How well do we know each other?

 

How well do we know each other?

(John 10:11-18)

                                                      The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

                                                                April 29, 2012

 

I was dreaming about the blessings we have in this Church the other day when a question came to mind on how well do I know about the members of this church? Well, I know everyone by name except for an occasional forgetfulness. But really, how well do I know everyone in this blessed church?

Well, I know families with children and grandchildren. I know who is absent on some Sundays and I know others who come two Sundays a year. I know what kind of food they eat, sometimes if they are on diet; I know that they violate their doctor’s orders. I know when they come to church still sleepy from last night’s party. I know some who are texting or FaceBooking while I am delivering my sermon.

But how well do I know them? I got into a deeper question and it bothered me if I have the slightest knowledge? How well do I know the burden that is in the shoulders of each of these my brothers and sisters whom God entrusted me when he said, “Tend my sheep.” How well do I know each one’s Joy and success? How well do I know that the reason they are not at church is because they are sick or in the hospital? How do I know if they are isolated or in deep depression? How do I know if they are not being able to sleep thinking that they are going to lose their house the next day?

Perhaps the other pertinent question is how well do the members of this great church know me? Well I am pretty sure they know my wife and three kids. They know I am also a nurse, musician and that I play the gong with a woven garment that is wrapped around my waist called “Baag”. They know that I am trying hard to lose weight but my best isn’t just good enough, that I am losing hair every day. But really, how well do we know each other?

But the greatest question should be, “How well do we know God?” Do we know Him to be up there watching everything going on in and around us or is He in every one of us, in our very heart telling us to forgive and love each other? Many times it is hard to hear him because we fail to listen? He knows us by name because we are his own. He said, “I know my own and my own know me”. But how well do we know God?

I believe God reveals Himself when we allow ourselves to listen to His call. He calls when we are about to lose our hope, when we are about to fall from the pit of sinfulness, when someone needs our presence and love. God reveals himself to us in many mysterious ways but we miss it so many times because we are just too busy to recognize or that we just closed our eyes and ears to his calling. He rejoices when we start our day with a smile. It pleases Him to find you listening to someone’s concern. When you help in the programs of this church that meet the needs of the less fortunate and the needy, his compassion is served. When you visit someone in the hospital, when our children are preparing their cultural dance and songs to entertain our seniors at a convalescent hospital, God is being revealed. When our Bread for the hungry volunteers reaches out to the homeless in San Francisco by sharing a bag of sandwich with a smile, God is there. When the Health and wellness program volunteers give their time unconditionally to provide free blood pressure checking and health education awareness drive, God is in action. In everything and every way our Good Shepherd leads us, God is revealed and His love is freely shared. When our working together to make a difference is a mutual joy we will find that we are beginning to know each other more and more and that then and there, God reveals Himself to us.

Jesus Christ is our good shepherd who watches us with care. He laid down his life for the flock, that is, the church. In a general way he invites everyone in the church to share in the work of caring for the flock in our own little ways. He calls us to a life-long commitment to the work of shepherding the flock of God. If today you should hear God’s voice calling you to this way of life, harden not your hearts. And if you do not hear God calling you to this way of life, then do everything in your power to encourage those who are called to it and who struggle even with faltering steps to follow the footsteps of Jesus the good shepherd.

We all know that human beings are vulnerable to the wolves of life. We know that our lives are essentially and intrinsically vulnerable to death, disease, and injury. We know that. We know that life is infinitely fragile and easily broken and hurt. Our lives are like beautiful dainty stained glass window so fragile and needing tender loving care.

In my intention to know Mr. John Watson better, I visit him at his garage every other Monday.  As he tells his life story with Geneva, I watch him plan and lay out his tools to make a stained glass window. Most of the stained glass windows above and around this church were made so delicately by John Watson, Richard Dominguez and others.  John showed me a piece of glass; He then took a fine instrument and started to cut the glass together in a well calculated pattern. It was the most intricate thing that I had ever seen being made in my life. John had to be very careful not to shatter or break the glass. And that is the way life is: infinitely, delicately fragile. Life is easily shattered and you know that. Suddenly, it is a car accident. Suddenly, it is cancer or another debilitating disease that strikes a person living in our home. Suddenly, the heart attack, the infection, the birth defect, takes our lives. Everything was going so well last week, and this week it has all changed. Yesterday was glorious and today is tragic. You and I know that. We are vulnerable to disease, accidents, and all kinds of disasters, enormous disasters that suddenly shatter our lives with almost no warning.

We are not only vulnerable to the diseases and accidents but also to the vicissitudes of history, to the insanities of history. The holocaust, the ethnic cleansing, the threat of mass destruction, nuclear war is leading us into the end of our era. Millions of people have been led to the pit of destruction because of power and greed by few leaders.

One of the great deceptions and pretenses of life is that we are not sheep. I am a strong, self reliant male man, a strong self reliant woman. I can control my life and destiny. I am not a sheep. I can make it through without someone telling me. The other great illusions of life is not to acknowledge our true identity. Some of us are like that although I know some of us are leaning into the weaker side of life. When we feel sick, we embrace sick so quickly, not that we want it just to call in sick from work, but that we forget that God our great healer is there inspiring us to get up and move. We conceal and don’t want to bother others by not letting them know what you are going through.

My dear friends in God, in my needs to learn from you better and my yearning to be able share with your journey with God, will you trust that together we will make it through the other side? I may not fully know what is in store of your life, but let me tell you that I will walk that way with you if you will let me. I will keep you company in prayer until we both see what life has in wait for us. And as we walk I will remind you that we have many twists and turns in life that are common. We’ve been through this many times and in many changes. We’ve learned our lessons and we have the wisdom to think it through, the courage to do what must be done, the faith to know that there is love at the end of our rope. We may not know what is yet to happen, but we do know that we are not alone. We can walk together. We can walk with God by our side.

I thank those who struggle to make a living. You truly showed a better way to face life.  It is not easy to face another day when that day means long hours for little pay. Some of you have to work double just to get your kids to school and have a roof to stay. It is not easy to hold a family together when your arms are tired from lifting the weight of hard work. You deserve our respect. You are worthy of every prayer. Your courage will bring you the justice you have earned. God will bring you the hope of your deepest dream.

May we all know each other better, to be able to support each other. Together, we are stronger. Together we are Holy Child and St. Martin. With God, everything is possible.

May God give you the courage to begin another day, inspiring one another and encouraging one another to get up from our feet and follow the pathway the Good Shepherd is leading us.

May I see some smile? Will you share them to the person next to you? I pray that with that smile, begins a new relationship that would last as long as God is with you. Amen.

 

 

 

God turned my mourning into dancing

Easter Sunday B, 2012

The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

HCSM

 

Happy Easter everyone!! (That was anemic) Happy Easter!!

In our Good Friday service, actor Michael Reardon perfectly delivered the following monologue, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!!!”      Let us once again shout with a loud voice, but this time we shout, “Christ is Alive, the Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!!!” (Repeat) And because Christ is alive, we can face the challenges of tomorrow and that life is worth a living. Sing with me the song “Because he lives”. Maestro Lyle Richardson, take it.

Because he lives, I can face tomorrow, because he lives, all fear is gone

Because I know, He holds the future. And life is worth the living, just because        he lives

 

 What a wonderful assurance, yes, a wonderful feeling to know that God has restored us to Himself through the resurrection of His son Jesus Christ. This has been the plan of God all along. Through His grace, we are saved from sin and become a partaker of God’s heavenly Kingdom.

Yes we had sad days in Holy Week. Four of our loved ones have passed to join their creators. We grieve for the death of George Denison III, Adi Lo Browne, Albert Flores and Marcelino Manzano. But thanks be to God though our Lord Jesus Christ who promised to the sinners at the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Our love ones took part of that promised room where Jesus said, “Where I am, there you may be also if we trust in him.”

 God has turned our mourning into dancing. “There is a time for mourning, a time for dancing” But mourning and dancing are never fully separated. Their “times” do not necessarily follow each other. In fact, their “times” may become one “time.” Mourning may turn into dancing and dancing into mourning without showing a clear point where one ends and the other starts. Often our grief allows us to choreograph our dance while our dance creates the space for our grief. We lose a beloved friend, and in the midst of our tears we discover an unknown joy. We celebrate a success, and in the midst of the party we feel deep sadness. Mourning and dancing, grief and laughter, sadness and gladness – they belong together as the sad-faced clown and the happy-faced clown, who make us both cry and laugh. Let’s trust that the beauty of our lives becomes visible where mourning and dancing touch each other.

 And that is what exactly the experience Mary Magdalene felt that early morning of Easter. She had her mourning and dancing moments. She loved Jesus so much. At first, she was utterly downcast and grief stricken, crying her eyes out as she stumbled into the tomb and found it empty. She had seen Jesus die; really die, cruelly, on the cross. She came to be close to him just as some of us have wanted a last look at a loved one in the funeral home. Even that is taken from her. She turns and senses someone close, probably a gardener up early. “Where have they put him?” She blurts out. She is sure that the religious leaders have removed him so that his tomb won’t become a site of pilgrimage. It is only when the gardener says her name, “Mary,” that she knows it is the Lord. Her mourning has turned into dancing. When someone who loves you speaks your name, there is something special, something wonderful about the way it sounds. It makes you feel dancing. Jesus tells Mary not to cling to him, but rather to go and tell his followers that he is alive. Jesus tells us also not to cling with sadness but rather go and tell others the joy that God the Father had done.

 Easter is about God’s Love to humanity. It is about our redemption from sin, from death to eternal life. Easter is about victory and about glory being human. Easter is about hope, hope where we are the end of our rope, hope when we exhausted our bag of tricks.

Our victory is this, that we are not hated or abandoned. Our faith is not an argument, it is a love affair. It introduces us in a whole new way of being human. The resurrection changed everything. It changed the lives and doubts of the disciples. It changed our lives and gave us hope. Easter is about us. About who we really are in God, it is about the transformation of our being. Easter is not about finding the eggs or where they have hidden the chocolates. Easter is beyond those symbols, it us about our transformation into the Being of Christ. It is about our turning point of sadness into joy, pain into happiness, grief into hope, hate into love, selfishness into humility in doing God’s will. Easter wipes away our burden of tears, of fears, our disappointments and failures. All of those have been raised up in the resurrection of Christ. We’ve got to retract our boat right to where we are supposed to be bound. Somehow we’ve lost our way, forgetting the real purpose of our being, that is to Love God, Love our neighbor, love our selves and follow Christ’s way. For in Him, we find victory.

Resurrection is our story. Just look around you, what do you see? I see wonderful and loving people surrounding and filling this Church with Joy. I see a new sign of miracle when a portion of the Sto. Nino Stained Glass frame is up and in place. How do you feel? I feel so blessed with your presence and it gets me up to my feet to go and visit those who are not with us today due to physical and other reasons. When someone new comes in, how do you transcend the light that is within you to shine to that new person so that he or she may also light others? Holy Child and St. Martin is the beacon of hope in this community, welcoming others with compassion.

We as a community of faith continue to emerge as the product of the resurrection as we are transformed to a more diverse multi ethnic community in this God’s Vineyard. We become a witness to the knocking on our doors of families in different backgrounds who were seeking for love and compassion and we wholeheartedly welcome them and opened the doors. God has planted and watered us to grow and now that we continue to bear fruit, it is our calling to spread those seeds of love and hope by lifting them up back to God. We all have tasks to do as witnesses of the resurrection story of Christ in this community.

We need to tell our story from this forth forward, to our children and our children’s children. From this place to every community, that God continues to be alive here in our midst. That if God indeed is with us, no one can be against us. Let us continue to promote respect in each other, aware of the rich culture in our midst and ever walking in the ways of Christ. Let us continue to uphold the spirit of compassion to the less fortunate, to the needy, the hungry, those who need our love. And yes, let the leadership of this church grow and nurture new, young and vibrant leaders who are committed to reach out to our needs as well as the needs of the world around us.

Let me encourage all my brothers and sister to face tomorrow with the great hope in Jesus Christ our Lord. May all your fears be gone and your life be renewed. For today is the beginning of a new day in your life.

Let us once more proclaim and sing “Because he lives.” This time, I ask you to sing it to the people around you:

“Because he lives, I can face tomorrow, because he lives, all fear is gone

Because I know, He holds the future. And life is worth a living, just because  he lives”

 

Amen.

Sing the song Hosanna again please?

PALM SUNDAY/PASSION OF CHRIST

Year B April 1, 2012

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

 

 I just love singing that song, “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest” Can we sing that song again? Imagine yourself present in that crowd with Jesus to Jerusalem singing this song. I just want to keep that feeling for a longer time. I want to keep that experience of going to Jerusalem with Jesus waving those branches of palms, the feeling of victory, a wonderful feeling of celebration, the most wonderful feeling of welcoming Christ. The feeling of being welcomed with Christ in this Church is so wonderful and blessed. Kindly turn to the person next and around you and say, “My heart welcomes you in the name of Christ, Hosanna in the highest!”

 Let us keep that Hospitality everyday not only to ourselves but to all whom we meet abroad? Don’t take away that hospitable feeling quite fast. Don’t take away the healings and touch of love that happened on the way to Jerusalem.

 Oh how I wish I could keep that jubilant feeling longer, but I know that there’s more to it in Jerusalem that our Lord Jesus Christ had to face. See, the celebration was cut short; he is now in the hands of those in the law. They’re trying to banish him right away. I know there’s more far important that what happened on the triumphant entry to Jerusalem. It is through the sacrificial act of God’s only son for our salvation from sinfulness that the Love of God made manifest. This story needs to be told from generation to generation, that all may know and feel the love of God for humanity.

 Christians all over the world today celebrate the triumphant entry of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Holy City of Jerusalem. Spreading their garments and branches of palms proclaiming Christ as the King of kings and we take part of the victorious sign. It’s so great to see us all wave our pickets with signs such as; “Love God!” There’s a great feeling of joy and love in every heart in this church today. Let that feeling stay. Don’t let it go. Let us not be ashamed in proclaiming that Christ is the King who came to save us. Let our hosannas ring in every country and every clime, in every valley and peaks, in every heart of those who listens to God. Hosanna in the highest!

 But we know that is not all there is in the road to Jerusalem. The road also leads us to the cross which is the final victory. From the beginning of our liturgical celebration today, we were not mere spectators but participants of the grand procession with the blessed palms, the hymns of praises and eventually our sharing of the Passover meal and our mission to the world is itself a sermon. It is in itself a living experience we meet in our everyday lives; our everyday passion, our everyday victory. Our lord Jesus Christ in this very day did not call and teach disciples and followers in order to have audience in his painful sufferings and death. He knows the danger that is waiting for him in Jerusalem but he is not going there and wished to appeal to the nation solemnly gathered for the festival, to follow his way and so make possible the establishment of the kingdom so that they would either repent and follow its righteousness, or exhibit themselves as disobedient. But rather, he gathered them and led them to a destiny where they can be a witness of God’s saving grace an event that is going to take place in the resurrection. It is that same grace God gave his only Son to us. Humbled himself and became one of us that he may feel and live the life we have. He obediently followed the will of the father by lifting up the lives of the less fortunate, the destitute, the lonely, and the persecuted. He prepared them about the coming event of his crucifixion in the place he was born and he dearly loved; the city of Jerusalem. But he also assured them that on the third day he will rise again that the world may believe and that the world may be saved. With these, he simply taught his disciples to ride on an animal that is a symbol of quietness, not on a war horse, wave palm branches not spears and guns and bombs, the songs of children not the shouts of soldiers. Following Christ is not always a glorious experience; it can be painful, dangerous, and sacrificial even to the call of death. Such road is what our lord Jesus Christ would like us to follow. We too have our own roads to Jerusalem. It may be bumpy, rocky and even muddy. Our Journey may not be glorious but at least we chose the road that is essential to our faith as followers of Christ. God has assured us that in our struggles, he will always be with us. He will always be there for us like he was with Moses and Israel in their liberation from the bondage in Egypt; Like he was with Martin Luther King and the other civil rights leaders in their struggle for equality and brotherhood; like he was with mother Theresa of Calcutta on her compassion towards the poor, as he was with those who once lived and are living for the cause of the kingdom of God. God is with His Son Jesus and He is with us now.

Let us with gladness then being inspired by the grace of God, share these feelings of being welcomed among others, the feeling of being healed and blessed.

 Let the end of our Eucharist be the beginning of service with God. When you go home today, pick out some extra branches of the blessed palms with you and give them to those whom you meet, to those who are lonely at home, in the hospitals and everywhere. Let that be the outward sign of your calling to spread the love of God among all others.

 Let us therefore shout again and again, “Blessed is Christ who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.