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Sunday Eucharist

Retreat is an interesting word.  In war it implies defeat but in the world of the spirit it implies a time of reflection.  This last week I went on a retreat with a group of other Episcopalians.  I never really want to go on retreats partly because I enjoy my daily routines and retreats make me reflect.  Once I get there and get settled in it is a different story.  I love retreats and I love them for the same reason I hesitate to go.  I am given time to reflect.  Besides that, I get to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.  I recommend you go on a retreat and recharge those spiritual batteries.

Fr. Fred

Last Sunday's Sermon: Casting out Demons

Image result for casting out demons

The Readings

The Epistle

Galatians 3:23-29

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.

The Gospel

Luke 8:26-39

Jesus and his disciples arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me" -- for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" He said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him

The Sermon: Demons

This story of Jesus casting demons from the man who was possessed and sending them into a herd of pigs is a very well known story. The man had been so taken over by demons that he really was unable to function. He was literally driven crazy by them. This is a wonderful miracle story and it is one that almost all people are familiar with but I would like to look at it from a more personal perspective.

In a metaphorical sense, we all have demons that struggle to control us. We all have desires that seem to take hold of us and control our thoughts and actions. You have heard the saying, “the devil made me do it.” That of course is a good way to pass responsibility for our actions onto someone else. The devil may be real and the devil may whisper temptations in our ear but whether we listen or not is really up to us. In the words of the comic character Pogo, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”

Whether it is a demon whispering in our ear or not, we still can make some very basic decisions about who we look to for advice in our lives. Jesus gave us a blue print. His teachings have given us a direction to follow and it is up to us to choose to go there or not. It is easy to get distracted by all that the world offers. We can hurry on down to Hardee's where the burgers are charcoal broiled. We can see the USA in our Chevrolet.(that dates me). We can even go to Marlboro country. Or, we can pass by all of those distractions and focus all our attention on loving our God and loving one another. We can show that love by caring for those around us, attending worship and making our days a tribute to our faith as we prayerfully travel on life's journey.

Paul said it so well when he wrote to his fellow Christians, “ You have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

When you fully commit to Christ, the distractions drift away and like the demons entering the swine, they fall of the cliff and are no more.

What happened last Sunday in Orlando has been a part of our conscientiousness all week. I do not know how many time tears have run down my cheeks when I reflect on that horrible murder that took fifty lives in Orlando. I pray for them and the survivors. My prayer is that something will be done to prevent it from happening again.


Last Sunday's Sermon

Image result for stoning of naboth

Old Testament

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a

The following events took place: Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. And Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money." But Naboth said to Ahab, "The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance." Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, "I will not give you my ancestral inheritance." He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat.

His wife Jezebel came to him and said, "Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?" He said to her, "Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, `Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it'; but he answered, `I will not give you my vineyard.'" His wife Jezebel said to him, "Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."

So she wrote letters in Ahab's name and sealed them with his seal; she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. She wrote in the letters, "Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the assembly; seat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, `You have cursed God and the king.' Then take him out, and stone him to death." [The men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. Just as it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the assembly. The two scoundrels came in and sat opposite him; and the scoundrels brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, "Naboth cursed God and the king." So they took him outside the city, and stoned him to death. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, "Naboth has been stoned; he is dead."]

As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, "Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead." As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. You shall say to him, "Thus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?" You shall say to him, "Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood."

Ahab said to Elijah, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" He answered, "I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, I will bring disaster on you."

The Gospel

Luke 7:36-8:3

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him-- that she is a sinner." Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak." "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

The Sermon

Sin and forgiveness

Who do you think might have been a sinner in this old testament reading in Kings? Jezebel, Ahab, the two scoundrels. In this story one man died but many participated in his murder. Jezebel was the conductor of this plot to murder but Ahab allowed it to happen. The scoundrels were the hired guns. What about those who did the actual stoning. Is there blood on their hands as well?

I cannot imagine living in a culture where I would be expected to throw rocks at someone until that person was dead. Many people contributed to the death of Naboth and is a very sad story but how does this story apply to us. What can we learn from it.

Is there any time in your life where you saw something happening that you knew was wrong, a time when someone was being harmed, and you stood by and let it happen for whatever reason? Does anyone want to confess to that.
There is a television show called, “what would you do”. On this show they create a situation in a public place where something awful happens to someone. The hidden cameras record the responses of the people who observe the event. It is interesting. Some people stand by and some people engage.

I regretfully have been on occasion that person who passively stood by. Fifty years ago I was attending a boarding school and there was a fellow student who was repeatedly picked on by some bullies in our junior class. I was told by another student that we were going to meet in the junior locker room because this student was going to be run through the gauntlet. Here is what happened when I got there. The main bully who acted as prosecutor and judge announced to the gathered students that Marty “the football” had committed some crime and he would be expected to run the gauntlet. Ten students were lined up and Marty was at the end. He was told he would have to walk by each of the students and those students could do anything they wanted to to him. I watched as he was assaulted by those ten students. I did nothing. I told no one what I saw. To this day I deeply regret my action (or inaction).

This boy had been nicknamed 'football' because his head was misshapened and to some, resembled a football. Some of the meaner students would grab him by the head and “pass” him from student to student. Again, I would do nothing.

Even though I did not actively participate in these acts, I watched and did nothing. I sinned.

As followers of Christ we are expected to speak out when we see wrong being committed. Jesus spoke out when he saw the pharisee judging the woman who was bathing Jesus's feet with her tears. Jesus showed love and forgiveness to this person who deeply regretted her past. He modeled for us the bravery of saying what needed to be said and doing what had to be done. Eventually, He showed us true courage by his death on the cross.

My question to you is are you prepared to speak out when you see something happen that your heart and soul tells you is wrong? Being a Christian often takes courage. May God give you the grace to find that courage when it is needed.

Fr. Fred