Sunday, May 31, 2015

We Are Sanctified

During the life of our nation more than half a million Americans have died in the conduct of war throughout the world. We remember all those who have died in the defense of freedom wherever those conflicts arise. We give thanks for brave soldiers, sanctified by their willingness to die for us—not themselves.

Christ calls us to be sanctified—made perfect, good, hallowed, blessed, pure, and holy. If we live according to the power of the Spirit we are led to a life as children of God, turning away from the deeds of the body—human weakness.  While not themselves sinful, by following these actions we allow sin to control and have domination over us and turn us away from God’s desire for our lives.

If we live according to the flesh we die. For to live for those things that are temporary, transitory, or “of this world”, we ignore God and indulge in those things which please ourselves without thinking of others.  And if we please ourselves and not others—we displease God. Brave Christians are sanctified by Christ by living a pure life without selfishness but with regard for others before themselves.

As we struggle in these present times to do for others rather than doing for ourselves, we experience the tension felt between today's suffering and tomorrow’s hope of Eternal life in the world to come with God.


Father Mark+

Sunday, May 24, 2015


I know if it has happened to me, it has happened to a lot of you.  On this Sunday morning you arrive at church at a different time.  There are more cars than you expect, and fewer parking places.  As you walk to the church, you notice many more people wearing suits and jackets than you expect.  And there are more strangers than you expect—and there are young people with flowers or corsages on their dresses.  Maybe there are little babies.  Then it hits you. Today there are going to be baptisms!  Worse, this is confirmation Sunday and you expect the Bishop will be here.

It is enough to ruin your whole day.  You expect that your pew will be taken by one of the many strangers at church.  You expect not to be able to see very well and you expect that the sound system will probably be on the blink and you will not be able to hear either.  And you expect the sermon to be long and boring, or short and uninspiring—does it matter?  You expect the babies will cry as they are baptized—and you know none of the confirmands.

But today your expectations will not stop there.  These young people have completed their study and training and are going to stand before the Bishop, the congregation, and God, and proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ.  What is so special about these young people is this ... we know them!  They are ours. They are dear and special to us all. And they have chosen to be Baptized or confirmed—standing against the tide of popular culture and living their faith for all of us to see.  Thanks be to God!


Father Mark+

Sunday, May 17, 2015

In the midst of life we see death; from whom can we seek help?

I don’t remember the circumstances exactly, but my cousin Jim and I were being allowed to walk to the theater, at night, to see the new Bond movie, Thunderball.  It was not far from my house to the town square where the movie house was located, but I imagine our relative’s tongues were wagging over the prospects of these two boys being let loose on the town at night by my “free range” mother.  I always appreciate thinking of the amount of rope I was given by my mom and I don’t remember taking advantage of her leniency—very often.

“Of course we could walk to the movies on a weekday night, without getting into trouble,” I had argued.  After all, we had done it often enough on Saturday mornings—in the broad daylight.  If we had gotten into trouble though, there would be no one to lean on for help.  Only our wits and our legs to get us home.

Jesus said, “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name.” Once before Jesus told the disciples that He was going ahead of them to prepare a place for them.  That was when Thomas protested that they would never find Jesus where He was going.
Thomas said, “How can we know the way? We don’t know where you are going.” But Jesus told them, “I am the way, the truth, and the light.”

I imagine the disciples were afraid of what they heard once again—Jesus was leaving.  He would no longer be their protecting force.  They knew that protection was necessary.  They had seen what happened to Jesus at the hands of the Romans. They were right to be fearful. The world could be a place to be feared and now they faced a dark and scary world without Jesus—only under the protection of God.  How would this all turn out?

Father Mark+

Sunday, May 10, 2015

“We have been chosen”

As a young boy my favorite sport was baseball and my town’s baseball leagues were set up just like the professional.  We had Little League, for the boys to learn the game and practice their skills.  And we had Babe Ruth League—where the better, older players, went on to play at a higher level. The transition from one to the other took place through the draft—the selection process by which coaches picked the players for the upper division teams and Little League player graduated to the “Big Leagues.”

Draft day was important.  If you were drafted by a big league coach, it was confirmation that you had skills.  The Babe Ruth games were watched and followed by everyone in town.  The newspaper covered the games.  Box scores were published each evening. It was a big deal in a small town.  It preceded fame and glory. Next stop, High School baseball and just maybe a professional scout would see you and . . Well, you can see where this is going in the mind of an adolescent boy in small town Indiana.

But being chosen for a major league team in the Babe Ruth league meant that desire and rough skill were no longer enough to perform well for your team. As a pitcher, I knew that I needed to work hard in order to pitch against the bigger, older boys and be successful. Being drafted—my goal as a Little Leaguer—was just the start. You could not take anything for granted. In my first Major League game I threw my best stuff at an average opponent—and they hit my pitches all over the park.  My curve ball didn't curve enough, my fast ball was only average fast, and my slider hung and found the center of every bat that swung at it.  I was obviously poorly suited for this league.

My coach knew I was despondent and after my first game he told me, “You had a rough outing, but you have the talent to play on this team—you have the skill—just get serious and work to improve. Remember, in the draft, I chose you, now you need to get with the plan and choose me.”

On a much bigger and more important level, God chose you.  Now we need to step up our game and choose Him.


Father Mark+

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Trial by combat

In a one-hour episode, Game of Thrones can touch on many interesting legal issues. For instance, when the government's dragons snatch and charbroil your flock of goats, you can recover damages under the common law theory of "trover”, an action to recover the value of goods wrongfully converted to another's own use.

Queen Mhysa isn't being nice, she just has a competent understanding of tort law. And she holds the whip.

Of far more importance to medieval justice is the idea of "trial by combat." Apparently, any accused person can claim this "right," and have a champion fight on their behalf to determine their guilt or innocence.

Think Coca—Cola and Pepsi duking it out with proxy champions in the Octagon rather than with lawyers in $1,500 suits in the courtroom.

Jesus is always more able and ready to represent us in trial by combat because we would never be able to overcome the challenges of the enemy on our own. Our Good Shepherd stands tall against all comers in the battle between good and evil. Our Champion has been anointed for battle through his death, resurrection, and ascension, thereby assuring us of a heaven here and now, and eternal life in the days to come.    


Father Mark+