HOMILY & IDEAS

Jer 17:5-8; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; Luke 6:17, 20-26.

Three particular preaching themes bounced around in my head this week which may make for 3 different homilies; or perhaps 1 homily if you are particularly ambitious and dare to risk your life by preaching into the 11-20 minute slot of time.

The first theme might be titled -- Where Have I Planted Myself?

The second theme might be titled -- Have I Thought About Heaven Lately?

The third theme might be titled -- Dependence is Not a Sign of Weakness.

In the first reading from Jeremiah one will notice two images both having to do with agriculture, seasons, water, sunlight, and climate. The two images speak of a bush and a tree. The barren bush represents the man who has turned his heart away from God. The tree represents the man who both trusts and hopes in the lord. Let us take a closer look at these passages:

Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, But stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.

The other passage reads:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.

All images and metaphors eventually break down. That is, although trees and bushes do not have a conscious choice regarding where they are to be planted, human beings do have a choice -- especially in a moral and spiritual sense. The situations that the bush and the tree find themselves in are a result of choices.

The bush -- representing a man -- chooses poorly and trusts in himself or other human beings rather than God. I do not think that this scripture text suggests that we should never trust each other; it simply distinguishes between matters with which humans should be trusted and matters with which God should be trusted. We trust God in all things. We trust human beings with some thing.

One man plants himself in a desert that enjoys no change of season. He stands in a desolate place -- a salt and empty earth.

Another man plants himself beside a stream and stretches out his roots to the stream. When heat and drought comes, he perseveres.

One may ask the question -- Where have I planted myself? What kind of place have I put myself in? Where have my choices led me?

In this passage I particularly enjoy the active role of the roots that stretch to the stream. What are we stretching out toward? I also like the reality and honesty of the heat and drought which inevitably comes. Life is like that. Ups and downs. Challenges. Crisis. Tragedy. Nevertheless, when one remains plugged into God who is the source of all love, mercy, and goodness, one will still bear fruit and green leaves. When one plants himself elsewhere, one stands in desolation.

If we find ourselves in a desolate place we can still place our trust in God and trust that God, for whom nothing is impossible, can spring a river of life up beside us at our conversion and by his grace.

The second theme: Have I Thought About Heaven Lately? can take off from the second reading from the letter of Paul to the Corinthians. This homily can simply take on the character of the occasional teaching moment where one reminds the faithful of our beliefs in the afterlife in heaven -- and with God. Is this something we ever think of? When have we thought of our own mortality last? When have we thought of heaven last? Do we truly believe that Jesus was raised from the dead? Do we believe that we too shall be raised from the dead? Perhaps it is time in your faith community to ponder these questions to simply keep the minds of the faithful heavenward.

The third theme: Dependence is Not a Sign of Weakness. is a themes that gets played over and over in salvation history. When mankind walks humbly, takes care of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the alien, and is utterly dependent upon God then true happiness and peace ensues. When mankind gets prosperous, fat, lazy, self-seeking, independent, and disregards the marginalized then trouble ensues. True happiness is nowhere to be found. The grace of God is scarce.

In our reading from Luke we read of a number of people who are Blessed. It is by no accident that these individuals are all utterly dependent upon God due to their circumstances -- the poor, the hungry, the sad, the despised. They are the faithful, they are the pray-ers, they are the devout ones, they are the trees who weather the heat and drought but who stretch their roots to the water. They are dependent upon God and feel no shame.

This is why those who receive the woes are in danger. They are tempted to feel their false sense of independence and security. They are rich, consoled, filled, happy and popular. It is difficult -- but not impossible -- to hold on to a sense of utter dependence upon God in these situations. In the version of this text from Matthew, he adds -- Blessed are the poor in spirit -- meaning blessed are those who may not be materially poor; but who keep their heads on straight materially.

Dependence upon God is not a sign of weakness; rather it keeps one aware of a never ending source of strength.

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