Father Mark, Reflections

Wait Until You Are Clothed With Power From On High

And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49
The disciples were not yet ready to go out into the world. Jesus told them to wait until they were clothed with power from on high. What is your favorite clothing outfit? Perhaps you choose your favorite clothing because of color, fabric, style of cut, how well it allows your skin to breathe when the heat becomes oppressive? Clothing covers us. Swaddling clothes were used to keep infants feeling secure, as if they were being held. What is it like to feel like that we are being held by God? There are no words to describe the bliss. Clothing is the first thing other people usually notice about us. Hopefully there’s more engagement for our true selves to be mutually revealed. What kind of clothing is Jesus talking about? It’s obvious that he is talking about Holy Spirit—the Presence of God, not just with us but within us so that In Him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17).

I have to be honest and I wonder if you can identify with me? Some days I’m not clothed very well before I go out into our community and into the world. Some days I am less grounded than I would like to be. Other days, perhaps a little restless. Other days perhaps a little irritated. Then I often make the mistake where I choose not to wait until I allow the Spirit to create a new set of clothing for me. Other times I have to ask for this when I’m on the run because responsibilities dictate that I must respond. But Jesus is very clear: we are to wait until we receive Power from on high that is now given to us from within. Else we will respond (more so react) instead of the Christ within us responding. Which will give the greatest quality of response?

This waiting to be clothed from on high applies to any and every day situations we might encounter. At this moment, I would like to clothe ourselves appropriately to address another tragedy—this one being closer to home: the church shooting in Sutherland Springs. How can we respond with spiritual insight that will transcend our egoic fear?

Waiting to be clothed with the power from on High means that we take enough moments to be aware of how we are reacting or responding within. Reactivity comes from our ego. Not that this is necessarily bad but unless guided by Holy Spirit, we can fall into fear and anxiety, which is not the better condition in which to respond. Wisdom and peace are far better guides when we are clothed from on High.

Data from 2010 reports that there are approximately 25 million plus churches in Texas. The probability that a church shooting would happen in Luling is beyond minuscule in nature. Yet wisdom dictates that we be responsible in order to be aware of our surroundings for prevention purposes and seek a comprehensive safety plan. Now the trick comes in: how can we be aware without being afraid? The last thing I want to have happen is for us to gather to receive Word, Sacrament and fellowship and for us to forget to wait until we are clothed with power from on high so that nothing will ever separate us from our experience of the love of Christ (Thanks, St. Paul). We want fear to be released so we can focus on where Life is to be found.

But there’s even a greater calling in all of this. I believe that God is calling us to a mission here. Perpetrators of events such as these are alienated and mentally ill—metaphorically, not being clothed by the Spirit at all. Most of all they are spiritually sick. I read research recently that reveals that every measure of human well-being across all ethnic and racial lines is highly dependent on the stability of the family system, specifically if the marital executive system is healthy. Poverty, educational development, psychosocial development are dependent on the stability of the family system in which children are raised. This doesn’t mean that marriages or the people in them are perfect. Far from it. Yet it only takes a little yeast to leaven the whole loaf. Spiritual integrity is the core of a healthy family system. I’m not saying that everyone has to be married to be healthy and happy. But the research reveals that a spiritually and mentally sound family system works like an incubator to help children develop healthy lives.

Another part of mission, I believe, is how we respond to events such as these on a day to day basis. When we’re at coffee or lunch with a friend, talking on the phone, how to we dialogue about tragedies such as this? At what level of awareness do we converse and respond? Jesus was pretty clear about this. We’re back to waiting to be clothed with power from on High again. We can focus on many things such as how horrible it is, the details of the events, politics (God forbid!) and so on. Perhaps a better discussion would be to wrestle with the question: “How do I respond to evil? An example of a real core of our mission is to perhaps pray for the perpetrators. Not so easy when we’re angry. But by prayer for our perpetrators, our anger will soon disappear and so will our fear underlying it because we will have been clothed from on High. We can pray for perpetrators or our perceived enemies without allowing ourselves to be victimized by them. Self-care and self-defense is part of the Christian tradition. Perhaps we know a family who could use a little extra kindness. Christian mission isn’t about fixing people or their situations because we can’t. That’s above our pay grade. It’s about helping others to heal by being Christ to them.

It all comes down to allowing ourselves to be clothed from on High. The Holy Scriptures are the greatest fashion book in the world.

Peace,
Fr. Mark

Sermons

Proper 24A; Matthew 22:15 ff; 10/22/17

If you were on a government finance committee, how would you change the tax code if at all?

Did you experience any feelings at all when I said, “tax code?”  What might the feelings be about?

You might have something in common with the Judeans.  What would be your intention behind changing the tax code and what values would underlie your proposed changes?

In Jesus’ time, taxes were an issue.  Everyone paid property taxes. Taxes were also paid on livestock as property.  But Judea also paid an additional head or poll tax.  In order for Judea to remain an independent protectorate under Roman occupation, people had to pay a tribute tax to the Roman government as a tribute to Caesar. This tribute tax was levied on the people by their own rulers.

Offering a tribute tax agitated the people as paying tribute to Caesar.  Caesar proclaimed himself as divine, a god, and paying a tribute to Caesar was considered idolatry. There was no first amendment in Judea.

This is the classic “double bind.”  Pay the tribute tax and you’re an idolater and unpatriotic.  Rebel against the tax and your community will be sacked.  In order to discredit Jesus, the Pharisees stick Jesus with this double bind on the tribute tax. Ha! We’ve got him,” they thought. “Either way, Jesus answers, we’ve got him.” What the Pharisees did not understand and what Jesus did understand, is that double binds do not exist in spiritual reality. The spiritual realm transcends human thought and polarity.

The Spirit can enlighten the mind because the mind only functions as good as the spiritual health and development of the person using it.  Another word for this is wisdom which is not the same as intelligence. Intelligence may know how to facilitate something but wisdom knows when and how to use it.

Jesus doesn’t get caught in double binds.  Truth transcends polarized double binds. Denari coins were minted at the imperial mint with the image of Caesar.  The temple coin, shekel, had no image or inscription on it, representing a quantity of gold or silver. Roman money was exchanged for temple shekels.  Give Caesar his money and offer the shekel to God. In reality, there was no double bind at all.

The Pharisees and the people at large, lacked the spiritual insight to comprehend this.

There is a saying that, how can the same mind that created the problem, fix the problem?”  It cannot.

I find it interesting how people try the same methods over and over that do not work expecting different results.  Insanity.

When fear consumes us, it motivates us to try to protect ourselves from problems that do not exist, keeping us in a state of dualistic conflict. The central issue is allowing the Holy Spirit to cultivate wisdom in our hearts which creates within us a vision of truth and reality and enough peace to ride through the storm. If our first intention is to be connected to God, then eventually, all things can come into place without an inordinate amount of conflict. But intention is critical.

When we find ourselves in a double bind, our instincts are to think harder when in spiritual reality we can begin to be released from double bind by listening more to the Spirit’s direction. The Spirit will help us to see reality clearly and give us the will to choose it, being delivered from the incessant conflict and angst of the double binds that are created by the weakness of the mind.

When you find yourself in a double bind, the Scriptures are clear: Be still and know that I am God.  Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.

Pray with me…
by repeating the words, Be still and know that I am God.