13th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: June 28, 2020
“I am a distinguished life member!”
Seven years ago, I heard myself say these words when I received this status for an engineering community that I am involved with.
Those who know my background, know that I have a degree in ceramic engineering and a specialty in something called refractories. Refractories are bricks and concretes that are used at extreme temperatures over 1600 degrees Celsius in the harsh processes of steel plants, cement plants, incinerators, glass factories, etc.
It is a very unique speciality and the community that researches, installs, uses and talks about this is definitely a group of “geeks” from all over the world! They meet at least every two years around the world to discuss the latest and greatest, and when you get old enough, and enough grey hair, you get considered to be designated as a distinguished life member (DLM).
The DLM status has no money awarded, but instead recognition from your peers and an invitation to join every future meeting of “refractory nerds” at no cost!
Needless to say, I was thrilled with this status and the expectation to share my wisdom and knowledge with the future generations.
Attaining this status or designation came to me as a key message of today’s readings.
St. Paul tells the Romans, as well as us, what it means to be designated the status of “Christian” at the time of their baptism.
Paul says that Christians have died to their old self and the world and have risen with Christ and belong to the new world. Therefore, they must then behave accordingly and “walk in newness of life!”
Baptism, he says, is the new starting point, both when Christ started his ministry after his own baptism in the Jordan and for us as our starting point on our journey of faith. We join the Body of Christ, the people of God – our future is different.
We have died to our sinful nature and that Christ’s death and resurrection enable us to conquer the fear of our own death, and therefore live as happy, faithful, joyous Christians both now and eternally, knowing our status as Christian children of God.
This status as Christian, does not mean a life of leisure, of everything going perfect, or of ease and comfort.
We hear from Christ himself when he tells his disciples that they will have to take up their cross and may even have family members not agree with the path they have chosen.
The Christian journey is not easy always he says to us and is a matter of priorities. If we put Christ and God first in our lives, we may be ridiculed, but this is the cross we take up and walk with on the journey of faith.
We move from self-centred and me-first, to selfless, forgiving, and loving. We take time to pray, reflect, worship and actively help in our community. Of course, this will allow for less time and focus on minor worldly matters that aren’t important, like what clothes, or shoes, or cars we buy, but it is the path that we freely choose.
The purpose of our life is to use our gifts to serve others to bring the kingdom of God to the here and now. If we lose our life of using our gifts to serve ourselves only (self-focus), then we can find our lives in doing God’s work, and in making our societies a better place.
The Christians who champion and/or protest for social justice, fair trade, peace, anti-racism, anti-bullying; the ones who push for reform in education, housing, and the growing wealth gap between rich and poor; these are taking up the cross, the ones who may be ridiculed for their just causes. These are the people that Jesus says are not afraid to lose their life for the sake of the gospel.
We also see a great example in the first reading today. We see a wealthy woman take care of Elisha the prophet, who she sees in need of shelter and food. And when he asks her if she wants anything in return for her kindness, she says no, and that she is happy to live the simple life she has.
The woman could have asked for anything, but in her status as a child of God and faithful woman, she humbly states that she is happy with what she has.
We are called with our status of Children of God to get involved with the needs of the people God puts into our lives, to love our neighbour as ourselves.
We are to find our lives as God’s ambassadors, as God’s hands, when we put our gifts at his disposal.
We are Christians, we are baptized to a faith that helps those most in need, that puts an emphasis on love, on forgiveness, on peace, on joy and tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to be what God wants us to be – Distinguished Life Members!