Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Obituary for Jeffrey "J.D." Gould






Jeffrey R. “J.D.” Gould

Jeffrey “J.D.” Gould, 57, Loveland, CO, formerly Fargo, died Monday, July 29, 2013 in Loveland.

Jeff was born June 13, 1956 to Roger and Joyce Gould in Fargo. He grew up and attended school in Fargo, graduating from Fargo North High School in 1974. He worked at various businesses in Fargo before moving to Colorado, including Pepsi and in mobile home sales. He married Judy Strebig on Feb. 15, 1987 in Las Vegas. Since 1994, he and his wife owned and operated the Jade Inn Hotel in Loveland Colorado.

JD was a loving and gracious husband, father, papa, son, brother, uncle and friend. He is deeply loved and will be greatly missed by all who knew him. He is survived by his wife, Judy, of Loveland; daughter Jade of Loveland; stepdaughter Anonna Tveter; mother Joyce Parsley of Fargo; father Roger Gould (Julie) of Fargo; sister Michelle Walker (Everett) of Valley City; brothers Jason (Darlene Erovick) and the Rev. Jamie Parsley both of Fargo; 5 grandchildren Arionna, Chance, Jazel, Jada, and Javon; many beloved uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends; not to mention his two Chihuahuas, Baby Doll and Sugie.

A memorial service will be held at 3:00 P.M. Friday, Aug. 9, 2013 at Viegut Funeral Home, Loveland, CO, at which the family asked that all attending wear some sort of Vikings colors or Jersey.
 
A second memorial will be at 11:00 A.M.  Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Fargo.

Burial of ashes was in the family plot at Maple Sheyenne Cemetery, Harwood, ND


 


 
 

Prayers for the repose of the soul of my brother, Jeff Gould


I ask your prayers for the repose of the soul of my brother,
Jeffrey Roger "J.D." Gould,

who died July 29, 2013
suddenly and unexpectedly

in Loveland, Colorado.

I also ask your prayers for his wife, Judy,

his daughters, Jade and Anonna,

our mother, Joyce,

our siblings, Michelle and Jeff

and his father, Roger,

as well as our entire family.


The Fargo memorial service is set for
Sat. Aug. 10 at 11:00 am
at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church,
120 20 Ave. N., Fargo.



Rest eternal grant o him, O Lord;

and let light perpetual shine upon him.

May his soul, and the souls of all the departed

rest in peace.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

10 Pentecost

July 28, 2013


Luke 11.1-13


+ You’ve heard about this ad nauseum this past week—and for that I am sorry. But, yes, this past Thursday, I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my ordination as a Deacon. 10 years of ordained ministry is a hallmark, to some extent. And, this past week, between celebrations, I found myself pondering these past ten years.

In that time, I can say that there have been two consistent questions I have been asked, again and again over those years. So, do you think you can guess what the common questions I have been asked as a priest over the years?

The first question is, “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”

By far the most common question. And I have explored this many times over the years in my sermons, and I will again.

The second question I asked again and again is, “Why aren’t my prayers answered some times?”

I think it’s an important question. And the answer I always give is, God always answers prayers. But an answered prayer is not necessarily a granted request.

As I’ve said again and again, God is not Santa Claus in the sky, granting wishes to people who have been good, and punishing people with unanswered prayers because they’re bad. Many people think prayer and making petition are the same thing.  But petitionary prayers is not the only kind of prayer. Prayer essentially is communication—communication between us and God. When we pray, we should simply open ourselves completely to God. We should take on a prayerful attitude.

Or, as the Catechism we find in the back of The Book of Common Prayer defines prayer:

“[It] is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.”

For those of us seeking God and striving after, and God, in return, coming to us and revealing God’s self to us, we do find the need to respond in some way.

In our Gospel for today, we find Jesus talking about this response. We find him talking about prayer. The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray.  Jesus responds by teaching them the prayer we know as the Lord’s Prayer. Then he goes on to share a parable about a friend asking another friend for a loan. In the midst of this discourse on prayer, Jesus says those words we find quite familiar:

“For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knows, the door will be opened.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the complaint from people about unanswered prayers.

“I prayed and I prayed and nothing happened,” I will hear.

And I definitely not going to tell you how many times I have complained about unanswered prayer in my own life. But when we talk of such things as unanswered prayers, no doubt we are zeroing in on the first part of what Jesus is saying today:

“For everyone who asks receives.”

But rarely do we ever get beyond the petitionary aspect of prayer. Jesus shows us that prayer also involves seeking and knocking. Oftentimes in those moments when a prayer is not answered in the way we think it should, we just sort of give up.

But if we seek out the reasons our prayers are not answered in the way we want them to, we may truly find another answer—an answer we might not want to find, but an answer nonetheless.  And if we keep on knocking, if we keep on pushing ourselves in prayer, we will find more than we can even possibly imagine.

The point of all of this, of course, is that when God breaks through to us, sometimes we also have to reach out to God as well. And somewhere in the middle is where we will find the meeting point in which we find the asking, the seeking and knocking presented before us in a unique and amazing way. In that place of meeting, we will find that prayer is truly our response to God “by thought and deed, with or without words.”

Jesus is clear that prayer needs to be regular and persistent. I have found that prayer is essential for all of us as Christians. If we do not have prayer to sustain us and hold us up and carry us forward, then it is so easy to become aimless and lost.

As some of you know, I lead a very disciplined prayer life. I do so not because I’m acetic or overly-pious or saintly (I’m sure all those words come to your minds, especially those of you who came to the tiki party at the Rectory of Friday night).

But I lead a disciplined prayer because I can very easily become a lazy person regarding prayer.  I pray the Daily Office every day—the services of Morning and Evening Prayer found in the Book of Common Prayer.  I pray for everyone at St. Stephen’s by name through the course of the week.  And I take regular times during the day to just stop and be quiet and simply “be” in the Presence of God.

The Daily Office is sort of the skeleton of my day. I have prayed the Office every day, without fail (well, there have been a few times when I’ve just been too sick to do so), for the last ten years. Actually I was praying the Daily Office long before that, but beginning at my ordination as a Deacon, I promised I would never miss praying the Daily Office. And, for the most part, I have not. I made that promise, because I know that I am a creature of habit. I need the discipline of the Daily Office to keep me in check and to lay down the boundaries, because without those boundaries, I would too easily be led astray.

Of course, the Daily Office was a requirement for all Deacons, Priests and Bishops. Although in our current Book of Common Prayer it is not laid out so clearly, in earlier versions of the Prayer Book, it was emphatic. In the 1662 Prayer Book it says this:

“All Priests and Deacons, unless prevented by sickness or other urgent causes, are to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayer either privately or in the Church.”

And, I have tried to do so every day over the last ten years. Some days not so well, other days better. I have prayed the Daily Office on wonderful days, when it all came together, on bad days when I really didn’t want to pray it all and, by far the majority of days, when I prayed and it was neither great nor horrible. And, as you’ve heard me say again and again, I commend the Daily Office to everyone who has issues like me of needing some structure in their prayer life. Fifteen minutes in the morning, fifteen minutes in the evening and a lifetime of spiritual sustenance.

The important thing, however, is not to be bound by structure or rules such as this. The important thing is finding a way in which we can each respond to God by thought and deeds, with or without words. The important thing is to recognize that God is breaking through to us, again and again. We see it fully in Jesus, who came to us and continues to come to us. In response to that breaking through, we can each find a way of meeting God, whenever and where God comes to us, in prayer. In that place of meeting, you will receive whatever you ask, you will find what you’re searching for, and knocking, you will find a door opened to you. That is how God responds to us.

So, let us go to meet God. God is breaking through to us, wherever we might be in our lives. Let us go out to meet the God who asks of us first, who seeks us out first, who knocks first for us to open the door.


 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

9 Pentecost

July 21, 2013

Colossian 1.15-28, John 10.38-42


 + A few weeks ago I preached about “lone wolves” in the church. Specifically, I preached about how there is no room for lone wolves in ministry. Well, I have a confession to make. My words have come back and condemned me (as they sometimes do). I did some lone wolf things this past weekend.

As you now, we had the wedding of Kathy Hegge and Eric Rehm here at St. Stephen’s on Friday afternoon. It was very nice wedding. But, what a lot of people don’t know is what goes on behind the scenes of such events. There is a lot of work going on.

I think, many times people think when they come into the church, that stuff just magically happens. Flowers get arranged, the altar gets set, chairs get set out, etc. etc. Well, for this wedding, as with any wedding, planning had to be done. The frontals on the altar had to be changed.  Readings has to be printed. Chairs got set out. Doors were opened and the air conditioned put on. And on and on.  Little details that maybe no one really notices had to be attended to.

Well, I did it. I know.  I could’ve called Lavonne, who was on altar guilt, to help out with some of these things. But, back before I was ordained, one of the invaluable ministries I was trained in, by the wonderful Clotine Frear, was to be a wedding coordinator. It was a good thing for a future priest to be trained in. The attention to detail is important, especially for a High Church, Anglo-Catholic like myself.

The problem with this, is that I got busy over the last few days and I found myself on Friday afternoon, after the wedding, a bit, shall we say,  drained. I think our organist James Mackay can attest to his. I think he was a bit drained too for all the work he was doing with the music for the service.

Certainly I was drained from the heat. At one point in the service, I was wearing about five layers of clothes—clericals, cassock, surplice, stole, cope.

But, more than anything, I was drained from lone wolf ministry.  And, even worse, drained spiritually as well. I realized, all of a sudden, that although we were doing these things in the church and for the Church, I had just gone a good long time without really thinking about God or prayer. Not a good things for your priest to do.  Yes, I had prayed the Daily Office faithfully during this time. But I hadn’t really THOUGHT about any of  it. My thoughts were not on God all the time.

Which is also another pitfall of lone wolf ministry. We become so intent on the job that needs to be done, that we stop thinking about the real purpose for the work we’re doing.

Finally, yesterday afternoon, as I sort of collapsed, I found myself looking at an ikon. It’s ikon of Jesus—one of my favorites. An ikon, as most of know, is a sacred and holy image.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church, ikons are pictures which are sacred because they portray something sacred.  They are a “window,” in a sense, to the sacred, to the otherwise, “unseen.”

As I gazed at this ikon, I found myself thinking about not only the Gospel reading for this morning. I found myself thinking about how, being the lone wolf that I was being, I was really being a Martha.  But, as I pondered this ikon of Jesus, I also thought about the Pauls’ Letter to the Colossians, that we also heard this morning.

In that letter, in the original Greek,  Paul uses the word “eikon” used to describe the “image” of Christ Jesus. Our reading this morning opens with those wonderful words,

“Jesus is the image of the invisible God…”

Image in Greek is eikon. As I pondered, as I gazed at the ikon, all these things came together and  I suddenly sort of “got it.” As I pondered Paul’s letter, I realized that, yes,  Paul does see Jesus as the image or eikon of God. Jesus, for him,  is the window into the unseen God. And, I had to admit, even in that tired state, that’s exactly what I believed as well.  

To me, Jesus is very much that eikon of God. When I see Jesus (even in the ikon), I see God.  When I gaze upon the face of Jesus in icons, I feel as though I am truly gazing upon the Face of the Divine. And I have no doubt that is exactly who I am seeing.

I don’t know about you, but I do need things like icons in my own spiritual life.  I need help more often than not in my prayer life. If I don’t have that help, I fall into my lone wolf tendencies.   I need images. I need to use the senses God gave me to worship God. All of my senses.  

I need them just the way I need incense and vestments and bells and good music and the Eucharist.  These things feed me spiritually.  In them, I am actually sustained. My vision is sustained.  My sense of smell is sustained. My sense of touch is sustained. My sense of taste is sustained. My sense of hearing is sustained. And when it all comes together, I truly feel the Presence of God, here in our midst.

I can’t tell you how many times I have stood at this altar and during the singing of the Agnes Dei—the Lamb of God—and I have actually looked down at that broken bread and into that Cup and have felt, amazingly, that real Presence of Jesus, right here, in our very midst. I have looked upon it and seen Jesus. And in seeing Jesus, I truly have gazed upon God. I have been made aware in that holy moment that this truly is Jesus on this altar. This truly is the Sacred and Holy Presence of God, here in our midst.

I can’t tell you how many times I have gazed deeply into an icon of Jesus and truly felt his Presence there with me, staring back at me with a familiarity that simply blows me away.

And for those of us who are followers of Jesus, who are called to love others as we love our God, when we gaze deeply into the eyes of those we serve, there too we see this incredible Presence of God in our midst. 

This, I think, is what Paul is getting at in his letter. We truly do meet the invisible God in the Presence of Jesus—whether we experience that presence in the Eucharist, in the hearing of God’s Word, in ikons or in those we are called to serve.

For years, I used to complain—and it really was a complaint—about the fact that I was “searching for God.” I used to love to quote the writer Carson McCullers, who once said, “writing, for me, is a search for God.” But I have now come to the realization—and it was quite a huge realization—that I have actually found God. I am not searching and questing after God, aimlessly or blindly searching for God in the darkness anymore. I am not searching for God because I have truly found God. I found God in this person, Jesus. And, strangely, after all my lone wolf ministry on Friday, all my Martha-like behavior, I, with that ikon, was able to now be Mary to that Martha.

Certainly in our Gospel reading for today, Mary  also sees Jesus as the eikon of God.  Martha is the busybody—the lone wolf. And Mary is the ikon-gazer.

On Friday, I was Martha.  And then later on, I was Mary.  And I think many of us have been there as well. It’s seems most of us are sometimes are either Marthas and Marys,  But, the reality is simply that most of us are a little bit of both at times.  Yes, we are busybodies.  We are lone wolves. But we are also contemplatives, like Mary. There is a balance between the two.

I understand that there are times we need to be a busybodies and there are times in which we simply must slow down and quietly contemplate Jesus.  When we recognize that Jesus is truly the image of God, we find ourselves at times longingly gazing at Jesus or quietly sitting in his Presence.  But sometimes that recognition of who Jesus is stirs us.  It lights a fire within us and compels us to go out and do the work that needs to be done.

But unlike Martha, we need to do that work without worry or distraction. When we are in Jesus’ presence—when we recognize that in Jesus we have truly found what we are questing for, what we are searching for, what we are longing for—we find that worry and distraction have fallen away from us. We don’t want anything to come between us and this marvelous revelation of God we find before us.

In that way, Mary truly has chosen the better part. So, let us also choose the better part. Let us be Marys in this way. Let us balance our lives in such a way that, yes, we work, but we do so without distraction, without worry, with being the lone wolf, without letting work be our god, getting in the way of that time to serve Jesus and be with Jesus and those Jesus sends our way.  Let us also, however, take time to sit quietly in that Presence and to gaze longingly at the Jesus who is more than just another human.  Let us, rather, look into his face, let us look deeply into his eyes, and see there the fullness of God that was pleased to dwell there. And, in that holy moment, we will know: we have chosen the better part, which will never be taken away from us.

 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

8 Pentecost

Good Samaritan Sunday

July 14, 2013


Luke 10.25-37

+ So, let’s see if you know this. Consider this a quiz. What is this Sunday popularly known as? Any guesses? It is Good Samaritan Sunday. I love Good Samaritan Sunday.

And today—on this Sunday in which we hear in our Gospel reading the parable of the Good Samaritan—we find ourselves feeling a little good about what we hear. Everyone likes this story of the Good Samaritan. After all, what isn’t there to like in this story?

Well…in Jesus’ day, there were people who would not have liked this story.  The part of this story that most of us miss is the fact that when Jesus told this parable to his audience, he did so with a particular scheme in mind. The term “Good Samaritan” would have been an oxymoron for those Jews listening to Jesus that day.

Samaritans were, in fact,  quite hated. They were viewed as heretics, as defilers, as unclean. They were seen as betrayers of the Jewish faith. So, when Jesus tells this tale of a Good Samaritan, it no doubt rankled a few nerves in the midst of that company.

With this in mind, we do need to ask ourselves some very hard questions. Hard questions we did not think we would be asking on Good Samaritan Sunday.   You, of course, know where I am going with this. So, here goes: Who are the Samaritans in our understanding of this story?

For us, the story only really hits home when we replace that term “Samaritan” with the name of someone we don’t like at all. Maybe it is “Fundamentalist,” or “Republican” or “Conservative.” Maybe it is ‘progressive” or “Democrat” or “bleeding heart liberal.” Maybe it is “Muslim” or “Foreigner” or “Panhandler.”  Maybe it is “Redneck” or “Racist” or Misogynist” or “Homophone.” Or maybe it is George Zimmerman. It’s not hard to find the names.

But it is maybe hard for some of us to put that word “good” in front of some of those names.  It’s hard for a good many of us to find anything “good” in any of these people.  For us, to face the fact that the Good Fundamentalist, or the Good Republican or the Good Conservative or  the Good Democrat or the Good Redneck could stop and help us out might not sit so comfortably with us.

We—good socially-conscious Christians that we are—are also guilty sometimes of being complacent.  We too find ourselves sometimes feeling quite smug about our “advanced” or “educated” ways of thinking about society and God and the Church.  And we too demonize those we don’t agree with sometimes.

It is easy for me to imagine Jesus living in me personally, despite all the shortcomings and negative things I know about myself. I know that, sometimes, I am a despicable person and yet, I know that Jesus is alive in me. So, why is it so hard for me to see that Jesus lives even in those whom I dislike, despite those things that make them so dislikeable to me?

For me, this is the hard part. Not only recognizing that Jesus lives in others, but actually seeing Jesus alive in those people I have personally demonized is really one of the hardest things for me to do as a Christian.

The Gospel story today shows us that we must love and serve and see Jesus alive in even those whom we demonize—even if those same people demonize us as well. Being a follower of Jesus means loving even those we, under any other circumstance, simply can’t stand. And this story is all about being jarred out of our complacent way of seeing things.

It’s also easy for some of us to immediately identify ourselves with the Good Samaritan. We, of course, would help someone stranded on the road, even when it means making ourselves vulnerable to the robbers who might be lurking nearby.  But I can tell you that as I hear and read this parable, I—quite uncomfortably—find myself identifying with the priest and the Levite. I am the one, as much as I hate to admit it, who could very easily, out of fear or because of the social structure in which I live, crossing over to the other side of the road. And I hate the fact that my thoughts even go there.

But love changes this whole story. When we truly live out that commandment of Jesus to us that we must love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, we know full-well that those social and political and personal boundaries fall to the ground.

Love always defeats our dislike of someone. Love always defeats the political boundaries that divide us. Love always softens our hearts and our stubborn wills and allows us see the goodness and love that exists in others, even when doing so is uncomfortable and painful for us.

Now I say that hoping I don’t come across as na├»ve. I know that my love of the racist will not necessarily change the racist. I know that loving the homophobe will not necessarily change the homophone. But you know what? It does change me.  It does cause me to look—as much as I hate to do so—into the eyes of that person and see something more.  It does cause me to look at the person and realize that God does love this person despite their failings and their faults—just as God loves me despite my failings and my faults.

These are the boundaries Jesus came to break down in us.  And these are the boundaries Jesus commands us to break down within ourselves.

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” the lawyer asks Jesus in today’s Gospel. The answer is love.  We must love—fully and completely.

“You have given the right answer,” Jesus says. “Do this, and you will live.”

It not about our personal relationship with Jesus. It not about accepting Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. Yes, we should have a personal relationship with Jesus. But that’s not what saves us. He nowhere says that is what will save us.

What will save us? Love will save us. Love of God. Love of one another. Love will save us. Love will liberate us. Love will free us.  Jesus doesn’t get much clearer than that.

So, let us do what he so clearly tells us to do. Let us love God.  Let us love our neighbor.

Who is your neighbor?  Our neighbor is not just the one who is easy to love. In fact our neighbor is also the one who hardest to love.

Love them—God, your neighbor—and yes, even yourself. And you and I--we too will live. And we will live a life that will not ever be taken from us.




Sunday, July 7, 2013

7 Pentecost

July 7, 2013

Luke 10.1-11, 16-20


+ Yesterday I was fortunate to attend an ordination—the priestly ordinations of Jordan Hylden and Christian Senyoni at the Cathedral here in Fargo. I enjoy being a part of such events. They are always very meaningful to me.


In his sermon at the ordination, Bishop Michael shared a point. This point was directed at the new ordinands, but I have to admit—I took it to heart. I don’t really want to admit that I took it so closely to heart. But I did.

The Bishop said something along the lines of the fact that ministry—and not just ordained ministry, but all ministry—is not for “lone wolves.” You can’t do ministry and be a lone wolf. Doing ministry means doing it together. A very, very valid point.  Well, I have to admit. I did agree with him on that one.

But…as I said, it also hit kinda close to home for me. For any of you who know me and worked with me for any period of time, you know I’m a bit of a lone wolf about some things. You can call it lone wolf. I call it being independent.  Or maybe, sometimes, just impatient. Things have to get done after all. And, when they do, you know, I’ll just do it.

But, I understand what the Bishop was saying. Sometimes being a lone wolf is not a good thing. In the Church it is never a good thing to be a lone wolf. None of us can do ministry alone. We all need to admit that we need each other to do effective ministry.

And sometimes even the lone wolf admits that simple fact: I can’t do this alone. The lone wolf sometimes has to seek help from others.

Ultimately, the lone wolf can be a bad thing for the church for another reason though. Lone wolves can easily be led down that ugly, slippery slope of believing, at some point, that  it’s all about them.

Now, I want to make clear: I never have believed that anything is about just me. Yech. I despise that kind of thinking in myself. For all my lone wolf tendencies, I have a pretty good support system around me—people who will very quickly tell me when they think I might be heading down that slippery egocentric slope. But, I have known too many church leaders who have not had a support system like mine. I have known too many church leaders who have  made it clear to me that it was because of them—because their winning personality, or their knowledge of church growth, or their years of expertise—that a particular parish flourished.

It’s an unfortunate trap leaders in the Church fall into when they believe that a parish’s success depends on them as individuals and their own abilities of ministry—and, mind you, I am not just talking about priests here. Lay leaders in the Church have fallen into this trap as well. I have known some of those lay leaders as well, trust me.  

Maybe to some extent it’s true. Maybe some people do have the personality and the winning combination in themselves to do it.  I can tell you, I don’t. Nor do I want to. But for those who may have that kind of natural personality, I still have to admit: it all  makes me wary. It’s just too slippery of a slope for me.

We are dealing with similar personalities in today’s Gospel. The seventy that Jesus chose and sent out come back amazed by the gift of blessing God had granted to them and their personality. They exclaim, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”In and of its self, that’s certainly not a bad thing to say. It’s a simple expression of amazement.   

But Jesus—in that way that Jesus does—puts them very quickly in their place.  He tells them, “do not rejoice in these gifts, but rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.” Or to be more blunt, he is saying rejoice not in yourselves and the things you can do with God’s help, but rejoice rather in God. Or as the great Anglican theologian Reginald Fuller (who, I have been told by those how knew him, also had one of those amazing personalities) says, “It is Christ’s mission and message, not ours.”

The burden of bringing about the Kingdom of God shouldn’t be solely the individual responsibly of any one of us.  Just imagine that stress in having to bring that about.  Bringing the Kingdom of God into our midst is the responsibility of all of us together.  It is the responsibility of those who have the personality to bring people on board and it is the responsibility of those of us who do not have that winning personality.

For those of us who do not have that kind of personality, it is our responsibility to bring the Kingdom about in our own ways. We do so simply by living out our Christian commitment, the same commitment Stephanie this morning is going to profess and take on with her baptism.

As baptized followers of Jesus, we bring the Kingdom into our midst simply: we do it by loving God and loving each other as God loves us in whatever ways we can in our lives.
 Bringing the Kingdom of God about in our midst involves more than just preaching from a pulpit or attending church on Sunday. It means living it out in our actions as well. It means living out our faith in our every day life. It means loving God and each other as completely as we can.

But I does not loving ourselves to the exclusion of everything of else. It means using whatever gifts we have received from God to bring the Kingdom a bit closer.  These gifts—of our personality, of our vision of the world around us, of our convictions and beliefs on certain issues—are what we can use. It means not letting our personalities—no matter how magnetic and appealing they might be—to get in the way of following Jesus.

Our eyes need to be on the One we follow. We can’t be doing that when we’re busy preening in the mirror, praising ourselves for all God does to us and through us.   The Church does not exist for own our personal use.  If we think the Church is there so we can get some nice little pat on the back for all  the good we’re doing, then we’re in the wrong place. And we’re doing good for the wrong intention.

The Church exists for Jesus.  The Church is ideally the conduit through which the Kingdom of God comes into our midst. And it will come into our midst, with or without me as individual. But it will comes into our midst through as us. All of us. Together.  

The Church is our way of coming alongside Jesus in his ministry to the world. In a very real sense, the Church is our way to be the hands, the feet, the voice, the compassion, the love of Jesus to this world and to each other. But it’s all of us. Not just me. Not just you as individual. It’s all of us. Together.

Working together.

Loving together.

Serving together.

And giving God the ultimate credit again and again.

Hopefully, in doing that, we do receive some consolation ourselves.  Hopefully in doing that, we in turn receive the compassion and love of Christ in our own lives as well. But if we are here purely for our own well-being and not for the well-being of others, than it is does become only about us and not about God.  And in those moments, we are sounding very much like those 70 who come back to Jesus exclaiming, “look at what we have done!”

The message of today’s Gospel is that it must always be about God. It must always be about helping that Kingdom of God break through into this selfish world of huge egos. It means realizing that when we are not doing it for God, we have lost track of what we’re doing. We have lost sight of who we are following.

So, let us—together—be the hands, the feet, the voice, the compassion and the love of Jesus in the world around us. Like those 70, let us be amazed at what we can do in Jesus’ name. But more importantly let us rejoice!

Rejoice!

Rejoice this morning!

Rejoice in the fact that your name and my name—our names are written in heaven.