8th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This is my homily for the 8th week of Ordinary Time.  We seldom have an 8th week because Lent has usually started by the first of March, but this year we do.  So enjoy some readings that you may not have heard in a while.  

We live in a world of sound bites.  CBS claims to have “real news”. Those two four letter words mean a lot more than their ordinary meaning.  Fox News is “fair and balanced”. I don’t think anybody, even their biggest fans, believe that they don’t lean to the conservative side.  Coca Cola is the “real thing” .  Here in Saint Louis hockey fans bleed blue and we shop at Carroll House because we like nice things. KMOX is “the voice of Saint Louis,” Commercials tell us not to smell like Walter.

 

We have a President who communicates in 140 character tweets.  And most of us carry a telephone around in our pockets or purses even though we may never actually talk to anyone.  If I want to meet my wife for lunch I’ll send her a text message: Lunch? And she’ll reply: ok. Where & when? I’ll text her back Chick-Fil-A @ 1:00.  And she’ll answer back: ok. Seven words and two characters, assuming “ok” is a word. We have the most advanced communication system in history and nobody talks to anybody anymore.  We have to go to the history books to find the great presidential speeches. Imagine if Lincoln had had Twitter at Gettysburg.

 

Do you remember when you were in grade school?  Every year you’d get a new wooden ruler. It had the Golden Rule on it and was sponsored by Coke.  I went to a public school, so I don’t know if they do that anymore or not, but fifty years later I still remember those rulers.  On the front it said “A good rule…Do unto others as you wouldhave them do unto you.” Then on the back it said compliments of the Coca Cola Bottling Company.”  That was back when public schools and public corporations didn’t mind being associated with the Bible.ruler

For around ten bucks, plus shipping, you can buy one of those rulers on ebay.

But, this isn’t a new thing.  Oh, the technology may be new but sound bites date back to the time before Christ.  In the first reading today Sirach, who wrote from 200-175 BC, or about two centuries before Christ,  gives us four sound bites, three of them about speech.:

“When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks.”  We may not be familiar with a sieve, but it’s the way they used to separate the grain from the husks.  You’d put the grain in the sieve and shake it. The holes were a certain size and the grain would be separated from the husks.  Sirach is telling us that when we speak our faults fall out of our mouths just like the husks fall out of the sieve.

 

Then he tells us that:  “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had, so too does ones speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.”  This is a similar message to the first one and finally he says:”Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.”

 

It was either Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain who said “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”  Same thought, just expressed in a different way.

 

Saint Steven was the first deacon and also the first martyr.  He was stoned to death for preaching the Gospel. They told us in formation that Steven was doing just fine until he opened his mouth.

 

In the middle of the reading, Sirach goes off on a different track and says: “As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just.”  If you’ve ever gone to Silver Dollar City, chances you’ve watched the potters at work.  After they complete a piece it goes in the oven to be cured. If the clay isn’t right, the oven will crack it and destroy the piece.  So, tribulation will destroy us if our souls aren’t just.

 

If we turn to Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus speaking in the same type of sound bite.  “Can a blind person lead a blind person?  Will not both fall into a pit.”  Two thousand years later this saying is part of our language.  How often have you heard someone say “that’s like the blind leading the blind.”  Of course Jesus’ meaning is a little deeper here. He’s not talking about two blind guys falling into a hole.  He’s talking about us following false prophets. How can someone lead you to heaven if they don’t know how to get there themselves.  We see these people on television on Sunday morning, but they’ve been around a lot longer than TV.

 

“No disciple is superior to the teacher but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.”  That one’s pretty obvious.

 

But then He asks the disciples a question.  “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”  Think about your basement at home.  Or, if you don’t have a basement, think about the attic.  Think about the wooden beams that hold the whole thing together.  Then imagine one of them sticking out of your eye. Go ahead. I’ll wait.  Got it? OK, now imagine trying to get a splinter out of someone else’s eye with that big beam sticking out of your eye.  You couldn’t even get close enough to see the splinter.

 

YOU HYPOCRITE!  Get your own house in order before you try to help somebody else.  Don’t be like the blind leading the blind.

 

Finally Luke takes us back to Sirach and talks about the quality of the tree producing good fruit.  “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil, for out ot the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

 

Have a great Lent!

 

Southern Baptist leader vows changes

after report alleges widespread abuse.

Let’s be clear about two things right at the outset.  First, I, in no way, mean to diss anyone’s faith tradition.  I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church and have no issue with the 70 million Americans who belong to the church.

Second, any abuse of any child, at any time, any place, by anyone is wrong, wrong, wrong.  There’s no justification for it and there’s certainly no justification for anyone covering it up.

Having said that, I bring this article to your attention for a couple of reasons.  First, it appeared on page 11 A of my local newspaper.  That’s the second-last page of the news section, after the obituaries.  Now maybe I’m getting paranoid, but I can’t help thinking that if the headline had read “Roman Catholic leader vows change”,  this AP article would have appeared on the front page.  Historically any time there’s an article about abuse involving the Catholic Church it always appears on page 1 A.  And any time there’s an article about abuse that doesn’t involve the Church, it gets buried.

The point of the article is that a report by the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle found about 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and workers who were accused of sexual misconduct since 1998.  Note that year:  1998.  This is recent stuff, folks.  In fact, quoting the article, “In 2008, a victim implored SBC leaders to track sexual predators, act against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers and establish prevention policies such as those adopted by other faiths, including the Roman Catholic Church.  (emphasis mine)  That request was rejected.

The point of this rant is that child sexual abuse is not a Catholic problem.  It’s societal problem that must be addressed by our society.  Have Catholic priests abused children?  There’s no doubt that they have.  But children have also been abused by ministers of other faiths, by teachers, and coaches, and scout leaders.  God help us, they’ve even been molested by their own parents.

The Catholic Church may be the organization best equipped to address this problem, but not as long as we’re thought to be the enemy.  The changes put in place are working.

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time–Ezra

Here’s my homily for this weekend,  Enjoy

 

People love stories.  We enjoy stories that entertain us and stories that teach us things.  Stories are powerful. The Book of the Gospels is full of stories about Jesus and stories Jesus told which we call parables.  Jesus parables make up roughly 30% of the New Testament. In the thirteenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel the Apostles ask Jesus why He speaks to the people in parables.  Jesus answers that while they, the Apostles, know the secrets of God’s kingdom, the people aren’t ready yet so He must speak to them in parables.

 

For example, He could have told them to pray constantly, but they wouldn’t get it.  Instead He told them the story of the judge and the persistent widow. That they understood.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Here’s a more modern parable.  Some of us are cat people and some of us are dog people.   Some of us are neither. I happen to be a cat person. But suppose you don’t know anything about dogs or cats.  I could try to explain the difference or I could tell you a story.

 

A German shepherd, a doberman, and a cat die.  All three meet God and He wants to know what they believe in.  

 

The German shepherd says, “I believe in discipline, training, and loyalty to my master.”  God says “that’s good. You may sit at my right side.”

 

The doberman says, “”I believe in  the love, care, and protection of my master.  “Ah, God says, “you may sit at my left side.” Then God looks at the cat.  “And what do you believe?” The cat answers, “I believe you’re sitting in my seat.”

 

That’s the difference between dogs and cats.

 

Jan and I babysat our 18 month-old grandson last  night.  This morning he and Momo were reading this book. It’s by Dr, Seuss and it’s called “Mr, Brown Can Moo, Can You?” a typical, silly Dr, Seuss book.  You know one of the first things we teach little kids is animal sounds. You know, “the cow goes moo”. Well this book is full of all kinds of sounds and goofy pictures, and my grandson can repeat most of the sounds.

mr brown

 

But, l think if you just sat him down with a list of sounds, he probably wouldn’t get it nearly as fast as he’s gotten it from good old Dr, Seuss.  Again, stories are powerful.

 

In the first reading today from the Book of Nehemiah the Hebrew people have been in exile in Babylon for more than 100 years.  There’s nobody alive who remembers what it was like before they were captured. There are some people, like Ezra the priest who have kept the traditions alive, but to most of the people it’s just ancient history.  Living among the Babylonians for more than a century, most of the people have adopted the Babylonian lifestyle.

But, now they’re back.   They’ve returned to Jerusalem and Ezra has brought them all together, “all the men, the women, and all the children old enough to understand.”  They’re gathered in front of the Water Gate, which isn’t a hotel in Washington DC, but it’s the gap in the city wall where the water comes in. They’re outside in the sun and they’re going to need a lot of water.  Ezra is standing on a wooden platform that’s been built just for the occasion. He opens the scroll and begins to read from the Torah. Notice he read from dawn to midday, around six or seven hours. If you’re one of those people who think mass should never take more than 45 minutes, preferably less, think about that.  They stood out in the sun for six or seven hours. I told you they would need a lot of water,

 

They weren’t just standing around.  They had their hands raised high and were shouting “Amen!  Amen! Then they prostrated themselves on the ground. They were all weeping because they realized what they had been missing; how they had let the Lord down.  Have you ever cried at mass, other than maybe at a funeral? Has it ever occurred to you how undeserving you are of God’s love? Well, that’s how the people were feeling.

 

Then Nehemiah, who was governer, said to the people, “Don’t be sad.  Don’t weep! Today is holy to the Lord, your God. Rejoice in the Lord! Have a party!”  That was some powerful story that Ezra read to the people.

 

Now, normally this is where I would talk about the Gospel.  But since this week’s Gospel and next weeks are basically part 1 and 2 of the same story I’m just going to point out how Jesus reading from the scroll is just like Ezra’s doing it in the first reading and say again that there is tremendous power in stories.  This is the beginning of Luke’s Gospel and he addresses it to “most excellent Theophilus.” The word means “lover of God” so Luke probably isn’t writing to any particular person.

 

Jesus has returned after being tempted and today finds Himself in Nazareth, His home town.  He attends synagogue on the Sabbath and stands up and reads from the scroll just like Ezra had.  He finishes by telling His listeners “today this scripture reading is fulfilled in your hearing.”  But come back next weekend and you’ll hear that the outcome is very different. Stay tuned.

 

All Saints

Today is the Feast of All Saints.  It’s a day when we remember the hundreds of saints who don’t have their own feast day.  But our non-Catholic friends might ask us, “Why do Catholics pray to the saints. Only God can answer prayers.”

True enough.  Only God can answer our prayers.  The fact is that we don’t pray to the saints.  We ask the saints to pray for us. The “litany of the saints” that we say on special occasions concludes with the words “pray for us.”  No Catholic, at least no Catholic who understand his or her faith, ever prays to a saint.

 

So, what’s the deal?  First of all, we believe that the saints are in heaven.  They are in God’s presence. Second, we believe that saints have a special connection to us either through our location, through our occupation, through our station in life, or in some other way.  When Catholics are confirmed, we take the name of a saint. In my case, it’s Saint Patrick.  When I pray, I ask Patrick to pray for me.  Since I’ve adopted him as my personal patron, I believe that he will intercede for me.  I think of him as a friend who lives in heaven.

 

Periodically the Church will canonize a new saint.  It’s important to remember that the Church isn’t making that person a saint.  She’s just recognizing the person’s holiness. Bernadette didn’t become a saint because Pope Pius said so.  All he did was recognize Bernadette’s holy life and add her to the list.

 

I live in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.  Saint Louis IX is the patron of the Archdiocese.  I believe that he takes a special interest in those of us who live in his namesake city.  Saint Rose Phillipine Du Chesne and Saint Vincent De Paul are also patrons of our Archdiocese.

The Church has designated certain saints as patrons of vocations and occupations.  Saint Stephen, the first deacon, is the patron of deacons, along with Saint Lawrence, and Saint Francis of Assissi.  All three were deacons.  According to saints.sqpn.com, there are 23 saints who were deacons, and that doesn’t include the three that I’ve listed.

Maybe you, or someone you love has cancer.  Saints.sqpn.com lists six patrons saints for you to choose from.  On his feast day, February 3, we pray to Saint Blaise, patron of diseases of the throat.  Here’s a good example of praying through a saint.  When the congregation present themselves for the blessing, the deacon or priest lays crossed candles around the neck and prays,”Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may you be free from all diseases of the throat and every other illness.” The key word here is “intercession”.  We’re not praying to Saint Blaise. We’re asking him to pray for us.

 

Maybe you’re a nurse.  You have eight patrons.  Soldiers, you have sixteen.  Even lawyers have eleven patron saints.  The list goes on and on.  The bottom line is that none of these folks can answer your prayers, but they can put in a good word for you.

Many of our protestant brothers and sisters think it’s scandalous that we try to sneak up on God through this spiritual back door.  But the same people will ask you or me to pray for them.

 

When I had my brain surgery in March, the members of my son’s Baptist church in Alabama prayed for me.  It’s the same thing. Remember the parable of the persistent widow? She kept coming back over and over again until the judge relented.  Likewise, I can ask God to bless my ministry. Or, I can flood heaven with prayers from my patron saints, my friends, and my family. This takes nothing from God.  It just moves the process along. I can ask for something 100 times, or I can ask ten people (living and dead) to pray for me ten times. The result is the same.

 

Of course, only God answers prayers.  To think otherwise is not Christian. But if you have friends who have His ear, it doesn’t hurt if they put in a good word for you.

Saints of God, pray for us.

 

God Bless America!

I was talking to a friend the other day.  She told me she has started a blog.  I gave her some encouragement and offered to help any way I can.  Then I came home and looked at this blog and realized that I haven’t posted since Memorial Day!  Over a month ago!  If I were an aspiring blogger I would take Deacon Mike’s advice and toss it in the trash can.  I’m embarrassed.

I could make all kinds of excuses for my inactivity but I won’t.  I know better.  This coming November, this blog will be ten years old.  I actually started blogging for my former employer in April 2006, more than twelve years ago.  I think I know how to blog.  I even know how to blog on a regular basis because in my capacity as “professional blogger” I was expected to do it as part of my job.  So, what happened?

Life happened.  Other things seemed to always get in the way.  Believe it or not, these beautiful words of wisdom don’t just flow magically from my fingers.  A good post takes time.  Sometimes a lot of time.

Then there are those fingers themselves.  I’ve developed a neurological condition called Essential Tremor, that causes my hands to shake.  It’s hereditary.  My mom had it too.  Aside from being very aggravating, it makes it very hard to type (or eat).  If I’m going to continue, and I am, I’m going to look into voice recognition software to make this less of a chore.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Declaration_Engrav_Pg1of1_doctored_0.jpgBut, as I often do, I digress.  Today is America’s birthday.  242 years ago a brave group of colonists thumbed their noses at King George and declared our independence.  In doing so, they risked everything.  If this experiment had failed they would have lost their families, their homes, and their lives.

Those original Americans had settled along the East Coast.  The thirteen colonies all bordered the Atlantic Ocean.  There’s no way those Founding Fathers could have imagined the vast land we know today as the United States of America.  They had no way of knowing the natural resources that we would enjoy.

God blessed those founders in their efforts and has blessed our country throughout its history.  But today so many of us want to turn our backs on God.  We want Him out of our courthouses and our schools.  So many forget what He has done for us.

There’s a contentious fight over undocumented foreigners coming into our country illegally.  But whichever side of that argument you happen to be on, here’s one incontrovertible fact.  Thousands of people want to come into our country but nobody’s trying to sneak out.  If the President builds a wall, there won’t be any US citizens trying to climb over it.

So, enjoy your freedom.  Enjoy your ability to come and go as you please.  Enjoy the day off from work but don’t forget the reason for the celebration.

Check out this video:

http://a.msn.com/09/en-us/AAzwpfz?ocid=se

Happy (?) Memorial Day

American Flag

Over the weekend I heard someone wish another person “Happy Memorial Day”.  The other person called them out on their greeting saying it was inappropriate for a day set aside to remember our fallen military.  I agree.  There is nothing “happy” about losing one’s life for one’s country.  Brave–yes.  Honorable–most certainly.  But happy–I don’t think so.

Memorial Day (originally Decoration Day) was a state holiday to commemorate those lost in the Civil War.  During World War I, it was decided to honor those who lost their lives in all war.

In 1968, the federal government, in their infinite wisdom, declared Memorial Day to be a federal holiday and moved it to the last Monday in May, effective 1971.  This change meant that the day we were supposed to remember our war dead became a three-day weekend for government workers.

Memorial Day became “Open the pool day”, and “put the boat in the lake day”, and take the kids to Six Flags day”.  It became the first day of summer.  The day set aside as a memorial has become just another summer holiday, a day when we wish someone is “happy”.

I’ll be the first to admit that I managed to avoid the draft during the Viet Nam War.  I had a medical deferment.  I considered myself very lucky.  But, as the years have passed, I believe serving my country would have been good for me.  But, you can’t go back and they certainly don’t want me now.  So today, I go out of my way to thank anyone I see in uniform.  My small parish, Saint Bernadette, is located adjacent to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.  I make sure we include a petition for our military men and women at every mass.

jb

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

So, on this Memorial Day, please remember what it’s for.  Enjoy your picnic or your family get-together but take time to remember all the men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice so you can enjoy this day of freedom.

God bless the men and women who have died so that we might be free.

3rd Sunday of Easter

PEACE BE WITH YOU!

These are the first words Jesus speaks to the Apostles both in today’s Gospel and in last week’s. Remember, last week he appeared to them in the locked room. That was when Thomas wasn’t with the others. A week later he came back, and again He greeted them “Peace be with you.” Now today He comes back as they were talking to the two disciples who had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus` and what are his first words?  “Peace be with you.”

peace be with you

See, here’s the thing. Jesus was dead. They saw Him die. He was as dead as Monty Python’s parrot.  Now, here He is again “in the flesh”. That had to be a frightening thing to experience. He knew that so He started his conversation with them by offering them “Peace”.

 

In today’s Gospel Luke writes that they were “startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.” So Jesus said to them, “Hey. Do you have anything to eat?” “They gave Him a piece of baked fish and He ate it in front of them.” He did that to prove that He wasn’t a ghost.  If a ghost had eaten the fish it would have just fallen on the floor.

 

A little sidebar here, if you read the entire Gospel of Luke you’ll see that Jesus was always eating. The book is full of dinners that Jesus attended with various people. Luke loved to write about these events. So it’s no surprise that even after Jesus has died and been risen from the dead that Luke would introduce some food.   Luke’s Jesus would have loved Saint Louis fish fries during Lent. But, I digress.

 

Jesus tells the Apostles that everything written about Him in the law of Moses and in the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.

 

Now, if we look back at the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, also written by Luke, Peter says to the people, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus.” Remember, in Jesus times there were lots of gods running around. There were Roman gods, and Greek gods, and Egyptian gods. But Peter tells the people that Jesus didn’t come from any of those phony-baloney gods, He came from The God. Capital T, capital G. The God of our fathers.

 

But, he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say “You denied the holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” Then here’s the real zinger,  “The author of life you put to death.” Ouch!

 

But John, in his letter, our second reading, gives us hope. He tells us not to sin, but if we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. He is expiation for our sins.” How can we be sure of this? Keep Jesus’ commandments. And His commandments are very simple. Love Him and love our neighbors. That’s it. It’s amazing how many people can’t get that right.

 

PEACE BE WITH YOU.

 

Whatever happened to Easter finery?

As a yout’, I worked for a national department store in the “Boys’ Department’.  I’m not sure in this day of political correctness that’s the proper name for it, but what else do you call a department where you sell boys’ clothes?  Anyway, that’s what we called it in the late 60s when there were only two genders.

I thought about those days over the past weekend.  In my department store days, we were slammed the last weekend before Easter and Easter weekend itself.  Every mother wanted to get her male offspring a suit and tie to wear for Easter.  These weren’t wealthy people.  But tradition said that her ten husky had to be properly dressed for Easter Sunday.  Either a two-piece or even a three-piece suit with a new dress shirt and a clip-on tie were absolutely required.  It was a madhouse.

The Easter dressing expedition seemed to be a mother-son affair.  There weren’t a lot of dads around.  The Girls’ Department was on another floor but I assume bedlam reigned there too.  It was a ritual of spring and nobody was immune.  The only people more hassled than the workers in the Boys’ Department were the poor alteration ladies.  Of course, every suit had to be altered in one way or another.  There were no perfect ten huskies.

I got to reminiscing about those days last weekend.  Don’t get me wrong.  Lots of families come to mass on Easter dressed to the nines.  It is the day Jesus was raised from the dead and certainly calls for our best outfits.  But there are some people who just can’t be bothered.  I don’t think it has to do with money.  Some of the blue jeans I saw in church cost more than a pair of dress pants.  The hockey jersey costs just as much as a sports coat.  I think it’s just a sign of the respect we have for one another (and for God).  And as much as I hate to say it, I think it’s more prevalent among Catholics.

There is another side to this argument:  “Would Jesus turn someone away because they weren’t properly dressed?”  No, I don’t believe He would, but that’s not the point.  It’s about respect:  respect for our fellow Catholics, respect for God’s house, and respect for God Himself.

I wonder, if the Holy Father was coming to your parish and you were one of the lucky ones invited to meet him, wouldn’t you dress up?  I think you would.  Well, guess what, Jesus is the Pope’s boss and he’s in every Catholic church every Sunday in the Blessed Sacrament.  Are tank tops and tattered jeans really proper apparel?

While we’re on the subject of disrespectful behavior in church, I offer for your consideration, without comment, this article from the Catholic Herald.

If you don’t want to read the article, watching the following video should be enough.

 

Happy Easter! Let Not Your Hearts be Troubled

Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be. And whither I go you know, and the way you know.  Thomas saith to him: Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.  John 14

On Holy Thursday Father Z wrote an excellent post on the controversy concerning the Holy  Father’s comments on the existence of hell.  I would say that if there is no hell, we should probably stay home today or tomorrow.  There is a hell.  Jesus said so.  And Jesus can’t lie.  It’s as simple as that.  What’s the point of all this Easter “stuff” if there’s no hell.  Because, since Jesus told us about heaven and hell, then they both must exist.  If not, then Jesus is a liar and all the Catholics who only come to church on Easter and Christmas might as well just go straight to the buffet.  Us, too.

No, there is a hell and I, for one, don’t want to go there.  If an atheist, communist, newspaper reporter wants to twist the Pope’s words, then you and I must be smart enough to dig deeper and find out for ourselves what the Holy Father really said.  Father Z’s post is a good place to start.

I hope you and yours have the happiest and holiest Easter ever.

risen

Good Friday

[Originally posted March 29, 2013]

Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence in preparation for Jesus’ glorious resurrection. We’re all encouraged to attend services today, but it’s not a Holy Day of Obligation. You don’t have to come to church today. You can’t eat meat and you can’t eat between meals, but you don’t have to come to church. I think that’s a little bit odd. On the day that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice to save you and me from our sins, I think we should be here. Obviously, so do you.

On the other hand, the fact that this isn’t a day when we’re obliged to come to church, says something about those of us who do come, and those who don’t. One of my wife’s pet peeves is people who don’t send thank you notes. It seems like that simple, common courtesy has fallen by the way side. It’s just good manners to thank someone who’s done something for you. If it’s bad form not to thank someone who has given you a toaster, how much worse is it to not thank someone who’s died for your sins.

Our church will be full tomorrow night for the Easter Vigil. Doesn’t it make sense that it should be full today too? Even in this politically correct, what’s in it for me, don’t mix religion and politics, world, a lot of people get today off. Good luck trying to find a politician in Washington DC today. They’ve all gone home for the Easter break. You’d think that more people, not having to work or go to school today, might take an hour to drop by and say, “Hey, Jesus! Thank you for suffering terrible torture, being beaten and ridiculed, and for dying the painful death on the cross for me.”

I could have told you ahead of time who would be in church today. I can also tell you a lot of people who aren’t. But you and I are here. We love Jesus and we’re thankful that a loving God would send His only begotten Son to die so that we might live.

Today is a solemn celebration. We mourn Jesus’ death. We see Him lying in the tomb and we realize that if it wasn’t for our sins, He wouldn’t be there. We’re sad and we’re sorry for what we’ve done. We also have the advantage of history telling us what’s about to happen. Tomorrow the tomb will be empty because He’s risen from the dead. Where today’s service is solemn, tomorrow’s will be joyful. There will be candles and bells and incense and we’ll rejoice that He’s overcome death. We will celebrate His resurrection because it’s the precursor to our own resurrection!

In a few minutes, we’ll quietly leave church anxious to return tomorrow or Sunday for the great celebration.

Thank you, Jesus, for saving us from ourselves.