What an amazing week it’s been. I’ve lived through two pope visits here. But this one was truly special. I followed on Facebook those of my friends and colleagues who were able to participate in various events. Presbytery Exec Bob Foltz-Morrison. Sarah Sayeed (Muslim) former Interfaith Center of New York City staff person, now in the Di Blasio administration, Simran Jeet Singh, Sikh leader who visited with us and participated in an interfaith dialogue here at West-Park. This pope is helping us to recover the original meaning of catholic…universal, all-inclusive….that is who this Pope Francis is…
And the message seems so simple…humility, compassion, true caring, ….and a smile….able to see connections between the environment and who truly suffers…but more than ideology or theology it is that human touch …those daily moments of choosing to connect…and how many of us need just to be touched.
It’s in that context I want to look at today’s passage in James…it assumes a community…perhaps a large congregation even,…
13Are any among you suffering?
They should pray. Are any cheerful? ( I’m thinking of our friend Stephen’s smile challenge, better than an ice bucket challenge…) They should sing songs of praise. 1
4Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. (Here we have lifted up the role of our elders and deacons) About what we can do for one another.
16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. I’m thinking of the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa. How it began with the telling of truth. Of people’s stories. Sometimes just being heard was enough. I’m thinking of reconciliation between people. The process it takes beginning with critical clarification of what caused the rupture and ending with reconstruction.
And I’m thinking of our friend Carman Moore and his work with Lotte Arnsbjerg in the Girl From Diamond Mountain project. Her song cycle about childhood sexual abuse and her personal healing. How healing begins with the telling of the story. And how their project is now reaching out to abusers because they were themselves invariably abused. And only speaking out, breaking the silence can break the cycle. (http://www.girlofdiamondmountain.com/)
In the end, the deepest meaning of confession is not a recitation of things we have done wrong so much as it is an open and honest statement of who we are. Our deepest statements of belief we call confessions: the Westminster confession, the Barmen confession….
The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. Never doubt the power of our prayers… remember the pope’s last words to us Pray for me.
19My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another,20you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. I believe that reconciliation, healing that which is broken, is one of our principle callings and that nothing pleases God more than reconciliation.
And so my question to you this morning is ….what is your greatest need today? Can you name it? Define it?
This seems to be what Francis is asking of us…to share with one another our deepest needs…to be alert to what each other needs and to respond as we are able …..to be alert….let us be inspired …and let us connect…and perhaps even smile…
And as Pope Francis said, Pray for me, and pray for each other…
|preparation in black and white....thank you Stephen....|
 Good morning! Though we are not Catholics, we are people of faith and compassion. Honestly, I was not excited about the Pope's U.S. And NYC visit, but I am truly touched by this man after a few days of 24 hour TV coverage, hearing his words, and watching the grace that he shares with all of us. I think Pope Francis truly walks in the footsteps of St Francis - preach the gospel and only use words when necessary. He offers us a simple. powerful approach to life and our personal ministries - be compassionate, show your humanity, and smile smile smile. When I went out for my daily walk this morning I made a point of having a smile the whole walk and not only did I feel better and happier, I found men, women and young people smiling at me before I made eye contact, and many giving a nod of the head, or saying hi and good morning. To consciously smile as I walked, and enjoyed the beautiful morning and the sweet character of my neighborhood, this truly simple change to my walk on my part gave me peace, lifted my spirits, made me feel God's grace, and most importantly to me, welcomed those walking around me simple moments of fellowship with me. I would like to challenge all of us in the West Park Community to smile when you typically would not, to do it conciously, to do so with compassion, and to do so as a way to share your humanity. Then, at service in the near future, let's share our experiences of this simple gift that we can give to ourselves and to those we encounter. If you choose to take this challenge, I hope your experience provides you with the blessings and joy I am receiving from it. Bob, if you believe this is a worthy challenge for our Community, please share it with everyone. Enjoy your day - and smile . All the best, Stephen Webber