Saturday, May 22, 2010

They were all in one place together.

My birthday is May 15th and my sister Julie’s is the 16th. So, we often celebrate ours together. Last Friday we got together at the Denk household to celebrate our birthdays. My mother cooked a special dinner, with each of our favorites, and at one point amidst all the talking and laughing there was a moment of silence, and we noticed that everyone was there. No one was missing. And for a brief moment we all sat there just enjoying the fact that we were all together around the table: my parents, all of my brothers and sisters, and my three nieces. I can’t think of the last time it was like that. I wanted to take a picture, but couldn’t figure out how to do it without one of us leaving the table. But in my mind I will always remember that dinner. It was one of those rare moments in life where all is well, everyone is ok, and everyone is there. And then, as usually happens, someone got up to leave early and that beautiful moment was interrupted. It’s just not the same when we are not all there together in one place.

In the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, the time of Pentecost is fulfilled when they are all together in one place. Amazing things start to happen…

Suddenly there came from the sky

a noise like a strong driving wind,

and it filled the entire house in which they were.

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,

which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

and began to speak in different tongues,

as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Right now at this moment as we are gathered together around the altar the Holy Spirit is falling upon us. This is the day of Pentecost. Similar to celebrating birthdays with our families today we celebrate the birthday of the Church. Pentecost is sometimes described as the "Birthday of the Church". We are all here gathered together in one place.

What I have noticed though is that inevitably someone is going to sneak out early. I’ve noticed that every Sunday immediately after we celebrate the Eucharist the church has emptied out. People leave and we miss that sacred time when we have received the Body and Blood of Christ, and what is supposed to be the greatest time of unity and togetherness becomes a time for people to leave, the air is let out, the power that God is stirring up in our midst is dispersed. We are not all together in one place.

I’m not sure why people leave early. Maybe it’s too intense for them, maybe there’s a fear of something amazing happening and we don’t know how to deal with it. Maybe people believe nothing is happening, it’s pointless to be here. Maybe your mind is somewhere else the whole time and you’re just waiting to leave. Maybe for some reason you are not able to receive communion and you feel awkward so you duck out. Maybe you don’t want to have to talk to people after mass so you sneak away. Maybe there is an emergency. Maybe you just do it because you always have and it is a habit.

You’re leaving early impacts the entire community. What should be the most celebratory moment, the time for lighting the candles and singing happy birthday, you are gone. And it’s just not the same without you. We want you here. We need to be together. The whole reason we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist is so that we can all be together in one place. It was when the disciples came together in one place that the Holy Spirit descended upon them and it is when we are all together that the Holy Spirit descends upon us.

Don’t cut this time short. Enjoy every moment of it. Sing, praise, reflect, and take it in. And if you are tempted to leave early, ask yourself: Why? Why do you want to leave early? What is taking you away from this moment? What is pulling you from this sacred time?

The Holy Spirit comes when we are all together in one place.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Homily: "Behold, I Make All Things New."

“Have you ever lost someone you love and wanted one more conversation, one more chance to make up for the time when you thought they would be here forever? If so, then you know you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back. What if you got it back?”

Mitch Album tells the story of what happened to a man that got to spend that time with his mother in the book “For one more day.”

He ends the book with an experience of conversion….

I believe in the deepest part of my soul: My mother, somewhere between this world and the next, gave me one more day, the day I’d wanted so badly.

“What causes an echo?” She once quizzed me.

The persistence of sound after the source has stopped.

“When can you hear an echo?”
When it’s quiet and other sounds are absorbed.

When it’s quiet, I can hear my mother’s echo still.

You need to keep people close. You need to give them access to your heart.

As for what’s happened in the two years since, there are so many details: the hospital stay, the treatment I received, where I’ve been. Let’s just say, for now, that I was lucky on many levels. I’m alive. I didn’t kill anyone. I have been sober every day since – although some days are harder than others.

I’ve thought a lot about that night. I believe my mother saved my life. I also believe that parents, if they love you, will hold you up safely, above their swirling waters, and sometimes that means you’ll never know what they endured, and you may treat them unkindly, in a way you otherwise wouldn’t.

But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins. So this is my mother’s story. And mine. I would like to make things right again with those I love.

I would like to make things right again with those I love. I think this is one of our deepest desires – to make things right again with those we love.

In and through Jesus we are given this opportunity. We hear in Revelations:

Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth.

The former heaven and the former earth had passed away…

I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.

He will dwell with them and they will be his people

and God himself will always be with them as their God.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,

and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain,

for the old order has passed away.”

The One who sat on the throne said,

“Behold, I make all things new.”

Behold, I make all things new. There is no situation in your life that Christ can’t redeem. There are no relationships in your life that Christ can’t heal or restore, even after death. “Behold, I make ALL things new.”

The second graders who are going to receive their first communion today experienced this when they made their first confessions. Everything was forgiven and they could start over again. And in their moment of confession Jesus was making things new. Today they receive communion for the very first time and it will be a very NEW experience for them as it was once for you. God can do this for you too.

Is there any area in your life that needs to be made New? Are there any regrets that you have? Is there anyone that you need to be reconciled to? Is there anything that you need to be forgiven for? Is there someone that you are mourning and wish for just one more day?

Let Jesus touch this, take it to prayer, keep these people close and through him give them access to your heart.

Jesus Christ can and promises to make all things new. You do have one more day and with Christ can make all things right with those you love. You can trust this. It’s a promise… it’s more than that it’s a command. “Behold, I make all things new.”