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“Blind, But Now I See” The Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

Fourth Sunday in Lent

March 26, 2017

1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14,

John 9:1:41

 

Blind, But Now I See

 

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to have been blind from birth, to sit in darkness, to need help with the basic activities of life.  You must beg to receive your daily bread. In the culture of the time, if you didn’t have any money, or family to care for you, you would have been destitute, outcast.  And then Jesus comes along to where you are sitting, without judging you and saying that sin somehow caused your condition.  He actually speaks to you. And then he asks you to do something strange.  He spits in the mud and makes a paste, spreads it on your eyes, and then asks you to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  And when you do, suddenly you can see! The beauty of colors, of sky, of earth, of animals, and especially human faces, the face of Jesus and your parents, fills you with joy and wonder.  It is overwhelming, and you feel quite overcome.  Who is this man, who can cure blindness?   Who is he?  You wonder, but your heart is singing, and somehow your intuition tells you he is from God.

There is so much packed into this story. Like the recent scripture passages we have heard over the past several weeks, the gospel writer is using the story as an opportunity to reveal the nature of Jesus.  As I have mentioned before, John’s gospel is filled with conversations that then become monologues with Jesus proclaiming his unity with the Father from before time, and his nature as the Son of God.  He uses “I am” a lot in this gospel, “I am the light of the world, I am the good shepherd, I am the bread of life, I am the door.”  The gospel is also a window into what was going on in the life of the early church at the time.  As the last gospel written, John was probably composed around the year 90 A.D, when the church was struggling with its identity and seeking to balance its roots in Jewish tradition with the universal call to share the Gospel with all people.  Believers began to suffer persecution for their faith, and were thrown out of their previous places of worship.  There is a lot of talk about darkness and light, those who do evil and who don’t believe, and there was probably the expectation the Jesus was going to come again soon in his glory.  And yet, while that expectation of his coming in glory was in the future, in John’s gospel, it is also being realized in the present, in the here and now.  Jesus is the light of the world now, the bread of the world now.  He is the resurrection and the life, now.  The dead are being raised, the blind are being given sight, the lame walk, and people are coming to believe, now.  Through his death and resurrection, Jesus is fulfilling God’s promise to reconcile the world to himself.

This is the setting for today’s passage, the backdrop for this story of grace and faith, of fear and doubt, of judgment and also of compassion, courage, and hospitality.  What did the story mean for those who heard it so many years ago, and what might it mean for us?  What does this story teach us about our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters?

First of all, I think it teaches an important lesson about the mystery of illness and suffering.  In the beginning of today’s passage, the disciples see the blind man and asked Jesus who sinned, the man or his parents, to cause his distress?  In ancient times, people commonly believed that illness and infirmity were punishments for sin.  As if the person afflicted weren’t suffering enough, imagine what it would be like to believe it was because of some sin or shortcoming in his or her life!  Jesus refutes this and says the blindness is not the result of sin.  He says he was born blind “so God’s works might be revealed in him.” I don’t think that is to say God caused him to be blind so that he could heal him later, because that’s not the way of love. Suffering is not sent by God, but is an inevitable part of living as imperfect beings in an imperfect world, and God longs for us to have wholeness. Sometimes it comes through a physical cure, as in our story for today, other times not.  But God always brings healing to our deepest spirit.

Second, Jesus’ response to the blind man is deeply, radically compassionate and hospitable.  He invites people to be seen, loved, and included in community.  Many of the religious authorities of the time reduced religion to a set of beliefs and purity codes that were burdensome and kept people distant from God, rather than drawing them close, as Jesus’ Abba, the  Father, longed to do  They put rules ahead of human need.  Rules about what could be eaten and with whom and what could be done on the Sabbath missed the point of the great call to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  Jesus is condemned because he healed the man on the Sabbath.  So the religious leaders consistently focus on the letter of the law, of following the rules, and miss out on grace.   For them, purity of observance is more important than purity of the heart that shows love and mercy.  At that time, and sadly, still in our own time, people who are disabled, suffer diseases, or mental illness are seen as invisible, unworthy.  Jesus will have none of that.  Not only was the blind man in the story able to see after his encounter with Jesus, he was seen, and valued, and cherished, and invited into relationship with the living God.  For us as Jesus’ followers there is no one who is beneath our notice or unworthy.  All are called to fellowship in the body of Christ.

Finally, this gospel juxtaposes physical and spiritual blindness. Physical blindness affects the body, the outward self, but spiritual blindness is a condition of the heart. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and religious authorities because they condemn the blind man as a sinner, yet are oblivious to their own lack of charity, of compassion, and of living faith.  They have their own preconceived ideas of what God is like, and box the Divine in with a fixation on rules, doctrines, and purity laws, when they should be focusing on works of love and mercy.  They have their own beliefs of what the Messiah should be like and how he should behave, and they can’t let the scales fall from their eyes long enough, they can’t come before him in humility and not knowing long enough to see that when they are in the presence of Jesus they are in the Holy of Holies, the place where God dwells. They are in a place of spiritual blindness because they find the darkness more comfortable than the light of truth that shows them their need and dependence on God alone.

What about us?  What blinds us spiritually to the presence of God in our midst?  Is it a judgmental spirit that looks for faults in others instead of graciously overlooking their flaws and appreciating how special and unique they are, gifted and cherished by God?  Is it a heart that has forgotten how to sing, how to be grateful, to receive life as a gift?  I know that at times I can have a complaining spirit, and am asking God to help me to give thanks and be grateful.   Is it the tendency to live from a place of fear and mistrust, which keep us from seeing the face of Christ in our neighbors, all of them?

Friends, what keeps us struggling with spiritual blindness?  Is it the desire for wealth and influence and power?  Is it unhealed resentment and bitterness that casts a shadow and a dullness over our hearts so that we can’t enjoy a loving relationship with God or others?  Or is it our own desire, buried deep inside, to be our own gods, to direct our own destiny, rather than joyfully surrendering ourselves to God?  How is God inviting you to let Jesus touch the eyes of your heart and soul and fill you with his light and peace?           The English poet and and Anglican priest John Newton let Jesus touch the eyes of his heart. He lived much of his early life without direction or concern for the life of his soul.  He lived recklessly and aimlessly for himself, and became involved with the slave trade.  He finally came to a point in his life, where in his words; he “professed his full belief in Christ, and asked God to take control of his destiny.” He then went on to become a priest, a prolific writer of hymns, and a fierce foe of slavery.  God had healed the spiritual blindness and transformed him.  People all over the world sing “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

Blind, but now I see.  And yet even in our blindness and our darkness, God never abandons us.  In that wonderful Psalm, 139, we read that even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.  In John’s gospel we read that the light has shined in the darkness and the darkness has not comprehended it.  God is calling us to invite Jesus into our hearts anew this Lent, and to let his light be our light, his vision our vision.  May we all grow more and more in the brightness of the vision of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Kingdom. Amen.

All the we have to offer – The Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

Pentecost 24
November 8, 2015
1 Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

All That We Have and All that We Offer

​Use your imagination to enter the scene we have just heard read in the Gospel. Jesus is walking in the Temple and observing the people coming through its gates. He sees many coming and depositing money in the temple treasury. Wealthy people, some of them perhaps temple leaders, glide up in their long robes and fine dress, and deposit large bags of coins that make a heavy “clunk.” They talk busily among themselves, and many and don’t even see the poor widow walking quietly up from the side. Or some of them see her, but don’t acknowledge her, for she is one of the multitudes of the anonymous poor, so they think, and then they go about their “important” business. The widow gathers her simple cloak about her, weary from her day’s work, and takes out all the money she has left in the world, 2 copper coins, and with a prayer on her lips and in her heart, she deposits them carefully in the treasury. She doesn’t know where her next money will come from; yet somehow it seems important that she offer what she has to God, and trust in his provision. Her life has been hard, for in that culture, widows without family to provide for them were bereft and alone in the world. There has been suffering, there have been times of despair, but God has always been with her.
​Why do you suppose Jesus draws attention to this scene? Here he is, arriving in Jerusalem for the last time, where he will be betrayed and will suffer death. He is trying to prepare his followers for his suffering,, and to remind them of the coming of the kingdom of God and the ultimate triumph of the will of God. Yet, he still has time to notice the details, to teach in story, parable, and observation. Here he is teaching his disciples, and us, the importance of humility. He is also teaching us that we must live out our faith in works of hospitality and mercy, and that we are called, like the poor widow, to give all of ourselves, what we have and, who we are, to God.
​First, humility. There is a common misconception that humility involves thinking less of oneself, or putting oneself down. Actually, the root of the word humility is from the Latin word humus, which means ground, earth. A humble person is grounded, secure in the knowledge of his or her great value in the sight of God. Humble people can appreciate their gifts and virtues, knowing they come from God and accept their faults and shortcomings honestly and without shame. There is no phoniness and needing to be someone they are not. Secure in the knowledge of God’s great love, a humble person does not have the need to be the center of attention, or to lord it over others. This arrogant behavior is what Jesus is calling attention to in this story. The religious leaders who crave the recognition and deference of all, who long to be lifted up as important, lose sight of their dependence on God and their responsibility to others. They become blinded to the needs of those around them, showing outward signs of piety, but “devouring “widow’s houses and their living.”
​I think we can agree that our culture does not promote humility! I recently saw a bumper sticker that said: “ He who dies with the most toys wins” I thought to myself, what a commentary on the competitive, self-aggrandizing part of our culture. In advertising, social media, and in our institutions, we encourage people to be number one, to succeed at all costs, to promote themselves. This goes well beyond a healthy self-regard and pits people against each other, and blinds us to the call to be sensitive and compassionate to the needs of others. Humility, as taught by Jesus, is a much needed antidote to arrogance. Humility teaches us that there are limits to our human ability and power. Humility reminds us that we are but dust, and to dust we shall return. Humility teaches us to let go of our own limited human perspective, and to see the world from God’s perspective. There is a wonderful quote, and I’m not sure of the source, but it sums it all up. It goes: Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
​This Gospel lesson also teaches us the importance of harmony between our faith, our words, and our actions. We can pray and attend church regularly, we can come up in this pulpit and preach beautiful words, but if we don’t live out what we preach and believe in acts of justice and mercy, our words are hollow, false, and accomplish little. Jesus tells us that our faith and our words must be reflected in our actions. It is not acceptable to offer long prayers and proclaim piety while letting poor widows suffer. It is not enough to conduct beautiful liturgies that bring comfort and solace; we must inspire people to extend the circle of God’s love to everyone, particularly the lost, the lonely, the poor, the forgotten. We cannot practice our faith for ourselves and our church community alone, or it will grow stagnant and die. We are the living body of Christ, and we need to be his hands, feet, mind, and heart in the world. We are indeed called, as written in the book of the prophet Micah, to “do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8). If we live out our faith this way, it will turn this world upside down, just as it did in ancient times, and grace will run wild and free.
​Finally, we are called to give all of ourselves, body, mind, and spirit to God in Christ. The widow in the story did not hold anything back. Though she did not know where her next income would come from, she offered all freely, trusting in God’s abundance. We are not to say, this part of my life, my church life, is what I will give to God, but ALL of it, my work life, my relationships, my decisions about vocation and money, the nitty gritty, I will offer all of it to God. We offer all of ourselves, our hopes, our fears, our joys, our gifts, our strengths, and our wounds and sins, to God, asking him to strengthen, heal, and transform us, and then send us out as bearers of his light in the world. We may feel at times like we don’t have much to offer, but we don’t have to depend on our sense of abundance but on the endless abundance of God. He will take our two copper coins and multiply them in his bounty!
​It is also appropriate today that we remember and honor our veterans, who gave all of themselves, who held nothing back, in tireless and whole-hearted service to their country. Like the widow in the story, these soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women offered the utmost of what they had to God and to their country– themselves. They went off into the dangerous unknown, not sure if they would come back alive, and released everything they had, their hopes and dreams for the future,, their families, their very lives, into the care of God. Some of them were famous generals and commanders, many of them are the unknown multitudes who served with dignity, humility, courage, and unselfishness, and they are forever remembered by us and by God. As Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “it is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining for us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the “last full measure of devotion,” We also offer great thanks for all the living veterans, some of them right here in our congregation today, who by their sacrifice and courage have also given their” last full measure of devotion” to God and their country. We thank you, we bless you, we honor you, and we carry you in our hearts and prayers!.
​Humility, acts of justice and mercy, wholehearted devotion to Christ- these things make the kingdom a present reality among us. There is a wonderful offertory hymn, “All That We Have, and All that We Offer, that goes like this:
All that we have, and all that we offer
Comes from a heart, both frightened and free.
Take what we bring now, and give what we need
All done in his name
We ask you to take our hearts, Lord, broken, frightened, free and loving, and fill them with your grace and compassionate love for our world. We open our hands and share our treasure, however humble, take it in your abundance, and multiply it. Speak through our lips, and love with our hands and hearts, and help us make your Kingdom come here on earth In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Leadership is Service – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant”

Mark 10:35-45

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Hey It’s good to be back home again!! Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend, Yes it’s good to be back home again.” I love John Denver songs. There are many great things a faith leader can benefit when he/she sets sail away from his/her local community for a while, even when it’s only one week. While I was away in Seoul Korea to attend the Episcopal Asiamerica ministry Consultation as a member of the EAM Council, and to attend the 125th anniversary of the birth of the Anglican Church of Korea, I met great world leaders as well as local people who continue to spread the love of God to all through partnership and collaborations. I had the chance to meet the rector and Vestry members of Trinity Wall Street New York, one of the richest parishes in the whole of the Episcopal Church, who were so humble to visit our Filipino migrant workers in a poor neighborhood outside the city. We danced and we ate together a tasteful Igorot delicacy, Chicken soup / Pinikpikan style. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.” Not only did I make a connection with faith leaders and local people, but I also learned and witnessed the history and geography of the North and South Korea. I sat down on top of the Observatory building looking below the river that divides the two nation. I began to sing quietly Bob Dylan’s song “Blowing in the wind”……. Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist Before they’re allowed to be free? Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows That too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind The answer is blowin’ in the wind. I thought what happened after South Korea experience was the highlight of my being away for two weeks. I had the most wonderful experience being with my family on our first cruise vacation to Ensenada Mexico. I will never trade such experience with the world. It strengthened my spiritual journey and my being a husband and a father. I encourage you all to do the same. Have sometime for your self and family or friends. Experience that which you have been deprived. I believe God is calling us all to enjoy life, experience the mountain top feeling, the smooth sailing at sea, then come back renewed and ready to face what life has to give. Those who have been there will surely agree that we need a time to be with God in many mysterious and wonderful ways. I could certainly relate now with what Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to be great among you, will be your servant.” The name “Great Britain” says a lot on greatness. Among other things it points out the basic desire in every person to become great. It is so basic that if one cannot become great, one tries to attach oneself to something that is great. If that too is not possible, some strive at least to look great. Moved by this universal desire to become great, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, asked Jesus whether they could be a sort of Bishop, Rector, Vicar and a Deacon when he becomes King. Jesus does not blame them for asking this, but points out to them, perhaps to their embarrassment, that true greatness is achieved through service: “Anyone among you who aspires to greatness, must serve the rest”. Jesus first outlined in today’s gospel, the accepted standard of civil authority: domination, authoritarian with rulers lording it over their subjects. But this is not how it must be in his community. He saw authority as an opportunity to serve.

In this coming year, it is good that we reflect on who can be a good leader in the light of today’s gospel. People seek authority for different reasons. Some people like the power that goes with it; it makes them feel important and in control. Others like the prestige it brings. Others like the higher salary. All these reasons have one thing in common – authority is seen as an opportunity to promote oneself. Authority can be distinguished into two kinds: an authority which imposes, dominates and controls; and an authority which accompanies, listens, liberates, empowers, gives people confidence in themselves and calls them to be aware of their responsibilities. Jesus sees authority as an opportunity to serve. As always, he set the example himself. He did not lord it over people. He appealed, he invited, called them by their names but left the response to them. This is how he wanted authority to be exercised in his community. Authority should not be given to those who seek it, but only to those who have proved that they are willing to serve. Service is not to be understood as meaning only servant jobs. Service is also any noble and unselfish act. It includes one’s daily duty taken as God’s will for us. We do serve God and human society at large whenever we do our daily task with a sense of dedication and justice, also offering a helping hand to those with whom we live and work. Of course duty, however praiseworthy, is not the ideal Christian service. Christ challenges us to go beyond one’ duty and serve our fellow human beings without hope of gain or reward, without gratitude or praise. True Christian service is, therefore, that which is done solely out of love without any personal advantage, in order to continue Christ’s work of bringing light and hope, help and healing into the lives of others. Suffering and service go hand in hand. Service always involves suffering because one can’t help another without some personal sacrifice. Let us ask ourselves: Am I willing to render selfless service to all my fellow human beings? Am I growing a good seed within me? There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked. “Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.” So is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

May we all do service to all, for by doing service comes greatness. Let us not be afraid to become vulnerable for that which God calls us to be. I would like to share this wonderful prayer of Sir Francis Drake which I learned at yesterday’s Diocesan Convention. I would like to invite you all to say it with me:
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Sir Francis Drake

Amen.

Have you Epiphany?

First Sunday in EPIPHANY

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

A husband composed a song to convey his story:
“On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me: A note that says, “Let us save our money for the new year, which means you will not get a gift this Christmas. “On the 12th day of Christmas my true love sent to me, long list of bills”

Today is the day after the 12th day of Christmas, Epiphany, “God is revealed to us”. You may not have gotten any gift during those 12 days of Christmas but God has given you the most gift you ever have, His son our Saviour Jesus Christ, the light of the world, who, through him, God the father is revealed. He is the light that will guide us back to God the Father. In him, will never get lost.

On our way back from sacramento last night, we lost our way going to San Francisco . It was too late when I realized that the road I took was taking us to 99 South towards Lodi and Jackson. No, no, we were not looking for Jackson Rancheria Casino. Thanks to GPS, we found our track back. It took us three hours from sacramento to San Francisco, which should have been two hours only.

I wonder how the three Magi in the Gospel story found the Child Jesus by just following a star? It was suggested that they were astrologers who studied the stars and other heavenly bodies but I don’t think they had an improvised GPS then. I don’t think that just by following the direction of the star, there were no cliffs or water either? Riding on the back of a Camel? I am pretty sure they had to avoid those roads and took a longer route. The Wise men came following a star searching for the one born King of the Jews. The Bible says they came from the East. It was probably Persia. They traveled hundreds of miles and even on camel back they probably did not move much faster than a quick walk. Back then they did not have travel insurance or Highway Patrol or even a gasoline station to ask a map. It was a dangerous journey especially for three very wealthy men with chests full of treasure. They probably had to bring their own security force with them to protect them from robbers. They took at least one wrong turn. They assumed that anyone born to be King of the Jews would be in the palace of the King of Israel. They came to King Herod who became interested to see the Child with a dark intention. They finally got on the right path with the help of an angel who told them not to go back to Herod. And with God’s help they finally found Jesus.

I can only assume that these three Magi went through many hardships and a few wrong turns, but I aslo believe that amidst those challenges, they kept searching and they found God come in the flesh to save us all. God reveals himself all the time if we only seek. The problem is that many people are not looking. How many people saw the star of Bethlehem but failed to notice it. And how many more who saw it failed to ask what it meant. God is being revealed to us all the time. So why don’t people see God. For the most part, it is because they are not looking for God. They may see things and simply overlook them. So they may walk right by and not question what they have seen. So we need to seek. If we want to find God in our world we need to seek. We need to open our eyes and be looking. We need to expect to see something and then we need to question what it means. Like the Wise Men we need to seek to find. Seeking may not be easy. But if we only make our resolves and determinations to find God, we will find him with much joy.

One can’t seek God for granted. If the Wise men had only sought the Messiah on the weekend they would have never have found him. They had to dedicate their lives to it. It probably took them years and cost them a fortune. It was also a trip that include some wrong turns and some dangers. When you seek, know that there will be missteps. You may go down some valleys and peaks, some deeo water or dead ends. But keep seeking. Keep looking despite the dangers. Somewhere, somehow, you will find God revealing Himself to you and the things around you. And you will be able to say, “Aha!” Much to your surprise, He has been there all the time and that you didn’t have to look farther.

Would you like to have an Epiphany experience? Would you like to have the spiritual lights turned on in your heart and soul or turned brighter. Would you like to be suddenly aware of the presence of God in your life? Then seek. Look for God in your life. Don’t do it on just Sundays. Seeking God is not for granted; it is life endeavor. It may take a while so keep seeking. It may be hard to job at this time or home for a shelter this cold season. There may be hardships and wrong turns but keep seeking. Like the wise men follow the light of the star that you have seen and let it lead you to Jesus. Then when you arrive at your epiphany, you can open the treasure chest of your heart, and you can worship God almighty come in the flesh to save us all!

In our journey to seek God, let us bring Christ to others.Here’s my suggestion in doing so:

We are going to kick start our new year with a plan and the plan will revolve around our calling from God to make a difference in our lives, families, church and community.

Invite one friend next sunday. It will be the feast of the Holy Child Jesus, Santo Nino. Let your guest feel the revelation of God’s presence in our worship and fellowship. David and Marie had their Epiphany experience when they first came for a visit here in our midst. They are back because they felt the presence of God in our worship and fellowship.

Let it be our goal to bring at least one or two friends this year. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Just say, “come and see, we are a loving and caring community.”Build that friend to be part of one of our programs. Let him or her feel God’s calling to seek for the star in Jesus through our church and community program.

The revelation of God does not end in the birth of Jesus. It goes beyond the spirit of the Birth, it goes through our hearts and beyond, to the next person whom you bring Jesus to. It goes beyond the walls of this Church. God reveals himself to us at Holy Child and St Martin through our compassion to the poor and the uninsured in our community. I ask you all to turn on your lights and join me in the distribution of the health flyer to anyone, anywhere for people to know that the star of God is just right here in our midst. We will be going door to door in the neighborhood, in every bus stops, in every laundry area to invite people to come and see how God is being revealed through our programs for the community. You will also find that on our meeting with the people, God is also revealed to us. God has been calling us all along to do this kind of ministry. Keep your hearts open that God may enter and reveal himself to you. May the light of God revealed in the word made flesh, Jesus our Lord, be with you today and as you leave this place to proclaim God’s love to the world. Happy Epiphany to all. Amen.

“Please don’t take away the Child Jesus so soon”

First Sunday after Christmas Day

 “Please don’t take away the Child Jesus so soon”

 John 1: 1-14

 The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

 December 30, 2012

 Every parent would agree that the birth of a child gives light to a home. There is plenty of joy to see a beautiful little child smile or grip your finger with his/her little hand. Each parent would remember the time when you cuddled your child and sing the lullaby, so gentle to put the child to sleep. A sibling may be so excited to have a brother or a sister to care and play with. A parent could also wish that moment of birth and child bearing last longer.

 A parent told me one day, “Enjoy the company of your child while she is young.” There is truth to that especially when your child begins to observe privacy and lock herself in her room or when she wants to move away to a far place to exercise her independence. So please don’t take away the feeling of having a child as the light of a home, at least not so fast, for I want to keep the wonderful feeling a little longer.

I saw a neighbor removing his Christmas decors just a day after Christmas. I asked why? He said, “Christmas is over” Please don’t take away the child Jesus so soon. I need to feel the story a little deeper, a little closer, a little while. Let his light consume my heart. You see, soon he is going to be grown up and suffer pain and be crucified. Please don’t rush, let me enjoy the moment a little longer.

We all know the difficulties of every parent whose child was a victim of human failures and even with that of natural calamities. In the fullness of time, the light of God will heal their hearts. Let us continue to pray for that light to penetrate the deepest darkness in our society.

Last night, I watched the news about Russian president Vladimir Putin signing a law banning Americans from adopting Russian kids. There were these childless parents who only had two months to go before the adoption papers are finalized only to find they are being deprived from loving and having a child. This reminds me of our friend Lyle Richardson who has an orphanage in Russia. I just hope and pray that he is not deprived of sending support to that institution.

Christmas reminds us of the many families who have to be separated and be deprived of love and joy and the opportunity to a better life in their pursuit of happiness. I am talking about the parents or their children being separated from each other because of immigration issues.

This reminds me of the recent gathering I attended at the San Francisco State building in our attempt to ask Governor Jerry Browne to support and sign the TRUST Act. 75 people from religious and community organizations came out to watch Mary and Joseph knock on the door of Gov. Brown – asking that he works on the TRUST ACT immediately, to prevent more families like theirs, from being separated this holiday season. I acted as one of the Magi carrying the symbolism of light. The three magi’s went through the building security process while the rest of the people are chanting and singing outside the building. Then we went up to the 14th floor where the office of Governor Browne is. I knocked at the door three times, getting our gifts ready to present to him. One is carrying 400 signed cards asking the Governor to sign the TRUST Act, the other is carrying big pen for him to sign and I was carrying a candle light as a symbol that when he signs it, it will give light to the darkness these families are going through. Unfortunately, the door was locked and it has been locked for a year now due to budget constraints. The Governor can only be reached in Sacramento California. We came down and reported to the people, not of without hope, but with a stronger conviction that we will go to Sacramento on January 7th, just a day after the Three Kings day, to deliver those undelivered gifts. I ask your prayers and support to all families who are vulnerable to being deprived of love, joy and happiness. Let the light of the child Jesus, the word of God, illuminate the darkness of the nation. Let not your hearts be troubled, trust in God and trust in the love of the light that came to save us.

Brothers and sisters, this is that time of the year when families are re-united again and celebrate the coming of the light in the Holy family in Nazareth with Mary and Joseph.  We take this time to reflect on what it is to be a family. The family is the basic unit of society and the Church. It is in the family that we first learn to communicate, and that we learn what is good and bad. It is in the family that we learn what love is because it is in the family that we first receive love. It is in the family that we first learn to forgive and to pray. It is in the family that we first learn about God and Jesus, Joseph and Mary. It is in the family that we learn to value ourselves and to value everything else, picking up our values from what is said and unsaid by our parents. Our family forms us for many years to come.

It is important for us to continue to re-tell the story of the Holy Family in our homes. Let the light of God’s word shine in our homes, ever remembering the love of God every time we are about to fall from the pit of dissolution. Ever remembering that God sent Jesus to us to reveal his love and to show us the way to him. God chose a family to show us how all families are to find their way to him. We pray that our families fulfill God’s plan because that is the only way to be happy families.God’s Holy Family was a family with special graces but yet a family with trials. Every family has particular graces and blessings and every family also has difficulties and crosses. But God did not abandon the Holy Family, certainly God did not abandon us for He has given us grace full of Love and joy.

Let the words in the Gospel be our hope when St. John wrote:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

May the blessing of the light be with you now and in the coming years. Amen.