Sunday of Lent
March 22, 2015
Anthony Medairos, pastor
Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
gather here to encounter Christ. This
will happen in a number of ways: in the
witness of our fellow Christians, in hearing the proclamation of the word of
God, in the grace of Christ’s sacramental presence in the Eucharist, and also
in the preaching of the Church.
When it comes to preaching, since we are
overwhelmed by the depth of today’s readings, the preacher must glean one,
clear focus from the Word of God that might prepare worshipers to hear God’s
word and to receive Christ in this Eucharistic bread. So, I will focus on only one thing.
“I will place my law within them,
and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my
people.” This foundational covenant
between God and his people is summarized in the Ten Commandments, carved on
stone tablets and in ancient times reserved within the ark hidden within the
Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem
But instead of being the touchstone of
believers’ covenant with God, today those stone tablets have become unwelcome
reminders of God. Legal courts require
replicas of those tablets of the Law to be dismantled or covered over, lest
they offend our fellow citizens or even stand as a critique of democracy
itself. It seems the virtue of diversity
has been diverted from a kaleidoscope of various cultures melding together to
enrich the color of this great nation into a pallid, lowest common denominator
that cannot possibly offend or challenge anyone. Diversity is being perverted into the
homogenization of all things into a dull, colorless “sameness.”
But as upsetting as removing God’s Commandments
from the public conversation may be to some of us, it may actually be a good
thing. Because, as the prophet Jeremiah
revealed, that same Law was intended by God to be written upon our hearts
rather than just on stone tablets.
Think of things that are written
upon the heart. My first thought was of
Mary at the birth of Jesus. “All who
heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on
them in her heart.”  And later Jesus taught his disciples, “But
store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor
thieves break in and steal. For where
your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”  It seems the heart is the hiding place, the
deepest part of us, where our treasures find protection and nurture.
When the Law of God is moved from
the external place (the words on stone tablets) to the internal place (one’s
heart), a profound transformation happens.
What was once only “important” becomes “precious” as one makes the
commitment to allow it into one’s heart.
Our heart is the hiding place of God’s covenant
with us. Consider one instance of
“hiding,” namely: the choice to hide a
fugitive from the authorities. When a Gentile
family decided to hide Anne Frank’s Jewish family in their attic to save them
from Nazi extermination, that family made a commitment that could have cost them
their own freedom or even their lives.
You could say the same of someone hiding a real criminal as well; the
law punishes those who abet a fugitive.
When one hides a fugitive in the heart of one’s
home, or embraces the Law of God in one’s own heart, there begins a commitment
that is real and goes beyond rule-keeping.
It changes one’s way of life. Once
internalized, a person cannot ignore God’s Law as one might ignore or be distracted
by something external to us. When
internalized, God’s Law informs our every choice. Everything that one does can become an
expression of one’s love of God. Every
betrayal of that Law becomes a rending of one’s relationship with God. This is because the Law, once written upon
the heart, is no longer a burden imposed from the outside. The Law is embraced from within as a
privilege and a blessing.
This kind of personal commitment always
costs. It may be a heavy price. Jesus’ love for the Father was complete in
just this way. It led Jesus to the cross
on Calvary. However, only through that
cross on Good Friday could Jesus experience Easter resurrection. Though internalizing the Commandments will
probably not lead to our own crucifixion, it will always involve the cost paid
in changing the way we live.
Someone once put it this way, “The law, if you
will, is not a ceiling beyond which we need not go; rather it is a floor on
which we stand. It is a support from
which we can reach out to do more and more for God and for our sisters and
brothers.”  Internalizing God’s covenant becomes our
life’s journey into love of God and doing selfless service to our neighbors.
And if ever one should decide to wander from
that Law that one has internalized, it does not mean some rules have been
broken, but instead it is a sad admission of one’s estrangement from God. Betraying one’s own heart, one is now
choosing to work in opposition to God’s will.
But, thanks be to God, Jeremiah also prophesied: “All, from least to greatest, shall know me,
says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no
The heart is a living thing. And a person can make mistakes about the Law
that is written upon it. But because the
heart is a living thing, God is always ready to revive it, to heal it, and to
enter it more deeply. God promises to
remember our sins no more.
And since our hearts have encountered Christ in
God’s word, we now beseech the Lord to enter not only our heart, but our whole
being, spiritually and physically, in the Bread from Heaven, the Eucharist upon
 William H.
Shannon, Seeking the Face of God (New
York: Crossroad, 1988), p. 78.
March 15, 2015
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
2 Chronicles 36:14-16,
I am a student of history. Nonetheless, it seems true what Aldous
Huxley, most famous for his novel A Brave
New World, said of history: “That
men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of
all the lessons that history has to teach.” [*]
However, I propose that there are echoes from history that reverberate even
today, from which we can still learn.
While I do not want to sound like a fundamentalist preacher who draws
direct equivalencies between things that happened centuries ago with what is
happening today, attaching these equivalencies to dire predictions in the Book
of Revelation, there are some of what I call “echoes” that provoke an
interesting perspective on today’s events.
These echoes, like a distant military bugle, call you and me to action.
The history is well known. In 586 BC the Babylonians defeated Judah,
and its Temple,
and brought the intellectuals and artisans of that land into captivity in Babylon, where they
remained for about forty years. When
Cyrus, the King of Persia, defeated Babylon,
he returned the Jews to their homeland, endowing them with resources to begin
rebuilding their city and their holy place.
The Jews interpreted their utter
defeat as punishment by God for their unfaithfulness to the covenant. They had forgotten how God had formed them as
a people, making covenant after covenant with them even when they sinned. Prophet after prophet they had ignored. They “added infidelity after infidelity,”
even “polluting the Lord’s temple” with idols.
To chasten his Chosen People, God took away everything with which he had
blessed them. When reformed by their
exile, God used a foreign ruler to restore to them all they had forfeited,
making a new covenant with them.
These are the echoes from
history: Our nation has been
blessed. It is not the theocracy God had
ordained in Israel
and Judah. The United States is a new sort of
blessing – a land of abundance, a land of freedom, a land of hope, a land of
new possibilities. But our republic has
its roots in the Biblical message spoken to the Chosen People. And like the Chosen,
this nation is forgetting its roots.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
speaking recently to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, referenced those
roots. He pointed to a carving over the
door of the House chamber – the image of Moses, the great Law Giver. The Ten Commandments appear on the walls of
the U.S. Supreme Court, as do the words “In God We Trust.” Christopher Columbus, and the Spanish
explorers who followed to the New World,
claimed these continents for Christ. The
story of the Pilgrims who landed here is replete with references to their
inhabiting a new Promised Land.
But today the Commandments and ideas
that under-gird our republic are under constant suspicion and attack. These attacks are not just our own personal
offenses as sinful individuals. They are
a deliberate, structural philosophy intended to replace that on which our
nation is built. Remove the
Commandments! Do not bring God into the
In the background there is the noise
of a foreign power. Right now Secretary
of State John Kerry is negotiating with the government of Iran to limit
their nuclear technologies that can develop nuclear weapons. The foreign power we call Iran was once
known as Persia. But unlike the benevolent Cyrus of Persia,
who controlled that part of the world while allowing vassal states like Israel to
remain free and unmolested, Iran
today is said to be a state sponsor of terrorism and a military power imposing
Shiite Islam throughout Syria
and dominating most of the Middle
East and parts of Africa. Iran’s mission is the opposite of
Cyrus’: the elimination of Israel, the
destruction of Jerusalem.
So these are the echoes: a believing nation that is drifting away from
its Biblical roots, and a powerful Persia dominating its neighbors, perhaps even the whole world. As God used a pagan King to lead the Jews
back to the center of their faith, perhaps God is using today’s turbulent
diplomacy to remind you and me of our own religious values. You see, the Jews had forgotten who they
were. They had grown comfortable with dealing with difficulties through compromise. They tried to be like other nations; they
tried international political maneuvering; they tried worshiping foreign
gods. The Jews compromised their way
into their own defeat and destruction.
Is our nation compromising its Biblical values, leading to our own
defeat and destruction? Might the
prospect of ineffective diplomacy leading to a
shame our nation into returning to the values that once made the United States a
strong leader for the good of all mankind?
The Babylonian exile changed the
Jewish culture. Because of it, the
Jewish people began relating to God in a new way. Observant Jews could no longer simply join
the throng going up to the Temple. There now had to be a personal, interior
commitment to their faith. Instead of a
punishment, it seems God had placed the Jewish
nation in Babylon
so God could reach his people in a new way.
This is an echo for Christians and
all people of good conscience. In times
like ours we must confess our own waywardness.
Is God, perhaps, inviting you and me to
greater faithfulness to the Table of the Lord, to worship and the
sacraments? God is approaching us in new
ways to bring us home to him. In Saint Paul’s letter to
the Ephesians we are reminded that “God, who is rich in mercy” has “great love
for us.” We were created “for the good
works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” In other words, each one of us is to lead the life of good deeds. We don’t boast in these deeds as if they come
from ourselves. Rather, they are God’s
gift to us. Jesus told Nicodemus,
“Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly
seen as done in God.”
Rather than fixating on the turmoil
and discouragement of these days, consider that God is reaching out to our
Church and to each of us individually in new ways. As God used the political turmoil of that day
to call the Jews back to true worship in Jerusalem, so God calls Christians to
embrace him more deeply in our own time.
And through the example of our personal and Church renewal and public
action, our nation can also be renewed and restored to its original foundation
on the Bible.
[*] Aldous Huxley,
“Case of Voluntary Ignorance,” Collected
Essays (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959).
Sunday of Lent
March 1, 2015
Anthony Medairos, pastor
22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
Our culture is still deeply
influenced by Greek mythology. Classical
literature about the Greek gods is studied at university. Recent movies like the Percy Jackson series
introduce youngsters to the imaginative world of gods and demigods. Pagan gods are portrayed as entertaining themselves
by manipulating humans into doing things for their amusement. Pagans conceived of these great gods as
actually being like petty, egotistical human beings. Most pagan cultures seem to envision their
god or gods in the same, petty way.
But isn’t today’s event from the
Book of Genesis pretty much the same thing?
Isn’t God uncertain of Abraham and so God imposes a quest on him as a
test? Isn’t God manipulating Abraham
into sacrificing his son Isaac as a test of absolute obedience? At first it seems so. Perhaps the original author of this book
thought this way. But take note that God
has already provided the sacrifice: “a ram caught by its horns in the
Consider whether, rather than
testing Abraham in a petty, egotistical way, God is actually showing Abraham
that Abraham is ready to live greatly in the name of God. Here, God is like a dad teaching his son how
to throw a fastball. “I know you can do
it, son. You have the strength. I’ve shown you how to hold the ball and how
to aim. Now just do it!” And when the boy throws a really fast pitch,
he gains confidence. If you can do this
thing, you can do greater. Maybe now
he’s ready to try a curve ball. Or here
God is like a mom teaching her little daughter how to swim. “Mommy’s got you. I’ll hold your tummy while you stroke with
your arms and kick your legs.” And then
mom lowers her hand and the child is still swimming. And when the girl realizes she’s doing it
without mom’s protective hand, she gains confidence. If you can do this thing, you can do
greater. Before you know it, she’s
Now Abraham knows how far he will go
to worship and serve his God. He was
brought to the verge of sacrificing his only son, the son of God’s promise that
elderly Abraham would father a multitude of nations. In this act Abraham discovered that his trust
of God was powerful. Abraham knew then
that he could do anything with God’s friendship. He was ready for the covenant God desired to
make with him, blessing Abraham with countless descendants. Jews, Christians and Muslims all consider
themselves children of this same Abraham.
Abraham had to experience God’s
abiding presence in his life and the power and authority that that gave him
before he could be really bold with God, throwing fastballs, if you like,
swimming laps. Abraham became a stronger
person. That is the Heavenly Father’s message to each one of us.
You and I confess that God in Jesus
Christ has given himself to us. So, we
already have a bold relationship with God.
God “did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all….” This ultimate gift of God calls for us to
respond as boldly as did Abraham. We
must call upon God. We must be people of
prayer who plead with God. God listens
to us. We should not insult God by
remaining silent  –
silent in talking with God in prayer and worship, or silent is speaking out for
God in this world, among our own friends and family, among our neighbors, even
Jesus sacrificed himself on the
cross not to appease a vengeful, capricious, manipulative God. Jesus’ sacrifice was not a pagan sacrifice
that changed God’s mind into loving us.
There was nothing in it of putting an angry demon into a good mood. God did not need to be changed. By the cross Jesus reconciled man to God, not
God to man. The sacrifice of the only
Son of the Father changed not God, it changed us.  Any enmity or distance between God and us has
This is the time of our testing. And I say this especially to the youngest
among us, for you will experience the most turbulent years of testing. Our faith is under attack. Our fellow Christians are being beheaded,
crucified, and dispossessed in the Middle East
and Africa by Islamic extremists. Christianity is under severe political
restrictions even in Islamic countries that are not yet violent.
The secular humanism of our Western culture is
poised to attack our beliefs, deriding our ancient values as being antiquated
and irrelevant. We are shoved into the
background by laws and judicial decisions, consigning our faith to being
private, kept behind the walls of our churches.
Our faith will not be tolerated in the public square for debate or
evangelization. So a Christmas manger
scene becomes offensive because it doesn’t include everyone’s beliefs. And
correctness claims that a politician’s religious beliefs should not inform his
or her position on public policy.
But this is the time for us to be
bold. This is not God’s testing us to
check whether our faith is real. No,
this is the time when believers will come to realize that we can be bold
because, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” If we will but listen to our God, we will
realize that God has made a covenant with us in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the world will not defeat us. Instead, we can transform the world. We have good news for the world. And the good news is Jesus Christ. In delivering this good news, you and I must
 A.M. Besnard, Take
a Chance on God (Denville, NJ:
Dimension Books, 1977), p. 121.
 Hans Küng, On
Being a Christian (Garden City: Doubleday
& Co., 1976), pp. 424-425.
February 22, 2015
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
1 Peter 3:18-22
Jesus was tempted. We are tempted. Every day most of us pray the words, “Lead us
not into temptation.” These words are
not what Jesus actually said. Advances
in biblical scholarship now translate Jesus’ words as, “Do not subject us to
the final test.” In Jesus’ time there
appeared in Jewish apocalyptic writings (that is, about the end of time) predictions
that before the end of the world there would be a great period of testing, with
people turning away from faith during a time of great tribulation.  One scholar wrote that to focus this part of the
Our Father on avoiding “enticement to sin is to narrow its meaning to the point
of distortion.”  More expansively we should instead pray, “Our
Father … do not subject us to the final test.”
the way we’re accustomed to praying about temptation is deeply rooted in
Christian tradition. And, after all, temptation
is real – whether today or at the end of days.
Jesus was tempted, as Mark briefly described for us today.
all face temptations, like the overweight man who tried so hard to avoid his temptation
for sweets so he might lose some weight that he even changed the route he traveled
to work each day to avoid a certain bakery.
He did well for a while until he arrived at the office one morning with
a large cake. His coworkers expressed
their disappointment. But he explained,
“Without thinking, I took the old route to work. And there was the bakery with all its goodies
calling to me from the shop window. And
I prayed that if God did not want me to buy some sweets there would be no parking
space in front of the bakery. But there
it was: a parking space! The ninth time around the block, and there it
Haven’t we all played that game with
ourselves – the bargaining that inevitably leads to our giving in to
temptation? And we do this about things
far more significant than a chocolate layer cake. We play the bargaining game with lust (“God
wouldn’t have invented the bikini if he didn’t want me to look.”), with property
or money (“A big company can afford this piddling amount – they expect things
to fall off the back of the truck.”), with the truth (“I only say that sort of
thing to keep the peace.”), with personal responsibility (“Everybody does
was the situation that God found so intolerable in the days of Noah. It was not so much that sins were suddenly
being committed in the world. There had
been sinning since Adam and Eve. It was
that no one called them sins. As our own days, everything was
“natural.” If it feels good, it must be
good. God determined to wipe this
attitude off the face of the earth. So God
hit the “reset button.”
Temptation after the Flood remains. But God wanted temptation to become an
encounter with godliness rather than a dance of excuses. This is what Jesus experienced in his own temptations, as recorded in the
other gospels. Rather than finding excuses
that surrendered to his impulses, Jesus’ temptations became places to meet God
and to lean on the Father.
It can be the same for you and me,
if we observe these four simple, though demanding, steps in our every
temptation. First, name the temptation. Use the right, true name for things. Some critics propose that this is a problem
with our national defense: that the government does not “name” or identify a
real threat against the U.S.
as jihadist Islam. But until the problem
is accurately named, possible responses will never be found. It is the same with personal
temptations. Name them. It is not “borrowing;” it is stealing. It is not “being friendly;” it is flirting
that may lead to adultery. It is not
“controlling my own body;” it is abortion, the killing of innocent life. It is not “improving my image;” it is
lying. Name the temptation.
Then, name the tempter. Of course, we can always say, “The Devil made
me do it.” But if the Great Deceiver were
capable of honesty, the Devil would have to agree with all confidence men: You
cannot con an honest person. Most of the
time, the Devil doesn’t need to get involved.
The actual tempter is our own
impulse: our own lust, greed,
selfishness, indifference to others, egoism.
Unmask our own attempts at rationalizing. Name the tempter.
Next, practice resistance. Like athletic abilities or musical skills,
virtue is power acquired through practice.
Truth telling in small matters, kindness in caring for others, rigorous
respect for others’ possessions and relationships – these develop into habits
that become nearly automatic when greater temptations are before us. Practice resistance.
Finally, call for help. Be a person who is open to an ongoing
relationship with God. Pray. This divine relationship began in our
baptism. And our baptism also brings us
into union with all the baptized: this community of faith, the Church. Use the good people whom God has placed in
our lives. Talk to friends. Seek prudent advice. Listen to the wisdom of the teachings of the
Church. There are some things that a
person just cannot do on his or her own.
Call for help.
Every Lenten season begins with the
temptations of Jesus in the desert. This
is not an accident. It is a reminder
that, like Jesus, we also can experience temptation not as a time for personal
failure, but instead as a time and a place in which to meet God and to lean on
 Howard Clark
Kee, “The Gospel according to Matthew,” The
Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press,
1971), p. 645.
 Charles W. F.
Smith, “Lord’s Prayer,” The Interpreters’
Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1962), volume
3, p. 157.
 Peter Gomes, The Good Book (San Francisco: