9/24/16

WORD for THIS weekend!

Image from Christian Art (Click for larger version!)

(Apologies for this coming to you so late in the week!)

Looking at the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we're faced with very strong scripture texts that stand as judgment on our lives and our lifestyles. You'll find the hard sayings of this Sunday's readings here along with commentary on them. Escorting children to Mass this weekend? Check here for hints on helping children prepare to the the Word of the Lord.

The first lesson, from the prophet Amos, gets right to the point: "Woe to you who are complacent, stretched out comfortably on your sofas, eating well, listening to music, having a few drinks and dousing yourself in expensive perfumes, lotions and after-shave! Your good times are about to end and after that..."

Gulp!  That's us!

The gospel, from Luke, is the familiar and riveting story of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, who begged for scraps from the wealthy man's table. If that's not enough to stir your memory of this tale then either you're not familiar with the gospels or you're in denial! What becomes of Lazarus and the rich man in eternity should be enough to make most of us squirm in discomfort.

The second lesson is another passage from Paul's first letter to Timothy. The tone is more positive here, as Paul instructs Timothy to "compete well for the faith, to keep the Lord's word without stain or reproach, to lay hold of the life to which we have been called." Strong language here but more challenging than judgmental.

There's really no wriggling out of the bare truth of these scriptures. Follow the links, read the texts and be prepared to hear them at the Lord's table where we, sinners, are fed the richest banquet possible.






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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 9/24

Source unknown

I visited a friend in prison, Lord,
and while driving home I thought:
in some ways Rich is freer than I...

He's facing three years time and yet
he lives in the moment,
day by day, hour by hour,
mindful of his circumstances,
freely taking responsibility
for why he's where he is...

He's grateful for what he has
- not much in terms of things -
his greatest possessions, he told me:
his integrity and loyalty to friends...

His time is structured for him,
his movement always monitored
but he flies beyond his confines
reading everything he can
and writing letters and a journal,
a chronicle of time he spends -
waiting...

In some ways, Lord, my friend in prison
is freer than I with all my freedom
to come and go as I please
and yet so often find myself
locked in, locked up, locked down...

So help me break the bonds of yesterday
and let no fears imprison me
or keep me from the freedom
of knowing and accepting
the day which I am living... 

Make me mindful of my circumstances
day by day and hour by hour,
taking full responsibility
for why I am where I am,
how I got here
and where I'm going...

Give me freedom just to know my best possessions:
the real, the important, the lasting gifts
that count as treasure of more value
than all else that I might own...
Let me spend my time productively,
wasting not a moment,
as I chronicle the journey of my life
and spend my days,
waiting,
waiting for the freedom
I'll only find in you...

Amen.

(An older, related post)







 
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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 9/24

Source unknown

I visited a friend in prison, Lord,
and while driving home I thought:
in some ways Rich is freer than I...

He's facing three years time and yet
he lives in the moment,
day by day, hour by hour,
mindful of his circumstances,
freely taking responsibility
for why he's where he is...

He's grateful for what he has
- not much in terms of things -
his greatest possessions, he told me:
his integrity and loyalty to friends...

His time is structured for him,
his movement always monitored
but he flies beyond his confines
reading everything he can
and writing letters and a journal,
a chronicle of time he spends -
waiting...

In some ways, Lord, my friend in prison
is freer than I
with all my freedom to come and go,
as I please,
and yet so often I find myself
locked in, locked up, locked down...

So help me break the bonds of yesterday
and let no fears imprison me
or keep me from the freedom
of knowing and accepting
the day which I am living... 

Make me mindful of my circumstances
day by day and hour by hour,
taking full responsibility
for why I am where I am,
how I got here
and where I'm going...

Give me freedom just to know my best possessions:
the real, the important, the lasting gifts
that count as treasure of more value
than all else that I might own...
Let me spend my time productively,
wasting not a moment,
as I chronicle the journey of my life
and spend my days,
waiting,
waiting for the freedom
I'll only find in you...

Amen.

(An older, related post)







 
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9/23/16

Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 9/23


With yesterday's equinox,
Lord of all creation,
the summer of your grace gave way
to the autumn of a new grace...

And what, in my life,
might that new grace be?
Days begin to shorten and nighttimes lengthen,
day by day, night by longer night,
robbing us of daytime's light and warmth
until the winter bows
and hope of spring returns...

Lead me through life's changes, Lord,
as you walk me through the seasons' changes...

Help me treasure each day's light
as autumn sunsets swallow up the warmth...

Teach me patience with the seasons of creation
and the seasons of my life...

Let the falling leaves caress my steps
until the trees green once again
and peace returns to bless my mind and heart
with the grace of change,
the grace of that unfailing peace
that's only yours to give...

Amen.




 

     
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9/21/16

Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 9/22


Too easily and much too often, Lord,
I take you for granted...

I take for granted your Spirit,
always moving in my mind and heart
and stirring me to do what's right and true...

And when I do what's wrong and fail the truth
I often take for granted your mercy,
offered when I turn to seek your pardon...

I take for granted that you're always with me,
day and night, night and day:
before me, behind me, beside me...

I take for granted all the ways
your wisdom whispers in my thoughts
and your counsel echoes in my conscience,
moving me to live as your word calls me...

And I take for granted, Lord,
that though I've said a thousand times,
"I will!  I promise!  Really!"
you offer yet another chance
each time I fail to follow through...

I take for granted all the people in my life,
(each one a gift from you)
who hold me up when I'm bowed down,
who are my strength when I am weak,
who give me hope when times are hard,
who love me more than I deserve...

I take for granted that you always hear
my stumbling, mumbled prayer;
that you listen to my problems,
wipe my tears away
and share my every joy...

I take for granted that you love me as I am,
and wait, patiently, as I become
all you created me to be...

I take for granted, Lord,
your faithful and abiding generous love
and how there's no end to your kindness,
understanding and compassion...

And I take for granted, Lord,
how you never take me for granted...

Help me take these words to heart, Lord,
and never for a moment take for granted
the simple grace of living in your presence,
knowing that you love me
and trusting that you hear my every prayer...

Amen.




   
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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 9/21


Too much stuff on your plate?
Can't get to the bottom of your to-do list?
Feeling like everybody wants a piece of you?
Lots of shoulda-coulda-woulda going down?

It will all be there tomorrow
so for now, just slow down
and sit with the Lord
who gets it,
who understands,
who understands you,
who wants to be with you...

And the time to slow down and pray
is now...


Texting with God
 

   
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9/19/16

Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 9/20

Walden Pond: photo by Winslow Pettingell

The shadows of four visitors stretch along the shore of Walden Pond in Concord, MA. Though the pond's depth is always in flux, it's now at its lowest level since Henry David Thoreau first recorded its depth in 1846.  It's been a dry, dry, summer...

Sometimes, Lord, there's a drought in my soul,
draining my heart and my spirit
and leaving me dry, parched and thirsting
for a drink, a taste, a sip of the joy
of the water of life 
that flows from your grace...

The dryness scrapes my soul
and lays bare its barren shores athirst
for just a drop of that sweet joy for which I pine:
a taste of you, Lord,
to quench the longing deep within the well
my empty heart can be...

Send your rains, O Lord,
drenching downpours of your grace:
to wash my face and cleanse my heart,
to prime the well of my soul's depths,
to bathe my arid spirit's ache
in waters flowing from your heart -
sweet, refreshing waters
offering healing, peace and joy...

I lift a cup to you and pray
for just one drink, a taste, a sip
of life that's yours to give...

Amen.


 

   
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9/18/16

MONDAY MORNING PRAYER: 9/19


Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

I have so much, Lord!
All my basic needs are provided for:
I have shelter and warmth, health care and medicine,
food and drink, clean water and power,
family and friends, satisfying work and compensation,
safety and security, freedom and liberty…

I have freedom to believe and worship and pray.
I have freedom to think and express my thoughts.
I have freedom to move about, to travel and explore.
I have freedom to join with others and freedom to stay apart.
I have freedom to love, to serve in love and to fall in love…

I have so much, Lord,
and above all, Lord, I have you…

I have your love and the promise of your peace.
I have your presence in my heart and in my prayer.
I have the wisdom of your Word in the scriptures
and the help of your grace in the sacraments…

I have the gift of your mercy, pardon for my sins.
I have power of your Spirit to strengthen and guide me.
I have the Church and communion with all who believe in you…

And I have Communion with you in the Eucharist,
in the gift of your Body and Blood,
offered in mercy, given in love, shared as a sacrifice of praise…

I have so much, Lord!

Perhaps it’s because I have so much
that I focus so much on what I don’t have…

Perhaps it's all I have in full
that makes me jealous
for what I might still lack…
Make me grateful, Lord, for all I have,
all I’ve been given, all I’ve received,
and all I have to share…

In light of all I have, help me see more clearly
what I truly need, not just what I want,
and help me balance what’s wanting
with what I have in hand...

And even as I pray, Lord,
the words, "Yeah, but..."
jump from my heart in defense of my hurt,
to plead my case for what I miss, what I want,
what I don't have...

And it's right there, Lord, that I need you
to help me see this truth:
if I fail to give thanks each day for all that I have
I may miss what I long for even when it comes,
when my prayer is answered and my hope fulfilled...
So, give me a grateful heart, Lord,
lest I lose myself in grief
for needs not met,
for pain within,
for healing yet to come…

Give me a grateful heart, Lord,
lest I lose sight of what abounds
while dwelling on what’s absent still…

Give me a grateful heart, Lord,
for all the simple gifts that mark me
blessed and rich in so many ways…

This morning, then, I offer you my praise and thanks
for all I have, for all you’ve given me,
for all I have to work with, for all that gives me comfort,
for all that sets me free, for all that brings me peace,
for all that gives me life and keeps me in your grace…

Give me a grateful heart, Lord, for all I have to share
with all whose paths cross mine
who may need from me a portion
of the gifts I take for granted…

Even in my need and want I know, Lord,
how much I have, how blessed I am...
Let my prayer remind me of your gifts
and make me grateful all this day
and through this week…

Amen.


 

     
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Homily for September 18

Image source

Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily

 

If you find this gospel passage a little confusing,
that means you were paying close attention!

St. Luke offers us here a number of Jesus’ sayings
about wealth and money and he attaches them all
to this parable of the shrewd steward.
So we might walk away, scratching our heads, wondering:
what’s the difference between dishonest wealth
and honest wealth?
Who is the trustworthy steward
and who is not to be trusted?
Are we supposed to hate money or make friends with it?

The words of Jesus here are drenched
in the customs and economy of ancient Mediterranean culture.
Jesus always spoke in the context and terms
of his own culture and times,
but he spoke a word intended for all cultures and all times.
What, then, are we to make of his words in our own day?
You can boil the whole message in this passage
down to three words:
Money. Isn’t. Everything.
Now, most people won’t disagree with that in theory
but the proof comes not so much in the theory
as it does in practice.

It’s possible that we might say 
we believe money isn’t everything
but our life-style, the choices and decisions we make,
our investments, our work habits and our life’s goals
all might tell a different story.

This passage is filled with references to stewardship,
wealth, accounting practices, debt and discounts,
promissory notes, financial networking
- and some retirement planning.
This sounds more like the Wall Street Journal than the bible!
Jesus counsels us here 
to be as crafty as the dishonest steward
but in another venue.
 He’s calling us to be crafty in preparing for
- not that retirement condo at the shore -
but for that “eternal dwelling,”
he has prepared and reserved for us - in the next life.

In reminding us that we can’t serve two masters,
that we can’t serve both God and wealth,
he’s asking us to look at the time and attention we give
to the complexities of financial planning
and to compare that with how we prepare and plan
for our spiritual health and future.
Another way of getting at this would be to ask,
 “If I were to approach my financial responsibilities
the way I approach my spiritual responsibilities,
like my prayer life:
-- what kind of shape would my finances be in?”
In which “future” am I more fully, carefully invested?
My future as the Wall Street Journal forecasts it?
Or the bottom line reported 
on the balance sheet of my heart?

And here’s the really hard part:
Jesus says we have to choose between the two!
There can be only one master:
no provision here, no option for co-masters or partnerships.
That’s not to suggest 
that we abandon financial responsibility:
this passage actually highlights good stewardship of our resources.
But the Lord says we need to make a choice 
between God and money,
and let one, and only one, be the master of our lives,
the One by which we live and make choices and decisions.

Which one then, whom, do I serve 
-  not in theory, but in practice?
Do I track the stability and health of my spiritual life
as often, as well, as carefully, as anxiously,
as I track the growth of my financial well-being?

Warren Buffett the billionaire 
is another shrewd steward, indeed.
You might be familiar with Buffet’s two rules for investing:
Rule Number One: don’t lose the money!
Rule Number Two: don’t forget Rule Number One!
Jesus offers similar advice for our investment in spirituality:
Rule Number One: don’t lose your soul!
Rule Number Two: don’t forget Rule Number One!

To help us in all of this,
Jesus, who, on the Cross, fully invested himself in our lives
invites us every week to his table
to form us in his word and to give us, in the Eucharist,
a taste and a sip of that peace of mind and heart
that depends not on the stock market’s variables      
but only on the grace of God.

Our greatest wealth is God’s love for us
and God’s love cannot be bought or sold or traded:
it can only be treasured, served and shared.


 

    
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9/17/16

Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 9/18

Image source

(I'm repeating an older post because our cantors at Holy Family are singing Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" this weekend at the preparation of the gifts.  Ao, fter pausing with my prayer, please do listen to the audio that follows, featuring Branford Marsalis and Kathleen Battle.)

   Could be, Lord, 
      I haven't paid you much attention this past week
      - except for when I wanted something from you...

   So...

      if I've been too busy to make the time to stop and pray,
         to sit and talk with you and just to listen...       
      if I lived some days or nights this week
         as if you weren't there, right by my side...

      if I've let my worry, fear or anger keep me 
         from your gentle hand reaching out to mine...

      then come Sunday, Lord, today:
         I turn my face to yours,
         I open up my heart to you in prayer,
         I look for you at my right hand
            and pray you'll heal whatever pain
               might keep me from your peace...

      And in the week ahead, Lord, lead me
         to be more faithful to your presence, day and night,
            until Sunday comes again...

   Amen.



Come Sunday, oh come Sunday, that's the day.
Lord, dear Lord above, God almighty,
God of love, please look down and see my people through.
   I believe that God put sun and moon up in the sky.
   I don't mind the gray skies
   'cause they're just clouds passing by.
Lord, dear Lord above, God almighty,
God of love, please look down and see my people through.


 

     
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