3 Lent (3/24/2019)

You may remember me saying several weeks ago – that God has a long track record of picking the most unlikely of people and allowing them to do great things:

Abraham, as we heard last week, was old.

The prophet Elijah was suicidal.

Joseph was abused by his brothers.

Job went bankrupt.

And Moses?

Moses had been given away at birth by his mother.  Raised in Pharaoh’s house. And was now on the lame for killing an Egyptian.

Moses, when given his call by God to release the Israelites from bondage — will object because he was slow of speech and tongue – and yet God was sending him to speak to one of the most powerful men in the world at the time.  “Send someone else” was Moses’ final objection and yet God sent Moses — because God picks the most unlikely of people allowing them to do great things.

Gideon was afraid.

Jeremiah was young.

Jacob was a cheater.

Jonah ran from God.

Rahab was a prostitute.

Why does God pick such unlikely people?  Because God never gives up on anyone – no matter what they do or how far they stray.  

The gardener in today’s Parable — is like God  — when everyone else is ready to cut someone down by their biting words of criticism or doubt – God will say –   NO—let me cultivate and fertilize – let me love and nurture. Instead of cutting down or throwing away – God wants to uplift and use —– and the funny thing is – God expects us to be like him. . . God expects us to uplift others by our words of encouragement – rather than cutting them down by our criticism. . .

We should learn and practice this lesson Howard Hendricks learned:

By fifth grade, I was bearing all the fruit of a kid who feels insecure, unloved, and pretty angry at life.  However, my teach Miss Simon apparently thought I was blind to all of these problems, because she often reminded me:  “Howard, you are the worst behaved child in this school.”

So tell me something I don’t already know! I thought to myself, as I proceeded to live up to (or down to) her opinion of me. . .

Needless to say, the 5th grade was probably the worst year of my life.  Finally, I moved on to 6th grade.  But I left with Miss Simon’s words ringing in my ears:  “Howard, you are the worst behaved child in this school!”

You can imagine what my expectations were upon entering 6th grade.  The first day of class, my new teacher, Miss Noe, went down the class list, and it wasn’t long before she came to my name.  “Howard Hendricks,” she called out, glancing from her list to where I was sitting with my arms folded. She looked me over for a moment, and then said, “I’ve heard a lot about you.”  Then she smiled and said: “But I don’t believe a word of it.”

I tell you, that moment was a fundamental turning point, not only in my education, but in my life.  Suddenly, unexpectedly – someone believed in me. For the first time in my life – someone saw potential in me.  Miss Noe put me on special assignments. She gave me little jobs to do. >>

She invited me to stay after school to work on my reading and math.  She challenged me to higher standards.

I had a hard time letting her down.  In fact, one time I got so involved in one of her homework assignments that I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning working on it!  Eventually my father came down the hall and said, “What’s the matter son? Are you sick or something?”

“No, I’m doing homework,” I replied.

He kind of blinked and rubbed his eyes, not quite sure whether he was awake or dreaming.  Because he’d never heard me say anything like that before. . .

What made the difference between 5th and 6th grade?  The fact that someone was willing to give me a chance.  Someone was willing to believe in me while challenging me with higher expectations.  That was risky, because there was no guarantee that I would honor Miss Noe’s trust.

Everyone likes the end product of nurturing and mentoring – especially when it yields a peak performer – the star athlete, the successful businessperson, the brilliant lawyer, the impressive communicator.  But how many of us want to deal with the person at the front end of the process??

The owner said:  “For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none.  So cut it down.”

But the gardener said:  “Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it.”

God never gives us up – no matter what we do or how far we stray.  When everyone else is ready to cut someone down by their biting words or criticism or doubt – God will say – NO – let me cultivate and fertilize – let me love and nurture.  Instead of cutting down or throwing away – God wants to uplift and use – and the funny thing is — God expects us to be like him. . . >

God expects us to uplift others by our words of encouragement – rather than cutting them down by our criticism. . .

Let’s “come to our senses” and realize we do affect others by our words and actions – the only questions is – is this going to be in a positive or negative way????

Loving and merciful God – this week we find ourselves in the orchard – – surrounded by trees that are either producing fruit, or that are barren.

Help us “come to our senses” and realize that our words and actions do have the power to help change people.  May we be a little more like God: when other people are ready to cut someone down by their biting words of judgment or criticism – help us be those who respond with words of encouragement and mercy – lifting others up, rather than tearing them down.

2 Lent 2019 (March 16/17 2019)

Awe and Wonder are holy and forceful things.

The Prophet Isaiah, from whose writings we get the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, recently given to 25 members of our faith community in Confirmation – calls this “fear of the Lord” – but this is not the scary kind of fear – it is the “awe and wonder” type of fear we have before our marvelously, creative God. .

According to journalist Bill Moyers, awe and wonder even have the power to profoundly change people.

In his book, A World of Ideas, Moyers tells of watching the long ago launch of the Apollo 17 rocket in 1975.

He describes the rocket rising off the launch pad amid brilliant flames and deafening thunder.  He tells how a sense of wonder fills everyone as they watch the mighty rocket going up and up and up.

The crowd gazes in amazement as the first stage ignites a beautiful blue flame.

Writes Moyers, the rocket “becomes like a star, but your realize there are humans on it.”  As the rocket soars out of sight, a hush falls over the crowd.

Later, as the people begin to leave, Moyers describes the effect the launch has had on them:  “People just get up quietly, helping each other up. They’re kind. They open doors. They look at one another, speaking quietly and interestedly.>>

  This group of people were suddenly different – because they were caught up in the sense of wonder – the experience of something greater than themselves.

[Story found in Everyday Epiphanies by Melannie Svododa.]

The sense of awe and wonder are holy and forceful things – they even have the power to profoundly change people:  just ask Abraham. . .

Abraham was an old man – and his wife, Sarah, was no spring chicken.  When God first told Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation – he did not believe it—because he and Sarah had no children – and it was a little late in life to begin a family.

God knew that Abraham might be a bit skeptical – and that’s when God took him outside and said, “look up at the sky and try to count the stars if you can.”  The implication was that if I, God, can create all of this – don’t you think I can keep my promise of making you a father???

Abraham, caught up in the wonder of the night sky – soon became a believer.  He had experienced the holy and forceful power of getting caught up in something greater than himself — and he was changed.

The sense of awe and wonder are holy and forceful things – they even have the power to profoundly change people:  just ask Peter, James and John.

By this point in Luke’s Gospel — they have come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  But they have also heard Jesus say that he has to suffer and die –and then be raised up.   And the thought of a Messiah, a God, suffering and dying made us much sense to them as a 90 year old man becoming  a father. It just did not make sense to them – and so they were a bit skeptical.

And that’s when Jesus took this questioning trio up the mountain – and there he was changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white and Moses and Elijah stopped by for a chat.

Peter, James, and John – were caught up in the wonder of the Transfigured Christ.  They had experienced the holy and forceful power of getting caught up in something greater than themselves – and they were changed – they came down the mountain better people than when they went up the mountain. . .

Now this will sound like a 60s folk group – but Abraham, Peter, James and John – were each offered glimpses of wonderful things – the very presence of God in their midst.

Their experience of awe and wonder – their brush with the divine – changed them – and made them more faithful to carrying out the will of God in their lives.

How about us – when was the last time we had a brush with the divine – a sense of awe and wonder – a mountaintop experience, an unexpected “aha” moment—— that changed us in some way,

When was the last time we actually tried to live out one of the prayers of the faithful we prayed last week:  for the grace to be aware: that we may slow down, detach ourselves from the busyness of daily life and find a quiet place to listen to God?

Or is this not a golf ball we choose to put into our jar of life?

When was the last time we looked up at the starry night and been overwhelmed by awe and wonder at the creator of such a spectacle. . .

Hopefully, now that perhaps winter is over and spring is upon us – it’s time for us to get out and listen to the birds, watch for the first daffodil, feel the sun on our checks and the wind at our back>>

and be struck with a sense of wonder as to how all of these seasonal changes take place year after year.

One author I read this week said that to develop a sense of awe and wonder – one should just take a deep breath and hold it as long as you can – and then marvel at the fact that when you do need to breathe again – you can!  And we do that – breathe in and out, thousands of times a day without even thinking about it – pretty amazing! We are wonderfully and gloriously made!

One research study I read showed that when it comes to our emotional health – awe is a natural stress-reliever.   

It expands our sense of time, and makes us less prone to impatience.  Research has also shown that people who experience awe on a regular basis are more inclined to be generous as awe fills us with a feeling of connection to other people.

For some of us – entering into this time and place — perhaps is the only mountaintop experience we get all week – our best chance to have a brush with the divine —  when Christ, as once he did for the disciples, so now for us, opens the Scriptures and breaks the bread.

This sense of awe and wonder of being in the presence of Christ is to be a holy and forceful thing in our lives – a power that can profoundly change us –

if we but “come to our senses” and open ourselves to the great gift the God gives us week after week.

Which is why we should do our best to preserve a sense of the sacred in this place – by leaving our louder conversations – and the mention of buying and selling of things – in the gathering space – in order to enhance the sense of the sacred in here – and within ourselves – as we have this brush with the divine!

Then hopefully the experience we have here – just as Abraham looking up at the stars—- and Peter, James, and John gazing upon the Transfigured Christ — may change us ————–

so that we are little better when we leave this place – than when we arrived!   —— May we ask the almighty God, as did the late Jewish Rabbi Abraham Heschel once did:  “Do not give me success, Lord – give me wonder.” The sense of awe and wonder that can profoundly change us.

And then we can say like Dr. Martin Luther King once said in Memphis, Tennessee:  “I have been to the mountaintop!”

1 Lent 2019

Long ago I read this story in Stephen Covey’s Book:  The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and have liked using it ever since.

A professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him.  When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.  They agree that it was.

The professor than picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full.  The student responded with a unanimous YES!

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed.

“Now”, said the professor as the laughter subsided,

“I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.  The golf balls are the important things: family, children, health, friends, faith, and your favorite passions — things that if everything else was lost and only they remained – your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, house, car.  The sand is everything else – the small stuff.

If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.  The same goes for life. If you spend all you time and energy on the small stuff – you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”

“Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter.  Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

Lent is a time given to us every year to “come to our senses”  — to re-prioritize our lives, to reorganize and re-focus on what is important – the values of the kingdom of God – rather than focusing our time, energy, and attention on what is NOT important:  the values of the world.

And what better place to begin this process – than we do every year on the first Sunday of Lent:  going into the desert with Jesus — where one quickly determines what is essential – and what is not.

Before Jesus began his public ministry by declaring his mission statement in the synagogue at Nazareth:  “I have been anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, to let the oppressed go free.” — he was first Baptized by John  in the Jordan River – and a voice heard by everyone, including Jesus proclaimed: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus was then immediately led into the desert by the Holy Spirit where he faced  three temptations offered by the devil in order to pull him out of or away from his status of God’s beloved Son. . .  The devil was trying to get Jesus to forget who he was called to be. . .

Jesus was tempted — to use his time and energy and attention to take care of his own well-being (command this stone to become bread)

He was tempted to seek out power and glory (all this will be yours if you but worship me)

And Jesus was tempted to place his faith and trust in someone besides his Father — the all-powerful God (throw yourself down from the temple – and the angels will support you).

Jesus overcame all of these temptations with the power and knowledge of Scripture, and by remembering that he was God’s beloved Son.

Throughout our lives – and most times on a daily basis – we are faced with temptations in order to pull us out of– or away from — our status as beloved sons and daughter of God which we received at the time of our Baptism.  We will be tempted to forget who we are, and the values we stand for – by forgetting to put the golf balls, the important things, into our lives first – and concentrating instead on the pebbles and the sand. . .

The late first lady, Barbara Bush, once told soon to be graduates of Wellesley College in their commencement address:

“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal.  You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, a partner.” and I will add:  regret not having spent more time with a merciful God remembering that we are God’s beloved – and will regret time not spent within the loving embrace of a faith community.

What do we value—– what do we expend our time, talent, and treasure in order to achieve— what are the golf balls we put into our jar of life – first?  Lent is a good time to figure all of this out – and the desert is a good place to start.

One more story – about a man who had his priorities right in life – which led to giving us a little quirk in history – and a minor claim to fame of a man from Missouri.

President James Polk spent his last day as President of the United States on March 3, 1849, and at midnight Polk was out of office.  But his successor, General Zachary Taylor, a staunch church goer, refused to be sworn in on March 4, 1849 — because it was a Sunday.

By his actions — Taylor was saying quite loudly: “Going to Church is a higher priority for me than becoming President of the United States.”

He postponed his inauguration until Monday, March 5.  So for one day, U.S. Senator David Atchison of Missouri (buried just up the road in Greenlawn cemetery in Plattsburg) was president of the United States.

Can you think of anything more important than becoming the President of the United States?  Zachary Taylor could – it was going to Church.

What do we value – what do we expend our time, talent, and treasure in order to achieve – what are the golf balls we put into our jar of life – first?  

Lent is a good time to figure all of this out – and going in to the desert with Jesus is a good place to start:    a place to “come to our senses”

and remember that we are God’s beloved – and it is in remembering this – that we will get our priorities, our golf balls,  right – and not be tempted by the pebbles and the sand. . .

Merciful God, we start every Lent by going into the desert with your son.  In the desert, we quickly learn what is essential and what is not – what we need to take with us, and what we need to leave behind.

As we enter into this season of Lent – a season to re-prioritize, to re-organize, to refocus on what is important and what is not – help us to “come to our senses” and know that you alone fulfill all our needs and desires.

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, almighty and merciful God.

Just as the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, so, too, you give us this season of Lent every year – so that we can be driven to discern what is of value and what is worth pursuing by our very lives.

Touch us with your grace so we can come to our senses and return to you with all our hearts and minds.

And so with angels and archangels, with thrones and dominions, and with all the hosts and powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim.

Ash Wednesday

St. Luke’s Gospel, from which we will be reading on every Sunday but one during Lent –

is known as the Gospel of Mercy. . .

Mercy, Pope Francis says is essential in living the Christian life – because it not only allows us to understand ourselves and God better – but it also prompts us to recognize and help those in need.

St. Luke, in his Gospel of Mercy, gives us many stories that are found only in his Gospel to illustrate his radical ideas on mercy and compassion.

One of those stories we will read on 4th Sunday of Lent – and it gives us a focus and theme for the Lenten season we will all share together over the next 40 days.

The story – is known by many names:  the loving Father, the pouty brother, the absent mother — but commonly known as the Prodigal Son.

One line in particular gives us our focus and theme – as the younger son in the story, having taken his share of the estate and squandered it on a wild life – longs to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine feed – comes to his senses

And thinks, “How many of my father’s hired

workers have more than enough food to eat” and he heads home to find the loving, and forgiving embrace of his father to welcome him.

Lent is a time given to us every year to “come to our senses” and to get up and go to our heavenly father.

Lent is a time given to us every year to “come to our senses” – to re-prioritize our lives, to reorganize and re-focus on what is important – the values of the kingdom of God —- rather than focusing our time, energy and attention on what is NOT important:  the values of the world.

Lent is a time given to us every year to “come to our senses” returning to our heavenly Father with all our minds, hearts and souls.  Turning from fear – to love – by our prayer, fasting and almsgiving — to run into the loving and forgiving embrace of our father – who is diligently searching the highways and the byways – patiently waiting for us to return.

Loving and merciful God – help us to “come to our senses” during these 40 days – so that when Easter comes, we may be closer to being the people you call us to be.

Come to your Senses Come to your Senses       and return to the Lord. and return to the Lord.

Come to your Senses Come to your Senses       and return to the Lord. and return to the Lord.

Come to your Senses Come to your Senses       and return to the Lord. and return to the Lord.

Come to your Senses Come to your Senses       and return to the Lord. and return to the Lord.

Come to your Senses Come to your Senses       and return to the Lord. and return to the Lord.

Blessing and Distribution of Ashes

Dear brothers and sisters, let us humbly ask God to bless with the abundance of grace these ashes, which we will place on our foreheads as a sign of repentance & renewal.

Merciful God, who are always diligently searching the highways and byways – patiently waiting for us — help us to use this time of Lent to “come to our senses” and return to you with all our minds, hearts, and souls.  

Open our eyes to see that violence, resentment, and revenge have no place in our Christian lives.

Renew in us a humble and contrite spirit – so that when Easter comes – we may be more and more like your son – compassionate, merciful, and forgivingl

We ask this through Christ our Lord.  AMEN!

8 Ordinary Time

Jesus knows human nature so well — he knows how easy it is for us to see the weaknesses and faults of other people — but how hard it is to see those same things in ourselves.  Each of us has a plank in our eyes which blinds us to our faults – while they are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with us – or worked in the same office. . .

Once there was a young monk who committed a serious fault.  Immediately, the older members of the community assembled to pass judgement on him.  However, they would not proceed until their abbot joined them. So they sent the message that they were waiting on him.

The abbot stopped work at his desk and took up an old basket which had many holes in it – filled it with sand, and left his office to meet up with the assembled monks — all the while leaving a trail of sand in his wake – which was leaking out of the holes in the basket.

The elders of the monastery came to meet him and asked him what the reason for the trail of sand was all about – after all, someone was going to have to sweep it up!

The abbot calmly and quietly said:  “my sins are running out behind me. Everywhere I go I leave a trail of faults after me –

only most of the time I don’t see them myself.  And yet today, you want me to sit in judgement on my brother. . .”

On hearing the story, the older monks felt ashamed of themselves.  They quickly pardoned their brother and life went on in the monastery.

Without realizing it, we can become professional fault-finders and critics.  But fault-finders and critics are not the ones who change the world. . .

Jesus tells us to take the beam out of our eye first – and then we can think about removing the splinter from our neighbor’s eye.  We must put our own house in order before daring to try to put someone else’s house in order.

If we neglect this — then we are judging others not to bring about good in their lives, but only to feed something within our own lives – like jealousy or pride.  There are few things that give as much satisfaction to the ego as pointing out the mistakes and faults of others!

But oh how anxious we are to correct others!  If only we could tell someone else their faults – life would be so much better for all of us!  When we think like this, we are thinking only of ourselves. But how we hate and dread being corrected ourselves!  We find it unbearable – especially if it is done by certain people in our lives.

An old sailor who had a pack-a-day smoking habit, took his pet parrot to the vet when it developed a persistent cough.   He was worried that the second-hand smoke had damaged the parrot’s health. He had the vet examine the bird and after a thorough check-up, the vet determined there was nothing wrong with the parrot —- it had merely been imitating the constant cough of its smoking master.

Pseudo-religion, which Jesus calls hypocrisy – is forever trying to make other people better.  True religion –which Jesus consistently calls us to — tries to make only oneself better. And perhaps in making oneself better – making those around them better.

Be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful.  Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.

What wonderful thoughts to carry with us into Lent!

6 Ordinary Time

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

Remember in St. Luke’s Gospel:  this is Jesus’ mission statement:  who he is and what he stands for. It is so clearly exemplified in Luke’s Parable of the Good Samaritan which will hear later this year.  This is Jesus’ mission of mercy — and he invites us, his disciples, to “follow me.” – that is, he wants his mission to become ours.

One excuse we might give for declining Jesus’ invitation – is that we don’t feel worthy enough or qualified enough to follow him.  Hopefully we did a good job of de-bunking that excuse last week —

for when the grace of God is at work within us — all things become possible.  We can join the long list of the most unlikely people God chooses to do great things:  because it isn’t the equipped that are called – it is the called that are equipped.

Just like in our day – Jesus faced people with a radical choice:  to live by the values of the world (the pursuit of money, pleasure, popularity, power, prestige) OR to live by the values of the Kingdom of God  —

which he clearly continues to lay out for us today:  poverty of spirit, cleanness of heart, capacity to show mercy, and the ability to suffer in the cause of right. .

Today we begin reading what is known as St. Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” which continues for the next couple of weeks – until we begin the season of Lent.  We are often cheated out of hearing these readings every three years – because by now, we have usually started Lent: it has been nine years since we have heard these particular readings. . .

So over the next couple of weeks – we hear some radical stuff – love your enemies, pray for those who mistreat you.  Stop judging and you will not be judged. >>

Don’t complain about the splinter in your neighbor’s eye all the while having a plank in your own.  All coming down to the choice we can freely make: building the house of our lives on the solid rock of Christ – or the shifting sands of the world. . .

Like St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount – because Matthew says:  “when Jesus saw the crowds he went up the mountain and began to teach them” – St. Luke’s Sermon on the Plain – because Luke says:  “Jesus came down with the Twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground” —– both begin with a version of the Beatitudes.  

But there are differences.

Where Matthew has eight Beatitudes, Luke has only four – which he contrasts with four WOES:  which is keeping with his uncompromising style when it comes to following Jesus – the language of Luke is always much more direct and hard-hitting.

Matthew’s Beatitudes propose a set of attitudes which reflect the spirit of the Kingdom – qualities to be found in the truly Christian and human life.  

Luke, on the other hand, speaks of material conditions in this life which will be overturned – much like we hear in Mary’s Magnificat – found only in Luke’s Gospel:  “God has shown might with his arm – dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.”

Radical  stuff!

Again, Luke’s Gospel is known as the Gospel of Mercy. . .  which Pope Francis said is essential in living the Christian life – -because it not only allows us to understand ourselves and God better – but it also prompts us to recognize and help those in need.

Mercy, the Holy Father says, “makes us understand that violence, resentment and revenge have no place in our Christian lives, and the first victim is whoever lives these sentiments – because it deprives them of their own human dignity.”

Additionally, mercy allows us to open the door of our hearts and draw close to those who are “alone and marginalized, recognizing those in need and finding the right words to say to comfort them.”

Luke, in his Gospel of Mercy, gives us many stories that are found only in his Gospel to illustrate his radical ideas:

The sinful woman who bathes the feet of Jesus (7:36-50)

As we already know — the parable of the Good Samaritan (10:29-37)  

The parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and the lost or prodigal son (15:1-32)

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector at prayer (18:9-14)

The call of the tax collector Zacchaeus (19:1-10)

Jesus’ prayer on the cross for the forgiveness of his executioners (23:34)

And Jesus’ words of mercy to the “good thief” (23:39-43) “today you will be with me in paradise.”

All show that no one is outside of the possibility of salvation — offered by Jesus.

I think St. Luke wants to accomplish a couple of things by his radical nature –

1st he wants us to know that there is a cost in following Jesus – being a Christian will not make us popular people – because we are living our lives by a different set of values than everyone else may be living theirs.

2nd – that the choice of following Jesus is not something we make once – and then are finished with – but the choice to follow Jesus requires a commitment from us every day — to seek out the lost and the brokenhearted and those wanting to be healed or those hungering for forgiveness.

And that 3rd – both of these require our full attention – and not just our passing thoughts from time to time as we keep ourselves focused on something else.

Radical thinking – more precisely – radical being and radical acting.  So are we going to commit or not? Or do we now have the excuse we have been looking for – not following Jesus – because we don’t want to go where he leads?  But if we are unwilling to go where our leader, our Good Shepherd wants to lead us — we cannot call ourselves a Christian!!!!!!

Blessed are you who are poor.

Blessed are you who are hungry.

Blessed are you who are weeping.

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, and denounce your name as evil – simply because——— you follow after me. . .