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Father Mark, Sermons

Advent 2C; Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 3:1-6

My father shared the hobby of coin collecting with my brother and me as boys.  We were fascinated by the art, beauty and history in coins.   I found the contrast between raw silver ore and uncirculated–untouched silver coins to be fascinating.   The coins are shimmering as they reflect light.  The silvery light from shiny coin catches the eye.   

What does your eye gravitate towards, the raw ore or the finished coin?    

Refined silver is much more attractive that in its unrefined state.  Refined silver is benefits us in many ways:  as the best thermal and electric conductor there is. Silver’s antimicrobial qualities make it useful in medicine.

The light that silver reflects holds our attention.  I’ve never seen a group of women who are introduced to a new piece of silver, gold or diamond jewelry, to react apathetically to it.  They know of the value of the beauty reflected in the refined metal.

Perhaps this is why Malachi describes the messenger of God as one who acts as a refiner and purifier of silver, beckoning the question:  Where in our lives are we like refined silver—reflecting the beauty of its creator and where are we like raw ore that has yet to be refined? 

John the Baptist speaks of a refiner’s fire.  He has spent his life in the wilderness allowing God to refine his soul.  

I expect that each of us is like a silver mine.  John says the One who is coming will take to mining and refining that which is precious within us, separating out the slag.  There’s always more to be mined and refined and so the messenger keeps coming to us.  The mining and refining takes time and deliberate inner work.   

Raw ore is crushed, chemically washed and fired to extract the pure ore that it is to reflect the light of its true nature.   Mining is hard work—mining involves digging.

Prayer and spiritual study are like digging for and processing the ore that is within us into refined silver. 

The point to remember is that it is the refiner, not the metal itself that does the work. The ore is not the refiner.  The ore is worked on by the refiner.  We are not the refiner but the ore.  

The messenger points to the refiner and his skill of applying the laser of Divine Love so that we reflect more and more of the beauty of who we truly are.  Where it’s easy for us to muck things up is to possess a belief that something is wrong with the ore.  Ore is natural.  There’s nothing bad about it.  It’s just not finished yet.  

When we look at our unfinished selves, it is easy to react–feeling shame when we look at the unfinished state of our ore.  But this is not God’s intention. The danger in this is that the shame might inhibit us into withdrawing from the love of the refiner’s fire which would be counterproductive to our becoming refined.  

Shame is a distortion that is only productive when it motivates us to move back into the refiner’s hands. 

God has created us to shine.  We await again for the One who will free us to do so.

Father Mark, Sermons

Advent 1C; Luke 21 ff

One of these days…   How many times do you catch yourself saying to yourself, “One of these days….?”   Do you have a list in your mind called the “One of these days list?  Do you ever find yourself saying, One of these days I’m going to___________. How would you finish the sentence?  

What’s on your One of these days list?   It’s easy to put off something on our one of these days list.   We have so many demands on our time…but how many of the demands on our time are the things we have chosen—not that have been imposed upon us?   Do we really have to do all the things that we think we have to do?  By what authority? Sometimes I wonder if we surrender to the “Have to do list in our heads without even examining if we really have to do themout of habit or outside influence , if we are giving away our God given free will. 

Jesus is coming…where is it or in what way do you think that Jesus wants to show up to us this coming year?   The best way we prepare for the Advent of Jesus’ coming by being in the present moment.   

Research reveals that our minds at least 47% of the time (I think it’s more) are involved either in past memories or thoughts about the future.   How easy it is for the mind to wander….   Our minds whether we like it or not, put thoughts in our heads.  Our minds are good at noticing what we want and ignoring what we don’t.  

I used to read a series of books to my children and now my children read to my grandchildren.  They are a series of books called Find Waldo Now.  

Just in case you don’t know about the series, there are detailed pictures where there are people in various detailed settings and you have to look diligently to find the picture of Waldo in his red and white striped clothes. I think that Advent is something like this:  Find Jesus Now.  

Where is Jesus hidden in the picture of our lives waiting for us to find him?   

Where is Jesus showing up?   

One question I have found helpful is the concern Jesus shares with his disciples:  Be on guard, so that your hearts are not weighed down….   

Where is it that our hearts are weighed down?   Where are hearts are weighed down we are not free and our wills become imprisoned in a world that is neither created by ourselves or by God. 

Sometimes we find the weight laid upon us through external events.  Other times we inadvertently choose them.  Either way, our hearts become burdened and the eye of the heart unclear.  

Our lives can be going pretty well—but I am not sure that with a little reflection each of us might find somewhere in our hearts where we are weighed down—weighed down just enough, so that we’re not really running on all of our spiritual cylinders.

Jesus is coming to take the weight off our hearts. Our first step to removing them is by the practice ofbeing present to him with what it is that weighs down our hearts.  Sometimes it’s the little things that we disregard that can weigh us down so it’s easy to minimize their importance—hoping they will go away.  But if unattended, like mold and mildew, they proliferate. 

St. Paul mentioned this in that as spiritually strong as he was, he spoke of that thorn in the flesh that often seemed to hinder him.   So what are some of the things in our lives that weigh down our hearts?  They can be past events or present challenges or even preoccupation with the future.  

Where is Jesus now in your life picture waiting for you, like Waldo, to find him?

Do we wish that Jesus would go to another part of the picture because where he is waiting would be a place that we don’t especially want to visit?  Thorns are uncomfortable. Metaphorically, as I travel the countryside, I see acres of pasture that was once wilderness which has been cleared of thorns. 

A new year brings opportunities.   We have 365 days of present moments where we have the opportunity allow Jesus to hold our hearts in his and to release us from that which has prevented us from fully receiving the life of God given to us.  

It’s Advent.  We wait for Jesus.  But Jesus is also waiting for us. 

Stop what you are doing.  Take time to seek the Eternal One who waits for us.