Seeing and Being Seen

I am more and more convinced that the primary goal of Christian discipleship is learning how to see the world through the eyes of God.  The means to that end – Bible reading, prayer, worship, and acts of loving service – are all intended to open our eyes to see God’s hand at work in the world around us, which should, it would seem, compel us, as the hands and feet of Christ, to get about that work.  To me, there is perhaps no better example of this calling than the Gospel lesson appointed for Sunday from Luke 13.

The deck is stacked against the woman with the crippling spirit.  It has been 18 years since she was able to stand up straight.  18 years is a long time to live with a disability, and, if we are honest, it is a really long time for people to maintain compassion.  In the early days, I’m sure many saw her and had pity.  As the months went by, fewer and fewer people even saw her.  Eventually, even her closest friends began to forget about her.  Maybe even her family, weary of carrying her burden, fell away.  In modern times, we hear stories of those confined to a wheel chair who, because they sit below the typical line of sight, feel invisible even in the hallways of hospitals.

When Luke tells us that his woman “appeared,” it isn’t that she just fell out of the sky, but rather, for the first time in years, she was seen, known, cared for, and loved.  The Greek word that gets translated by the NRSV as “appeared” is horao, which means, variously:

  1. to see with the eyes
  2. to see with the mind; to perceive, to know
  3. to see, i.e. to become acquainted with by experience
  4. to see, to look to
    1. to take heed
    2. to care for
  5. to appear
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Barbara Schawrz, OP, “Jesus and the Bent Over Woman,” acrylic on canvas, 2014.

After 18 long years of being invisible, Jesus arrived at the Synagogue where, presumably, she had gone to pray at least weekly, likely daily, for her healing.  A new set of eyes raises the chances that she is seen, but she is still a woman in the first century, it is the Sabbath, she is still crippled, a sign of uncleanliness.  Yet, Jesus saw her, the same Greek root for her appearance, called her over, and declared her healed.  She didn’t come seeking Jesus.  She didn’t ask to be healed.  She had more than likely given up hope by now.  But, she was seen, and in being seen, she was healed.

Much of the world remains invisible to me.  There are people I can’t see, and people I choose not to see.  There are stories that ares systematically hidden.  There are motives that are well hidden.  As followers of Jesus, as we deepen faith and grow as disciples, more and more will be revealed to us.  It is dangerous work, this seeing business, but it is our calling.  To see, to perceive, to experience, and to care for the world around us.

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He did not live in a house

It can be easy to dismiss the stories of the Bible because of how far removed from it all we seem to be.  Events that happened 2, 3, even 5,000 years-ago can feel like they haven nothing to say to us now.  We like to think that we live in a society that is more civilized.  Technology is certainly more advanced.  Science has taught us much about what was thought to be supernatural.  Since Darwin first published On the Origin of Speciesthe church has struggled to keep the Bible relevant and active despite places where the story of scripture doesn’t seem to match the story being revealed to us.  Some, like Jesus Seminar Scholars have tried to throw the Biblical narrative all away as myth.  Others, like the car I saw on Sunday with a bumper sticker that says “Evolution is a Lie” have made the choice to throw out science.  Neither have been very successful because theology and science aren’t zero sum games.

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The reality is that we live in a world where God is constantly being newly revealed to us both in scripture and in science.  God’s story continues to intersect with our story even more than a thousand years after the canon was finally established.  This came to light to me this morning as I read the Gospel lesson appointed for Sunday.  Jesus and the Gerasene demoniac is a story about which we have changed our understanding due to advancements in psychology, but we can also very much relate to the situation.

A man who is clearly suffering from some kind of mental illness has found himself outside of the bounds of normal society.  Likely after years of his family trying to support him, finally the man’s struggles had burned every bridge and, as Luke tells it, “he did not live in a house.”  As I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would about the root causes of homelessness, I’ve heard a version of this story quite often.  Mental illness, left untreated for a variety of reasons, eventually self-medicated with street drugs, is the story of some, not all, likely not even most, of those who have found themselves experiencing homelessness here in Bowling Green.

While we don’t have the ability to just cast that which possesses folks into a herd of swine, we can still learn a lot from how Jesus interacts with the man he met on the lakeshore.  First and foremost, Jesus saw the man and engaged him.  He didn’t cross tot he other side.  He didn’t put up a “no panhandling” sign filled with dubious “facts.”  He didn’t shake his head and say “somebody should do something about that.”  No, Jesus met the man, in all of his difficulty, face-to-face.  He heard his story.  He had compassion.  And then, because there is no compassion without action, Jesus did something about the man’s situtation. This is where the rubber meets the road for those of us who follow Jesus.  We are called to action.  We are called to seek ways in which all of humanity can be restored to right relationship with God and one another.  It isn’t easy work.  In fact, as in this story, it can be downright messy, but it is the work to which we all have been called.

The Bread of Life for All – a sermon

The new cecbg.com is now up and running, which means audio will soon be available.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, you can read today’s sermon here:


I grew up the child of blue collar folk in a decidedly white-collar community.  Manheim Township was one of the richest tax bases in Pennsylvania.  As McMansions came into fashion, they were built in spades in my school district.  I went to school with the children of doctors, lawyers, and more than a few stockbrokers.  Folks drove nice cars, had vacation homes down the shore, and generally lived very comfortably.  My family lived in 1,300 square foot, post-war house nestled in a quiet, older neighborhood.  My parents both worked hard, but my sister and I knew that we’d never have everything our friends had.  Still, we were always comfortable.  We never knew hunger, and were always sure that our next meal would come.  The same couldn’t be said for some of the kids who rode our school bus, however.

Thanks to some political maneuvering over the years, the Manheim Township School District had come to include two blocks of Lancaster City that sat right alongside the railroad tracks.  The kids who lived in those rowhouses lived very different lives.  My shoes were knock-off Chuck Taylors, theirs were hand-me downs.  My clothes were always freshly cleaned, but theirs obviously were not.  I maybe didn’t have the spare lunch money to buy that Chaco Taco I wanted, but some of them didn’t have enough lunch money to buy anything at all.  Being a self-absorbed kid, I noticed the differences, it was hard not to, but my attention was mostly fixed on my own perceived need.  As I’ve matured in my faith, I often think of those kids and the thousands like them that I’ve met over the last decade for whom the desperation of hunger is a very real thing.

Last Sunday, we heard the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people out of fives small barely loaves and two fish.  In that crowd, there were folk from every walk of life.  Some in the crowd would have been quite well off – religious leaders, lawyers, and tax collectors.  Some likely lived day-to-day existences – farmers, fishermen, and the like.  Many, no doubt, were the poorest of the poor – widows, orphans, and lepers, for example – living at the very margins of society, never knowing when their next meal might be.  For this group, to eat their fill and have food left-over was an unimaginable luxury.  It is unsurprising, then, that the next day, some out of the crowd of 5,000 would be out in search of another meal.

After a rough night on the lake, it would have been easy for Jesus to focus on his own needs.  Yet, as we’ve seen several times lately, Jesus is quick to see to the very core of people, to assess their needs, and to offer grace.  Jesus understood that the remaining crowd had been unable to experience the fullness of the miracle the day before because they knew nothing but hunger.  As the old adage goes, “a hungry stomach has no ears.” They only knew that for a moment, the desperation of living in constant hunger had gone away.  It is no wonder that they went in search of Jesus when they couldn’t find him – they sought him out in the hope that he might be able to feed them another meal.  It is easy to hear this passage as Jesus condemning this group of people for missing the miracle, but I think that it is much more likely that Jesus’ response to their hunger for literal food was compassion, and so he took the opportunity to teach them about what had really happened the day before.  “You missed the sign.” Jesus says, “What you are searching for today isn’t just another bit of bread, but rather, food that will abide – food that will endure – food for eternal life.”

I was struck, this week, by the reaction of the crowd to Jesus’ words.  As I heard the response of the crowd, I could see the faces of the myriad men and women who have come into my office desperate and hungry.  They come for all sorts of reasons and in need of all kinds of things: diapers for their child or the assurance of God’s love; gas to get to work or hope in the midst of hopelessness; money to have the lights turned back on, or someone who will just care enough to listen.  As they tell me their stories and we both come to realize that I might have some resources to be able to help, more often than not, their reaction is the same as the crowd, “what work can I do to earn this?”

Grace is really hard to comprehend.  Grace is antithetical to the American Way.  There is no bootstrap theology in the Gospel, but rather, the stark realization that everything we have is a gift from God, and there is nothing we can ever do to earn it.  For the hungry crowd, it was hard to fathom that someone would just give you food that endures forever.  For those of us who know only comfort, I think grace is even harder to imagine.  Only those who have known desperation can begin to understand grace.  Only those who have cried out in hunger, fear, or despair can begin to know what Jesus is talking about when he says that the only work we have is to believe, and even that, the tradition teaches us, is a gift from God.  It is only those who have known what it is to live in need who can experience what it means to cry out to God and say, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

The good news of God’s grace is that even if we can’t comprehend it, even when we don’t know we need it, we are still invited to receive it.  To the hungry crowd, Jesus is eager to share that all throughout history, God has been in the business of freely giving away the true bread of grace. From Adam and Eve to Abraham and Sarah.  From Moses and the people of Israel to the here and now.  In the person of Jesus, God continues to offer the bread of life.  This bread, which the crowds don’t know they really want, which we often don’t know we really need, is made fully known in Jesus who declares, “I am the bread of life.”  In the Greek language and in Jesus’ Jewish context this declaration puts Jesus on par with God who, when Moses asked for a name from the burning bush, proclaimed the name “I AM,” and it affirms Jesus as having been present when God gave life to humanity.  Zoe, the Greek word used here for life, is the thing that animates, the soul, the breath of God, which was breathed into Adam and Eve at the beginning.  There is no one out there who isn’t in need of this bread of life.

Four blocks away, there is another set of railroad tracks that draw a dividing line.  On the other side, there live many families who know what it means to experience real hunger.  As followers of Jesus, our response to the grace of God should be the same sort of compassion that Jesus had for the crowd that sought him out.  As we gather today to ask God’s blessing upon a new school year, we pray for our own kids while also remembering those who will attend Dishman-McGinnis, where we will once again have the opportunity to serve as mentors, reaching out with the love of God to children, many of whom have known the real hunger of the crowd in today’s Gospel lesson.  We who have been given the bread of life are called to share it.  And so, let us continually pray that being nourished by the bread of life, we might have eyes to see, hearts to love, and hands to serve.

Open our eyes, O Lord, to see your hand at work in the world about us.  Help us to see the bread of life which has been offered to us, and be thankful. Help us to see those with whom you invite us to share that living bread, and be generous.  Give us hearts of compassion to reach out in loving service that one day, by your grace, the whole world might know the gift of your Son, the bread of life.  Amen.

Compassion Means Action

It doesn’t take the shaking voice of Sally Struthers overlaid on images of starving children for most 21st century Americans to understand that there is a lot of suffering in this world.  Even in a relatively affluent place like Bowling Green, those who never take the initiative to (literally) cross the railroad tracks are faced with the reality of poverty sitting outside the grocery store, on the corner near where they get their prescriptions filled, or playing a beat up instrument near the town square.  Even among those who aren’t noticeably impoverished there are many who suffer silently with addition, mental illness, depression, broken relationships, unfulfilling work, and more.

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In our Eucharistic Prayer C, which was last week referred to as the “leisure suit of liturgy” before being memorialized in amber for generations yet unborn (inside church stuff, sorry), we pray that our eyes might be open to see God’s hand at work in the world about us.  For Christians, then, it seems prudent to see where God might be calling us to serve at any given moment.  Our example in this work is Jesus, who in Sunday’s gospel lesson, despite searching for rest and refreshment, sees the crowds of people hungry for redemption and release and “has compassion on them.”

Now, it must be noted that there is a difference between seeing a need and wishing something could be done about it and actually having compassion. Compassion comes from the Latin compati which means to suffer with – to co-suffer.  Having compassion doesn’t just mean that we watch others suffer as if we are seeing them through a TV screen, but rather, that we feel their pain, which should, if we are doing it right, motivate us to action.  Here again, our role model is Jesus, who saw the crowds, had compassion on them and then he taught and healed them en mass.  For Jesus, and for those who follow in his Way, compassion requires action.

As I read the lesson from Mark 6 this morning, I was reminded of that portion of the letter of James, wherein the author is admonishing his audience to live an active faith.  “Faith without works is dead,” he writes.  As an example, he posits this,

If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” – James 2:15-16

We who claim to be disciples of Jesus, who pray that God might open our eyes to see the world as God does, must be ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work – sharing the Good News in word and deed – for the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God.

A Fishing Story: God Cares – a sermon

I am a terrible fisherman.  It isn’t that I don’t like to fish.  There are few things I enjoy more than getting on a boat, rod and tackle in hand, in search of a good meal.  It is really more that I don’t do it often enough to know what I’m doing.  There is both a science and an art to fishing, and I know neither.  I don’t know what time of year what fish are biting.  I don’t know what time of day is best.  I don’t know what kind of bait to use to catch which fish.  I don’t even know how to filet my catch into something edible.  When I go fishing, I am 100% at the mercy of my guide.  When I would go night fishing with my friend, Brad, I trusted him to get us to the right spots, to rig the lines the right way, and to bring us home with a mess of speckled trout.  When my dad and I went out in search of red fish near Alabama Point, we paid a guy who knew the water, knew the habits, and, most importantly, knew how to keep us from running aground.

Trusting in someone else’s knowledge has worked for me almost every time I’ve gone fishing.  Almost.  Then, there was the time I went out on the Blue Sky in search of tuna.  It was to be a twenty-four-hour fishing expedition.  We left at about 5:30 in the evening and were headed ninety miles off shore.  I trusted that the captain would get us there safely, that the deckhands would put us on some big fish, and, erroneously, that the weather man would be correct.  After dinner, a few beers, and good conversation watching the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico, we all turned in to get some sleep ahead of our two am wake up call.  Somewhere in those few hours of sleep, the forecast for one to two-foot seas became a reality of six to eight-foot swells.

I can remember it vividly, even as I’ll spare you the vivid details, but with the combination of diesel fumes, a wildly undulating oil platform that in the dark of night looked like a giant spider bathed in yellow flood lights, and the rocking of the boat, by the time our second fish came aboard, I was doing a great job of chumming the water.  I didn’t really know what to do.  Ninety miles off shore, on a fifty-four foot boat, there isn’t really anywhere to go, and I knew inside the cabin would make things worse.  As my buddies fished and the deckhands worked to bring the giant fish over the gunwale, I wondered if anyone cared that I existed at all.  Were they all hoping that maybe I would just perish so that they could fish without the sound of me retching behind them.

Just then, the captain came down from his perch in the crow’s nest, high above deck with two pills in his hand.  “Take these,” he said, and I didn’t hesitate.  I didn’t question.  I trusted Captain Richard to know what to do about sea sickness. I popped those two pills and six hours later, I woke up.  The seas hadn’t calmed much, but my stomach had.

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Jesus and his disciples trusted one another.  James, John, Peter, and Andrew had all been called by Jesus right off of their fishing boats.  He knew that they knew the Sea of Galilee like the backs of their hands.  They’d fished deep into the night.  They’d experienced its violent squalls.  They’d seen everything that the Sea of Galilee had to offer, and so Jesus took the opportunity to rest.  The disciples, for their part, knew that Jesus had miraculous powers.  They had seen him heal many women and men.  They had watched as he touched a man with leprosy and made him clean.  They knew that he was a special gift from God and they trusted that Jesus was always going to take care of them.

And so, it was, that one night, Jesus had wrapped up his teaching for the day, and when he said, “let’s go to the other side,” they all loaded up and went, no questions asked.  Now, it must be pointed out here that this was no ordinary trip for Jesus and his disciples.  In Mark’s Gospel, this is the first trip outside of Galilee.  Leaving from Capernaum, they were headed east, across about six miles of lake to the region of the Decapolis, a Greek speaking area, filled with Roman citizens.  They were, for all intents and purposes, headed to Gentile territory.  Jesus’ disciples trusted that he knew what he was doing.  They must have assumed that he had a plan for what they would do when they arrived, and so, without any hesitation, they headed to Gergesa.

As the story goes, in the dark of the night, a storm rose up such that the seasoned fishermen had never seen before.  It would have taken a real doozy of a storm to scare the sons of thunder, James and John, but Mark tells us that all of the disciples were convinced they were going to sink.  No doubt, they all knew of someone who had found their demise 141 feet deep in the Sea of Galilee during a swift moving storm.  In the midst of their fear, the first thing to sink to the bottom of the lake was their trust in Jesus who was asleep in the back of the boat.

“Teacher!”  Not master.  Not Lord.  Those honorifics were swept up in the howling wind.  Tonight, Jesus wasn’t a miracle worker from God, but he had been demoted to teacher, the one who they had chosen to hitch their wagons to and were beginning to wonder why.  “Teacher!  Don’t you care that we are perishing?!?!”  This is perhaps the most challenging rebuke anyone could give to Jesus.  Don’t you care?  Of course, Jesus cares.  He cared about Simon Peter’s mother-in-law.  He cared about the man with the withered hand.  He cared about the crowds of thousands that pressed in upon him.  God cares about everyone, that’s why God sent Jesus to earth to proclaim the Good News of salvation for all people.

Jesus most certainly did care, and so he jumped up, and with the harsh words of anger rebuked the wind and calmed the waves.  Jesus deeply cares, and so when the ordeal was over, he looked his disciples square in the eyes and said, “Why don’t you trust me yet?”

It is not uncommon in times of hardship to cry out to God and wonder, “don’t you care?”  With the world changing so rapidly, it can feel like a mighty storm has whipped up on us in the dark of night.  It would seem that we have every reason to be frightened, and to wonder if all that we had hoped for might be for not.  It is totally natural to lament what feels like God’s absence, as if God were asleep at the helm of the entire universe, and wonder, does God really care about us?  No one said the life of faith would be easy.  In those moments of doubt, when our trust in God seems to be wavering, we are in good company.  Even Jesus’ closest friends had trouble holding on to that trust in hard times.

What this story helps me remember is that like Captain Richard, God is always paying attention.  God knows what you are going through because God is right there in the boat with you.  God does care, and even in those moments when God chooses not to stop the wind or calm the waves, God is there.  God will never abandon us to the pit.  The world may be rocking and rolling under our feet, but God is there.  God loves you, and God will never leave you alone.

When Jesus and his disciples get to the other side, they will be greeted by a man possessed with a legion of demons.  The momentary calm after the storm will break and fear will once again strike the disciples.  Yet, there again, Jesus won’t abandon them.  Nor will he abandon the demoniac.  God’s compassion and love knows no bounds.  God’s mercy is everlasting.  God cares – about you and about the whole world.  Amen.

Why the wilderness?

This is the sermon that I wrote to be preached on Lent 1, Year B, 2018.  Because of a death in the family, I will be away from the Christ Church pulpit, and so it will go unpreached.


You’ve probably seen the picture by now.  It has been posted all over social media.  Every news outlet on the planet has shown it.  It was taken by Joel Auerbach of the Associated Press and it is of the mother of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, sobbing, embracing another woman who is also in tears, with the familiar black mark of an ashen cross on her forehead.

Parkland School Shooting Joel Auerbach - AP

It is perhaps the most poignant portrait of anguish that I have ever seen.  Having been reminded earlier in the day of her own mortality and need for God, hours later, this faithful woman found herself standing in the wilderness, lost, and in search of hope.  It has been less than a month since western Kentucky had to endure its own wilderness moment when a fifteen-year-old student at Marshall County High School opened fire in the commons area before school began on January 23rd.  There were no ashen crosses that day, but the images are unsettlingly familiar by now.  Students running for their lives away from their school, a place that is supposed to be one of the last remaining safe havens.  And parents, their eyes somehow both keenly focused as they search for their children among the mass of humanity and yet also blankly staring into space, in shock, and unable to take in what they are seeing.

Of all the photographs I’ve seen after a school shooting, and by God, I’ve seen way too many, the image of this Parkland, Florida mother with the sign of the cross on her forehead just will not go away.  Like most priests, I ashed my fair share of people on Wednesday.  Those who came to the altar rail were in various stages of life.  Some came at 7am, eager to rush off to work.  Others came at noon, as their schedule allowed.  Some were older, a couple were so small as to be held in the arms of a parent or grandparent.  As those familiar words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” echoed through the Nave, each of us was invited in that moment to meet God in the wilderness.  For most of us, that wilderness is a creation of our own imagination.  It is the wilderness of no chocolate or red wine.  It is the wilderness of extra Bible readings or longer prayer times.  It is the wilderness of Lenten fasts and disciplines, wherein we meet God on our own terms.  The mother in that photograph began her day thinking she would be entering a wilderness of her own design, when, without warning, she found herself driven well beyond her comfort zone, out – way, way out – into a wilderness of fear, unknowing, and agony.

I’ve often wondered why it is that after his baptism, Jesus finds himself flung by the Holy Spirit out into the wilderness.  It raises all sorts of difficult theological questions that God would hand God the Son over to the Devil for 40 days of temptation.  All sorts of bad theology has come out of Jesus’ wilderness experience.  It usually rears its ugly head in the aftermath of a tragedy and sounds something like, “Everything happens for a reason.”  “God has a plan.”  “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  All of which is absolute garbage.  Sure, nothing can happen totally without reason, but sometimes that reason has nothing to do with the people affected by the thing that is happening.  Sometimes that reason is greedy politicians or a angry young man or decades of doing nothing in the face of actual threats to our children.  Yes, God does have a plan, but I can assure you that God’s plan does not include the gunning down of 17 innocent people in a high school in Florida.  And if you look into the face of that mother, you can be damn sure that she’s smack dab in the middle of more than anyone should be asked to handle.

As she stands in the middle of the wilderness, flung there not by the Spirit of God, but rather by the devil and the powers of hell, the last thing this woman, or any of the families affected by any of the more than 270 school shootings that have happened since Columbine needs is a platitude about God’s plan.[1]  What they really need in that moment is for God to be there, walking alongside them in the grief, shock, and pain.  This is, I think, why Jesus is flung into the wilderness immediately following his baptism, so that he can be there when each of us finds ourselves in the wilderness because of illness, natural disaster, violence, abuse, harassment, degradation, or whatever else the devil and the powers of evil might throw our way.

On Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after the Parkland shooting, I was in the car early, listening to Golic and Wingo on ESPN Radio as they interviewed Stugotz, a sports radio personality who lives within walking distance of Margory Stoneman Douglas High School.  They asked him what the feeling was in the community.  His answer reminded me that because of Jesus’ time in the wilderness, God is able to understand what these families are feeling.  It also reminded me that as the body of Christ, we are invited to stand there as well, to bring the love of God to those who are lost, wandering in the wilderness.  “Some of the acts of kindness I saw yesterday,” he said, “you know… it takes something like this to get us to act like that… Where we are ok with someone cutting us off.  We are ok with a car parked in the middle of the road because it is a parent looking for their kid.  We’re ok getting out of the car, on our own, to help a kid looking for his parents, which I saw countless people doing yesterday with kids that weren’t even their own.  You’d like to think that’s how we’d always treat people… The way people acted yesterday, I wish that was the way people would act forever.”[2]

According to Mark, Jesus didn’t have any choice in whether he would enter the wilderness or not.  He was thrown there by the Spirit and spent forty days living in that godforsaken place so that the next time someone found themselves in the wilderness, it couldn’t be godforsaken.  Jesus was there, wrapping his arms of love around those two mothers, gripped in fear and sadness.  Jesus was there, helping terrified children find their families.  Jesus was there, holding the wounded and the dying in their hour of need.  Jesus was there. Jesus is here, even as we feel lost and alone in a wilderness of anger, fear, and grief.  And Jesus invites us to be the body of Christ by entering into the wilderness where others find themselves to offer God’s compassion and love.

[1] Lauren Pearle “School Shootings Since Columbine: By the Numbers” ABCNews, 2/12/2016, accessed 2/15/2018 (http://abcnews.go.com/US/school-shootings-columbine-numbers/story?id=36833245)

[2] Stugotz, interviewed on Golic and Wingo 2/15/2018, accessed 2/15/2018 (http://www.espn.com/espnradio/play?id=22451096)

When did we see you?

The Good Shepherd and two angels. Mosaic (6th)

Okay guys, look surprised

One of the things that gets me each time I read the parable of the final judgment in Matthew’s Gospel is that both those judged to be sheep and those judged to be goats are completely surprised by the King.  It seems as if they are expecting some other mark of judgment as they gather before the throne.  I think I’m struck by this because I imagine that I too will be surprised on the day of judgment.  I will likely be as surprised by who God lets in as I will be the starkness of my own judgment.  The one thing I hope I won’t be left asking is the question that gets asked by both the sheep and the goats.

“Lord, when did we see you?”

While I think Episcopalians, myself included, have a tendency to lean too heavily on the Baptismal Covenant, an invention, albeit a very good one, of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer that we pretend was handed down to us by Saint Peter himself, I do think this lesson is one of those opportunity to be reminded that if this is the criteria by which we are going to be judged, we have already made vows to fulfill the obligation.  With God’s help, of course.

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul prays that God might “enlighten the eyes of their hearts to know the hope to which they have been called.”  This phrase is increasingly becoming the foundation of my understanding of discipleship.  I think we grow in relationship with God by learning how to see the world through God’s eyes.  As we become more in tune with the heart of God, we see more clearly the injustices of this world, we see the suffering and are moved with compassion, we see the lonely, the anxious, the hungry, the naked, the poor, the outcast, the incarcerated, and the hopeless and we are compelled to act because in them, as in all our neighbors, we see the face of Christ.

Of course, this does not happen on our own.  The only way to fix our spiritual eyesight is with the help of God.  Through prayer and studying the Scriptures, God works on the eyes of our hearts, making us more and more able to see, so that, when the day of judgment comes, our question cannot be, or at least should not be, Lord when did we see you, because we know, with God’s help, that we see Christ in every person we meet.