Category Archives: Sermons

In God’s will is our Peace – The Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

Proper 26, November 13, 2016

Isaiah 65:-17-25, Psalm 98,

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 21:5-19

“In God’s Will is our Peace”

The Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

 

It’s been a tough, tough  week.  We’ve just endured one of the most bitter and divisive election seasons and it has left us feeling battered and bruised.  Not only has it revealed some of the deep divisions and mistrust that threaten our common life, but it has unfortunately encouraged and deepened fear and hostility, the “us and them” mentality.  Some, feeling emboldened by the hateful rhetoric that has been part of this campaign, have cruelly subjected people of color, women, and Muslims, to name a few groups, to taunts, and menacing language, and even violence. I have to say, I was deeply grieved by all of this, and felt sorrow on Tuesday night. It deeply saddens me that there are people in our country who support a vision of America that is based on fear, scapegoating, domination, and prejudice.

It’s ok to feel grief.  It’s ok to feel anger, it’s ok to feel fear.  And if you need to talk about it, please reach out to your clergy and your friends for support.

So where do we go as a community from here?  It is easy to give in to despair and fear or demonize those who supported the other side, priding ourselves on our own moral superiority. It is tempting to just become apathetic, believing we can’t make a difference in the world.  What, as Christians, are we called to do and be in the world in the midst of these turbulent, uncertain times? How are we called to love our neighbors, especially those on the other side of the political divide?.   Where is God in all of this?

Of course, there are no easy answers, only questions, wrestling with God like Jacob did with the angel, and lots and lots of prayer and listening.  And there is the record of  Scripture, of followers of Jesus, just like us, who faced similar turmoil in their own lives.  What might it have to say to us?

Today’s Gospel reading from Luke has Jesus in Jerusalem, shortly before his arrest and crucifixion.  The audience Luke was writing to had probably already experienced the destruction of the Temple, with the oppression of Roman rule and the ever-present threat of persecution and death.  So when Jesus talks about the stones of the Temple being thrown down, and threats and wars and persecutions, and portents in the heaven and on the earth, he is telling their story, and speaking deeply to their experience. He gets it.  He knows what they are suffering, their fears, their hopes.  He tells their story, and they find their story in the Great Story.  And then he gives them hope, the assurance that when everything falls apart, the center, which is God, will hold.  He says when they are brought up before accusers he will “give them words of wisdom that none of their opponents will be able to withstand.”  He tells them “not a hair of their head will perish, and that by their endurance, they will gain their souls.”  Yes, he says, terrible things will indeed happen, and it will seem that the world as you know it is coming to an end.  But it is still God’s world, and God’s love and grace and  truth will always have the last word. Always.

So first of all this morning, I would like to assure you that the words of Scripture are just as relevant and true today as they were when they were written so many centuries ago.  Let them come to life for you, let them come to life in you!  Read them, struggle with them, wonder about them, wrestle with them as Jacob wrestled with the angel, and don’t let go until he blesses you.  For the stories in Scripture are timeless, they are our stories, and our story is woven into the one Great Story of the love of God in Christ.  Scripture is honest and raw; let it be the container of your lament, your cries of anger and despair, as well as those of hope. Scripture describes some pretty awful realities that were happening and would happen to the followers of Jesus.  They would be afraid, surrounded by uncertainty and turmoil, not knowing what they were to say or do.  Even their families might turn against them.  Yet they would not have to face the suffering in their own strength, but would be guided by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  So in these uncertain times, we, too, can take comfort that our God is a God who is active in history, who walks with us, guides us, and never leaves us.

The Gospel for today also tells us that we can’t try to overcome hatred and destruction in our own strength.   When we are living in times where it seems that fear and bigotry are winning, we are not to use our own limited knowledge and vision to overcome them, but to let the Spirit of God fill our hearts, and transform us that we may reach out in love to those who are our enemies, to those who would do us harm.  We are to let God give us the words to say, because left on our own, we tend demonize and disrespect those we don’t agree with, whose views we abhor. Well. those we don’t agree with and whose views we abhor are also created in the image of God and are our brothers and sisters!  We are told in Scripture that we are to “put on the mind of Christ.”  This means that we humbly examine ourselves, and see where we, too, have fallen short in living out the values of the Kingdom of God.

Here I am also reminded of a scene from that wonderful book by Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place.  In the beginning of World War II, she and her sister Betsie would often hear the planes of the German Luftwaffe flying over their Holland home on bombing runs to England.  Sometimes they would shell their city, and they would huddle in their bedroom while the building shuddered and shook. One time shards of glass exploded in their bedroom, and miraculously they weren’t hurt.  Taking Corrie in her arms and comforting her, Betsie said “You know, Corrie, the only safe place for us is in the center of God’s will, nowhere else.”   Our safety is not in political parties or programs, but in the center of God’s will. In these troubling times, we need to remember that the power of God is greater than any evil or calamity.  The power of God will give us strength and courage, and bring new life to hopes and dreams we thought had died forever.  And through the power of God, nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Finally, we must remember that this is still God’s world, and it is good.  For all the acts of bigotry and meanness, there are many, many more courageous acts of kindness, compassion, and sacrifice.  There are people of all faiths gathering in vigils to pray for peace and reconciliation in our country and in the world.  Others reach out to our Muslim brothers and sisters and make sure they feel safe and welcome in our communities.  Many have the courage to step out of their comfort zones and listen to the pain of our brothers and sisters who are angry and afraid, who feel bewildered in a diverse multicultural world, and try to understand what would lead them to support visions of fear and division.  Others, who we honor today, give their lives in service to their country, protecting the rights and freedoms we hold so dear.  For this, we thank them.  We must not ever lose hope, because, as President Obama reminded us, “the sun will still come up in the morning”.  Our hopes and dreams for our nation are still alive, and we must not give in to despair or cynicism.  So it is ok to grieve for a season, and then, following the one who came to give us life in all its abundance, we are called to go joyfully and fearlessly into the world and share the message of grace, reconciliation, justice, and the sacredness of every human being.   My friends, lift up your heads, go forth, and bring hope where there is despair, trust where there is fear, love where there is hate!  Do it for as long as you live!  And in the words of the prophet Isaiah, let us hold up a vision of the world where “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and they shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.  Amen.

 

 

“Happiness is to know the Savior” The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Happiness is to know the Savior”
1 Timothy 6:6-19

Happiness is seeing you all today as we come together to thank God for the enumerable blessings we received.
The great Dalai Lama said, “Happiness is to have peace of mind and to find true friendship” The great Aristotle said, “Happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue”
This nation was founded in the proposition to pursue our happiness.
“Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” (Rabbi Schachtel) This statement is deep but filled with truth because we may have everything already but we are still not happy. We are only good in gathering what we want but forget to use them for good reasons. In other words we hoard our wealth thinking we can take them with us to the grave.

Many people in the industrialized nations, have never in history had more things. And we have the spare time to ponder and pursue happiness. Yet so many get the relationship all wrong. They still think that happiness or fulfillment can come from the accumulation of things. So we amass the wealth of the world in the expense of the poor and those without voices.

In the reading of the first letter of Paul to Timothy, Paul warns the young Timothy about this spiritual pitfall and outlines the proper relationship between fulfillment and possessions. Basically he says that it is the love of things that leads to trouble. So instead of seeking riches they and we should seek the virtues of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

In his letter, Paul did not suggest that money is evil. He says the love of money leads to evil. And Paul also advises those who are rich not to trust in their riches. But rather put their trust in God who richly provides. In fact Paul said,”we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” I am sure you have all heard that you can’t take it with you. And there is a good reason for that. But most people don’t see the reason. There are those who still hoard their wealth under their beds or pillows only to lose them when they died suddenly or when fire strikes their homes.

The story goes that there was a rich man who was faithful. And he didn’t really understand why he couldn’t take it with him. So he prayed and he said, “Lord, you have blessed me with so much. Why can’t I take just some of it to heaven with me since it was a gift from you.” God replied, “Just to teach you a lesson I will let you take one suitcase of your earthly possessions to heaven.” The man thought and then he packed one suitcase and left it in a special place so that he could grab it after he died and take to heaven. He got to heaven with his suitcase and St. Peter looked in the book and said, “Here’s your name you can go in but you can’t take that with you haven’t you ever heard you can’t take it with you?” So the man explained and St Peter nodded and said “OK. But can I ask a favor? Can I just see what you brought.” The man opened the suitcase and it was full of solid gold bricks. Peter laughed and said, “So why did you bring pavement?”

God has given us all possibilities in this world, even eternal life. What more can we ask?

True happiness is found in acknowledging that God has already given us all we need. But Paul goes on to warn that the love of earthly wealth leads to trouble. It is not wealth itself that is evil. It is the love of it that leads to evil. Out of love for wealth people do things that lead to evil.
You see, what God has created good, most people have it all backward. They love things and use people. The things on this earth were put here by God for us to use not to love. And the people were put here for us to love not to use. So we should love people and use things.

To use people and love things is an alteration of God’s plan. It puts things backwards. We were not made for that. We were made to love God and our neighbor. To do otherwise will lead to destruction and pain.

Paul tells us to seek after the virtues which go along with serving God. We should strive for “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.” We should value faith and take hold of eternal life. In the end that is what endures.

You can’t take money and gold to heaven. But at the same time it is not those things that bring meaning to this life. Knowing who you are and finding peace: those kinds of things bring happiness. Loving your neighbor and serving God bring you Joy whether you have money in the bank or not. Our feeding the shelter program started with sharing our few resources in our love to serve those who are without on things we enjoy such a food and happiness.Such program grew because we shared them to those who have the means to share their resources to us such as St. Mary the Virgin of San Francisco. They have the money, we have the people to serve. Our common denominator is Love. Our health wellness gained recognition from the Diocese when we shared our resources of Medical professional volunteers who are happy to serve the low income and uninsured members of the community.

Our fellowship time together brought us all to Develop deep relationships with each other, our family and friends in the spirit of happiness.

Jesus may have all the wealth he needed. He was rich beyond earthly standard but he gave up the glories of heaven. He found completion and fulfillment in following his Heavenly Father’s will and giving of himself to save us.

It all comes down to one question: What are we living for? Why do you get up in the morning? Why do we go to work or school or wherever it is that we go? Do you go to school so that you make more money when you get out? Do you work each day so that you can make more money?
Or do you get out of bed and do those other things so that you can love God and your neighbor. Do you go about your daily activities with the idea that you are seeking to live righteously. Do you value the people you meet and not the things you acquire.

Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment.” You may not get rich serving the Lord. Then again you might! In the end it doesn’t really matter. But through a godliness of life that is content with what God has provided there is great gain. Through faith we can know the gift not only of life after death but of peace and joy in this world.

On Sunday school, I learned this song, “Happiness is the Lord” let me sing it for you:

Happiness is to know the Savior
Living a life within His favor,
Having a change in my behavior
Happiness is the Lord
Real joy is mine
No matter if teardrops start,
I’ve found the secret —
It’s Jesus in my heart!

Happiness is to be forgiven
Living the life that worth the living
Taking a trip that leads to heaven
Happiness is the Lord, Happiness is the Lord.

Happiness is all around us, if we only look.
May the Love of God lead us all to happiness. Amen.

“Light, Cracked bells, and resurrection” Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

The Third Sunday in Easter,
April 10, 2016
Acts 9:1-6, (7-20) Psalm 30, Rev. 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

Light, Cracked Bells, and Resurrection.

It has been a couple of weeks of roller-coaster emotions for the disciples. They have gone from the triumph of Palm Sunday, to the mysterious last meal in which Jesus told them to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of him, and that the bread was his body and the wine his blood! What was that all about? Then there was the anger, the betrayal, the sorrow, the fear and bewilderment of Good Friday. Were all their hopes for the kingdom of God going to end up in the grave? And then, on Sunday, those strange and disturbing reports from the women that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, that he had risen! Still incredulous and fearful of the religious authorities, they gather and Jesus appears to them and shows his hands, feet, and wounded side. Then the Scripture says, the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20).
Then more time goes by, and they must have begun to wonder what’s next? What does he want us to do? How will we live when Jesus is no longer physically here with us? Joy and faith might have become mingled with questions, uncertainty, and doubt. Gradually the immediacy of Jesus’ presence began to fade away, and they may have begun to wonder what had really changed. In today’s gospel, Peter, who is still living under the shadow of his denial of Jesus, may be at a loss as to what to do next. So he does what he knows, he goes back to his work, to fishing. It seems like it is back to business as usual.
Have you ever felt that way? We just celebrated the joy of Easter, with baptism, with flowers adorning the church, with lots of people, and joyful music that sent our spirits soaring. And yet, life, with its demands, its sorrows, its problems, its fears and disappointments, still waits for us. Easter is here, and the bills still have to be paid, we still have to deal with the disagreeable boss or neighbor. Easter is here, and still we may know illness, or depression, or fears about our future. Easter is here, and yet people we love dearly still die, and from the deepest part of our being we cry out in pain and longing, why? Easter is here, and still there is war and religious violence and poverty and homelessness. Easter is here, and yet sometimes we forget, and it seems like it is just business as usual. Have you ever felt that way? I know I have.
Well, friends, what happens next in our Gospel passage for today says a resounding NO, it is not business as usual. For what happens next is great good news, Easter is here, and everything has changed! Easter is about the presence of Christ with us always. Easter is about hope. Easter is about transformation.
Going back to the story, the disciples have been fishing all night, and have caught nothing. At just after daybreak, Jesus stands on the beach, watching them. How he must have loved them, and longed for them to know his presence, and to know the joy of resurrection. Then, as he did in his prior days on earth, he tells them where to cast the net and soon it is teeming with fish, overflowing, abundant. How the weary hearts of the disciples must have been stirred with hope- can it be, no it can’t be- it is the Lord! The always tempestuous Peter, realizing he is naked in the presence of Jesus, hurriedly puts on some clothes and then dives into the sea! The scene is one of joy, hilarity and hope, with the boat creaking, the nets groaning under the weight of the fish, the bright sun on the glittering water. Then he invites everyone to the wonderful beach breakfast, complete with a fire, bread, and fish. Again he breaks the bread and gives it to them, and it is Eucharist, and they know him once more.
And that’s how Jesus comes to us. He comes to us in the midst of our messy lives. He doesn’t wait until we feel ready, or worthy, or our faith is strong enough. Notice he didn’t ask the disciples if they believed he could fill their nets with fish. He simply told them where to cast their nets. He loves us and shares our laughter, our pain, our joys, our sorrows, our fears, the things we are proud of, the things we are ashamed of. He comes in the midst of the chaos of trying to juggle family, and work, and multiple responsibilities that make us weary and can burn us out. He comes to us in the long nights when we can’t sleep because we are worried how we are ever going to pay the bills and help a child who may be struggling in school. He comes to us when we are devastated with grief, wondering how we are going to go on after we have lost someone precious and dear to us. He spreads his table in our hungry hearts and shares the bread of life with us, and his presence, which is stronger than death, comforts, feeds and sustains us. Easter is about the presence of Christ with us, always.
Easter is about hope. Because Christ has overcome death and the grave, we, too, will rise into new and glorious life with him. In the wonderful hymn “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”, the people sing: “Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia! Following our exalted head, Alleluia! Made like Him, like Him we rise, Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia! In sharing our human nature, Christ is forever joined to us, and in his resurrection, our human nature is healed, restored, and transformed into the glorious image of God that was intended from the beginning. Notice that his wounds are part of the glorified body of the resurrected Jesus. So, too, there is hope for us. All of our wounds, and struggles, and weaknesses somehow become part of the new creation we become in Christ, and are redeemed. And this new hope is not just for the next life. It begins here, and now. Christ’s presence with us, that is stronger than death, gives us hope where once there was only despair. Christ’s presence with us gives us the strength to face fear, suffering, and even death with courage, because we know that he has been through the worst that the world and the powers of evil could do and arose triumphant. Christ’s presence with us helps us to move boldly into the unknown, knowing he walks with us and goes before us.
Finally, Easter is about transformation, about healed, changed, empowered, and restored lives. In our reading from Acts, Paul is dramatically changed from a zealous persecutor of Christians into a believer who would go on to share the message of God’s wonderful salvation to much of the known world of the time. Peter is finally able to move beyond his denial of Jesus, which probably haunted him, and accept the forgiveness that was there all along. How gracious Jesus is in asking Peter three times to profess his love for him. thus freeing him from the pain and shame of the earlier denials! No strings attached, no questions asked, just the invitation to love and follow him.
Well, friends, Jesus is ready to heal and transform us, too. The great good news of the Gospel is that no matter how broken we may feel, no matter what we may have done or failed to do, we have a special purpose in the Kingdom of God, and Jesus needs us, all of us, to carry his message of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation to our world. He is ready to help us to move from living in the confines of fear into trust and faith. He is ready to touch us and reach those wounded places inside that we hide and transform the wounds into sources of joy. He is ready to help us forgive ourselves and others, and to change resentment and mistrust into respect and kinship. We don’t have to try to make ourselves worthy, or put on a holy façade to come to him. We come with open hands and hearts, wounds, faults, and gifts and all, and he welcomes us gladly. In fact, the wounds are part of the joy. Leonard Cohen, in his song Anthem, writes: “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
That’s how the light gets in. This, sisters and brothers, is the Easter message, the presence of the Risen Christ in the everyday, ordinariness of our lives, the hope his life, death, and resurrection bring us in the here and now, and the wonderful transformation that comes through faith. I hope this community at Holy Child and St Martin will continue to be a place “where the light gets in,” and people are drawn to the beauty of life in Christ. So people of God, ring those cracked bells, and let the light pour in, Allelulia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Christ is risen, the Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Prodigal in loving

“Loving and Forgiving are you O Lord”
(Jos 5:9a, 10-12; II Cor 5: 17-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)
The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Let us Pray: “Thank you Lord for the rain to quench your creation. Thank you for the Sun to brighten our days. Rejoicing with you and the rest of your creation, visit us always with your love and grace.”

Today’s parable is so famous that song writers, book writers and biographers write and publish similar stories of many men and women. This is the story of human kind. A story of Jealousy, of selfishness, of Love and Forgiveness.

Jealousy is everywhere, in the animal kingdom and in those in power.

In the Old Testament, the story of Cain and Abel relates a jealousy that ended in tragedy when Abel’s offering pleases God more than that of Cain’s offerings and as a result, Cain was indignant and killed his own brother. This passage is where the famous saying came, “Am I my brother’s keeper” where one denies the existence of another and chooses hate rather than love.

Jealously among the disciples of Christ in the New Testament was also very evident. In many occasions, Jesus rebuked his disciples because of envy and jealousy among themselves and those who do similar power of healing Jesus does to the people.

In the history of human kind, Leaders of Nations go against leaders of other nations because of jealousy and envy of powers.

In human families, greed, envy and jealousy often end up in tragedy and broken relationships and kept themselves in perpetual distance.

In our Church and every other Church and religious groups, there is jealousy and envy over leadership and accomplishments. There is selfishness where one tends to grab more attention and disregards others. It often leads to destruction of one’s personal life such as the saying, “Divide and conquer” to destroy one person or groups and use the name of God in vain to protect their image and to support their reasons.

We have forgotten about the Love of the Father and the presence of forgiveness that the Father has expressed in the story. The prodigal son may have spent all he had but after realizing all that, he repented and asked his father’s forgiveness and wanted to be loved again.

Most of the time we criticize someone who had done similar things and not realizing that we are pushing the person or persons against the wall, giving them no choices but to feel guilty and outcast. Each of us somehow have had our wrong decisions in life, but we don’t need another guilty feelings inflicted upon us. We have forgotten about love and forgiveness. For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. If God has forgiven us all of our sinfulness, how much more should we forgive others.

The other side of story in the Gospel can also be seen this way:
The end of the parable story is incomplete because we never knew if the older son celebrated with his brother and father. The loving father says, “We must celebrate and rejoice.” One may think it was a happy ending. Another thinks, in the end, there was a perpetual distance between the two brothers.

The unclear ending of this parable draws attention to the decision which the older son must face. The choice whether to celebrate or not celebrate with his brother becomes a key to unlock the meaning of the parable. The decision of the elder son which is left hanging in the air suggests that this parable is about the willingness to accept the brother who has come home. It asks us: Are we willing to rejoice in the good fortune of others?

When someone comes to our midst and contribute good things that glorify God, don’t we celebrate and rejoice for that is a sign that the presence of God is in our midst?

The parable then clearly invites us to avoid jealousy in our own lives. But if we can not avoid that, we must understand the root cause of jealousy. The parable gives us the answer. The older son is unable to accept the love that his father has for him even when it is clear that the father loves him when He says, “My son, you are here with me always and all I have is yours.” And yet, for some reason, this elder son will not believe in the father’s love. Because he will not accept the gifts that flow from that love, he ends up being jealous of his brother.

We can surely avoid jealousy in our own lives if we only accept the love God that has for us and the gifts that God has given us. Even though our gifts might seem less than the gifts of others, we need to accept that the gifts that we have been given are valuable and important.
Even then, sometimes we think: If God loves someone so much, there will not be enough love left over for me. But the parable clearly says this is wrong. The father is excessive in loving, prodigal in loving. The parable assures us that with our God there will always be enough love for all of God’s people.

This story invites us to claim the love that God has for us and the gifts that God has given us. It invites us to be thankful for our gifts and to accept, whatever those gifts are, they are a sure sign of God’s unfailing love for us. If we can be thankful for the gifts we have received, we can avoid jealousy in our lives. When we claim God’s love, our response to someone’s success or exaltation will be joy rather than envy. We will be able to celebrate with them, because no matter how much someone else can be blessed, we will know that we are never left out. With our God, there is always enough love to go around. Let us all be new creations and be ambassadors of Christ. Let us always be loving and forgiving. Let us not waste our time and life destroying anyone’s life just because we always want to be the center of attention. Let God be glorified always and not our selfish ways. Let us be welcoming and rejoice when you see new and old faces that come our midst, for they were sent by God.

We are so blessed to have elected members of the Bishop Committee and have appointed chairs and co-chairs for our various ministries in this Church. I have seen compassion and dedication in their hearts just as those who have served in those capacities in the past.
These leaders know the needs of the church and the people, and are resolved to be more welcoming, giving of their time, talents and resources with a goal that all our members feel a part where they belong and able to shine the lights that were given them and in the years to come, become a self sustenance, self reliant, self governing Church. I ask you all therefore to always be loving and forgiving and roll up your sleeves and be ready to plant the seeds of love and forgiveness in this God’s Holy Place and People. Amen.

“Manaoag: Come and See!”

“Manaoag: Come and See!”
The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Good morning! Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat! Naimbag nga agsapa yo Amin. Welcome to Holy Child and St Martin.

I can feel the air being filled with joy today! The Love of God is in our midst in this house of prayers for all faith. We are glad that you are here. Let me tell you that there’s plenty good rooms in God’s house and all are welcome!

I’m beginning to feel the warmth flame of fire out of the burning bush, for God is present today in our celebration. Let us give God the praise and the glory. (Applause) Yes Lord, we have come to gaze upon you in this Holy Place, that we might behold your love and your glory.

On our Church website you will read a motto that says, “Come, See, Be renewed, Be empowered and Be a part of a community of Love and Hope.”

“Come and See” are invitations of something very interesting, something that is out of the ordinary. When someone asks you to “come and see”, the question that always come to mind is, “what is it there to see? Is there something worth coming here to see? Is there something worth to prove?” We invite people to “come and see” because there are wonderful blessings being transformed and shared happening in our midst. We are called by God to a wonderful cause and we are unable to keep that among ourselves alone because the blessing overflows freely out from our heart to the rest of the people around us and beyond.

Such invitation reminds those of you who have been following Our Lady of Manaoag for years, that the name Manaoag meant, “To Call, to Invite, Come and See!”
You came into this space today because God sent you here to come and see the miracle that is about to happen when God made it possible for Jesus and his Mother Mary to bring Love and joy in this very diverse community.

You might be wondering how in the world did the statue of Our Lady of Manaoag get to Holy Child and St Martin Episcopal Church? Let me tell you at the outset how the Lady brought miracles to those who have had healing and answered prayers from her place of origin until she found us here.

An excerpt from the Book of Manaoag tells us that, {Folk tradition has it that the Blessed Mother showed herself to a middle-aged farmer and gave him a message on where she wanted her church to be located. The meeting was dramatic. She showed herself on a low tree amidst the glow of heavenly light.

It is said that the man was on his way home from a grueling day in his farm. Foremost in his mind of course, was his family. He worried about his home and his crops which he knew would be laid to waste anytime the raiders come for another attack. Faced with this hopeless prospect, he resorted to the wellsprings of his faith. He has been taught by the good Padre to have full trust and faith in the goodness and mercy of God and in the protection offered by the Heavenly Mother. These thoughts came to him. He sighed resignedly to Virgin Mary and somehow his fears vanished as he continued his slow pace homeward.

As he followed the path from the hill in the deepening dusk, he became aware of a mysterious light coming from somewhere. He turned to the west to assure himself that he was not being deceived, and sure enough he saw that the sun has set. He made a full stop and turned his gaze to the light – – a tree nearby. Instantly, he recognized the radiant face of a woman holding an infant in her arms. Unable to grasp the significance of the phenomenon and overcame by superstition, he wanted to run. In a moment of hesitation he heard a sweet voice called out his name. He stood transfixed at the smiling face of the mysterious lady. He knelt down. She continued in her singularly sweet voice, “Son, I want a church here in my honor. My children shall receive many favors in this place.”

We can surmise that such joy from the extraordinary experience would not remain locked up in the breast of the man but would overflow to others. Conceivably, he told his tale to his wife and children then to his close relatives and friends. But when he went to tell it to the Padre, he got a different reception. The old Padre not only did not believe him but went on to insinuate that the man was suffering from hallucination that was induced by the extreme heat of the day.

We can imagine the dismay of the man about the reaction of his spiritual counselor. He and his fellows in the settlement have been monitored on the love and veneration of the Blessed Lady of the Rosary and in a moment of truth, should be asked to reject the revelation of Herself. And yet he was a witness of it all!

Nevertheless, the story spread fare and wide. People in the neighboring settlements heard of it and they came to verify it. These went home not only assured in the truth but they also felt that their petitions have been answered. The pilgrimages to the Lady developed into a tradition, They felt they had to make a visit to the Shrine at least once a year to fulfill a vow, make new petitions to Her, and offer the devotion.}
Last year, Pope Francis visited the Philippines and stopped by the place where the shrine is. The following month, the place was consecrated as the Minor Basilica for Our lady of the most holy rosary.

I had a similar revelation when my friend Erly mentioned about the Lady of Manaoag community and later introduced me to JR who was so moved that a priest like me would welcome another faith tradition. I wrote an email to Bishop Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Diocese of California. I related to the good bishop about the time when The Holy Child Jesus/Santo Nino was first introduced in this place and miracles happen as membership increased. I also told him about the time when this Church welcomed San Martin the Porres and Senor De Los Milagros or Lord of Miracles and how our Peruvian families were welcomed in this place. The Bishop was happy to know of the inclusion of Our Lady of Manaoag and have given me the approval to welcome such community.

Yes, Miracles continue to happen in this Church. The love and respect that we share will surely heal us because we welcome all God’ s people.

There is life among us shared in every moment we come together for worship. There is something worth coming to see in this blessed place;

We have invited people to “Come and See” So that in coming, we may be renewed and empowered as a community of love and hope.

There are more miracles to come and I tell you my brothers and sisters in Christ, there is nothing that we cannot do because God is with us! If God is with us, who can be against us? No one, because we all take it to God in prayer.

By welcoming all, May we all constantly be renewed, Be empowered and continue to be a part of a community of Love and Hope.” May we all continue to bear fruit.
The Gospel today tells us that we are each a fig tree planted by the Lord to bear His fruit. He gardens us; He nurtures us; He cares for us with Word, Sacraments, and the Grace to seek His Presence in others. But we must produce. We are living on God’s time, not our time. How well are we using this time? That is the challenge of today’s Gospel reading.
Today’s gospel is all about that lack of action. We are compared to barren fig trees, trees that produce no fruit. God is that patient gardener who keeps fertilizing, and cultivating, and hoping that Someone would act to build God’s Kingdom. Now the actions that build God’s Kingdom are actions that we are all called to do.
The challenge then that I give to each of you here today is this:
identify one action, one action which you can do that will build God’s Kingdom. Choose one action which will move the world a bit closer to unity, to peace, to justice. It might be picking up the phone to call a relative from whom you are estranged and simply letting that person know that the door is still open to reconciliation. It might be reaching out to someone in your neighborhood who is in need—a person who you have thought for some time could use some help, but so far you have never acted to help. It might visiting someone at home or at a nursing home. It might be welcoming all others who come to our midst as one great thing that we should do, able to risk our vulnerability, our comfort zones for the sake of uniting all in the love of God. HCSM represents not only one tradition but many. In order for us to prosper and grow just as God wants us to be, we need to be able to respect each other and celebrate our common faith in the One God who is father of all.
If we need to bear more fruit in this age, we should be able to expand our tents because there is plenty good room in God’s glory train.

Now is the time for action. Now is the time to do at least one thing to produce fruit, so that there might be at least one fig on the branch of the tree which was previously barren. Any action we do builds God’s Kingdom. I know that it’s Everybody’s job, and I know that Anybody can do it. But Somebody has to do it. That Somebody is you and me. And so today, I say, “Mother Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, you are welcome in this place. Forgive those who deny your presence and teach us to Love God, ourselves and our neighbors. Intercede for us with The Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Feast of the Holy Child – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Feast of Holy Child
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
January 17, 2016

The Rev. Leonard Oakes
God reveals himself in many ways and forms. In the Old Testament, God revealed himself as the creator of all that live upon the earth and in the heavens. God revealed himself as the Spirit hovering above the face of the water. God created us in His own image. God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush and in the liberation of Israel from their bondage in Egypt when they crossed the Red Sea to the promised land. God revealed himself to Israel as the liberator, great provider. In the New Testament, God revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son whom God sent to save the world from our sinfulness and restore us back to Him. God revealed himself through a messenger proclaiming that a Child Jesus, the Holy Child of God will be born and be among us. The child grew up in wisdom and grace and elevated the people’s understanding of God by showing them that everything is possible with God when we love God, love ourselves and our neighbors, that God is not confined in one’s country and territory, that God is a universal God where there is neither Jews nor Gentiles but only One God for all and that includes all, regardless of color, ethnicity, race, age, gender and whatever background one may have, for God loves us all.

And that’s how God revealed himself here at Holy Child and St. Martin. As a symbol of the presence of God and his miracles.

St Martin Parish during the 60’s was used to be a very popular and people filled parish with a lot of young people in their Sunday School and in their acolyte ministries. But diversity was not popular in this place then. 98 % were Europeans, and the other 2 % were one Japanese/Chinese family, who happened to be the Children of Elsie and Ernest Ching, and another black family have been attending their Sunday school. During the late 80’s however, part of the property of the Church where the houses around the corner are now situated has to be sold to support the salary of the priest and also to pay some of their loans from the Diocese. After which, the number of membership declined for many reasons, until only about 30 or less members were faithfully worshiping here.

On the other side of San Francisco, a group of about 50 or more Filipino families have been worshiping in an in law space at St. Barnabas started by then Fr. Sancho Gaerlan and succeeded by then Fr. Vito Villalon. It was said, “St. Barnabas congregation have the people but they are in need of a bigger space, while St Martin has the space but is in need of people.” Bishop William Swing saw that need. And because the bishop has the authority over mission stations, he made the two congregations agree to merge in Daly City during the early 1990’s and there emerged the name Holy Child and St. Martin. Now some of the original St. Martin’s didn’t like the idea of having St. Martin after the name Holy Child because they were here first, hence it was suggested that the name should be St. Martin and Holy Child. But theologically, God, the Holy Child should precede first before a disciple or Saint Martin. This idea was not acceptable to some and they left. But there were those who stayed and faithfully served this church. Since then, this church grew up in number until today. Look around you, see the diversity that God made us. The beauty of our diversity is when we all work together for the glory of God. That each culture is recognized and lifted in our midst. One does not dominate the other, but rather it is our joy to have another more in our family. There’s a plenty good room in God’s house. I want you all to remember that, plenty good room in God’s house and it is our joy to welcome more. Let us welcome all with genuine heart and continue to respect and recognize each other in all our doings for the glory of God. God turned water into wine!
And so today, I greet you happy Santo Nino Fiesta day!

The story of Santo Nino came to us in many different ways. I was reading the article of our brother Gino Soberano on the origin of Santo Nino. In his article he wrote, “Sto. Nino originated in Europe in the early 15th century. It spread its popularity throughout the Christian world including the Philippines after Ferdinand Magellan had discovered the Island in 1521. It was later discovered that the reason the Island of Cebu in the Philippines accepted and welcomed the group of Ferdinand Magellan was because they introduced the Holy Child Jesus in that community, which they relate of their own belief of a child saving that island from disasters. The Holy Child traces its roots in a small town in Prague where the Holy Infant image was molded in a wax form and given as a gift to an Empress. Even Queens possessed this Holy image. From generation to generation, it has been told that in different places in Europe and in many different countries, the Holy Infant Jesus worked miracles where he was honored and adored. He turned barren towns into prosperous cities. He turned Churches alive with people, he cured many diseases.”

In 1993, the Holy Infant Jesus Replica was airlifted from Manila to San Francisco and was officially enthroned by Bishop William Swing of the Episcopal Diocese of California on that same year With The Rev. Vito Villalon as the Vicar. Mng. Gino revealed to us of an inscription he once read, “The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.”

In April of 2005, the church was devastated with fire coming from the office of Fr. Rico, the Vicar at that time. It was the night before Easter Sunday. My memory of that devastating moment is still vivid. A church neighbor, Nollet Mata called me on the phone at around 11 PM. His voice was filled with worries as he reported to me, “Fr. Leonard the church is on fire” I immediately called fr Bayani who was living in Vallejo and informed him of the incident. I rushed to the church and saw the fire and smoke from the church office. I was enveloped with fear and started to shiver as I prayed to God to spare the church. I Introduced myself to the Fire battalion chief as the assistant priest of the church. He asked me to come with him and walked me through the smoke into the church. I saw the unimaginable shattered and melted windows and interior part of the church. I knelt at the altar for brief prayer and as I rose, I noticed the Santo Nino has never been damaged or burned nor any slight melt happened. I had goose bumps. I’ve never been that much of a santo Nino fun until I myself had witnessed the miracle that just happened in my very eyes. He transformed me that day. I remember what my mom told me that the sto. Nino is a patron of water. That to me and the rest of us is a miracle that happened in this Church.

Yet, a miracle continues to happen in this Church. People have been healed and touched. With your presence and more others to come, bringing forth your talents, time, treasures and skills before God in this Church is certainly a miracle worth celebrating. Because this Church is Alive! There is life among us shared in every moment we come together for worship. This church was baptized with both the baptism of fire and water and we live to witness and share that miracle.

What happened here during that Good Friday night needs to be shared. We need to share the love of God in sparing us from dissipation and restored us to become more stronger and blessed. We need to share the love, the joy and the light that we receive from God. Sharing the grace we enjoy to those who are deprived of having them; the poor, the unemployed, the homeless and the uninsured. We are bound to share the blessings of our Health and Wellness Ministry to the rest of the community. Such is the outward visible sign of the inward grace that we receive from God. We have become the beacon of hope in this place, sharing the stories of those who are lost and bringing them to light.

God continues to be with us because we recognize his presence and his love. Miracles will continue to be revealed in this place where new wine, new spirit of love is shared. Just like what the Gospel tells us today. Jesus turned water into wine.

I remember in seminary when we had a regular morning Eucharist. The celebrant found that the wine have been emptied and didn’t know what to do. He prayed and after prayer, he asked the sacristan to get Coca Cola and gin tonic, mixed it and used it as the Eucharistic wine. Turning drinks into Eucharistic wine.

A small boy was asked by a visiting relative if he attended Sunday school.
When he said he did, he was asked, “What are you learning?”

“Last week,” came the reply, “our lesson was about when Jesus went
to a wedding and made water into wine.”

“And what did you learn from that story?” the relative inquired.

After thinking for a moment, the lad answered, “If you’re having a
wedding, make sure Jesus is there!”

It is indeed when Jesus is present in our midst that things become possible. When Mary found about the lack of wine, she immediately thought about Jesus and said to the attendant to just do what Jesus wants him to do. Jesus revealed his glory – and his disciples put their faith in him.
Jesus’ turning water into wine is itself a picture of all that he came to do. Jesus takes what is and shows us that it has the possibility to become something else. Something that is renewed and reenergized. That which is tired, worn out, devoid of joy, empty, and lacking purpose can be transformed. It can be turned into something rich, fragrant, and ripe with the fullness of joy through his presence, through his care.

The miracle in Cana also tells us that Jesus can bring new life. He can fill the emptiness in our lives – he can take whatever it is that we bring to him – no matter how little – or how much – and utterly remake it – giving to it a good taste which is beyond the best that we ourselves are capable of providing.

It is when we recognize the presence of God in our midst and do what is pleasing in God’s sight, that God reveals himself to us. May we continue to make miracles in this place and beyond, by sharing our stories, our compassion and love for all. Amen.

“New Year, New challenges” – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

New Year’s Vicar’s  Message
January 3, 2016
I greet you all with a Happy New Year!

Although I spent my time in bed beginning on New Year’s Eve, I hope you had a wonderful time with yourself, your family and friends welcoming the New Year with Positive Thoughts and resolutions.

Year 2016 promises us at Holy Child and St. Martin with a very prosperous and wonderful year to celebrate as a community. It promises us new ideas, improved leadership on both Lay and Clergy, and renew our relationship with God, ourselves, our community and the rest of God’s creation around us.

Let us begin the year with a challenge that requires positive attitudes for the greater glory of God. Let us challenge ourselves with a goal to accomplish these challenges:

First, I challenge you all to step up and be leaders beginning today. The task of the Church is not to maintain it but to propagate the Good News of God by raising good leaders and that all members will participate in the various tasks ahead. I thank all those who have already stepped up for they have advanced our ship to the path God wants us to be. But it is not enough that only few are doing such work. We need a collaborative energy to accomplish all things. I encourage you to pray that the Holy Spirit will touch and ignite the gifts that are in you and let them shine.

Secondly, I challenge all the leaders of the various ministries in this Church to open wide the door for all to have a part of. There’s indeed plenty good rooms in the glory train. I challenge the Men’s Group to continue what you have started and plan to make your programs better.
I challenge the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) to welcome new leaders to move your bus forward. We have a lot of young mothers who are full of talents and enthusiasms. Encourage them and let them lead the way. I encourage the young mothers and singles all to step up and maintain your respect to those who have been there, but be resolved that what you have to bring is to glorify God. I challenge all the Youth in this Church. You may have many extracurricular activities in school and have even accepted works to help your tuition and other expenses, but let me remind you not to slowly drift into the unknown where God is only a second choice for you and that you only need God when you are in trouble. So many things take us away from our giving back to God. Make it a point that you give back to God and the community. Better is a one day in your house than thousand elsewhere says the lord. We have opportunities for you to reach out to the poor and the needy if you only find time to be part of them. We don’t want you to lose your way and find yourselves into oblivion where emptiness and depression will enfold you and corrupt your Godly mind. As your Vicar and Pastor, I pray what your parents pray, that you will someday become a successful persons with a happy family of your own. I thank the Seniors for what you are currently doing, but I challenge you to widen you tent and be inclusive. Make it a point where you can go out for a lunch or dinner sometime and get reconnected. I ask you to help us guide our young ones. You have been there and you have so much to contribute with your wisdom.

Lastly, I thank all the pledgers and donors that benefit our church programs and administration. Without you and without God touching your hearts to give, we would not be able to get to where we are going. I continue to pray that your hearts will be filled with the Love of God because you care. I thank all the Clergy that God sent in our midst. God knows our needs and so He keeps sending us Angels, to lighten our burden and to share our care to all. I also thank all the volunteers who have given and continue to give their time and talents to move our various programs forward. May each day and moment you give serves as your prayer and thanksgiving to God who gave you life and the reason to live. I also thank all our community partners and the Diocese of California for the guidance, collaboration and support they provide to keep us all woven as a beautiful tapestry of God.

And finally, my family and I would like to thank you all for the love and the care you so continuously share to us for all these years. I can only magine 18 years ago when God sent us here to part of this wonderful family, and the 7 years that God called me to serve HCSM as your Vicar. God indeed is with us! Thanks be to God! To God be the glory, forever! Amen.

“We await for the birth with sheer gladness”. The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Christmas Eve Homily
December 24, 2015 at 7 PM.

In every drama or a play like the one our pageant casts did wonderfully tonight, there is a beginning, a development, a climax, an ending and recapitulation. The story of the birth of Christ is the beginning of the story told of old that a child will be born and be called Emmanuel, God with us, the son of the living God is with us. The story developed when this prophecy of old came true in the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem of Judea. This story was further developed when the rumor came to the ears of Herod the king who became fearful and threatened of the presence of this new kid in town. He had asked everyone who may have a knowledge where to find this child who will be born king and will be the savior of all. Wisemen from the East came and inquired from Herod about the star they have seen and have been following from afar. Herod had asked them to find the star, and if found, to return and report to him so that he too could go and worship him. But the men were wise enough to know that Herod has dark plot to kill and eliminate the child. Herod was indignant and uncertain on what to do to save his honor and glory. A lot of things were playing in his mind. What if the child will take over my throne? What will happen to me? NO! Not on my watch! So the horrible things happened. King Herod ordered all first born male to be killed, hundreds and thousands of them in all of Israel. I have seen that place called hades or hell just outside the walls of jerusalem where it was told that blood of children flowed in the Kidron valley, the valley of death. What horrid deed had he done? Slain all first born children to save his name and pride. That is the sad story behind the birth of the one who is to come, the light of the world, the son of the living God, the messiah, the savior, the Christ. The development of the story lead into the climax when this Child grew and became a teacher, healing and opening the eyes of the blind, even raising a dead man into life. Until at last he was crucified died and was buried. But his death was the price of our sins and once again we are made one with God. The ending of the story is his resurrection and ascension to heaven where he seated at the right hand of God the Father. His death and resurrection are the focal point of our faith, where if the crucifixion did not happen, there will be no resurrection, but he has to resurrect so that we too become partakers of the eternal life he has promised. The ending is not like those in the movies. There has to be a recapitulation of this story as we await for his coming again. Jesus said he will come again at the end of the world, we do not know when? Thus, we do this the whole year round so that we won’t forget the reason why we are here in the first place. So that we may continue to walk humbly with God. Because if we forget, there will be chaos in this world especially now that every thing seem to have camouflaged the meaning of the birth of the light who was sent to be among us and dwell with us, our Savior Jesus Christ. People have continuously eat of the apple in the garden because they want to become god and eradicate God from the face of the Earth. Consumerism have changed the plot of the story. It is slowly drifting into the abyss because people are letting it happen in exchange of being nice and accommodating to other non believers whose aim is to erase God in history. There are about 2.5 billion Christians in the whole world celebrating at this moment the gift of God in this light who is with us, who is one of us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate because we believe. In celebrating, we become vigilant of the Second Coming.

Let us not therefore allow ourselves to fall into the same pit those self seeking and self centered powers continue to do to eliminate the Christ in our lives. Let us not allow ourselves to be part of the ideology of consumerism by trying to retract the focus of the reason of this season but rather we keep our lights shining among people so that God in heaven will be glorified and not ourselves.
Last night, our youth, representing the Asian Commission in the Diocese of California, brought love to the shelter residents at St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in San Francisco. We have seen the people’s faces the smiles and hope in life because of people like us and those support such movement to feed and reach out to the poor and the homeless around us.

Let us all share God’s love to all with unceasing prayers and honor God in the most high. That is the message of Christmas; to share God’s love and be of service to each other and to everyone. Let us hold our children and our grandchildren close to our hearts and treasure them. Let us again and again be gathered here at Church and in our homes to celebrate the Love and the joy of the birth and renew our commitment to each other and the world around us. Please keep in your hearts and minds those who are without in the world. Pray they too will have a glimpse of what we enjoy. Give love this Christmas and everyday. To love and be loved is the duty we have as people of God. Let us wait for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ with sheer gladness and great expectations!

Let me offer you a Christmas song tonight with all my heart in it. You may sing it with me to make the night feel better:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on, our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.

Kindly turn to the person next and around you and just give them a big hug and a smile greeting them, “Merry Christmas”

“What is God’s call for us?” Deacon Tricia Rosso

Second Sunday of Advent
December 6, 2015
What is Gods Call for Us?

​In the Gospel reading for today, Luke writes “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:2b-3). John heard God calling him. He responded to Gods call by proclaiming a baptism of repentance. I am going to talk about the challenges of discerning our vocation for our lives and how we respond to Gods invitation.

On this 12th anniversary of my ordination as a deacon of the Church, I want remind everyone here today that by virtue of our baptism we are all call to be ministers for Christ. So each of us has a vocation to which God is calling us (and we can have more than one vocation). Just as John the Baptist heard God calling him in the wilderness, we too want to listen to hear the voice of God.

For us, in our society today there is a major challenge we may face when God calls us. Our lives are busy with things to do and places to go. Lets face it we live in a culture that is on the go 24/7. We are always doing a particular task, working, picking up the kids, or going to another meeting. Also we can constantly be distracted by watching television or other electronic devices, listening to music, doing something to occupy the passing time. It is three weeks before Christmas. Are we spending any quiet time away from our frantic busyness to discern Gods voice?

I believe that God, in order to get our attention, may allow us to participate in a wilderness experience. A wilderness experience is defined as an encounter of unknown challenges that for me, may cause me to trust and discover a new insight for my life. For instance, a Biblical example is the story when the people whom God freed from Egypt spent forty years in the wilderness so they could be forged as a people who followed the one God. Also Jesus spent forty days in the desert, alone, before He began His public ministry.

Today any person can participate in a wilderness experience the Native Americans call a vision quest. A vision quest is a supernatural experience in which an individual seeks to interact with a guardian spirit, usually an anthropomorphized animal to obtain advice or protection. I thought it would be interesting to share the requirements needed to go through a vision quest.

The requirements for a vision quest are:
1. Able to fast
2. Able to camp out for long periods of time
3. Knowledge of first aid
4. Prepare sleeping equipment or sleep on the ground
5. Knowledge of spiritual things like meditation
6. Bring a spiritual instrument so you can play or chant
7. Be comfortable with the solitude
8. If the weather permits you may wish to remove all clothing or cover yourself in a blanket
9. Create a sacred stone circle on the ground in which the person sits
10. A journal to record your experience

I guess I wont be participating in a vision quest anytime soon. Wilderness experiences are challenging to go through; I dont enjoy them but I pay attention.

​One wilderness experience I went through caused a major transition for my spiritual life. My cousin Peggy was diagnosed with melanoma in 1970. She lived for only five years. When my mother told me Peggy would not survive through the night, I felt heartbroken. After all, I assumed that the two of us would grow old together. Peggy was only 19 years old; I was 21. That night I called my voice teacher, Susan Witt, and talked to her for an hour. From that conversation, the only words I remember Susan saying to me were; “hold on to what you believe! Until this experience, my belief in God only was intellectual. The only answers the Roman Catholic Church offered me were doctrinal theology or the Baltimore Catechism. That was not helpful. I did not have a personal, living relationship with God. Yet Jesus asserted that God is a God of the living, not the dead. From then on I knew that in order for me to face the challenges of my life, I want to experience God in a heartfelt way.

​I believe that when God gets us to pay attention during a wilderness encounter, it should lead us into a time of reflection. It is a time for us to notice what is really important in our lives; our relationships with God, our families and our friends, human, animal, and nature. I believe that we are not meant to be continually going and doing and not take the time to notice, wonder and be present. I called Sister Lorita Moffat, my spiritual director, last week to find how she was recovering after major surgery last fall. True to form, she replied, I am learning how to be present every day. In another words, we are both learning how to live in the present moment. This is teaching both of us to trust God. Another person who experienced John of the Cross dark soul of the night was Mother Theresa. Many times in her journal she wrote that she did not feel worthy of Godslove. By the way, there is a new movie that was just released about her life.

​After I lived through wilderness experiences, reflected on their importance for my life, and continually learn to trust God in the present moment, then I could discern and still am discerning Gods call for me. How do I respond to Gods call this time? With what I am experiencing at this present moment I believe I am called to listen, reflect, pray, wait and be present. However, this is not what I had in mind that I would be doing at this time in my life. When I retired from my paid job, I had some dreams I want to complete. Like most people in our American culture, I dont want to be sidetracked and have my dreams put on hold. God has other ideas for me at the present moment. God knows what God is doing even when I do not have a clue.
And some of you may think the clergy has all the answers. I have news for you. I have been told that the clergy are the keepers of lifes important questions.

​The poem, The Advent, written by a Jesuit priest, Anthony de Mello, describes in beautiful, simple words, what I have said.

​The Advent

​The events of history were controlled
​For my coming to this world
​No less thanfor the coming of the Savior.
​The time had to be ripe,
​The place just right,
​The circumstances ready,
​Before I could be born.

​God chose the parents of his Son
​And endowed them with the personality they needed
​For the child that would be born.
​I speak to God about the man and woman that he chose
​To be my parents
​ Until I see that they had to be
​The kind of human beings they were
​If I was to become
​What God meant me to be.

​The Christ child comes, like every other child,
​To give the world a message.
​What message have I come to give?
​I seek guidance from the Lord to express it
​In a word
​Or image.

​Christ comes into this world
​To walk a certain path,
​Fulfill a certain destiny.
​ He consciously fulfilled what had been written for him.
​As I look back I see in wonder what was written
​And has thus far been fulfilled
​In my own life,
​And for each part of that script,
​However small,
​I say, Thanks
​To make it holy with my gratitude.

​I look with expectation
​And surrender
​At all that is to come
​And, like the Christ,
​I say, Yes. Let it be done.

​Finally I recall the song the angels sang
​When Christ was born.
​They sang of the peace and joy
​That give God glory.

​Have I ever heard the song the angels sang
​ When I was born?

​I see with joy what has been done through me
​To make the world a better place
​And I join those angels
​In the song they sang
​To celebrate my birth.

​This poem is true for all of us.

What is our vocation? We are all called to encounter the wilderness, listen, reflect, discern, and respond to Gods invitation. We are called to be people of hope, like John the Baptist was for people in the first century. We have a way to live in this chaotic, violent, and broken world. God wants us to cultivate a living, loving, forgiving, grace filled relationship with God. We are to share with other people that they too can enjoy this life-giving relationship no matter what life brings them. We all called to share the good news, or gospel, with people who are suffering, lost or lonely in this world. We can do share the good news with confidence, no matter what, because God is and always will be Emmanuel-God with us. Amen.

Rev. Deacon Tricia Rosso

Thanksgiving is about sharing – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Thanksgiving is about sharing”
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
November 2015

Happy Thanksgiving all!
We are all gathered here today to give thanks to God our creator, our provider and our help, for the many blessing we received: The blessing of life, of family, of community, of love and of joy that surround us all. God made all things good that we may have them abundantly. That is a legacy that we shall never forget. When our parents met in love, when we first breathed the air and begin to open our eyes and see the wonder of God’s love in the universe, we begin to spread our arms and utter the words of thankfulness. Then we begin to discover that we have a purpose living in this world, the purpose of belongingness, to rise and shine as God’s children and as coexistent with the rest of God’s creation. We are God’s stewards and let us be so.

If there is one sin that most prevalent today, it is the sin of ingratitude. God does so much for us. Our indebtedness to him is enormous and yet we rarely or at least infrequently offer thanks for what he has done. In fact, most of those who believe God as our provider don’t even offer thanks over their meals much less offer thanks over all that God does in their lives. We are much like the little boy who was given an orange by a man. The boy’s mother asked, “What do you say to the nice man?” The little boy thought and handed the orange back and said, “Peel it.” “Balatan mo”

As a child, I was always taught by my mother to say “Thank you” whenever I received a gift or somebody did something good to me. For a child of God, thankfulness is not confined to a day or a season, it is an attitude that we should have every day and every hour.

Thanksgiving is about sharing, sharing the love and the blessing we received. There’s always plenty good room to share your love to those who need them. Share and be thankful.

So what are you thankful for today?

I am thankful for meeting new friends such as Mr. Mrs Mengue who came all the way from Florida to visit their family here, Jill, Ron and Paul.
I am thankful for this Church and community for such love of God is present in every dream and every accomplishment we make together. It is here that my family found the sense of belongingness when we were looking for one and I am sure you have that same revelation too?
What are you thankful for? Have you touched the life of someone today? Maybe your patient, your neighbor, someone whom you haven’t seen for years, you called them and said hello. You might not realize that you have transformed the life of that person just by calling and reconnecting.

Have you shared a smile today? Enthusiasm is contagious. If you go into your workplace with a smile on your face, full of life and joy, the whole place will come up to a higher level of joy and you will hear people thanking you for touching their lives with your positive attitude.

Many times at night, as I cuddle my wife around my arms, I would whisper to her, “Thank God for giving me a wife and a family who are so understanding and caring” We must learn to be happy and thankful always. Stop complaining if you are not living in your dream house, but rather thank God that you have a roof over your head and pray for those without. The Scripture this morning says, “Do not fear, be glad and rejoice for the Lord has done great things and has dealt wondrously with you.

We need to recognize that everyday is a gift from God. Certainly we have had obstacles in our paths and challenges to overcome, but our attitude should be, ‘Thank God I’m alive’ I live in a great country, I have family and great partner. I have opportunity. So I’m going to make the most of this day and give it my best.”

Miracles happen everywhere and every time to everyone. You suddenly met someone who touched your life and guided you to the right direction. You are at a point of losing your home or your job and you’re so afraid that you don’t have a place to stay or food to feed your family. God will come to the rescue. Believe and you will receive. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and God’s Righteousness, and all these things shall be given unto you. Those who sowed with tears, will reap with songs of joy.

God has a purpose for all of us, even at the time when we think we’re losing it all. So be thankful when someone just stood by next to you and said, “You are doing a great job, thank you.” Let that smile come out and use that to inspire you to seek the blessing that is in wait for you. Always remember to give thanks. We easily forget that. Give love, share love, for love is fulfilled when you share them to all and not keep them. Love is meant to flow from our hearts like a river.

There are many real people in need in our society. Let us give and share what we are blessed with. Jesus said, “Whatever you’ve done to the least of my people, you’ve done it for me.”

If you want to get more out of life, try this:

As you get up each morning, rather than just trying to be blessed, do everything in your power to be a blessing to someone else. If you will do that for sometime, your life will be filled with so many blessings you won’t be able to contain them all.

I’ve discovered that if I meet other people’s needs, God will meet mine. If I make somebody else happy, God will make sure that I’m happy. Every day, we should look in the eyes of God and look for opportunities to be good to people. Maybe you can buy somebody’s lunch, or give someone a ride, Share your contagious smile so others will smile as well. Get in a habit of doing some good for somebody every day. Don’t make the mistake of living selfishly. You were not created to be focused only on yourself, the Almighty God made you to be a giver. The best way for you to be fulfilled is to get your mind off yourself and reach out to others. Get up in the morning with this attitude: “Who can I be a blessing to today? Who can I encourage? Where is there a need that I can meet?”

Everyday, we hear a lot about success and about the good things that God wants to do for us, but let’s not forget we are blessed so we can be a blessing. We are blessed so we can share God’s goodness wherever we go. If you want to make an impact on somebody’s life, you don’t necessarily have to preach a sermon to that person, or go about telling everyone you spend that much for him or her; just be good to that person. Your actions will speak much louder than your words. You can say, “I love you and I care about you, just as God cared for me by giving His Son Jesus Christ who is a compassionate and merciful King of my life.” When you say those words, do them. We demonstrate true love by what we do. If I love you, I’ll go out of my way to help you. True love turns words and feelings into action. So Please turn to the person next and around you and say, “I thank God for you.”

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. And all these things shall be added unto you. Alleluia!!! May we sing that? (Music maestro)

May we be more loving and giving in the coming season and everyday for God loves a cheerful giver. Amen.