Project Description

26B Numbers 11:25-29 / James 5:1-6 / Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

We’re all in a story—
a human story—
a personal story.

That’s what a biography is or an autobiography—
it’s a human story.

For you Lord of the Rings fans
you may recognize this.

Frodo and Sam are on their heroic journey—
their difficult quest to destroy the ring of power.

And Sam stops and asks,
“I wonder what kind of story we’re in, Mr. Frodo?”

“I wonder what kind of story we’re in?”

My father came from a poor
family in Eastern Kentucky.

There was no way that he could have ever
gone to college if it weren’t for sports—
he loved basketball.

My dad was offered a basketball scholarship
to attend Pikeville College.

And when he left for college,
the only way he could get there
was to hitchhike.

So he set off walking and hitchhiking from
Putney in Harlan County—
to Pikeville.

The only thing he took with him
was his family’s old beat up suitcase with no handle—
he carried under arm—
filled with the few clothes he had.

His mom and dad had scraped up
twenty dollars for him to take with him.

Well on that particular day—
my dad didn’t have much luck hitchhiking.

As he walked—
discouragement started to set in—
negative thoughts running around in his head.

“Why in the world am I going to college?”
“I don’t belong in college!”
“I’ll just go up north like my brothers and
get a job in a factory.”

And he turned back—
he started to head back home.

And just as he had turned around
an old red Ford pickup pulls up beside him.

Two guys filled with excitement were in the truck.

“Where you going?” one asked.

“I was going to Pikeville College,” my dad said.

“Well, that’s just where we’re going, hop in.”

My dad went and played basketball at Pikeville College—
My dad got a college education at Pikeville College—
My dad met my mom at Pikeville college.

Without that “coincidence”—
without those two boys picking up my dad at that time—
I would have never been born.

A few minutes earlier or later—
and they’d have missed him

Was that purely a coincidence?

Am I just a product of mere chance?
Randomness?

A roll of the cosmic dice with no thought or
love or purpose behind my existence?

Is that all I am?

What about you?

Think of all the events that had to
occur in order for you to be
brought into existence?

Think of them!!!

Think of all the things that
had to happen for your
great grandparents and your grandparents
and your mom and dad to come together.

Are we unplanned and just lucky—
a probability.

Or do our lives have a greater meaning—
part of some grand plan.

Were we thought of and loved into being?

“I wonder what kind of story we’re in?”

One of my priest friends was
counseling a man who was
having a huge crisis of faith.

His dad had suddenly died and he was distraught.

Distraught not just because he missed his dad—
but a deeper dilemma.

“What if?” the son said,
“What if this is all there is?”
“What if my dad is really gone?”
“What if after we die, there is—nothing.”

The priest did everything he knew
to try to pull this young man
out of his existential funk.

They prayed together—
They read the Bible together—
They read about death not having the last word—
They read about eternal life—
They read about heaven.

Nothing.

Grief counseling wasn’t helping either—
it was deeper than grief.

So finally, out of desperation,
my priest friend, said
“Let’s pray to St. Therese—
She’s never let me down—never.
Let’s ask her for some sign about your dad.”

Well as soon as my priest friend said this—
he started to second guess himself.

What if there was no sign—
What if he was going to make things worse
sending the son into an even deeper crisis.

This was not what they had taught him in the seminary—
but he was desperate.

A week later—
the son bursts into my friend’s office
with a big smile on his face.

“Look Father—look what I got in the mail.”

He handed my friend a letter from
a Carmelite convent named after
St. Therese with the words
stamped on the front of the envelope:
You have received flowers from St. Therese.

And in the letter from the Sisters
the son was notified that a novena of
masses was being said for him at their convent.

“That’s great,” my priest friend said.
But in the back of his mind—
he wondered if this was just a coincidence—
religious orders send those things out all the time.

“But look at the postmark Father—
Look at the postmark.”

And when he did—
my priest friend saw that
the letter was postmarked the
very day that they prayed to St. Therese—
the letter was postmarked the
very same hour they had prayed for a sign from St. Therese.

What kind of story are we in?

You see Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I think when the veil is torn and
we see behind all the words and the images of the Bible—
that’s the message.

The Bible is telling us that we
are part of some great story—a cosmic story—
our life has meaning and purpose—
we’re part of a grand plan—
we were thought of and loved into being.

What happens in heaven matters on earth—
and what happens on earth matters on earth and in heaven.

Jacob’s ladder—that ladder between heaven and earth is real.

You see, today’s Gospel passage
reveals the great love story about a God
who is madly in love with humanity.

And we’re part of it.

You and I are in the same story as Adam and Eve—
as Abraham and Sarah—
as David and Solomon—
As Elijah and Elisha—
As Mary and Joseph—
As Mary Magdalene and Peter and Paul—
We’re in Jesus’ story.
We matter and what we say and do matters..

That’s why Jesus is so emphatic—
That’s why Jesus uses such graphic language in
talking about sin in today’s Gospel—
What we say and do matters—
in God’s story and ours and our neighbors.

Whoever causes one of these little ones who
believe [in me] to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone were
put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

There’s so much more to our life than we realize—
Even if something seems so inconsequential—
like giving someone a ride to college.

What we say and do has consequences because
our story is connected to our neighbor’s story—
which is connected to God’s story.

That’s what kind of story we are in.

One of my favorites who really
got this was St. Maximillian Kolbe.

You remember he took the place of a
condemned husband and
father in a Nazi concentration camp.

And in his time in the concentration camp
he was treated horribly—
Beaten and humiliated many times.

And one day another prisoner asked him,
“Father, aren’t you afraid of the Nazis—
Aren’t you afraid to die?”

“No.” he said,
“I’m afraid to sin.”

What kind of story are we in?

We’re in a love story.

A God who is love—
A God who is obsessed with us—
and with our neighbor—
A God who can’t stand the thought of
being distanced from His beloved.

We matter.

What happens in heaven matters on earth—
and what happens on earth matters
on earth and in heaven.

Jacob’s ladder—
that ladder between heaven and earth is real.

Holy Spirit 9/29-30/2018