The Reverend Dan Herron
Today’s gospel is rich in meaning. It is often referred to as “Jesus Prays for his Disciples.” Personally, I wish that the next verse had been included in our reading. That verses says, “do not ask for these only,(meaning the disciples) but also for those who come after who will believe in me through their word.” Those coming after, are you and me. Jesus is praying for us.
Twenty-nine years ago in November I became a deacon. To reach this goal I had to study for four years at my own expense for a job that didn't pay. Yet I did this gladly as I knew that this was my calling. The word Deacon comes from the Greek and means one who serves. Long before my ordination and the right to the title of Deacon I was a deacon, just as long before I was married I was in love with Betsy.
I grew up in Philadelphia. My parents, siblings and grandparents all lived in a small house with only one bathroom. I grew up in the Catholic Church. Growing up I learned that we are all called to be Christ to one another. We are called to break down barriers, to reach out and to serve.
The Hymn “Anthem” speaks of this as we sing
We Are Called, We Are Chosen.
We are promised to tomorrow,
while we are for him today.
We are sign, we are wonder.
We are sower, we are seed.
We are harvest, we are hunger.
We are question, we are creed.
I have learned over the years that most of us prefer to live in boxes we create for ourselves. We believe these boxes provide us with safety, that they can protect us; but that is illusion I learned that lesson again this year. I was near death and during that time I was struck by the fact that we take millions of things for granted each day. Last Sunday as I listened to Fr Bob’s sermon I looked out the window and saw a lone bird on a wire. The bird became a symbol to me of our freedom. Our ability to make choices. Choices that can demonstrate our commitment to the belief that we are Christ to one another.
In our baptism we are anointed and we pledge to resist evil, to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves and to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being. It is hard to keep these vows if we are locked in a box of our own making. However, if we remember that we are children of God and that as such we are Christ’s siblings and that God has given us the freedom to make choices then how can we do less than strive to live up to these vows every day and to also thank God for all that he has given us. We need to work each day to be the person God knows we can be.
In formation for the Diaconate we learned that every Gospel reading is a call to action. We have the freedom to serve others. We have God’s love. We need to leave our boxes behind and serve others. The service does not always need to be grandiose. We might serve by acts of kindness, by helping our neighbors, by being more aware and looking around to see what needs to be done. It might be calling a fellow parishioner, volunteering in a prison, teaching a class, visiting someone in the hospital. The gesture might not seem like much to us but it would be a big deal to those who are in need.
In my final interview with the bishop before my ordination, he asked me what if I were kept from taking the final step because something had been discovered in my past that prohibited my ordination. The answer was easy. It would not matter because a deacon is a person who serves and regardless of the formality I would always serve God. I am reminded of this today, my last day as a formal deacon, because even though I am retiring I am not quitting. I will continue to serve God.
I want to take this opportunity to thank my wife Betsy. She has stood by me through good times and bad. She did not desert me in the days when I drank. She has supported me in my work. Thank you. Betsy. I also want to thank Fr. Bob and all of you here at Transfiguration. As I said, I may be retiring but I am not leaving. My call to action has merely changed.
According to the Merrian-Webster Dictionary, the word AMEN means, “to express solemn ratification (as of an expression of faith) or hearty approval (as of an assertion).”
When I was in seminary, we were taught AMEN means, “This I Do Believe.” Yes, it is similar to the dictionary’s definition but to AMEN becomes more personal when it is used with the first person pronoun “I”.
You might be thinking, “So, it’s still just a word?”
The word AMEN is stated several times during the Catholic and Episcopal cerebration of the Holy Eucharist.
Well, according to Canon Law in both churches a priest is not permitted to celebrate Mass without at least one other person present and if that person says nothing (and yes this is “splitting hairs”) the Mass is not valid.
That’s right. The person or people witnessing what the priest is doing has a small but very important part to play in the celebration of mass. They must say AMEN at precisely the right time.
“I never knew that. So what is the right time?”
It comes toward the end of the Consecration of the Bread and Wine. The priest will say: “Through Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ, all honor and
glory are yours, Almighty God and Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and for ever.” And we say: “AMEN.” And this AMEN should be the loudest in the entire cerebration. The people in the houses in the neighborhood should hear us. For if we do believe what is happening every Sunday at our Altars throughout the world, people should know about it.
My thoughts on Mark 9:2-9
When my wife, children and I first settled in AZ back in 1979, I realized that no matter where I looked I saw mountains. Some were little more than hills but the majority were huge mountains, many extending thousands of feet into the sky.
In 1984 we purchased a house in Peoria, AZ and soon I began hiking the “White Tank Mountains” which were located west of our home. I would take a lunch with me, mostly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and I would sit on the summit. From there on clear days, I could see the entire “Valley of The Sun.” Each time I made this journey I felt a bit closer to God. I think I felt this way in part because of the journey, the “Goat Trail” was rough in those days especially after a heavy rain, but also because I knew I was on a mountain similar to the one where Jesus often went to pray.
In our Gospel story Jesus and his friends (Peter, James and John) go to the mountain top to pray and Jesus is Transfigured before them. It must have been a fantastic sight to see Moses and Elijah, two of the pillars of Hebrew faith, standing with Jesus. Peter overwhelmed by what he saw could not contain himself and felt he had to do something, he even suggested that he build booths or places of worship for Jesus, Elijah and Moses.
But the climax of the vision is when God, in the form of a cloud, says to the men, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
As I sat atop the White Tank Mountains one Saturday years ago, I read this story and the thought came to me that each of us are also in a way “Transfigured” the moment we begin to set aside ourselves and start reaching to God in service of others. Some may call this a “Born Again Experience,” or a variety of other things; but to my mind, the moment we turn our lives over to God, God in turn says to us, “This is my Son (Daughter), the Beloved; listen to him (her)!”
My reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel Mark 1:29-39.
Jesus said, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”
So there it is. This is the reason why Jesus came to this earth. To tell the world that the Kingdom is at hand. So I guess the miracles were some what of an attention getter. He heals someone and “WOW! This guy is special, let’s listen to him.”
This coming weekend the Eagles are playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Now, I know I’ve been out West for almost 40 years but just as Tony Bennet left his “heart in San Francisco,” I left mine in Philly and will always be a Philadelphian. I may not have followed the Eagles every Sunday for the past 71 years but I have always known where they were in the league standings, just listening to our local news every week gives me the scores across the NFL.
As crazy as it may seem, I think for many if not most of us, following Jesus and His teachings are much the same. We know where the Bible is in our house but we may not go to it every week but it’s there just in case. And we reach out to His word, His teaching on Sunday and when we need Him. Then the crisis is over (or the season is over) and we set Jesus and our favorite team aside 'till another time.
But as we wait 'till next season for our favorite team, Jesus is always there, waiting for us and He wants to tell us about His Kingdom, that it is not far away.
Deacon Dan (“FLY EAGLES FLY”)
When I was in seminary, one of our teachers, Deacon Dick Regan, told us that he believed what Jesus was telling his followers in this reading from the gospel was that "The Kingdom of God is so close to you that all you have to do is repent, and believe in the Good News." That’s it!
I thought to myself, “How can it possibly be that easy? All good Christians have repented and believe in the Good News and yet where is the Kingdom of God?”
Now, years later as I revisit this Gospel reading I ask myself, “Have I truly repented, I mean repent to the core of who I am and do I truly believe in the Good News as Jesus presented it to us, to me?”
These are hard questions I ask of myself and yet could I have accurately answered them back in seminary when my head was deep in study and my emotions were at my dad’s bedside as he
was dying in Philly of cancer?
But today, what is my answer? I believe repenting is not a “one and done” thing. I see it as something we come to grips with as we understand what we have done and who we may have hurt along the way. Much of the pain we have cause may have been unintentional but none the less as we begin to more fully understand the love of God and what that love is calling us to do, repentance becomes a more natural form of prayer. And gradually as we do repent, the teachings of Christ become more and more alive.
My Thoughts On Lighting The First Candle On Our Advent Wreath
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent means "coming" and in this season we prepare for the coming of Christ. One of the ways we prepare for his coming is by making an Advent wreath and lighting its candles to remind us of the gifts Christ brings to the world.
The Advent wreath includes many symbols to help us think about Christ and his gifts. The wreath itself is in the shape of a circle. A circle has no beginning and no end. This reminds us that there is no beginning and no end to God and that God's love and caring are forever.
The light from the candles - which grows stronger each Sunday in Advent, reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world.
Today we light the candle of HOPE. The people of Israel hoped in God's promises and were not disappointed. Again and again God delivered Israel from its enemies. We too have the same experience of salvation. That is why we believe in God's promise to send Jesus to us once again to judge the world and establish his kingdom forever upon the earth.
HOPE is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at the light of this candle we celebrate the HOPE we have in Jesus Christ.
Lighting the Candle for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
Last Sunday we lit the candle of JOY. We light it and the candles of HOPE and PEACE again as we remember that Christ, who was born in Bethlehem, will come again to fulfill all of God's promises and bring us everlasting peace and joy.
The fourth candle of Advent is the Candle of LOVE. God's Love is a perfect Love. It holds nothing back. God, in Love, gives us everything we need to live a life of Hope and Peace.
The bible says that "God so loved the world that he gave his onl Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Jesus shows us God's perfect love.
This is what Love is like: Love is patient, Love is kind and
envies no one. Love is never boastful or conceited, rude or selfish. Love is not quick to take offense, it keeps no records of wrongs, it does not gloat over other people's troubles, but rejoices in the right, the good, and the true. There is nothing that Love cannot face, there is no limit to its Faith, to its Hope, to its endurance.
Love never ends. We light the candle of Love to remind us that Jesus brings us God's Love and shows us how to Love others.
Love is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at this
candle we celebrate the Love we find in Jesus Christ.
May this Christmas find you in the arms of Christ's HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE. And may 2018 be the best year of your lives so far.
My reflections on lighting the Third Advent Candle.
Last Sunday in Churches and households throughout the world we lit the candle of PEACE. We light it and the candle of HOPE again as we remember that Christ, who was born in Bethlehem, will come again to judge the world and bring it everlasting peace.
The third candle of Advent is the Candle of JOY When the angel Gabriel told Mary that a special child would be born to her she was filled with JOY. She sang a song that began with the words: "My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
Just as the birth of Jesus gave great JOY to his mother, so his presence in the world gave JOY to those who had none before. He healed them and gave them HOPE and PEACE when they believed in him. From HOPE, PEACE, and LOVE grows JOY.
We light the candle of JOY to remind us that when Jesus is born in us we have JOY and that through him there will be everlasting JOY on earth.
JOY is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at this candle we celebrate the JOY we find in Jesus Christ.
My thoughts on lighting the Second Candle of Advent.
Last Sunday, in Churches and in households throughout the world, we lit the first candle in our Advent Wreath, the candle of HOPE. We light it again this Sunday as we remember that Christ, who was born in Bethlehem, will come again to fulfill all of God's promises to us.
The Second candle of Advent is the Candle of PEACE. Peace is a word that we hear a lot. It is one of the things that we Hope for. Christ brought peace when he first came to us and he will bring everlasting peace when he comes again.
The prophet Isaiah called Christ "the Prince of Peace". When Jesus came he taught people the importance of being Peace makers. He said that those who make Peace shall be called the children of God.
We light the candle of Peace to remind us that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and that through him peace is found.
Peace is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at this candle we celebrate the peace we find in Jesus Christ.