Clergy Corner: The Transformative Powers and Riches of Easter

2nd Sunday of Lent, Feb. 24, 2013. St. Nicholas. C Cycle.
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18,
Psalm 27
,
Philippians 3:17-4:1,
Luke 13:31-35

Trust in God First, Foremost and Always

I knew a woman who was a frequent guest at the soup kitchen I used to run down in the city. This woman had 5 children, which is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, and sadly, these children had different fathers. It was unfortunate because the fathers were not in the children’s lives. These ‘dads’ had little to no contact with their or their mother anymore. These kids were all young, under the age of 10 when I first met them, and this was some 19 years ago. This woman was a good Mom: she did what she could to help her children. Coming to the soup kitchen was necessary: she just could not provide for them alone and the soup kitchen was able to assist her with feeding her children. She made good use of the Case Management Department, too, as well as the clothing and laundry services that were provided. I looked forward to seeing her and she was, as I said, a regular attendee, virtually every night.

Let us allow this holy season of Lent willingly move forward toward the transformative powers and riches of Easter. We venture onward, with open hearts and receptive minds… wishing to know more of our Lord and desiring for ever more grace, strength and peace to fill and overflow our senses and bodies.

She had a very difficult job to say the least. Parenthood is the most demanding of careers. It is tough enough for two parents, but one parent managing and handling 5 children while marred in a life of poverty, barely making it; living in a neighborhood that is riddled with crime and violence? One parent, with five energetic youngsters all under the age of 10 and one of which was a mere baby in a stroller…Dear God…

I’m not a parent, I readily admit to this. However, I saw and was witness and was the beneficiary of how much work, sacrifice and energy my two beloved parents put forth to care, protect and educate my 8 brothers and sisters and I. I would like to think they did a good job and I am ever grateful and humbled for their uncompromising and unquestioned love. Yet this woman, this single parent…she seemingly had the world on her shoulders and each day, the ground appeared to be getting closer and closer as she stooped lower and lower under the pressures and burdens of doing all she could to care for her children.

My heart ached for this women. In the summer months, I would take my lunch break by taking long walks…to clear my head, to pray silently and enjoy the warmth and sunshine. I would see the woman walking around the neighborhoods near the soup kitchen, trying feverishly to keep track of where the kids were running off to. She’d call for them to stay close and they’d eventually come and walk with her. She would take them to the park and they’d play on the swings and such…until they became bored and demanded more of her. She looked defeated most days, yet she was undeterred and undaunted in her desire to provide, care and protect her children. Her situation provoked me to do more for people like her… people who had the deck stacked up against them. I opened the door of the soup kitchen at noon for people to come in, have coffee, play board games with the volunteer staff and just relax until dinner time…all in a safe and clean environment…and most importantly, these beautiful people knew they were surrounded and cared for by folks who truly and genuinely loved them.

This woman, this single parent, desperately tried to keep her children under her protective and loving care. Try as she did, in the years to come, her two sons spent considerable time behind bars for a number of offenses. The girls were unattended and poorly chaperoned and subsequently became subject to the advances of older men. I need not elaborate this point, for sadly we know what came next…

She tried and desired to keep her children under her protective wings, but they rebelled and chose otherwise. She knew better and she loved them so. Yet, they chose differently. Jesus tried, in vain, to shelter the people of Jerusalem, to protect His very people from the evils and destruction that sin creates. Sadly, the people of Jerusalem thought differently and did as they wished. They stoned and killed the prophets and anyone who spoke with authority from above. Jesus’ heart ached for His people.

He longed to care for them, just as in today’s passage from St. Luke we heard: “how often I desired to gather your children together, like a hen trying to gather her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Jesus wasn’t afforded this role while in Jerusalem, was He? Jesus lamented over the apathy and ignorance of His own people in His beautiful yet lost Jerusalem. He truly did not have anyone in whom He could trust….no one except God, His father, the Creator.

The Pharisees warned Him that Herod wanted Him dead…but Jesus didn’t trust these guys in any way, shape or form. They had an agenda, these Pharisees. They wanted Jesus out of the picture and they knew if they were unable to rid themselves of Jesus, Herod would find a way. Fact is, Jesus didn’t even like the Pharisees…He called them a “brood of vipers.” Jesus wasn’t too fond of Herod for that matter, too. He, Herod was viewed as weak and a ‘mere puppet for the Roman authorities.”

Jesus couldn’t trust the Pharisees and He couldn’t trust Herod. His disciples…well, they had flaws and shortcomings and Jesus knew this when He chose them. When Jesus needed them most…sadly, they disappointed and let Him down. Ultimately, as we know, the disciples showed their true worth and strength; wearing the crown of the martyrs as they gave their lives for the Kingdom!

There are times we all feel like we are alone; that there is no one really listening to us. I certainly have those moments. I know I’m wrong thinking like this. (For goodness sake’s I have Douglas who I know cares for me and I have my sisters and brothers and a slew full of nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grandnephews who love and care for me and I have this amazing and wonderful community of St. Nicholas, who show me, daily, how much you all care.)

Yet, when we are in pain or when sorrow overwhelms us or suffering invades our very fibre, even the ones who love us most may not be enough. Sadly, pain and doubt overpower us and blinds us to the reality that WE DO INDEED HAVE SOME ONE WE CAN ALWAYS TRUST…AND THAT IS JESUS, OUR MOST HOLY REDEEMER.

IT IS JESUS WHO NEVER LETS US DOWN
IT IS JESUS WHO ALWAYS HAS OUR BACK
IT IS JESUS WHO NEVER FORGETS NOR OVERLOOKS US…ESPECIALLY WHEN WE FEEL EVERYONE ELSE HAS

St. Paul implored the people of Philippi to “STAND FIRM IN THE LORD, BECAUSE THE LORD WILL TRANSFORM US…FROM HUMILIATION TO GLORY…” Likewise, we, too, must allow the Spirit to transform us…to take us from those moments of doubt and fear, those times when pain and sorrow and suffering seem insurmountable and allow the glorious, healing powers of Jesus transform us…from HUMILIATION that is sin and suffering, to GLORY…that is found fully and solely in Jesus the Christ.

Let us allow this holy season of Lent willingly move forward toward the transformative powers and riches of Easter. We venture onward, with open hearts and receptive minds… wishing to know more of our Lord and desiring for ever more grace, strength and peace to fill and overflow our senses and bodies.

Let Jesus take us under His protective and loving wings…He is already beside us…He is already before us, leading us onward…He is ever within us to comfort and sustain us…so let’s put our full trust and faith in Him and always Him and forever in Him as we continue to place a fuller and richer faith in one another…shall we?

manny@stnicholasepiscopal.org

Manny


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