our particular case. How often have we come to hate the light of God, just a little bit, how often have we come to fear it, because we know that it exposes us for what we are? How often have we become angry when we have had heard the truth about ourselves uttered by another person, angry at the fact that we have been found out or pinned down as it were, and angry at the messenger who spoke the truth? Darkness was overcome by light in the beginning of creation. Light always prevails.

This season of Lent and the coming Holy Week and beyond, let go of darkness and embrace the light. Give it all to God and he will be there for you as you cross your fears to see the light. Amen.

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Lynn Bowdish, Associate Priest at HCSM to be inducted into the hall of fame

This year the Commission on the Status of Women will induct 6 women into the Hall of Fame and recognize 2  young women as “Young Women of Excellence”   The Episcopal Church can celebrate two of these positions:

The Rev. Dr. Lynn Eastman Bowdish will be inducted into the Hall of Fame because of her work as an Episcopal priest within the community.  Dr. Bowdish has been active within the community since 1959 . Since her ordination in 1978 she has served In San Bruno, South San Francisco, Daly City and throughout northern San Mateo County. As a lifelong promoter of healthy living she was active in the formation of many community projects including Seton Medical Center Community Advisory Committee, the Rota-Care Free Clinic, the Seton Home Health Committee, Daly City Access and Healthy Aging Response Team, Mental Health projects in Daly City, and Shelter Networks Family project in Daly City among others. After age 72 she continues to work with the Rev. Leonard Oakes and the community at Holy Child and St. Martin Daly City. She will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on March 22nd at 6:30 PM at the South San Francisco Conference Center.

Karen Chee of St. Ambrose, Foster City has been chosen as one of the two Young Women of Excellence. She is junior at San Mateo High School whose contagious energy and love of life lifts those around her.  She serves as an acolyte in her church in addition to her excellent academic accomplishments and leadership within her school , serving for a third term as Class President. She is Club President of the San Mateo Chapter of the Junior Statesman of America, co-secretary of the San Mateo County Youth Commission and Vice-Chair of the Foster City Youth Advisory Committee.