Good morning, everyone.
So joyous to be here with you this morning, so many faces from so many different parts of my life actually here today.
And they’re all here for one reason. That is to welcome Jason Chen into the church, we have with us someone who has been on a journey.
A journey that has led him to having an encounter with Jesus Christ and that encounter has led him to affirm it through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and communion, the three sacraments that initiate you into the church and not just becoming a member of a social organization, but becoming actually who you are called to be the very presence of Jesus Christ in the world.
That’s what we are all called to be as Christians, the very presence of Jesus Christ in the world, when people gaze upon us, they should see something different coming through our eyes and how we speak.
And it’s very, very providential. I think that today we hear this gospel that speaks so much about clearing up our hear ears to hear and helping also our vision to see, getting away the distractions that help us, that prevent us from not fully receiving Christ and being Christ in the world.
You know, this past couple of days, I was thinking about this because, you know, everyone knows I’m a big music fan, but the Rolling Stones had a big loss. Their drummer, Charlie Watts, died. And as happens when someone famous dies, I quickly go online and read everything about that person and look at videos and whatnot.
So, of course, I got into like a rabbit hole of looking at Rolling Stones; live recordings of different things, concerts.
And I was captivated by the song, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking – does everyone know that song, first off? Sticky Fingers, right? OK, I got a few people from that generation here.
OK, can’t you hear me knocking – I feel that that is exactly what Jesus is always saying to us every day of our lives.
Can’t you hear me knocking?
And it’s not necessarily that we are physically deaf as this person was in the gospel, but we do not allow ourselves to hear how God speaks to us.
And maybe you’ve heard that so many times that maybe you were like, well, we have to hear God more. We have to hear what Jesus is saying.
But the question we have to ask ourselves is, how can we hear? How can we see?
Those you know me, I’ve been on a journey for many years, actually, a journey that’s led me to this Wednesday leaving the diocesan ministry to go into a Trappist monastery, seemingly closed from the world, seemingly retreating from the world, but going someplace to more intimately listen to Jesus to see Jesus, but more importantly, to become Jesus.
We are called to become Jesus. And how can we do it?
Some of you know that I’d like to read lots of books and I always give different book recommendations to people to read. In this one book that I really got excited about over the last year was this little small book called, “Let Your Life Speak” by this Quaker writer, Parker Palmer. Parker Palmer is an educator, he’s a social activist, he’s probably in his 80s now, he’s had a long career, but he’s also a man who’s shared his vulnerabilities of struggling with depression over the years.
He’s the real deal. He follows Jesus, but he follows Jesus through the cross.
But what he offers in this book, I think, is a profound exercise in how we can actually listen to the Lord speak to us.
He challenges the reader. To think back on their life and to try to go back to your earliest memory, your earliest childhood memory.
And just sit with those early memories. And try to think about what was it that brought you delight, what was it that brought you joy? Was it playing outside? Is it playing inside? So playing with Matchbox Cars? Was playing with dolls? Was it sitting and just imagining a world beyond this world, making up characters? Was it just simply being present to nature?
What was it?
And what Parker Palmer suggests is that if you go back to that place to where you found your initial delight, your initial joy, that was Jesus speaking to you.
That was Jesus speaking to you. Because Jesus wants us to delight in creation. To find joy in this world.
And when he tells us to be childlike, he’s telling us to have that same delight and what we found delight in, so many years ago.
But of course, we know how life works. We can’t stay as children, we get older and by the time we get to high school and definitely by the time we get to college, if we go on the college, we know we start hearing other voices.
Other voices – who start giving ideas to us as to what we should do, how we should live our life.
And granted, many of these voices are very loving voices.
I’m not talking about people telling us to do drugs and things like that.
I’m talking about loving voices coming from parents, family members, close friends who will say, you know, you really got to get yourself together and you got to make sure you get this type of degree so you can then get this type of job so you can make this money so that you can then have this type of lifestyle so that you can raise a family.
We know that in American culture, that’s what we consider to be virtuous living.
But a lot of times and people are giving us all these ideas and challenging us and telling us how we should live our life, we’re getting further and further away from finding delight in the world.
Because if we have one desire, let’s say, to be a creative artist and everyone is saying you can’t do that – that doesn’t pay the bills, you got to get a business degree, you got work on Wall Street.
(Not saying that I’m dissing anyone who does that, trust me. That’s how we need all these people in the world doing different things.)
But we know that the tension starts to emerge. And when that tension starts to emerge, we have a choice.
Do we listen to our innermost being? So what we find delight in. Or do we listen to the voice outside of us? Telling us to go down another path. A responsible path, but really one that’s not at the core of who we are.
And granted, what ends up happening is we then live two different lives, depending on how what choice we pick, we can live a very sacrificial life, which we’re all called to do. Or we can live a very torturous life.
If you’re one who wants to, in your heart of hearts, be a creative artist type of person, you know, you make sacrifices, you’re going to have to live in a really small studio apartment for many years and you got to work a lot of different types of jobs that you do just so you have enough money in order to continually pursue your art.
And those are sacrifices. But their sacrifice is worth taking because, you know, this is what’s on your heart and you know that you cannot be yourself unless you follow what’s on your heart if you listen to that inner voice.
Or you go down the other path. Well, you do get a degree, let’s say, in business, and you do get a really good paying job on Wall Street. And you just enter into the whole work ethos. Bringing in lots of money. But you know that it’s all torturous because you’re not doing what you want to do.
Sure, your life is comfortable, sure you have security, and sure, you can be bringing lots of money to the table for your family, but are you really the person God wants you to be to your family, in all that?
For many of us, we then take that torturous lifestyle and we kind of sprinkle Jesus on it, so to speak, and say that, well, this is a sacrifice I have to take.
But if there’s not joy in your life, it’s not sacrificial, it’s torturous.
A sacrificial life is a joyful life, not one without problems, not one without stresses, but a joyful life because, you know, you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.
Many people asked me, how is that I decided to become a monk?
Well, it’s a very long, complex story and I don’t want to bore you with it.
But using this exercise that Parker Palmer suggested, I was thinking back recently and I had the great gift of going through a lot of my old memorabilia and things I’ve saved over the years, and I thought back on to my earliest childhood memories. I think back spending especially time with my grandfather, my mom’s side. He had a small house in Trenton, New Jersey. It was one of those double houses, you know. Small postage stamp yard in the back. But every single corner, every single part of that house and that yard was meticulously cared for.
I remember so many times having to repaint the basement floor and paint the walls of the floor or paint the walls of the basement. Laying down pavers underneath the the shed so you can put all the tools under there so they won’t get dirty from the dirt. And meticulously cutting the grass, which many times was weeds, but it was the best looking weeds around.
Using up scallop bricks and building flower beds and all these types of things and being in that basement, my grandfather was organizing everything, all the tools, everything labeled perfectly.
I think back on that and I found so much joy doing those things. Now, someone would say, jeez, your grandfather was really OCD and maybe he was.
But here’s the deal. I was able to take delight in all of that, and I think about that early memory and what I’m doing now going into a monastery.
Guess what? Monks spent a lot of time doing things that most people say. Why are you wasting your time doing that?
Organizing things, saving lumber so that nothing goes to waste.
Cleaning every nook and cranny, making sure that no food goes to waste, labeling, organizing everything, keeping books in order.
And all those things aren’t done because once again, it’s a collection of OCD people, it’s because of the fact that every single thing that exists in this world is part of God’s creation and every single thing that exists in this world is worthy to be treated with the utmost respect.
As much as we are environmentally conscious now and as much as we progress in so much of understanding how our world is wearing out in lots of ways, think about how much waste we have still, maybe even more today.
To be able to be so present to the little details is a way to realize that God speaks to us through all, through everything.
Everything, and that everything is worthy of reverence in some way, shape or form.
I truly believe that this very, very almost simplistic way of living your life can radically transform the whole world.
Trust me, I won’t be doing this if I didn’t think that! That in some way, shape or form this model, this paradigm of not taking anything for granted, of looking at everything with respect. And knowing that if you don’t need something, maybe someone else needs it and actively finding the right person who could use something.
(I want to thank Antonia personally for taking all my religious cards and paraphernalia.)
That is how we can listen to the voice of Jesus, how we can clear up our ears by going to those things which bring us delight.
Maybe not everyone has this great desire to want to organize and set everything up, but to just know that that there is this way of us understanding what God is calling to us when we go back to our earliest memories of delight and try to see how that fits into where you are today.
And just ask Jesus, how does this fit today, how does this work today?
Be brutally honest in your prayer. So many times we feel as we get so distracted that we’ve got to have all our ducks in order and everything has to be so right.
And we’re listening to everyone, all these voices. I mean, there’s more voices now than ever before telling us how to live our lives when all we have to do is say, “What brings me delight?” Jesus, how am I to use that today? That’s it. That’s it.
Our lives are meant to be joyful. They’re meant to be simple.
Because guess what, we’re not here very long. I know people are living here longer than ever before, but we’re not going to live here long.
And as I always say, none of us ever decided to be born.
And we have no clue when we’re going to die. If the bookends of our lives are so mysterious, then everything in between is equally mysterious, mysteriously finding delights in a God who loves us unconditionally, who loves us so much that he wants us to exist? And when we’re able to see the fact that our brother and our sister, who may not know who Jesus is and who may be very viciously opposed to any sense of Christianity.
When we know who we are, we in turn live Jesus for them. And ironically or paradoxically, were able to then to see and hear Jesus in them.
Because the same Jesus who gives us life, gives life to even our worst adversaries.
That is the gospel. It’s a gospel of freedom.
Freedom to live in and through Jesus Christ, the freedom that Jason is going to be receiving in a few minutes. Where he no longer has to try to figure things out on his own or have to listen to all the experts, that he just becomes who he is meant to be, who God has already made him to be. That he delights in that presence and that he gives to this world that presence.
And as we celebrate this baptism, we all renew ourselves with our baptism.
Have to give a shout out to Marie Corkhill from St. Augustine’s, who reminded me about how much I love sprinkling people with holy water. That wasn’t what I was planning on doing, but I absolutely love doing it. So thank you for getting a little douse this morning. Because it’s a reminder that our lives are not our own.
The same God who gave us life in and through his son, Jesus, remains with us this day to bear his presence to a world that so badly needs the Good News.
So let’s all work on this together.
I have my call, you have your call. We’re all in this together. No one is exempt.
Let us delight in the Lord and lift up that delight.