How well do we know each other?
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.