†May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our Strength and Redeemer. Amen.
I’d like to begin this morning’s homily with a word about what to expect in the message. Today’s message is about the ‘God of Second Chances’.
Parents will note that they give their children second chances, third chances, fourth chances, etc. Employers give valued employees second, third and fourth chances. Importantly, people in any kind of relationship give one another second, third and fourth chances. Tending relationships means being present and being open to the ups and downs of those relationships.
Since my time at St. Mark’s, I have worked to physically connect with numerous organizations. I have relationships with the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, The Dominican Center, Degage Ministries, Heartside Ministry, The Islamic Center on Burton, Families Against Narcotics, Dwelling Place, Safe Haven, Guiding Light and others.
As I am on many different mailing lists, I recently received a communication from Guiding Light. It spurred me to see today’s Gospel passage from Matthew in light of God who I believe is a ‘God of second chances’ if not many more.
If you caught my homily last week, you may remember that I said that we will have good seed and bad seed which produces weeds with us until the end of time I also said that there is always the possibility for redemption, in other words, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. That’s who our God is, a God who continuously invites us to be all God calls us to be as God’s creation.
A Grand Rapids program of ninety years, Guiding Light chronicles powerful stories of transformation. Men enter the program for recovery from addiction, in other words, men in search of ‘another chance’ in life. Recently, the Guiding Light Recovery Program reopened its doors to new clients since the pandemic hit. I wanted to share with two reflections as signs of hope, signs of transformation, signs of second chances:
Guiding Light new client Sam said, “It’s not about just getting sober. It’s about a new way of living.” “I recognize that I cannot do this alone. The desperation is there and I know I need help.”
The Seven Focus Points could be a way of living for all of us. The word, “Focus”, is key to appreciating, embracing and understanding today’s Gospel. Jesus, the master teacher, uses a series of parables to help others focus, appreciate, embrace and understand his way of living.
Jesus’ way of living gives each of us many opportunities to be all we are called to be. His way of living is a way of love that can transform us and enable us to be compassionate, loving and caring people. It enables us to do all we can to be as people of justice, honesty and truth. As God gives us chance after chance after chance, we are to give others chance after chance as well.
Last week’s Gospel reminded us that God gives us many chances in life. Today’s Gospel gives us ways to look at the spiritual life through various different parables to assist us in our journey of life as followers of Jesus. His life as chronicled in the Scriptures showed the way.
Think about the story of the Woman at the Well. Think about: the story of Zacchaeus; Jesus with tax collectors and sinners; think about Peter, the Apostle. The list of ‘second chances’ in the Scriptures is long and replete with opportunities for change and transformation.
Today’s Gospel invites us to focus on investing in our spiritual life in order to reap the benefits from living life in Jesus. Focusing on just one of the parables, the man sold all he had to invest in a plot of land rich in treasure.
The Scripture tells us that “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…” Someone “sells all he has and buys that field.” To me, that’s a story about investment. Investing in order to reap more benefits. We invest in all kinds of things in life. We invest for our retirements. Parents invest for their children’s education. Many seeing purchasing a home as a major investment. Investing in our spiritual life is as worthwhile as any investment in my book and I hope in yours as well.
During these difficult times of the pandemic and the challenges of much needed social change, investing in the spiritual life at St. Mary’s isn’t so easy. It certainly isn’t easy for me. It isn’t easy in part due to not physically gathering as community on Sundays and for other formation opportunities. However, we continue to work hard. We continue to invest time, energy and financial resources as a community dedicated to the Gospel.
These days, we are faced with a virtual reality which challenges even the best of us to stay the course. We are challenged to remain committed and to realize that the investment we make in St. Mark’s can sustain us whether separated from one another or not. That said, the financial reality in which we find ourselves is driving serious conversations these days. How do we sustain our life in 2020 and what life together may look like in 2021?
If you are watching this message or reading a copy of it from the Parish’s website, you realize that we are working to offer an opportunity for prayer whether you are sitting in a lawn chair on Torch Lake or at home in your favorite recliner. If you read the weekly eNews and/or attend any of St. Mark’s Zoom meetings, you know that the ministry of the Parish continues. St. Mark’s has staying power, and you and I are essential to that staying power today.
The treasure in the field is a rich image. I invite us to consider that we are the field, and God’s treasure in Jesus is already ours. What we do with that treasure is up to us! God’s grace enables us to embrace that treasure, that way of life. It is a way of life which respects the dignity of every person, a way of living which challenges us to be more patient, more kind and more loving. It is a way of life which gives us second chances and calls us to give others additional chances as well.
Perhaps this week, we might reflect on the need for second chances in our relationships with one another and with God. Perhaps this week, we might reflect on those chances as rich investments that can be life-giving for us and for others as well. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Christian Brocato, Rector
THIS MEANS THAT ANYONE WHO BELONGS TO CHRIST HAS BECOME A NEW PERSON. THE OLD LIFE IS GONE; A NEW LIFE HAS BEGUN!
2 CORINTHIANS 5:17