Sunday, May 29, 2022

7 Easter

 


The Sunday after the Ascension

 

May 29, 2022

 

Revelation 22.12-13, 16-17, 20-21

 

 

+ This past Wednesday evening, we celebrated the Eve of the feast of the Ascension.

 

Now, for most of us, this just isn’t that big of a feast day for us.

In fact, I don’t know a whole lot of Christians who, quite honestly, even give the Ascension a second thought.

 

Some of us might look at the Ascension as a kind of anticlimactic event.  

 

The Resurrection has already occurred on Easter morning.  

 

That of course is the big event.  

 

The Ascension comes as it does after Jesus has appeared to his disciples and has proved to them that he wasn’t simply a ghost,  but was actually resurrected in his body.

 

In comparison to Easter, the Ascension is a quiet event.  

 

The resurrected Jesus simply leads his followers out to Bethany and, then, quietly, he is taken up by God into heaven.  

 

And that’s it.

 

There are no angels, no trumpet blasts.

 

There is no thunder or lightning.

 

He just goes.

 

And that’s that.

 

So, why is the Ascension so important to us?

 

 

Well, it’s important on two levels.

 

One, on a practical level, we recognize the fact that, at the Ascension, this is where our work begins.  

 

This is when our work as followers of Jesus begins.

 

We, at this point, become the Presence of Jesus now in the world.

 

This is where we are now compelled to go out now and actually do the work Jesus has left for us to do.

 

Those apostles who are left gazing up at  Jesus don’t just simple linger there, wringing their hands, wondering what has just happened.

 

Well, actually, yes, that’s exactly what they do.

 

For a while anyway.

 

But eventually, with a BIG prompting from the Holy Spirit, they get going.

 

They go out and start doing what they are meant to do.

 

But we’re going to talk about that NEXT Sunday on the feast of Pentecost.

 

For now, we’re here, with them, watching Jesus being taken up, out of their midst.

 

For now, we know Jesus is taken out of our midst and is seated at the right hand of God.

 

Again, this is the point in which we become the presence of Christ in this world.

 

Now, I love the Feast of the Ascension!

 

What I love about the feast is that it is more than just going out to do Jesus’ work.

 

Which brings us to our second point.

 

Again and again, as we see in the life of Jesus, it isn’t just about Jesus.

 

Our job is not simply to observe Jesus and bask quietly in his holiness.

 

A lot of Christians think that is all it is.

 

It’s about us too.

 

When we hear the stories of Jesus birth’ at Christmas, we can look at them as simply fantastic.

 

They are wonderful stories that happened then and there, to him.

 

Or…we could see them for what they are for us.

 

We could see it our birth story as well.

 

God worked in the life of Mary and Joseph and God’s own Son was born.

 

But it should remind us that God worked in our birth as well.

 

Well. Maybe not with angels and shepherds.

 

But God worked in our lives even from the beginning, as God did in the life of Jesus.

 

With Jesus, born as he was, with God’s special light and care upon him, we too were born.

 

Jesus’ birth became our birth.

 

At  Easter too, we could simply bask in the glorious mystery of Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb.

 

But the story doesn’t really mean anything to us until we see ourselves being resurrected with him.

 

His resurrection is our resurrection as well.

 

God, who raised Jesus, will raise us as well.

 

Well, the same thing happened last Thursday.

 

Jesus’s ascension is our ascension as well.

 

What God does for Jesus, God does for us too.

 

That’s incredibly important to understand!

 

We are not simply followers of Jesus.

 

We are sharers with Jesus in all that happens to him.

 

And that is incredibly wonderful!

 

The event of the Incarnation is a reminder that in much the same way God is incarnate in Jesus so God is incarnate in us as well.

 

So, regarding the Ascension, it is important for us to look at what happened and see it not only with Jesus’ eyes, but our eyes as well.

 

Yes, we are rooted to this earth, to creation.

 

We are children of this world.

 

But we are also children of the next world as well.

 

We are children of heaven too.

 

Jesus tells us in our reading from Revelation today:

 

“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work.”

 

Our reward, as children of Heaven, is with the One who says,

 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

 

What the ascension reminds us is that we are inheritors of heaven too.

 

We, like Jesus, will one day ascend like him, beyond this world.

 

We will be taken up and be with God, just as Jesus is with God.

 

In fact, our whole life here is a slow, steady ascension toward God.

 

We are moving, incrementally, upward toward God.

 

This is our journey.

 

And as we do, as we recognize that we are moving upward, slowly ascending, like Jesus, to that place in which we ultimately belong, we should be feeling what Jesus no doubt felt as he ascended.

 

Joy.

 

Happiness.

 

Exultation.

 

When we are happy—when we are joyful—we often use the word soar.

 

Our hearts soar with happiness.

 

When we are full of joy and happiness we imagine ourselves floating upward.

 

In a sense, when we are happy or in love or any of those other wonderful things, we, in a sense, ascend.

 

Conversely, when we are depressed we plunge.

 

We fall.

 

We go down.  

 

So this whole idea of ascension—of going “up”—is important.

 

Jesus, in his joy, went up toward God.

 

And we, in our joy, are, at this very moment, following that path.

 

We have followed Jesus through his entire journey so far.

 

We have followed him from his birth, through his ministry, to his cross.

 

We have followed him to his descent into hell and through his resurrection from the tomb.

 

And now, we are following him on his ascension.

 

And it is joyful and glorious.

 

Right now.

 

Right here.

 

In this world.

 

Doing the work God gives us to do.

 

And what is that?

 

Well, for me, right now, it is doing 11 burials in one month.

 

It’s being so bone-weary tired that I stand here before you bleary-eyes and aching.

 

It also means that, weary as we may be, we are in this world.

 

This sometimes very ugly, very violent world.

 

In this world in which innocent children and teachers get brutally executed in their classrooms by insane people with perfectly legal automatic weapons.

 

And the response from people to this tragedy to defend the guns!

 

Yes, when we see children beating others with a stick, we punish the child.

 

But we also TAKE THE STICK AWAY!

 

But not in this topsy-turvy world, where the guns become more important the  lives of children.

 

But this also becomes clear that our job here is not done.

 

It’s not enough that we pray about this.

 

It’s not enough that we send our sympathies to those who died.

 

It is far past time to DO SOMETHING.

 

It is time to stand up and SPEAK OUT.

 

It is time to work to change things.

 

Your votes matter.

 

Use them.

 

Use them to get your representatives to change things.

 

Don’t wring your hands like the disciples of Jesus after the Ascension, wondering what to do next.

 

You know what to do.

 

So let’s do it!

 

So, here we are.

 

In this place.

 

In this world.

 

Doing the best we can.

 

And just when we think God has provided just what we need for this journey, we find one more truly amazing gift to us.

 

Next week, an event will happen that will show us that Jesus remains with us in an even more extraordinary way.

 

On that day—Pentecost Sunday—God’s Spirit will descend upon us and remain with us always.

 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

 

For now, we must simply face the fact that it all does fall into place.  

 

All that following of Jesus is now really starting to pay off.

 

We know now—fully and completely—that God will never leave us alone.

 

In what seems like defeat, there is amazing resurrection, and ascension.

 

In what seemed like being stuck to an earth that often feels sick and desolate, we are now soar.

 

So, today, and this week, as we remember and rejoice in the Ascension, as we prepare for the Holy Spirit’s descent, let our hearts ascend with Jesus.

 

Let them soar upward in joy at the fact that God is still with us.

 

Let us be filled with joy that God’s Spirit dwells within us and can never be taken from us.  

 

As we heard in our reading from Revelation today:

 

“Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.”

 

Let us take this gift of the water of life.

 

Let us rise up, in joy.

 

Let it rise up in us and sing through us to those around us we are called to  serve.

 

Amen. 

 

Loving God, raise us, with Jesus, to that place at your side where we can be what you intended us to be and live as you intended us to live; and may always do what you call us to do both in this life and the next; we ask this in the name of Jesus who sits at your right hand in glory. Amen.

 

 

Saturday, May 28, 2022

The Requiem Mass for Leon Gelinske

 


The Requiem Mass for

Leon Gelinske

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Fargo, ND

Saturday  May 28, 2022

 

+ Sometimes when you’re a priest there are hard funeral sermons to preach, and sometimes there are easy funeral sermons to preach.

 Hard funeral sermons are for those people who died suddenly, for whom there was no preparation, for people who die young, for people whose stories are not even close to completion.

 The easy ones are for people like Leon Gelinske—people who knew what they wanted and let me know what they wanted.

 I am always grateful for those kind of funerals.

 Well, I’m just grateful in general for Leon, and for who he was in the life of all of you, in the life of St. Stephen’s and in my own life.

 Yes, I was his priest for the better part of 15 years.

 But more than that, he a very dear friend.

 Actually, he was like an uncle to me.

 The Gelinskes have been very important in my life, and I have always kind of felt like I was just another Gelinske kid.

 I could’ve just snuck in and no one probably would’ve noticed.

 But certainly Leon always treated me like I was one of the kids.

 He was always kind but firm with me.

 And I gotta say, every time I saw him, I was always truly glad to see him.

 Whether it was at a family gathering, or coming into church with shillelagh, or in any capacity, it was just always kind of special to see Leon.

 Well let’s face it: Leon was special.

 Even though he was kind of like a cross between Burt Reynolds and Johnny Cash, he actually had the quiet dignity of Clint Eastwood.

 This was a man who strong.

 And by that I mean he had REAL strength.

 And he didn’t have to prove it.

 He just WAS.

 There was just deep, abiding strength with him.  

 Not just in his body, but in his very character.

 He truly was well-represented by his spirit animal, the Rooster.

 The rooster is perfect for Leon.

 The rooster, after all, is a strong, solid animal.

 It has a natural confidence about it.

 You know not to mess with a rooster unless you want to face its wrath.

 Michelle has shared with me plenty of stories of her run-ins with roosters over the years.

 The Rooster symbolizes bravery, strength and vigilance,

 A rooster walks through life with its head high.

 It faces its challenges with determination.

 And they are excellent time keepers.

 They know when the day is about to dawn.

 They seek out that morning sun, which will cut through the darkness of the night.

 And they will announce that light loudly and clearly.

 Its job is to wake you up, to not let you sleep the day away.

 It seems to say, “Don’t waste the day. Don’t miss the sunlight.”  

 All of that describes Leon.

 Here at St. Stephen’s, a place that was very important Leon and to his family, his children decided to have a stained glass window dedicated to Leon’s memory.

 The window was designed by our own Gin Templeton, who designed these other windows, and will be installed later this summer.

 The window will say GO IN PEACE, and in one corner of the window there will


be a silhouette of a rooster.

 Every time we look at that window and see that rooster above that door that Leon passed through so many times before, we will think of him.

 He will still be there in a sense, telling us to get up, wake up, to go out there in peace and do what needs to be done.

 See, this is what I mean by an “easy” sermon.

 Someone like Leon writes his own funeral sermon.

 He did so when we talked about his inevitable dying when he was first diagnosed.

 If you asked him, “Are you afraid of dying?”

 He would shrug his shoulders in that way, he would make that’s sound he would make (Bryan I think does it really well), and he would say, “It’s just the way it is. You live. You get old. You get kind of feeble. Then you die. I know how it goes.”

 And he did.

 And he did it his way.

 He did it on his own terms.

 And it was just the way it was meant to be.

 And it’s somehow all right.

 I know these last couple of months were difficult for Leon.

 I think the more limited he became physically, the more frustrated he became.

 I think it was hard for him to deal with his mortal body giving up on him.

 For those of us who have felt that our bodies have turned against us, to some extent, we feel a certain sense of betrayal.

 But, today, we can take some consolation that, for Leon, all of that is behind him.

 We can move on from his passing as he would want us to.

 With our heads held high.

 Brave.

 Sure.

 Confident.

 These Gelinske children, and grandchildren do that well.

 They learned well form the Rooster.

 Of course, it’s all right to be sad.

 It’s all right to feel the loss that comes with his passing.

 The world is a different place without Leon Gelinske.

 It’s a bit more empty.

 His absence is felt profoundly.

 But his example remains.

 And for those of who have faith,  like Leon did, we know, like him.

 Our consolation is that the place in which Leon dwells now awaits us as well.

 Yes, now we may be have tears in our eyes.

 Yes, now we may be feel sadness.

 Yes, now, in our lives, we may feel pain.

 But our consolation today is in the fact that in that other place, that place of light, that place in which our spirits will dwell, there will never again be pain.

 There will never again be tears.

 There will never again be sadness.

 That is our consolation today.

 For now, we must move on.

 We must be strong.

 We must face the day that lies before us.

 The sun is risen.

 The day is beautiful.

 The rooster has crowed.

 And it’s time for us to get out there and do what we have to do.

 We must make the most of what we have been given in this life.

 This is what gets us through.

 This is where we find our strength.

 I will miss Leon.

 I will miss his quiet presence in my life.

 I will miss his smile and his no-nonsense approach to every thing.


 I will miss that quiet strength he carried with him everywhere.

 We will all miss him and feel his loss for a long time to come.

 But we will keep him close every time we try to live up to his standard of life.

 His strength has not left us today.

 That quiet dignity of his is not gone.

 It is lives on.

 It is certainly there in you, his children and grandchildren.

 It is in all of us who knew him and loved him and will miss him.

 That is what I call a pretty good legacy.

 Not everyone is able to leave that kind of imprint behind them in this world. 

 But Leon did.

 So, let us be thankful for Leon Gelinske.

 Let us be thankful for his presence in our lives.

 Let us be thankful that God allowed us to know him for however long we were granted. 

And let us go from here and live out the example of this amazing man in our own lives.

 Into paradise may the angels lead you, Leon.

 At your coming may the martyrs receive you.

 And may they bring you with joy and gladness into the holy city Jerusalem.

 Amen.

 

 

 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

6 Easter

 


Rogation Sunday

May 22, 2022

John 14:23-29

 

+ 8 years ago this coming week—on Sunday, May 26, 2014—we did something special at our Rogation Blessing.

 

On that Sunday eight years ago we processed out to our overgrown labyrinth and that bare patch of lawn under the tree there and dedicated and blessed the space for  our Memorial Garden.

 

And now, look!

 

Thanks to Sandy Holbrook and the gardening committee and all the people who have worked for that garden and all that beautiful landscaping that was done there, it has become a place of beauty.

 

And in these eight years, our memorial garden has become a place of rest for 14 people—and a place of consolation for countless others.

 

In fact just this past week we buried the ashes of two people in the garden.

 

And later today, at the close of our Rogation procession, we will bury yet another set of ashes, these some more unknown people.

 

On Saturday, after his Requiem Mass, we will be burying Leon Gelinske’s ashes there.

 

And in the next two months, we will be burying the ashes of  4 more people in our garden.

 

When I first proposed a memorial garden for St. Stephen’s, I remember people being resistant.

 

I got weird looks when I first mentioned it.

 

And there were some people who were outright vocal in their opposition for such a thing.

 

But your loyal priest persisted.

 

And he was diligent.

If, one day, when I shed this mortal coil, I believe those two words will definitely be used to describe the rector of St. Stephen’s.

 

Persistent and diligent.

 

(along with maybe a few other choice words)

 

Well, this persistent and diligent priest went out and did his research.

 

I visited memorial gardens in other places.

 

I learned how such things were done.

 

And I learned also about an apostolate of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina called the Society of St. Joseph of Arimathea.

 

They were a group who provided burials for unclaimed babies in their church cemetery.

 

I wanted to make sure that anyone who needed a dignified burial had one in our memorial garden, that no one would be turned away because of financial difficulties, or for any other reason.

 

I remember a dear friend of mine at another church who was faithful in in her duties to that congregation.

 

As she was preparing for her own passing, she decided she wanted to be interred in the church’s columbarium.

 

But the price tag to do so was a bit steep for her.

 

I went to the priest (a person I did not get along with) and said, “She has been very faithful to this congregation. She has volunteered and been there for everything she is needed for. Just give her the niche.”

 

And that priest said no to me, and to that elderly woman.

 

She finally was able to muster the money together (due to some help from some of her friends) and she rests there in peace.

 

But the story struck me.

 

I never wanted anyone to struggle in their own lives to find a place of dignity for their final resting place.

 

That is why I am so grateful for our memorial garden, and for all those who made this place what it is not only for us, but for everyone else who has benefitted from it.

 

Now I don’t think I’m overestimating it when I say it has also become a place of mercy.

 

We of course have laid people to rest there who had no other place to rest, who were rejected or forgotten.

 

Why? Why do we do that?

 

Because that is what we do as Christians.

 

In our Christian tradition, mercy plays heavily into what we do.

 

And as a result, there have been, since the early Church, a series of what have been called corporal acts of mercy.

 

I’ve talked about this many times before.

 

These corporal acts of mercy are:

 

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbor the harborless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.

We at St. Stephen’s, in the ministry we do as followers of Jesus, have done most of those well (actually I don’t know if we’ve ransomed a whole lot of captives)

 

Including that last one. 

 

Burying the dead is a corporal act of mercy.

 

And, it’s appropriate we are discussing things like mercy and love on this Sunday, Rogation Sunday, the Sunday before the Ascension of Jesus.

 

In our Gospel reading for today we find Jesus explaining that although he is about to depart from his followers—this coming Thursday we celebrate the feast of Jesus’ Ascension to heaven—he will not leave them alone.

 

They will be left with the Advocate—the Spirit of Truth.

 

The Holy Spirit.

 

He prefaces all of this with those words that quickly get swallowed up by the comments on the Spirit, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

 

And just to remind everyone, that command is, of course, “to love.”

 

To love God.

 

And to love our neighbors as ourselves.

 

This is what it means to be the Church.

 

To love.

 

To serve.

To be merciful.


To be Christ to those who need Christ.

 

To be a Christ of love and compassion and acceptance.

 

Without boundaries.

 

Without discrimination.

 

Because that is who Christ is to us.

 

Now, maybe you have been keeping up with debacle happening in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco.

 

The Archbishop there, Salvatore Cordileone, informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he was denying her Communion because of her support for a woman’s right to choose.

 

He based the ground of his refusal on the fact that is she unrepentant in her “sin.”

 

Well, if you know me, you know where I stand on this one.

 

As I have said from the pulpit again and again over this issue: to deny Jesus from anyone is not my right, is not your right, is not any Bishop’s right, is certainly not Archbishop Cordileone’s right.

 

But always be assured of this: whenever anyone is excluded by the Church, Jesus will always side with the excluded.

 

Jesus will always side with those turned away.

 

And the Archbishop has failed miserably in his calling to follow Christ.

 

He is not being Christ to those how need Christ.

 

He is being judge and jury on who “gets” Jesus” and who doesn’t.

 

And that never ends well.

 

When we forget to be Christ to others, when we fail to do this, we fail to do mercy.

 

And God sees.

 

Our job as Christians, as followers of Jesus, to show mercy to others.

 

We are doing so this morning.

 

We are living into our ministry of mercy to others.

 

Today is, as I’ve said, Rogation Sunday.

 

Rogation comes from the Latin word “Rogare” which means “to ask.”

 

In our Gospel reading today we hear Jesus saying to us,  

 

 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate…”

 

From a very simple perspective, the thing we are asking today, on this Rogation Sunday, is to be faithful followers of Jesus, thorough our works and acts of mercy.

 

Now for some of us, this whole idea of Rogation Sunday and the procession that we will soon be making outside at the conclusion of our Eucharist this morning might seem a bit too much.

 

 The fact is, it is something, very much like burying the dead on the church grounds.

 

Our memorial garden—this visible sign of the final corporal act of mercy—is a part of this Rogation celebration.

 

This is where we do our blessing.

 

We process there and bless the earth and the land there.

 

We ask God’s blessings on the growth not only of crops and fields.

 

We also thank God today for the growth of our congregation.

 

We are thanking God for the acts of mercy and grace done to each of us.

 

And we are asking God to continue to make us Christ to those who need Christ.

 

We are thanking God especially for all the graces in our lives.

 

Grace is especially something we celebrate on Rogation Sunday.

 

Let’s see if you can remember my definition of grace.

 

Grace, in my very simple opinion, is a gift we receive from God that we don’t ask for.

 

In fact it is often something we receive from God that we may not even known how to ask for.

 

And we all get to be reminded of the fact that God’s grace still works in our midst in wonderful and beautiful ways.

 

This is how God works sometimes in our lives.

 

And w e have provided grace to several of the people buried in our garden.

 

We gave them something they could not ask for.

 

But we, seeking to live out mercy in our lives and in ministries here, provided them something others did not.  

 

It is appropriate to remember all of this on this Rogation Sunday—this Sunday in which we ask God’s blessings on us, on the growth in our lives, and on the renewal in our lives, and in which we seek to be grateful for the graces in our own lives.  

 

As  we process out at the end of the Eucharist today, I ask you to look around  atthe memorial garden.

 

I ask you to look at the names on the stones there.

 

We know many of them now.

 

Others of them we will never know on this side of veil.

 

I ask you as you walk about to thank God for them.

 

I ask you today to thank God for the growth God has granted us at St. Stephen’s.

 

And I ask that you remember Jesus’ call to us, to love God and to keep that  commandment of love and mercy.

 

This is more than just sweet, religious talk.

 

It is a challenge and a true calling to live out this love in radical ways.

 

It is a challenge to be merciful.

 

As we process, as we walk together, let us pay attention to this world around us.

 

Let us ponder the causes and the effects of what it means to be inter-related—to be dependent upon on each to some extent, as we are on this earth.

 

We do need each other.

 

And we do need each other’s love.

 

We definitely need each other.

 

And mercy.

 

We do need that radical love that Jesus commands us to have.

 

With that love, we will truly love our neighbors as ourselves.

 

We will show mercy to them.

 

Let this procession today truly be a "living walking" as the great poet (and one of my heroes) George Herbert put it.

 

But let our whole lives as Christians be also a “living walk,” a mindful walk, a walk in which we see the world around with eyes of love and respect and justice and care.

 

And, most importantly, with eyes of mercy.

 

Amen.

 

3 Pentecost

  June 26, 2022   1 Kings 19.15-16,19-21; Galatians 5.1,13-25; .Luke 9:51-62   + I don’t want to toot my own horn, but for any of y...