Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013 November 24 - Christ the King

You know how at the end of a symphony, usually every instrument is playing loudly, and they build and build into a great CRESCENDO of sound just as the music comes to a climax at the end?   That is like today's feast... The Feast of Christ the King.  We end our church year this week with the recognition that all Jesus went thru on earth was a preparation for him to rule forever as King in heaven...and in our hearts.  Is that what we want though?  Do we really WANT Jesus to be our King?  Hang on to that question well come back to it. 

Our first reading makes more sense if you know some of the background:  You all know there were twelve tribes of Israel – but for a time the country of Israel actually used to be two separate kingdoms.  Israel was in the north – made of 11 tribes, but the tribe of Judah had split off and became a separate country.  David first became king of Judah or Judea for 6.5 years – and that’s when today’s story in the First Reading comes in.  The people of Israel just lost their king Saul, and they came to David saying – look, we are the same as you – we’re all children of Abraham – please, come be OUR king too!  So – David became the king that re-united the two kingdoms into one country of Israel.  The next 33 years were the Glory days of Israel, and ever since that time, they always looked forward to the day when a new king would come and re-build Israel back to its former glory. 

Now David was a good King but that was not how things normally turned out.  Any idea what it is like to live under the rule of a King?  Sometimes, it might get too romanticized, because living under a king could sometimes be the worst thing that could happen to you.  Just think of movies like Braveheart.  The King has the final say on EVERYTHING.  He holds your life in his hand.  If the King comes to your town and wants to stay at your house, you will just have to find another place to live for the night/week.  If the King wants to send your son off to war, you might have 1 minute to say your good-byes.  If the King thinks your daughter or wife is beautiful and wants her to come live in the castle, kiss her goodbye.  The King tells you what crops youre allowed to grow, where youre allowed to live, and how much taxes you owe.  If the King wants ANYthing that belongs to you, you will give it up or die trying to keep it.  When the King makes the rules, we are not free to live our own lives.  

No man should have that kind of power over us. 

The trouble with an earthly King is that He only has one persons interest at heart his own.  Anybody under his rule is merely a pawn to help him get what he wants.

No Man should have that kind of power over us. 

Even if we dont live under the rule of a king, we still live in danger of being ruled by someone who doesnt have our best interest at heart our SELVES our Egos.  We kid ourselves into believing that what we want IS the best thing and everybody and everything is merely a pawn to help ME get what I want. It is good to be King!... or at least we think until we ruin our lives through using people and things until all joy is driven away. 
All of us sooner or later come to realize that by letting my ego be my king is the wrong path... If we allow our desires to set the rules for our life, we end up in misery. No man should have that kind of power over us.not even our selves. 

So we have a choice to make:  We can choose an earthly King which inevitably leads to abuse of power and we end up in a kind of slavery to His will.  OR - We can choose our EGO as our king and end up as a slave to our vices and addictions.  

On the other hand, we have a choice of another King who is not just a Man He is God.  Christ the King.  Instead of having the final say on everything, he gives us the choice.  He never forces his will upon us!  He shows us the best fact he already did that in How he lived his life and in showing us the path to the cross and he gave us his supreme command to love one another... but the choice is still ours.   

Lets look at two examples which reveal the extremes.  One man, well call him Gestas, who thinks that the world is his for the taking he has few friends, because he just uses them for his will.  He makes his own rules...and he says I hate anybody who tells me what I can and can't do... Ive met this man and he lives his life perpetually mad at the world...why?  Because he doesnt get his way.  He is the King who makes all the rules but it aint working too well for him.  As he hung upon the cross, he only saw Jesus as a means to getting off the cross.  He didnt see the need for repentance. 

The other extreme is the person who well call Dismas.  He may have lived the same life as Gestas up to this moment, living just for himself, but as HE hung upon the cross, he saw in Jesus the path to freedom.  Freedom from vices and sin.  Freedom from guilt and shame.  He recognized that Jesus was different as a King because HE HAS OUR BEST INTEREST AT HEART.  So he begged Jesus, please, be MY king too!  He is often referred to as the Thief who Stole heaven gaining salvation directly from Jesus at the last moment of his life.

You and I dont have to wait to be hanging on a cross to make that decision though  

We can choose today... In fact...we HAVE to choose.  We all have a king, because we all let somebody set the rules for how we live.  Who will be your king? 

One last thing when we built our log home theres something about it that gives a good example for todays homily.  You have your vertical walls with a beam going across, then there is the roof angling up like this (show with hands).  Right in the middle is a post that goes up to the peak of the roof it is there to keep the roof from sagging and pushing the walls out.  I bring it up, because that post is called a King Post.  Without that post at the center of your house, the house will collapse. 

Same goes for our lives if we dont have Christ as our Kingpost our lives cannot stand.  Ask Christ to be your King put Christ at the center of your marriage, at the center of your career choices, at the center of every decision you make and every friendship.  Only with a King Post will anything be able to stand.

Only one King, who is NOT a MAN, has our best interest at heart.  Approach Jesus like the thief on the cross and beg him, Jesus, please be MY king too!


Saturday, November 2, 2013

2013/11/03 Short Man in the Tree

Luke 19:1–10

You may not realize it – but the story of Zacchaeus is our story – It’s a story about the Grace of God… but it’s also a story about: YOU and ME.
Everybody pick up a missalette and turn to the Gospel, because we’re going to try to put ourselves into this story.
It’s not so hard to do – "Now a man there named Zacchaeus" – you just - insert your name here.  …"who was a" – in this case, "a chief tax collector", which almost makes the next phrase redundant… "and also, a wealthy man".  Of course he was rich… tax collectors were all rich – especially the CHIEF tax collector.  In order to be theChief, he would have had to prove himself to be the friend of the Romans… he would have extorted money from a lot of people – and that’s WHY he was rich…. And that’s why the people looked down their noses at him…. Well, that’s not the ONLY reason they looked down on him – but also because he was …as the reading tells us… "short".

So – go ahead put yourself – a description of you - into that story.  “now a man there name Jerry – a woman named Brenda, who was a farmer – an accountant, a housewife, a coal miner, a therapist, a student…  how would you want to be described?  For Zacc, it describes him as wealthy and short…What is the main characteristic that describes who you are?  Wealthy?  Happy?  Cantankerous?  Party-animal?  Holy?  

Next comes the most important parts:  
Notice it says Zacchaeus was “seeking to see who Jesus was”.  Don’t let that line pass you by – it’s probably the most important line in the whole reading.  Zacc was looking for Jesus.  Here’s the second most important line… why couldn’t Zacc see Jesus?  “but he could not see Him because of the crowd”.  Why?  “because of the crowd”… important points which we need to consider more deeply.

If this story is really about you and me, first we gotta ask– are WE seeking to see Jesus?  If we’re not seeking to see – we won’t see.  Like Zacc, if we don’t climb up that sycamore tree, all we’ll be able to see is peoples’ backsides.  Second question:what is it that is keeping us from seeing Jesus?  Is it the crowd, like it was forZacc?  Do the people around us block us from seeing Jesus?  Think about that – your friends and family and co-workers… Do they influence us to see the dark side of life instead of the bright side?  Do they apply peer pressure on us to avoid climbing the sycamore tree so we can see Jesus?  Do they keep dragging us down to their level so they don’t feel back about what THEY are doing?  
The other way we might be part of the story is a little more disturbing… are WE part of the crowd in the story?  Are we blocking other people from seeing Jesus?  How we act in public should scream out that we are Christian – but too often, our actions look so much like everyone else that we actually BLOCK the world’s view of Jesus.  Instead of helping others to see Jesus, we block their view with our language, our negativity, our selfishness, and our priorities.
Even here at church, we are here to help each other to CELEBRATE the liturgy –we come here in order to SEE Jesus in His Word, His Body and Blood, and in each other.  How I act impacts the people around me.  I’m not going to sing along – so the person next to me feels too self-conscious about singing – so they don’t sing – so nobody in that pew sings… so nobody in that SECTION sings… except the few people who are brave enough to climb out on a limb of that sycamore tree.  Instead of helping each other to SEE Jesus, we help put each other to sleep.  If anybody starts to climb that sycamore tree, we grab their leg and pull them back down.

Third way that we might be in the story… maybe WE are the ones who are short.  We may not be physically short like Zacc, but We ALL have our ‘short-comings!’  We might be short on patience, short on compassion, short on integrity, or short on humility, or short on will-power.  
But regardless of how low we are - there’s one more line in the story we need to pay attention to:  “When he reached the place where Zacc was – he stopped and called him”.  You see that?  If we just make an effort to see Jesus – no matter where we are, no matter how short we are – if we climb up just a bit – Jesus will come to THAT place and call to us.  Today – I must stay at your house!  Sound too good to be true?

Actually, this should sound familiar – we say it every time we come to Mass:  Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”  Every time we come to Mass, it’s like we’ve taken one step up the tree – and Jesus offers to comestay with us.  Our first response is to recognize that we’re not worthy… “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof”.  None of us is worthy – and neither was Zacc.  But notice what he did next.

His response was to give away half of his possessions and to make up for anybody he ever cheated.  That’s huge – why would he give away all of that stuff?  Once Jesus has come under our roof, we have no choice but to change our lives – to set things straight – Jesus came to seek the lost…he came to seek you and me.  
That is Amazing Grace.