Sunday, February 26, 2012

What I Learned in a Decade

What I Learned in a Decade
Text: Isaiah 55:10-12
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
February 26, 2012

Today, after Worship, we are having lunch and a party next door. If I say that I learned ‘nothing’ in the last decade, we could end Worship early and go have fun. That would be a bad idea, on one hand, because when people come to Worship, they expect to actually have a Worship Service, but additionally, it would be very untrue. I have learned a good deal in the last decade, some of which I’d like to share with you this morning.

In many ways the most critical role a pastor plays is as a preacher. Preaching is a 15 minute event on Sunday mornings to the average person. For those of us who are ministers, and who take preaching seriously, preaching is the most time consuming thing we do each week. It requires reading, praying, thinking, feeling, and writing. A professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary, in a sermon, once said that theologians think about everything all the time. That is acutely accurate and pretty much summarized preaching. Life is one long sermon illustration.

In today’s scripture, from Second Isaiah, the prophet is speaking about preaching from God’s perspective. God sends rain and snow down from Heaven to water the earth. That water does not return until the earth has been nourished and brings forth plants which generate the energy that puts moisture back in the air. Today’s choir anthem is based on this text and it is my favorite anthem of all. It is a powerful statement about preaching. Preaching means something.

Eugene Peterson in his book, The Pastor: A Memoir tells a wonderful story about his son, Leif.

Leif said to him one day: Novelists only write one book. They find their voice, their book, and write it over and over. William Faulkner wrote one book. Charles Dickens wrote one book. Anne Tyler wrote one book. Ernest Hemingway wrote one book. Willa Cather wrote one book.” I wasn’t quite sure I agreed, but he obviously knew more about the subject than I did, so I didn’t say much. A few days later, he said, “Remember what I said about novelists only writing one book? You only preach one sermon.” I protested. “I don’t repeat myself in the pulpit. I work hard on these sermons. Every week is new, the world changes, the lives of these people are changing constantly. And each sermon is new, these scriptures personalized into their language and circumstances. I live with these scriptures; I live with these people. My sermon is a way for them to hear their stories integrated into God’s story, or God’s story integrated into their stories. Either way it’s a story in the making—new details every week, new in the telling, new in the making.”.

Not long after that, after Worship, they were having lunch and Leif said:

“Well, Dad, that was your sermon. I’ve been listening to that sermon all my life. Your one sermon, your signature sermon.”
When they were taking their son back to the airport his son said he was changing churches as he was tired of the church he was attending. About three months later they asked him if he had found a new church and his response was, ““No. I tried a bunch of them but I’m back at First Church. None of those other pastors had found their sermon.” After his son told him this, Peterson got it, he understood.

The art of preaching, I think, for most of us, is finding that sermon. Not all that long ago I was thinking that there are things I say a lot, themes that run through many of my sermons. I was not able to articulate what that was until someone shared what Peterson had said, and until I read this section in Peterson’s book. One of the things I’ve learned in the last decade about preaching was this. I found my sermon.

The second thing I have learned is the spiritual gift of hospitality.

In traditions shaped by the Bible, hospitality is a moral imperative. There is an expectation that God’s people are people who will welcome strangers and treat them justly and well runs throughout the entire Bible. This theme begins in Genesis and runs through every book of the Bible in a variety of ways. Calling ourselves a people of God demands that we offer hospitality.

St. Marks has taught me about the gift of hospitality in ways that I never saw before.

In my first church, a congregation where I received 10 years experience in 19 months, there was a festival called Hartslog Day that took place every year. My church was on the main road in a downtown with only two roads. Right next door to our church was a United Methodist Church. There was a debate in the Church Council about having our doors open so people could use the rest room. There was one over-riding question in the room: What were the Methodists doing? If they were keeping their doors open, we’d have to so as not to look too bad. If they were staying locked, we could. The goal of the group was to keep the building closed.

I was furious and argued that it didn’t matter what any other church in town was doing. We had to do the right thing because it was the right thing. They argued back that all their visitors would run up the water bill and may steal the bathroom tissue.

It turned out the church next door was more hospitable than our church was so the doors were kept open. Several years ago when withdrew from the United Church of Christ because they felt the denomination was too welcoming. Hospitality was something that church struggled with. Actually, gaining 10 years experience in 19 months demonstrates there were other struggles as well.

St. Marks, on the other hand, demonstrates incredible hospitality. When we made a concerted effort to assure everyone was welcome, people left. That was difficult on everyone, but people hung together. Hospitality is a spiritual discipline we do not take lightly, even if it means we have had bathroom tissue stolen and higher water bills.

Yesterday was the Neighborhood Health Fair. Hundreds of people came and were treated with dignity and respect and were served in a variety of ways. It was hard to do, but Hospitality is a spiritual discipline we do not take lightly.

Our Clothes Closet is now up the road as our renovation is taking place. With the help of Central Christian Church, we are able to keep this ministry going. Hospitality is a spiritual discipline we do not take lightly.

The Soup Kitchen is moving across the street next week as our renovations keep going forward. We cannot stop feeding the hungry as Hospitality is a spiritual discipline we do not take lightly.

While I have always understood the importance of hospitality, St. Marks has made me realize who crucial it is as a spiritual discipline.

Hospitality is often confused as being about rules as to how to do things. Do we shake hands well? Offer coffee? Greet people nicely? All of these things are important, but they are not the core of hospitality. Hospitality is a spiritual discipline that is a way of being.

One of the core things in Judaism is the Law, but often people don’t realize that the concept of Jewish Law was not so much about the rules, but about a way of being. The Hebrew word for law is Halakhah which is translated as either a way of being of a path that one walks. It is not translated as RULES, but attitude.

I believe this has been something we have learned together. Keeping one’s rest rooms open or welcoming people comes from a way of being, a path a church is on more than a set of rules for hospitality.

In the recent newspaper article by Dale Moss about our Clothes Closet he said that we were a smaller church with the heart of a mega-church and that is because of the heart of hospitality that drives us. It is something we have grown into together.

So these are two things I have learned in a decade. It is about finding my sermon and growing together in a spirit of hospitality.

If you’ve been here a long time you’ll know that there is usually always a third thing. But this time, in this sermon, the third point is going to be left blank. It will be for all that we have to learn from one another in the future.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Love and Disclaimers

Ever notice how we LOVE to use disclaimers to give ourselves breaks from really loving others.

I’ve often thought about this and how easy it is to become disrespectful of others. I’ve done it, and I’m sure most everyone has done it.

I love the use of disclaimers, like using disclaimers make things okay.

Sometimes we’ll say something like, “With all due respect,” and then show a complete lack of respect for a person; presuming of course, by saying, ‘with all due respect,” made it okay.

Or, “I don’t mean to offend you, but,” and then they offend you.

Or, “I really shouldn’t be saying this, but,” and then they say it.

My favorite, of course, is when people say, “I say this in all Christian love,” and then they eviscerate whoever they were speaking to.

The premise of course is this. If you say a disclaimer, you can be as disrespectful as you want to be. This is, of course, completely bogus. Love is patient and kind. Patience and kindness demands we be respectful of others. It doesn’t matter if they are a spouse or partner, child, friend, relative, classmate, church-mate, stranger on the street. Paul’s words yell out to us to be patient and kind. It means that whoever we meet in life, whoever we interact with, is a person we must treat with respect. That is what the mandate of love means.

Maybe we need to be cautious about how we use the word, 'but.'

Okay, that's all. I didn't mean for this post to be so personal, but....

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ash Wednesday Meditation

Every year this day, Ash Wednesday, rolls around and we begin the season of Lent. This is a season of 40 days plus Sundays that we remember Jesus’ 40 days in the desert preparing for his ministry to the world.

The number 40 in the Bible is a very symbolic number about testing.

When it rained and Noah took to the ark, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights.

When Moses went to the mountain to receive the 10 Commandments he stayed there for 40 days.

The Israelites wandered through the desert for 40 years.

And Jesus went into the desert for 40 days to prepare for his ministry. In each and every time, the number 40 was a time of testing and, in so many ways, a time of preparation for a new life on the other end.

Lent is ultimately about three things.

It is a time of repentance.

In verse 3 of Psalm 51 it says:

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Most of us are aware that we sin. In our heart of hearts we all know what we do well and where we fall short. Lent is a time to really reflect on this and try and grow away from sin. Often we look to turn away from sin, but often it’s easy to turn back. Growing away from sin often seems to a better way to approach it. It’s taking one step at a time toward a new life. Lent is a season of repentance.

Lent is also a season for renewal and renewal is a part of living a life of ongoing conversion. How can we make ourselves better?

Maybe it’s reading more or praying more or taking up a new hobby. Or exercising more. I heard something recently that was sort of a unique way of looking at things. We have become a society well versed in energy conservation----but that energy conservation is not what you are thinking. We conserve our OWN energy. We rarely ever have to run and even don’t have to walk very much any longer. Maybe one step we can make is to begin to use more of our energy and make ourselves move more. I know it’s something I’m planning on doing.

Lastly, Lent is a time of community. It is a time to get together, pray and study and spend time with your family of faith. It is a time to love deeply and grow together.

I watched a video on the Internet about Ash Wednesday and it had a clever little thing in it. It said that the classic American hero is the Lone Ranger. He is alone. He is self-made, and he is independent. The classic biblical hero, however, is Tonto. Tonto is part of a tribe, community minded, and dependent.

We often like to think we are clever, self-made, and independent, but when we do so we leave God out of the picture.

There’s a wonderful story set in the future when a group of scientists approach God and tell God that God is no longer needed. They scientists have figured out how to make human beings from the dirt, just like God did.

So God said, “Okay, make a person for me out of dirt.”

The scientists said, “Well, we need some dirt.”

To which God replied, “Create your own.”

This is the season we are beginning. It is a season of repentance, renewal, and community. It is also a season of dirt. The dirt, the ashes remind us that we are dust, and fully reliant on God.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Power of Negative Thinking

Years ago one of the most popular books was written by Norman Vincent Peale, and it was entitled, The Power of Positive Thinking. Years later, another minister, Robert Schuler wrote about possibility thinking which was, in essence, an updated version of Peale’s positive thinking. The most current offshoot of this in religion has been instances of the prosperity Gospel which gives a sense that if you have faith and are positive, you will be successful. Positive thinking is, if nothing else, a popular concept.

It’s difficult to say, however, that positive thinking has much power. In fact, it often seems like it’s quite the opposite. Negative thinking, getting people to be negative appears to be the path of power.

Some years ago, when Bill Clinton was the American President his administration was watching events in Russia with a sense of horror. Boris Yeltsin, the non-Communist President was behind in the polling to his opponent who was an avowed Communist. The fear was that if Yeltsin lost the election Russia would become a Communist country again----and no one wanted that. A decision was made.

Clinton sent a group of political advisors to Russia to run Yeltsin’s campaign. They essentially kept Yeltsin from view and ran a brutally negative campaign against his opponent. Yeltsin began to rise in the polls-----so much so that he began to make speeches again only to see his poll numbers collapse. They kept him from view and ran their negativity against Yeltsin’s opponent. When the election was over, Boris Yeltsin who, by any stretch of the imagination was not a good President, was re-elected. It had nothing to do with his skill or talent, but only the skill and talent of those who tore his opponent down. It was an example of the power of negative thinking.

There is great power in negative thinking. Negativity wins elections. Often the secret of winning elections is not so much promoting how good your own candidate is, but how bad the opponent is. There is no need for honesty either. Most people, when given negative information, tend to believe it and are willing to overlook little things like facts.

Being fair, let’s look at the two previous Presidents. President George W. Bush was given the label of being less than intelligent. He was mocked for this and often taken lightly. Truthfully, he didn’t speak well, but there are well spoken fools and mumbling geniuses, so that doesn’t tell us much. There is something, however, that may give an indication of his intelligence. He graduated from Yale University and then received a graduate degree from Harvard University.

Yale and Harvard are two of the most academically challenging universities in the nation and he graduated from both of them. Pass this information on to people and they will make a comment that either Yale and Harvard are bad schools or Bush was ‘passed’ because of his Dad. Despite the fact that he went to these two universities and graduated, his intelligence is still challenged because of negativity pointed in his direction.

Then there is President Barack Obama. A significant number of people believe that he was born in Africa. The so-called ‘birther’ movement became a real and significant movement of which there are still a large number of people. He provided a document of live birth, typically given from Hawaii and produced newspaper birth announcements. Not good enough. He finally produced a long form sent to him specially from Hawaii and it showed, TA DA, that he was born in Hawaii. Despite proving it he is still considered to be a foreign born President by many.

It is widely thought that he is Muslim. His father was a non-practicing Muslim but there is no evidence Obama ever was. There is evidence, however, that he was Baptized and married at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago by Jeremiah Wright. Whether one approves of Wright or not, Wright is a United Church of Christ minister and, if one takes the time to read some of his book and listen to most of his sermons, a very committed Christian. Obama is a Christian but popular opinion often seems to be otherwise. Like Bush, this is still challenged because of negativity point in his direction.

Sadly, within Christianity this kind of negativity is also rampant. It is breathtakingly easy to bash people who are not like us. It is easy for people who are not Roman Catholic to bash Catholics for what they perceive Roman Catholics to believe, as opposed to what they really believe. It is easy for people who are Mainline Protestant to bash people who are unlike them and very easy for Evangelical Protestants to bash other Protestants. There was a recent debate on whether members of The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints were Christians or not. Many Mormon theologians were shouted down by people who did not really want to hear what was being said about Mormonism. Facts have no relevance in the face of negativity.

Negativity has power that even facts cannot overcome. Negativity is ecumenical and bipartisan. No matter what one’s religious background or lack thereof, or no matter what one’s politics happen to be, trashing ‘other’ is acceptable and popular and has great power.

But power can be fleeting. Power is having the ability to coerce people to do what you want them to do. If you coerce people to love tenderly it’s a positive thing; if you coerce people to hate with a passion, it’s a negative thing. But all power is external. Power is given over to people or to ideas by others. By us. If people respond to negative thinking and are willing to be negative, no matter what the facts may indicate, they give in to power that is hurtful and often destructive. The only way to make negative thinking powerless is to cease giving in to it.

The change begins by listening and listening some more, and doing research beyond what we normally presume. The change begins by not maintaining our thoughts contrary to evidence. The change begins within our own hearts and minds. It is a challenge for everyone. In all honesty, it is a challenge for me, too. But it’s a challenge worth taking on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Being Definitive About God (or lack thereof) is a Risky Business

This past week has put God in the news.

Magician, comedian, and entertainer, Penn Jillette wrote a column in which he firm states, ‘there is no God.’ His premise, of course, is that belief in God is irrational and because of all the evil done in God’s name, it places the responsibility of evil on God without blaming on a non-existent entity. He states that such things as forgiveness come to us because of human charity or forgetfulness and that when people suffer we do not need outside explanations as to why things like this happen. Needless to say, if one has faith in God, Mr. Jillette’s statements can be seen as a personal affront.

Former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum, who is a current Presidential candidate first bashed Mainline Protestantism and then stated that President Obama’s theology is a phony theology. Considering that when President Obama has spoken of faith his theology has sounded very much Mainline Protestant and very United Church of Christ, which makes sense since his church background was in the United Church of Christ. Needless to say, if one is a Mainline Protestant and, more specifically, a member of the United Church of Christ, Mr. Santorum’s statement can be seen as a personal affront.

Having said this, I cannot say that I am going to lose any sleep over the fact that neither Mr. Jillette nor Mr. Santorum agree with my theological worldview. Mr. Jillette sees me as believing in little more than a fairy tale and Mr. Santorum seems me as having a phony theology. They are both entitled to their opinions as I am entitled to my opinion. I will also not attack either of their theological worldviews for the same reason I don’t believe they had any right presuming mine is a fairy tale of phony. Religious faith, it seems, has some rationality with a great sense of irrationality. And irrationality is not always a bad thing.

In Carl Jung’s personality type functions judgment is either seen as Thinking or Feeling. Thinking is often seen as objective, totally rational, and fact based. Feeling is often seen as subjective, personal more than rational, and on values. While theology is a rational subject it often uses faith, which is actually more irrational, as its starting point. Theology often attempts to articulate what faith cannot.

In stating this, I am not stating that only crazy irrational people have faith. Many people of faith are highly educated and can articulate, theologically, very serious issues concerning faith. The thing about faith is, however, is that it ultimately boils down to personal values. It always does. At some point, all people of faith come to that spot in the third Indiana Jones movie when all he can do is to step out in faith. That ‘leap of faith’ is a reality.

Which brings me to my point----No one can be definitive about God. We cannot even be definitive about a lack of God. Jillette says that you cannot prove a negative which is true; but with God you cannot prove a positive either. If one believes in God, and I do believe in God, that last step always needs to be a step out in faith. We can reason our way to a limited understanding of God, but we cannot definitely prove that God exists and we cannot prove God’s definitive will or worldview on anything. There is no one of any particular religion or denomination of any particular religion who can speak definitively about God. Christians claim that the only one who could ever do that was Jesus Christ as God’s Son, who was, according to our faith, God Incarnate. Anyone who believes they totally understand the totality of Jesus by reading the Gospels is missing the key point of the Gospels. Much of Jesus is beyond our comprehension.

To me, as a Christian Minister, this is good news. I like and appreciate a God who is beyond human understanding. To me, a God who I can totally understand is not worth having as a God. God is bigger and wiser, and better than any of our projections. That is, in my mind, a good thing.

For Mr. Jillette my faith in God is only a fairy tale and he is entitled to his opinion. Mr. Santorum believes my faith to be phone and he is entitled to his opinion. People who disagree with them, however, are also entitled to their opinions without ridicule as being fools or phonies.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Radical Hospitality

I haven't been blogging enough and think I need to get back to doing so. Bear with me.

I have been working on a sabbatical grant proposal through Lilly. The process has been really good for me. I determined I wanted to develop a them of hospitality and spirituality. My goal is to visit several Benedictine monasteries and spend time there learning about their hospitality and spirituality. St. Benedict saw a great spiritual benefit in hospitality and the monasteries all extend hospitality to visitors----and have done so since their inception.

Churches ought to be places of hospitality. Sometimes we do so by providing nice places to sit, some places offer coffee or snacks, the temperature is comfortable, and the bulletins are readable. All good things. Oh, and someone shakes your hand and says, "Hi! Welcome!"

But do we really welcome people? I have been told that my church is RADIAL and that I belong to a RADICAL denomination and that RADICAL label is usually always about one thing. We welcome everyone. Period. Slam dunk. And some of the 'everyone's' happen to be gay. This makes us radical and unusual because we accept everyone as they are and don't feel a need to 'fix' people who really don't have any desire or reason to be fixed. We accept people as they are and extend radical hospitality to everyone.

This is what makes us radical or odd or unusual. I wonder why, however, we are so unusual. I have been lectured, over the years, by people angry that we, I, am promoting sinful behavior. Of course, all the lecturers were, like me, sinful people also. I never felt and do not feel we promote sinful behavior. We simply promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ which embraces and loves everyone. We extend radical hospitality even though it's really not all that radical. We are simply doing what Jesus asked us to do.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Too Wonderful to Be Silent---Sunday's Sermon

Too Wonderful to Be Silent
Text: Mark 1:40-45
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
February 12, 2012

It was 1873, and Dr. Armauer Hansen of Norway had astounding news for the world: leprosy was caused by a bacterium (Mycobacterium leprae). Until then, the disease was thought to be from a curse or sinful ways. The disease was renamed and called Hansen’s disease and is now readily treated----but it rarely afflicts people.

Modern medicine knows that leprosy is spread when an untreated infected person coughs or sneezes (but not by sexual contact or pregnancy). However, leprosy is not very contagious; approximately 95% of people have natural immunity to the disease. People with leprosy who are treated with medication do not need to be isolated from society. (Historically, people with leprosy were sent to "lepers' colonies" on remote islands or in special hospitals.)

In Jesus’ day, however, leprosy was a cursed disease.

People were isolated and shunned by society.

People suffered greatly because their nerve endings died and they couldn’t feel anything, making them prey to all sorts of parasites, etc.

They were also condemned by society because leprosy was seen as a curse which was a punishment for sin, dreadful sin. A person afflicted with leprosy was perceived as a horrible sinner----at least to the people around them. There was never any thought that it was a random affliction and had nothing to do with the moral conduct of a person.

So it is that a leper comes to Jesus begging to be healed. Jesus is moved with compassion and heals the man and tells him to go give thanks to God according to the prescriptions of Moses. But Jesus also has a warning----don’t tell anyone who healed you.

Two things were at stake because a healing like this was going to cause a huge response.

For one, any chance of Jesus going anywhere quietly was going to end. People would swarm him, asking for help.

Secondly, there were going to be questions. Lepers were sinners. Lepers were recipients of God’s harshest judgment. No compassion was in order towards lepers. They were outcasts to society----they were the people no one loved----they were God’s most hated people. Who did Jesus think he was to offer compassion?


The man who is healed cannot hold it in. He announces to the world that Jesus had healed him. When the news is too wonderful to be silent he can’t do anything except share it with the world.

There are all sorts of lessons in this story of Jesus healing the leper.

The first lesson is about the overwhelming generosity and compassion of Jesus. Jesus loved people first and foremost. On occasion, sometimes we get it.

Here's a story about Fiorello LaGuardia who was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of W.W.II. He was adored by many New Yorkers who took to calling him the "Little Flower," because he was so short and always wore a carnation in his lapel.

He was a colorful character -- he rode the New York City fire trucks, raided city "speak easies" with the police department, took entire orphanages to baseball games, and when the New York newspapers went on strike, he got on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids.

One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter's husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving.

But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. "It's a real bad neighborhood, your Honor," the man told the mayor. "She's got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson."

LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said, "I've got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions. Ten dollars or ten days in jail."

The fine, by today’s standards, would have been in the neighborhood of $165.00 which, for a person with no money, is an impossible amount.

But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous hat, saying, "Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents, eight dollars in today’s money, for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr.Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant."

The following day, New York City newspapers reported that $47.50, a bit more than $775.00 in today’s money, was turned over to a bewildered woman who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren. Fifty cents of that amount was contributed by the grocery store owner himself, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.

Someone beautifully said:

"Sympathy sees and says, 'I'm sorry.'

Compassion sees and says, 'I'll help.'

When we learn the difference, we can make a difference. When we learn the difference, we begin to understand Jesus.

Jesus reached out with great compassion, a compassion filled with justice, but always a justice based on love.

A second lesson is about the leper. He has to share the good news with people. He is so filled with gratitude for what Jesus had done for him, that he began to proclaim it to anyone and everyone who would hear him.

I think, at times, our approach to the issue of faith and gratitude to God is an attitude that response to God is good, response to God is appropriate, but we shouldn’t get carried away.

Think about this for a second. Who have you shared your faith with of late?

If you like it here at St. Marks, have you invited someone to come with you----or is that getting carried away?

If you saw someone you didn’t know sitting in the pews around you, did you talk to them, and get to know them as a brother or sister in Christ, or is that getting carried away?

If you like St. Marks, and so many people tell me they love their church, who have you invited lately, or shared with friends and family about how much you love your church?

Ponder something for a moment. If you eat at a good restaurant do you tell people about it? Do you invite friends and say, “Hey let’s go to dinner there?” Of course!

Or, if you see a great movie, do you tell everyone? Of course.

Or if you love football, do you tell everyone that you love football and that you love your favorite team? I know I do. I drive people crazy talking about the Giants, but you already know that. Of course, sports’ fans always love to talk about their teams.

My point is, of course, that we share excitedly about so many things in our lives but often we don’t share much about church.

Here, however, in the Gospel of Mark is an opposite example. Jesus does not want this man he healed to share this news. For Jesus there were all sorts of reasons for not wanting the leper to share often reasons beyond our comprehension.

But for this man who was healed by Jesus this was too wonderful to be silent. He HAD to share the good news.

The lessons of this story are two-fold.

One is about the goodness and love of God; the other is the fact that the news is too wonderful to keep silent. Let us rejoice in God’s goodness; and share that Good News with others.