Thursday, December 18, 2014

Make His Paths Straight

Francisco Anglero was born in Puerto Rico in 1944. His family moved to Brooklyn NY in 1949. Cisco was dark skinned and couldn't speak English well so he was beaten up almost every time he went out in the neighborhood. By the time he was old enough to defend himself, he was so full of rage that he beat his bullies with a baseball bat. By the time he was a teenager, he took up body building. Soon he had a reputation and was hired as a bouncer at bars. Eventually, he became a drug dealer.

Cisco's life was made up of violence and chaos. There was only one place of peace and love in his life.

Whenever Cisco came home, even as a small boy, his mother, who had worked hard cooking and cleaning all day, would be sitting in a rocking chair reading her Bible. Though their apartment was cluttered and crowded, there was a clear path from the front door to her rocking chair in the living room. Cisco would walk towards his mother and she would smile at him, rock in her chair and say, "thank God, my son, that you are safe."

Cisco never thought about his mother much. But she was always there, straight across the room, rocking in her chair and loving him. He would walk towards her and she would smile every time and thank God for his safety.

When Cisco was 22, his mother died suddenly and his life really began to spiral out of control. Cisco finally was caught with drugs and thrown in jail. Two men in prison kept asking him to come to church services but he refused. He would turn up his Walkman really loud, roll over in bed, and ignore them. But the men came every week. They would not give up. It really irritated him.

One Sunday morning, the men came by and Cisco started to ignore them but his Walkman wouldn't work. He tried to turn on the TV. It too wouldn't work. He had just replaced the batteries in his walkman. Why wasn't it working? And what about the TV? He said no to the men and rolled over in bed but all he could hear was the other guys snoring and all of a sudden he was crawling out of his skin. So he got up and went to church.

He stood in the back while the people sang. And there, up at the front, he saw his mother. She was looking right at him, singing and smiling. When they asked people to come forward, she waved him up. He saw the path, the aisle between the metal folding chairs, wide open and he walked toward her. Cisco received the bread and the wine and his life changed forever. Leaving the altar, he looked back and his mother was no where to be seen. But he knew that everything had changed for him. Somehow, his love for his mother had given him a way to find God.

John the Baptist gave up a life of privilege as the high priests son to go out into the wilderness alone and listen for God. As Zechariah's son, John would have had the best education, a beautiful home, good food. Everyone expected great things from the high priests son. But John had other plans. John knew that the Messiah was going to come into the world and that he had to leave his life of privilege in order to make room for Christ to come.  He left his parents, his home, his education and he lived as a homeless man in the wilderness. People thought he had gone mad. Why would he give all that up?  People came out to see him and John kept yelling, over and over again, "make your paths straight!"

"Make your paths straight!"

I never understood what John meant.

What does a path have to do with anything? And why do we need to make it straight?

Have you ever been lost in the woods and you can't see where you are going? Have you ever been so busy or angry or so sad that you feel totally lost?

I think John was talking about making room for Christ to find you. John was talking about making room in your life, a straight path for God to find you. I think of the way John left wealth and privilege to make room for God. I think of the way that Cisco, when his life was nothing but chaos and violence, saw a clear path from the front door of his apartment to his mother's rocking chair. And it was that one person who truly loved him, his mother, that was the straight path that he found to God, when the rest of his life was cluttered with violence, fear and anger. When God called him, God simply showed him the path to his mother.

How can God reach you if you are so busy that there is no way to find you? Have you covered yourself with self-pity or grief or worry? We must clear a path, make a way for us to find God and for love to find us.

In New England, when it snows, the very next morning you must go outside with a shovel and work really hard to clear a path to your front door, to shovel out your driveway. This work is back-breaking. In the same way, when we go through hardships, loss or pain, they can blanket our lives, absorbing our every thought, our every moment.  In these times, we must work extra hard to clear a path for God, to find a way back to love. 

Making room in your life for God in this day and age is hard work. There are so many reasons why you can't make time for church or for prayer. Travel, work, family obligations...they prevent us from taking time to worship. They clutter our lives and they seem so urgent at the time. One family I know just realized that they didn't have time for church anymore. But what happens when there is no room in your life for God at all? What happens when there is no path for Christ to come? Is anything worth blocking his way to you? Is anything really that important? We all have the same number of hours in the day. Have you carved out a few of those hours for God?

You have only two more Sundays until Christ's birth. Clear away the clutter and find a path to Him. It is never too late.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The King and the End of All Things

On this day, Dr Mary Neal, an orthopedic surgeon, will tell us what happened to her when she died. Today is the final Sunday of the Christian year. Next week, we start a whole new year with the season of Advent. Today we are not afraid to talk about the end, the end of life as we know it and even the end of time itself.  Today is about what happens at the end.

Christians call this Sunday Christ the King Sunday because we read gospel accounts which talk of Jesus Christ as a King, who, in the end of days, will sit on his throne and determine who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. The King sits in his throne, according to Matthew's gospel, and he separates the sheep from the goats.  But in order to begin to understand what Jesus was trying to tell us, we have to understand what it meant to be a King. 

Sheep verses goats.

Today, when we say the word King, we think of Disney world, make believe, or some form of formal monarchy like in Britain, a monarchy that it is more about old traditions and celebrity than about actual power. Kings just don't exist in modern, enlightened countries anymore, or, if they do, they are just figureheads.

For the Jewish community of Jesus' day, a King still meant something. A King was the source of ultimate authority. To have a successful monarchy, like that of King David, was to ensure stability. It was an end to chaos. A truly good king was their best hope for peace, finally having wisdom to rule the land. It was the best of all worlds, to live under a good king. It was paradise. Just as a bad king could bring terror and famine, a good king could bring a golden age.  A good king could fix all your problems and make everything right.

Jesus was telling us that he is the King. Christ is in charge and that should come as a great relief. It would not have been a source of terror for those who loved him but a source of relief.

Today it is hard for us to imagine any one person having that kind of lasting authority. We want to be in charge of our own lives, to order our own food, to chose our own education, to determine our own destiny. The rise of technology has led us to believe that we can answer any question on our own. Who needs a King when I can fix my problems myself?

 My oldest son was asking an atheist why he chose not to believe in God. He said that he refused to believe in a God who would allow humans to suffer. So basically, when he didn't understand God or  disagreed with God, he would just stop believing, like turning off a switch. Oh, I don't want you, God. I chose not to believe in you. I chose for you not to exist. Now, who is the King in that scenario? Who are we to determine the existence of God based on whether we approve of the workings of the Universe? Who are we to switch channels from believer to atheist to agnostic depending on our evaluation of God's behavior? It is not like visiting websites or buying a new car. When it comes to God, we cannot think of ourselves as consumers. Who is in charge of who?

In the same vein, we often want to determine the salvation of those around us. When someone dies, we tell each other that the person is going to heaven. Notice that there is never talk of hell at funerals.  But the reality of this gospel text is that there is such a place as hell, the alternative to being with God, a place of pain and alienation from God. More importantly, this text tells us that no one but God determines who goes where. It is Christ who makes the call and separates the sheep from the goats. (I always feel bad for the goats...I think they are great. But the reason Jesus uses an image of sheep and goats is that sheep follow the shepherd, while goats do their own thing and tend to roam)  To say that all are going to heaven is as arrogant as saying that certain people are going to hell. It is the language of judgement and arrogance and ultimately of violence because it is not our job to act as King. Only the Holy One sits on the throne. Whenever we try to enthrone ourselves, we do violence and make terrible mistakes. 

The truth is that there is so much that we still do not understand. We may have all kinds of knowledge at our fingertips, but there is still so much more that we can't even begin to contemplate.

Quantum Physicists tell us that the more that we learn about the workings of the Universe, the more we realize how little we know. The more we realize that we are not the King. To learn at the highest human levels is ultimately to become more humble. Wisdom actually begins when we acknowledge our ignorance.

A few days ago, I was driving home in San Marco. I was thinking about work and I was about to make a phone call on my cell phone when a small but fierce crossing guard starting blowing her whistle frantically and marched out into the street towards my car. She stared me down and made such a racket with that whistle that I slowed almost to a stop. It turns out that I was going too fast. It was a 15 mile an hour zone because the kids were just about to get out of school. She was waking me up to the fact that I could hurt someone if I didn't slow down. Once I was nearly stopped  she nodded and smiled at me, as if to say, "Good. You heard me." 

5 foot nothing and full of authority, she was right.

Jesus is blowing a whistle with this story. Is it designed to frighten you? Maybe a little bit. I am not opposed to a hellfire and brimstone in the Episcopal church for a change! Because the truth is that it is not OK to just do what you like with your life. No, how you treat others, especially the poor, has a direct impact on your salvation. So slow down and pay attention to what you are doing with your time, with your life. It does matter. We don't know how, because we are not the King, but we need to be concerned with the matter in which we live our lives.

In this story, salvation has everything to do with recognition. When you serve God, you come to know God, and when you die, the King recognizes you. If you race through life doing what you want, if you live your life like a goat and do not follow Jesus and you don't take time to get to know the King, the Holy One won't know you. "I do not know you," he says. "I have not had a relationship with you." 

When someone comes to your front door, you let them in if you know them. That is what the King does. Salvation is based on recognition and relationship.

We don't know exactly what will happen at the end of our lives or at the end of days, but we know what we need to know. We know that serving God in this life matters, that there is a judgement and that we are to take our faith seriously. The whistle is blowing even now. Slow down and make sure that you come to know the King.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Oil for Your Lamps

It's not every day that two members of this Cathedral are on the front page of the Florida Times Union. Congratulations to John Corse and Ed Graves, two of the four swimmers whose collective ages total 362 years, which means that their average age is 90. They recently won 14 events in the Rowdy Gaines Masters Classic in Orlando. As John said, there are not many in their age bracket. They seem to win mostly by outlasting the competition. They have been swimming together three times a week for many years and continue to compete. What an example for us all. They keep moving and acting as if they are young, and lo and behold, they are still carrying the torch. They are incredible!

How do we keep our light shining? How do we keep young and fit, and not just physically but spiritually? How can we make it through the struggles and challenges of this life and not get beaten down and still find joy?

The season of Advent is rapidly approaching and already we are hearing echoes of Christ's coming in Scripture. Already, we are told to wait, to keep our lights burning, our lamps lit. Jesus tells us to be ready, for when he comes, we want to recognize him. 

Jesus tells us a story this morning about a wedding banquet. When it comes to alluding to heaven, Jesus often talks about parties or banquets. There was no better comparison for heaven itself than a great party, full of joy and celebration. And in Jesus' day, there was no greater party than a wedding banquet.

Scholars have not been entirely able to piece together the events of a New Testament wedding at the time of Jesus. We don't know the exact order of events but we do know that the wedding was a whole series of parties and banquets, often lasting up to one week. We also know that it was the single greatest celebration in that culture, for a man was about to leave his father and mother and make new life with a woman. It was a celebration of procreation itself, of the miracle of childbirth and the continuation of the family line. And much of the ceremony had to do with moving the bride from her parents house to the home of the bridegroom. 

A number of bridesmaids would gather at the home of the bride in the evening. They would be carrying lamps, lit with oil. We don't know if these lamps were simply pieces of wood, wrapped in material that was dipped in oil or if they actually were some kind of enclosed fire. The gospel mentions trimming their wicks, so the old parts of the lamp that had burned would be trimmed back and more oil had to be added in some way if they were to last a long time.

Once their lamps were lit, the bridesmaids would then escort the bride to the home of the bridegroom, where the bride would enter and become his wife. One theory is that once the marriage was consummated, the bridegroom would open the doors of his home and invite the bridesmaids inside to a great banquet, a great feast, where all his friends and relatives would be gathered. And everyone would eat and dance and celebrate love and life itself.

In this parable, there are ten bridesmaids, five are wise and five are careless. They walk to the home of the groom and wait outside for the party. This waiting takes awhile and they all go to sleep, as it is late at night. But only the five wise bridesmaids bring extra oil. Only the wise have a reserve. When the bridegroom opens the door to let them in, they must have their lamps lit so that he can see them. When the five foolish bridesmaids realize that their lamps have burnt out, they ask for oil from the wise bridesmaids but the wise ones tell them that they do not have enough and the foolish are forced to go and buy more. By the time that the foolish bridesmaids return, the bridegroom has shut the door. So the foolish bridesmaids knock and the bridegroom opens the door but does not recognize them and will not let them in. Presumably, many others have knocked and tried to enter as well and the bridegroom does not know that these ones are bridesmaids. Their chance is lost because they did not bring enough reserve.

Did you know that you can store up love and joy in your heart? Did you know that gratefulness actually multiplies but so does despair? Just like John and Ed swim three times a week and build up strength in their bodies, so we can practice thanksgiving and joy in an effort to wait for God.

Most of us have already experienced both great joy and great pain in this life. Your identity, your knowledge of your self and the way that you picture your life will come from these experiences. You can choose who you are and what you store up for yourself. Do you hold onto grudges and unfair circumstances? There are plenty to pack away in baggage that you can carry everywhere, you know. Or are you able to forgive the past mistakes that you and others have made? Can you hold onto the memories of happiness that you have, moments of insight, time spent with loved ones, inexplicable glimpses of beauty? What do you hold in your reserves?

The oil that the wise bridesmaids carried with them was fuel for burning, for making light. It illumined who they were so that the bridegroom could see them and invite them in. When Christ comes again, will you be lit up with thanksgiving, or will your life be shrouded in the grey matter of worry and doubt and despair? Love burns brightly. Gratitude burns brightly. And every one of us has something that we can be thankful for.

In 2011 a Canadian rabbi named Ronnie Cahana had a stroke. He was 57. He lost his ability to move any part of his body. He was paralyzed from the neck down, had to be on a ventilator. When his daughter came to him in the ICU, she began to speak aloud the alphabet. He would blink when she came to the correct letter. Slowly, she wrote down his first communication. "Kitra, my beauty, don't cry. This is a blessing." He would later go on to tell her that there are no dead ends, only doors to move through. He would remain grateful for his life, and become an inspiration to many. 

As you begin to think of the coming of Christmas, think of the true gifts that God has already given you. Know that Jesus wants you to come inside his kingdom, his banquet, but he will not recognize you if you have covered yourself up with fear and resentment. Who is it that you chose to be?  A child of the light or a child of the darkness? What is in your reserve? What do you practice? Resentment or Thankgiving? Fear or hope? Self-pity or awareness? What is in your reserve?

John and Ed get into that cold water three times a week to praise life, even when it hurts. They keep their lamps lit even as they age. Keeping joyful is not easy. It is work. It is choosing, every day, to see the good, to give thanks for the gift of life, even when it hurts. Keep your lamps lit with joy for the greatest joy awaits you and Christ always recognizes a grateful heart.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Offering

Have you seen the movie As Good as it Gets? It is one of my all-time favorite movies and I watched it on Friday night. It is the story of an obsessive compulsive man named Melvin Udall who is just crazy OCD. He can't walk on sidewalk cracks and he lives in Manhattan so he walks around like some lunatic dancer hopping from one foot to another. He has all these rules, like he has to lock his door three times, turn his lights on and off three times and use a new bar of soap every time he washes his hands. He is also the rudest man alive and he alienates everyone he encounters, mainly because his life of rules can only be lived alone. No one alive could possibly put up with his eccentricities. And, as crazy as it seems, his life seems to work this way. He has written 63 best-selling romance novels in his solitary and sanitary apartment and he is rich.

But then Melvin's life is flipped upside down. He falls in love with his waitress and he realizes that he has to get well if he stands a chance to be with her. "She has evicted me from my life!" He screams to his neighbor. And calmly, his neighbor asks him, "Was your life really that good, Melvin?"

The Pharisees were rule-followers. Today, perhaps the worst of them would be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. They were scared, like all of us are, scared of the chaotic side of life and so, in order to gain a sense of control and to be faithful to God, they got really strict with the religious laws. They got really strict. It was almost impossible to live a Pharisaic life perfectly, it was just too hard. And they would spend hours and hours debating the laws of Judaism. 

And Judaism was set up for this kind of OCD rule-following. The Hebrew Scriptures have no less than 613 commandments! It could take a lifetime just to learn them all let alone follow them. When we think of the commandments, we think of ten. Most of us have just blocked out the other 603.

But even still, not all Pharisees were bad, remember that. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and he ended up loving Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea was also a Pharisee and he gave his tomb to bury Jesus. So, just like following laws with simplistic devotion is not adequate for God, neither should we generalize about this religious sect. There was some good among them.

As Carl mentioned last week, this gospel continues a long conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees. These Pharisees and some of the Saducees have challenged Jesus to a duel of the laws, a debate of sorts. They plan to trap him in his words and expose him as a fraud. He must be a fraud. He could not have been a teacher, a rabbi, because occasionally, he broke the rules. So they ask him, "Which commandment is the greatest?"

Now, I have a Jewish grandmother, so I think it's OK to tell you this joke about the Jewish grandmother. I loved my Jewish grandmother dearly but sometimes, she drove me crazy. And there is this great joke about the New York Jewish grandmother that captures mine. It goes like this...

The Jewish grandmother gives her grandson two shirts for Hanukah. He carefully puts on one of the shirts and comes down to eat. His grandmother looks up, frowns and says,

"So what? You didn't like the other shirt?"

The Pharisees were prepared to criticize Jesus for whatever commandments he did NOT say were the most important. No matter which commandment he chose, he could not please them. But he outsmarts them by giving them the most important underlying commandments of all...Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself. These two simple commandments are not rules so much as they are a way of life, a lens through which all rules can be observed and all judgements made. Jesus was teaching them to not get attached to rules and regulations but to think of the underlying relationship with God that illumines all our behavior. He was, quite literally, trying to evict them from their way of life.

We are all afraid. It is part of the human condition. These days, we have new words for it like anxiety and stress, but the feeling is timeless. As human beings, there is so much that we do not know...where will we be for sure tomorrow? Will we die tonight? Will our health hold out? Will we have enough? There are no secure answers to these questions. When someone tells you, out of great kindness, that everything will be OK, they are not telling you the truth. We don't know that everything will be OK, not in this world. Ebola may spread. Wars may increase. This world is chaotic and unpredictable. And, hear me on this, it is a NATURAL response to be afraid.

Melvin Udall was terribly afraid, but he tasted love and this love evicted him from the safe life he had created. He was changed. In order to find love, he had to walk on cracks, unlock doors and touch people. He made the choice to turn himself over to love and risk loosing everything in order to find something worthwhile. He had to break all his rules for love.

Today is Ingathering Sunday. As you approach the altar, you are invited to make your financial pledge to the church by placing a pledge card in the offering plate. Some of you have pledged online and you can just place a blank card in the basket or fill it out again. But as you approach the altar, I want you to pray about something. Pray with me that you and I can offer our whole lives, our whole selves to God. Pray that our fear, our stress, our anxiety and our busyness will not prevent us from offering everything to God. Allow God to evict you from the safety of your life and into a life of risk and purpose for Christ.

Jesus ends the debate finally by asking the Pharisees a question that they cannot answer. "If the Messiah is David's son, then why, in the Psalms, does David call him Lord?" The Pharisees have no answer. They are silent. After chapters of debate, they are finally silent. Jesus shows them that they do not have all the answers, that they never were safe. There will always be things that they cannot understand, questions that go unanswered.

    We are all lost and afraid and no amount of rules and regulations will protect us from the vast unknown. Only in Christ can we all find our safety, our home.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Invitation

Herman walked into the house after a long day at work. He took off his boots and started to put them away in the hallway closet but it was jammed with his little girls shoes and toys and her ladybug umbrella. Why doesn't Lorraine make her learn to clean up her things? Why were the women in his life both slobs? He started to clean up the toys and boots so that he could close the closet door, meanwhile his mind was drifting again to work.

Was Jennings going to get the promotion over him? Why had he agreed to let Lorraine stay home? Maybe he needed to put in more hours to show his dedication to his boss. And why couldn't Lorraine keep a clean house when she was home all day? 

Herman walked into his bedroom. His little girls dresses were strewn all over the bed, along with some of his wife's blouses. Where were they anyway? The cat, Mrs Spots, jumped on the bed. Herman sat on the bed and put his head in his hands. Why was he always so tired? It must be the pressure at work. If he got the promotion, would they have to move? Would they get any tax breaks this year? They needed a bigger house but that would just end up a bigger mess. He stood up, changed out of his suit and hung it up in the closet, put on his sweatpants and went into the living room, where there was a note from his wife on the coffee table.

"Herman, we waited until 5 and finally had to leave. Did you forget your own daughters birthday party? After all her planning about bowling with you and her friends? Please drive here as soon as you can...your cell must be turned off."

Herman remembered that he had turned off his cell about 3 so as not to be interrupted at work. He remembered the look on his little girl's face when she handed him a picture she drew, "that's you and me," she said, "bowling together." Then she looked up and asked him, "You'll be there, won't you, Daddy?"

And somewhere, deep in his soul,  Herman heard a door shut. 

Jesus said, the kingdom of heaven is like  when a King sends out invitations to a great party but people refuse to come. There was no greater party in Biblical times than a wedding feast. It could last for a week. The father would pull out all the stops, offer everything he had for he was celebrating life itself. With the marriage of his son came the possibility of children, of his family line continuing beyond his death. The wedding banquet was a celebration of life itself.

    The King sent out invitations to the banquet, but the guests refused to come. If you read the parable carefully, there are two kinds of refusals. Some seem violent in their refusal, like they hate the King and they try to kill his servants. But the second kind of refusal comes from people who may love the King and even be friends with him but they are too consumed with the responsibilities of life to celebrate. So one man goes to his farm, another to his business. Jesus says that these people "made light of the Kings invitation." They did not take the invitation seriously.  These are the people I want to focus on today. This invitation is no big deal to them. They have more important things to attend to, things that, if they could get them done, would make them happy.  The good people, the ones who really try, like you and me, get so consumed with the mundane aspects of life that they turn down God Himself.  Their fundamental mistake was that they confused happiness with joy. While chasing after happiness, they missed the invitation to joy itself.

There are tons of books out about happiness. Everybody in America wants to be happy. Walgreens tag line is "Where happy meets healthy." There is a book called The Happiness Project that is a National Bestseller and all it's about is a middle-aged woman who lives in New York City and how she is trying to be happy. Having the right amount of stuff, a decent job, exercise...all recipes for happiness. All we want is to feel good. All the time.

Meanwhile, God is offering us joy. Joy is very different from happiness. It has little to do with your moods. And it is all about waking up to the invitation that has ALREADY been offered to you in your baptism. To know that, no matter what happens to you in this life, you are loved with a kind of radical love that you do not deserve and all you have to do is say yes, put on your best clothes, and come to the party. All you need to do is agree to the invitation, to take it seriously, to come. Joy is a state of being. It is rock solid. It is nothing more than the acceptance of God's love.  It has nothing to do with the events of your life or how you are feeling. It is done. Joy only has to be accepted.

Do you know what the priest is called who presides over the Holy Eucharist? The one who tells the story at the table? That person is called the celebrant, because that person presides over a great banquet, a banquet of joy.

At the Bavarian National Opera House, there was a man named Karl Valentino who performed in the 1930's. He was the last of what people used to call "The Metaphysical  Clowns." He would dress like a clown and do pantomimes that had profound significance. 

One particular pantomime began with a bare stage except for one circle of light. The clown entered the stage and began to search diligently for something that he had lost. After a time, a policeman came up to him.

"Have you lost something?"

"The key to my house," answers the clown. "If I can't find it, I can't go home tonight." 

With that, the policeman joined the search. Finally, he asked, "Are you sure that you lost it here?"

"Oh, no, I lost it over there," said the clown, pointing to a darkened part of the stage.

"Then why on earth are you looking here?"

"Because there is no light over there."

To look for something where it doesn't exist is the ultimate form of futility. To search for joy where you can only find happiness at best, is to waste your life away. It is to say no to the invitation because you are too busy trying to be happy. 

To spend your time worrying about finances, mortgages, work issues, schedules, cleanliness is to waste the invitation. Worrying of any kind is a rejection of the invitation that God has already made. St Paul says, "Do not worry about anything but in everything, by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God." Consumers are just that, they are consumed by the myth that buying stuff will make you happy. Happy. Even if it does make you happy, you get nowhere. You spend your life chasing after a mood or a feeling of wellbeing. You might as well chase after the wind. Meanwhile God is offering you joy itself.

The end of the parable is the most disturbing because the King gets mad, really mad. The King gets mad at the people who refuse to come to the banquet and He gets mad at the man who comes but refuses to put on a white robe. St Augustine taught that the wedding robe would be provided by the host for all who needed one. If that is true, then this guest had been provided with a robe but he refused to put it on. So although he came to the feast, he did not participate fully, and that was as bad as not coming at all.

Most Episcopalians don't like to think about an angry God. We prefer the God of the New Testament who is loving and not angry, we say. But, in truth, Jesus does talk about God getting mad and why shouldn't the King get mad? When you really love someone and you give them all that you have and you invite them to the most important celebration of life itself and they turn you down, wouldn't you be mad? Anger is not the opposite of love, it can be an expression of love. No, it is indifference that is the opposite of love. God is angry when you do not say yes to the invitation, when you forget your child's birthday party because you are so preoccupied at work, when you miss out on the joy of generosity because you are too busy trying to play it safe, when you run after happiness and miss the banquet of life itself.

And to make God angry is a serious matter that ends in death. In the parable, the King destroys the people that kill his servants and burns their city. This is no joke. Making God mad is no joke. We want to sugarcoat the story, but the truth is that nothing seems to make God more angry than when we refuse an invitation to the celebration of life itself.

But to please God is so easy. All you have to do is come. Come to church. Come to the celebrations of love and laughter in your life, with your whole self, not preoccupied or distracted, but being fully present.  Come to the eucharist with your whole self, ready to love and be loved, ready to give and to receive, ready to accept that God wants you despite all your faults and foibles. You have been invited. All you have to do is come.