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Monday, September 29, 2014

The Rev. Ricardo Frohmader: ¨It is not who we have been, it is not whom we might presently be, it is what we can become and do from now on that matters¨ 16th Sunday in Pentecost

HOMILY SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN PENTECOST, 2014
            
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25: 1-8; Philippians 2; 1-13; Matthew 21: 23-32
“The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”
 “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me” (Exodus 20:5)
for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me” (Deuteronomy 5:9)
 “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
So is this how God is, angry and punitive, visiting his wrath on the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of those who have angered him? Are we wretched sinners in the hands of a vengeful Creator, set to suffer because of what our great grandfather or great grandmother did?
“Not so” says the prophet Ezekiel. “Not so” says the Lord God through his prophet: “Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die”.  Death is physical, we all die; but death is also spiritual, and that is what we can, with God’s help avoid: spiritual death. People often cut themselves off from God, sinning and never repenting. If our actions as individuals cut us off from God, if we alienate ourselves from him, is there any way out for us? For me the key themes of today’s readings are our individual responsibility for what we do and for whom we become, and the open door of repentance which leads us to God and his transforming love, to his Grace.
You and I are responsible for what we do. It is not our parents who will answer to God for what we do, neither will our children be answerable for what we parents did, do or shall do. When you were a kid did you ever try to get out of trouble by saying to your parents, or your teachers things like “I didn’t mean to do it”, “He or she made me do it”, or even “the devil made me do it”? Did that wash? Did that get you off the hook? And does that get you off the hook with God? Will God buy that? We know better. We are responsible for what we have done, for what we do, and for what we will do. Yes, we have a tendency to sin, but with God’s help we can overcome sin. “A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, nothing else” Mahatma Gandhi said. I think what is important in this quotation is the “what he can do”. In other words if what we have done, and what we have left undone as women and men have made us who we are, and if this sum of deeds and misdeeds, commissions and omissions is not satisfactory, not pretty at all, we still possess the ability to change who and what we are. We have the option, you and I, of “can do” open to us while we yet draw breath.
God reveals himself to you and me through Ezekiel as compassionate and merciful. When the word of God came to Ezekiel on the eve of Jerusalem’s destruction, Israel as a nation was in a state of sin, of rebellion against God. God pleads with Israel: “Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn then, and live”. It is not God who will wreak havoc on the house of Israel-it is their iniquity that will bring ruin on them. Israel has chosen to live unmindfully of God, and it will pay the price of its actions, because these have been foolish, unwise, and even treacherous. The counsel of God and God’s prophets has been ignored.
Our Gospel today also deals with questions of belief and prophesy, repentance and conversion. What God asked of Israel through Ezekiel is still largely unaccomplished.  Now, in Jesus’ time some have gotten new hearts and have a new spirit, but they are not the priests, or the temple authorities, or the theologians, the keepers and interpreters of the law. These last challenge Jesus. For them he does not have the right credentials-he has not asked them for permission to teach. They ask by whose authority he teaches-you and I know the answer, but they don’t, though they must realize that he is indeed a prophet.
Jesus answers their challenge with one of his own. If they answer this, he will tell them by whose authority he teaches “Did the baptism of John come from heaven or was it of human origin?” It is a lose- lose question for the religious hierarchy. If they say from heaven, the follow-up question is “Why then did you not believe him?” If they say of human origin they will fear the reaction of the crowd for most believe John to have been a prophet. They duck the question: “We do not know” they tell Jesus. That statement allows Jesus to refuse to tell them by whose authority he is teaching.
John the Baptist was in Jesus’ own estimation the greatest prophet: “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist”. It is baptism by John that triggers the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus. It is at his baptism by John that the voice from heaven is heard proclaiming Jesus to be the beloved son with whom the Father is pleased. Jesus’ own experience and the Gospel accounts show that John’s baptism was from heaven. Yet the chief priests and the elders did not believe John.
Now Jesus stands the assumed moral order on its head, as he so often does. It is not the powerful or the respected members of the religious hierarchy who are entering into the kingdom of God. It is the prostitutes and tax collectors. Why? Because they heard John’s message of repentance, believed it, and were converted. They believed and changed their lives. The temple authorities heard John, saw the effect of John’s message on the most notorious sinners of their society, yet remained locked in their unbelief-“even after you saw it, you did not change your mind and believe him” Jesus tells them. The repentance and conversion of whores and extortionists said nothing to the religious hierarchy of Jesus’ time. It should have.
It is not who we have been, it is not whom we might presently be, it is what we can become and do from now on that matters. When we repent from our sins, ask God’s forgiveness and amend our lives we too enter into the kingdom of heaven ahead of the professionally righteous. Once again the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. Such is the power of God’s grace at work in us.
AMEN
Ricardo+
PLANNING TRAVEL TO GUATEMALA?


Saint Alban Episcopal Mission, Antigua, Guatemala

You are invited to join us for English services every Sunday at Noon.

Casa Convento Concepcion, Antigua Guatemala, All are welcome.

See welcome letter at the sidebar.


St. Alban English Mission, Antigua, Guatemala is an outreach project of The St. James English parish, Episcopal Diocese of Guatemala, IARCA


The Most Reverend Armando Guerra Soria,  Rector of St. Alban Mission, Bishop of Guatemala and Primate of Central America

The Reverend Ricardo Frohmader 
Associate Minister of St. Alban Mission
Antigua, Guatemala

Sunday, September 28, 2014

SPEAKING TO THE SOUL- EPISCOPAL CAFE: ¨That moment when we're hungry, or angry, or lonely, or tired, and someone says or does something that catches us just a little off guard and POW!¨ Maria Evans

¨...we´ve all done it¨
Psalm 66, 67 (Morning)
Psalm 19, 46 (Evening)

Hosea 2:2-14
James 3:1-13
Matthew 13:44-52

´You know, in this modern era of medical science, there are a lot of parts we can fix or replace. When we begin to lose some spring in our step, a little titanium in the form of a knee or hip replacement can put us right. We can stent or bypass the clogged vessels of our heart. We can correct our failing eyesight with glasses, and we can even find new hearing with hearing aids or cochlear implants. But medical science has still never come up with anything to fix our wayward tongues.

Our reading in James today is one of those "we've all done it" things. That moment when we're hungry, or angry, or lonely, or tired, and someone says or does something that catches us just a little off guard and POW! Before we know it, out comes the cutting remark, the put-down, the mean-spirited aside. (Yeah, I see you cringing; I'm cringing too. Like I said, we've ALL done it.)

If that wasn't enough, the tongue also somehow seems to have the mysterious ability to recruit the fingers to spread its vitriol via our keyboards and text message pads to social media and text messages to create the cutting, snarky response. It's like there's a direct neural pathway between the tongue and the fingers that totally bypasses the brain and works straight off the spinal cord like a reflex. What's up with that?

The sad fact of the matter is we can apologize, we can take down the post, we can do all kinds of things when we see our regret--but if we hurt someone with our words, we can never take back the way they felt at the time. What's done is done. Boom. No going back. We can only go forward (or stay mired in that same awful spot that our outburst put us.)
Harsh or misguided words might be the most blatant reminder of our imperfect humanity--but it's also the place where we can always find room to do better, and see progress. We human beings are, at least, for the most part, a trainable lot. The fact that most of us have been relatively successfully potty trained, even if our parents used unsophisticated (or even bad) methods, is a good sign of that! We learn all kinds of things, somehow. Maybe not as fast as the next person, or not without a lot of fits and starts, but we learn...and we can always find room in our prayer life to train both our self-awareness and our God-awareness, in the hope that somehow finds its way to our tongues...¨ there is more, at Episcopal Cafe and thanks to Maria Evans: 

http://www.episcopalcafe.com/thesoul/daily_reading/wayward_tongues.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+episcopalcafe+%28Episcopal+Cafe%29

Thanks to Episcopal Cafe, sidebar
Thanks to Maria Evans, Kirkepiscatoid

PLANNING TRAVEL TO GUATEMALA?


Saint Alban Episcopal Mission, Antigua, Guatemala


You are invited to join us for English services every Sunday at Noon.

Casa Convento Concepcion, Antigua Guatemala, All are welcome.

See welcome letter at the sidebar.


St. Alban English Mission, Antigua, Guatemala is an outreach project of The St. James English parish, Episcopal Diocese of Guatemala, IARCA


The Most Reverend Armando Guerra Soria,  Rector of St. Alban Mission, Bishop of Guatemala and Primate of Central America


Friday, September 26, 2014

Fr. Ricardo off to visit Nara and Kyoto, Japan: 私たちはあなたの安全で楽しい旅をしたい (we wish you safe and happy travel)

Casa Convento Concepcion, home of St. Alban Mission, Antigua, Guatemala
The Reverend Ricardo Frohmader
さようなら
Sayōnara

Fr. Ricardo leaves Monday September 29th for Los Angeles and then Tokyo, Nara and Kyoto. He hopes to be back by October 29th. 

Until then...Dios esté con Ustedes y con Nosotros

NOTE ONGOING SUNDAY SERVICE SCHEDULE for St. Alban Mission, Antigua, Guatemala

Fr Ricardo will officiate at Holy Eucharist this coming Sunday, September 28th. Mother Neli Miranda will officiate on the 5h and 12th of October. Barbara Barillas will lead Morning Prayer on October 19th and 25th. Fr Ricardo looks forward to being with you again on November 2. 

Please be generous in your support of St. Alban Mission

PLANNING TRAVEL TO GUATEMALA?


Saint Alban Episcopal Mission, Antigua, Guatemala


You are invited to join us for English services every Sunday at Noon.

Casa Convento Concepcion, Antigua Guatemala, All are welcome.

See welcome letter at the sidebar.


St. Alban English Mission, Antigua, Guatemala is an outreach project of The St. James English parish, Episcopal Diocese of Guatemala, IARCA


The Most Reverend Armando Guerra Soria,  Rector of St. Alban Mission, Bishop of Guatemala and Primate of Central America

Sunday, September 21, 2014

HOMILY FOR THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST: ¨If the reward for working in the kingdom of God is salvation, can some be more saved than others?¨ The Rev. Ricardo Frohmader


HOMILY FOR THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Jonah 3:10-4:11;  Psalm 145: 1-8; Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 20:1-16
Who knows better, we, or God? Most of the time, we think we know better than God- we don´t admit it, but we are put out when things do not go our way. But do we know better than God? We usually do not inquire of God about whether our presuppositions or intended course of action is correct, do we? We just go ahead and do what is convenient to us, and expect God to assent. We have expectations as to how God’s Providence works, and about what God owes us, or about how he should treat us. We also think that God should be bound by our expectations and reasoning. This is presumptuous, but also deeply human. That human presumption is the core of two of today’s Bible readings.
God tells Jonah to go and preach repentance to the Assyrians in Nineveh.  Jonah rebels and flees to the coast. No way is he going to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to the Assyrians. The Assyrians are the mortal enemies of Israel. They have conquered the Northern Kingdom, and taken its people into exile, scattering them throughout their empire.
Do you know where Nineveh is? It’s in Northern Iraq, adjacent to Mosul, the second city of Iraq. A few months ago it fell into the hands of Jihadists from ISIL. Among their other atrocities, guess what they did? They blew-up the tomb of the prophet Jonah. Jonah is an honored prophet in Islam, and as such his tomb was revered. For the ISIL, however, the tomb invited idolatry and stood in the way of the “pure” Islam they want. Remember when the Taliban blew up the giant statues of Buddha in the north of Afghanistan. These too were destroyed because they invited idolatry. In Saudi Arabia all the old houses in Mecca have been torn down, lest their antiquity encourage a veneration which is also judged to be idolatrous. We are dumbstruck by this iconoclasm, but we have forgotten the smashing of images, altars and stained glass windows, the destruction of the tomb of Saint Thomas à Beckett at Canterbury and of the shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham which marked the emergence of the Anglican Church in England.  Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer had these shrine destructions carried out, because they distracted from true faith in Christ.
The Jonah of today’s reading boards a ship to evade God’s command, but a great storm comes up. Jonah tells the crew he is to blame for he has angered God, and asks to be thrown overboard, which he is. God spares Jonah from death when he is cast overboard. He is swallowed by a great fish, or a whale. When after three days he is vomited onto the shore, he is ready to listen to God, but he is not happy. He obeys God’s command and goes to Nineveh; the Ninevites listen to his message and turn from their evil ways. God also changes his mind about destroying Nineveh. “But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry”. Poor Jonah, God has put him in a position where he has to warn his mortal foes of God’s impending judgment. More galling yet, they heed his warning-Jonah wants to die, he is so angry. All of his comfortable assumptions about God and God’s relations with the Assyrians have been stood on their head.
Jonah goes out of the city and makes a booth for himself. Why is he dwelling in a booth? We need to refer to Leviticus 23: 39. There the command is given through Moses for Jews to dwell for a week in booths, in remembrance of the provisional dwellings they had during their trek out of Egypt. It is also the time of the early autumn harvest of fruits and vegetables. Jonah sits in his booth, and God makes a bush spring up in a day and shade Jonah. Does Jonah bless God for this? Or does he consider it his due? Jonah is very happy with the bush, but the next day a worm attacks the bush at dawn and it withers. When the sun comes up, God also sends a hot east wind. Jonah grows faint and wants to die.
God asks him; “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” Jonah answers him; “Yes, angry enough to die.” “Then the Lord said: ‘You are concerned about the bush for which you did not labor and which you did not grow: it came into being in a night and perished in a night. Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’”.
Jonah has expectations and makes assumptions concerning God- the people Jonah hates should be hated by God. That they are not makes him angry enough to die. When God’s providence causes a bush to grow and give shade to Jonah, he considers it his due- does he thanks God for the bush? When a worm destroys the bush Jonah again becomes angry enough to die, but as God points out to him, he neither planted the bush nor cared for it-it grew through God’s providence, and likewise perished. Jonah did not plant it, or fertilize it, or water it, or care for it-it was a gift from God, a manifestation of his sovereign power which he here uses to teach Jonah a lesson. It is this same sovereign power as Lord of all that causes God to be concerned for Nineveh, for its many inhabitants and all their possessions. They exist by his will. They repent from their evil, and God responds by not visiting catastrophe on them.
What Jonah thinks and what Jonah wants is not necessarily part of God’s plan. The Lord’s providence extends to non-believers, even to the enemies of his chosen people. He is not only the God of Israel, of the Hebrew people-he is the sovereign Lord of all peoples and cares for all of them. He is the Lord of our enemies as well as of our kin, friends and countrymen. Shouldn’t it give us pause when we find ourselves inclined to deal drastically with those we fear and hate, or to regard them as less than human?
The clash of human expectations with God’s ways is also deftly dramatized in Jesus’ parable concerning the kingdom of heaven where God is the landowner and we all are the workers in his vineyard. The landowner is a fair person-he agrees to pay his employees the standard daily wage. He doesn’t haggle or try to drive down their wages. They will be paid the standard wage for a day’s labor in Jesus’ time, which is one denarius, and the day laborers agree to it- it will be a 12 hour day for them. They know it.
The landowner comes by again at 9 a.m. to the square, and finds people available to work. “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right”. No one thinks to ask: “But what is right? Perhaps it is ¾ of a daily wage, seeing as a quarter day has gone by and we are using human logic. Now the landowner goes out again at noon and at three o’clock and hires new groups of laborers. Finally, at about five o’clock he finds another group and asks them: “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They reply; “Because no one has hired us”. He hires them too, although there is perhaps only an hour left in the workday.
Evening falls and the day is over-the landowner commands that the workers be paid in the reverse order of their arrival at work- the last first and the first last. This is done and when the first hired see that their wages are no more than those of the last hired, they are angry and they grumble. It seems unfair to them that they should have worked twelve hours under a hot sun and yet received only the standard daily wage. How does this strike you? If you had put in a grueling day’s work and found at the end of the day that recent arrivals, who worked only an hour when the heat of the day was over, had been paid the same as you, wouldn’t you think an injustice had been done?
Again we come back to the message that God gives Jonah which is basically this- “I am the Lord and I do what I want with what is mine- I care about Nineveh even if you, Jonah, don’t”. In the same way God the landowner tells the disgruntled workers: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go: I choose to give to this last what I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
If the reward for working in the kingdom of God is salvation, can some be more saved than others? Is there three denarius salvation, two denarius salvation and standard ordinary common-place one denarius salvation? Is there twelve hour’s work salvation, nine hour’s work salvation, six hour’s work salvation, three hour’s work salvation and one hour’s work salvation? Let’s not be silly: of course not! If you work in the Lord’s vineyard, you do so of your own free will.  Are you entitled to more than others because the labor you agreed to is more than that of others? No, again-you agreed to it, didn’t you?
Why you might ask is the landowner hiring so many people? God invites all of us who are willing and able to come and work for his kingdom. He is not running an exclusive franchise. Some of those workers who come to work will not be found or called by God until late in the day, but when he finds them he hires them. If the landowner is a believer in full employment, the Lord God is a believer in salvation for as many as are willing to work for it and for the kingdom of God. If someone came to God late does he deserve less than the person who has always walked with God?  Isn´t walking with God its own reward? And isn’t it true that those who would lead must be as slaves to those they seek to lead? And isn’t it true that God favors the weak, the humble, the oppressed over the strong, the proud and the mighty? So why should we be surprised when the last are first, and the first are last? A final consideration: some will be first and some will be last, but will any be left behind? Of all the workers in the vineyard, does anyone go unpaid? No one does, because that is how God is.
AMEN
Ricardo+
PLANNING TRAVEL TO GUATEMALA?


Saint Alban Episcopal Mission, Antigua, Guatemala

You are invited to join us for English services every Sunday at Noon.

Casa Convento Concepcion, Antigua Guatemala, All are welcome.

See welcome letter at the sidebar.


St. Alban English Mission, Antigua, Guatemala is an outreach project of The St. James English parish, Episcopal Diocese of Guatemala, IARCA


The Most Reverend Armando Guerra Soria,  Rector of St. Alban Mission, Bishop of Guatemala and Primate of Central America

The Reverend Ricardo Frohmader 
Associate Minister of St. Alban Mission
Antigua, Guatemala