Fr. Curt’s homily on the First Sunday in Lent, Year B.
- About Us
Fr. Curt’s homily at the Noon service on Ash Wednesday (Valentine’s Day). The 7pm presentation of the homily included comments following the high school shooting in Florida. The text is below the link to the audio.
Some of you know that in recent years, through a process of trial and error, I have discovered I am allergic to nuts: peanuts, tree nuts, almonds, cashews, you name it. This is not as serious an allergy as it can be for a lot of people. In my case, it breeds headaches which put me out of commission for several hours at a time.
An unfortunate byproduct of this allergy is that I’ve had to eliminate a fair amount of chocolate from my diet… chocolate that’s made in facilities where nuts are present. If I want chocolate, I actually have to read the labels on food packaging… the list of allergens, next to warnings about wheat, soy, and dairy.
I constantly ask the question: will a particular chocolate build me up or tear me down?
I know there are worse things in the world; there are people who suffer from real problems. But for me, this is a first-world existential crisis. I love chocolate… but Curt Norman and the consumption of much of the world’s chocolate… stand in conflict with one another.
Today, we awaken to conflict. Two calendars which guide our lives… Church and secular… stand in conflict with one another. It is February the 14th. In the secular world, it is Valentine’s Day… which means a box of chocolates for the ones we love, as well as greeting cards, flowers, romantic dinners, marriage proposals, champagne… or the silent treatment for persons who believe their spouse when the spouse says they don’t want anything for Valentine’s Day. Not that it’s ever happened to me.
On the CHURCH calendar, February 14th means the same thing each year, as well. It is the feast of Cyril and Methodius, the monk and bishop who were missionaries to the slavs in the ninth century. But that’s not what you were thinking. You were thinking of the observance which takes precedence over Cyril and Methodius… how Passover falls in such a way this year that February 14th is Ash Wednesday… the beginning of the penitential season of Lent… a time some associate only with giving up chocolate, meat, or other foods of relative decadence and luxury.
While such abstinence can yield good, in a deeper sense, Lent prompts us to consider which calendar we choose to follow: secular or religious. Is it possible to give ourselves to both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday? Will eating Valentine’s Day chocolate on Ash Wednesday ruin Lent?
It’s fun to make light of the way the Christian calendar falls in 2018. At the same time, we must remember that giving proper attention in Lent to what we consume has implications for life’s more serious issues.
Lent is the season of the Church year in which we consider… with intention… how following Jesus puts us at conflict with the ways of the world. And when we are confronted with the inconvenient truth that the practices we engage-in tear down instead of build up… we must decide to strengthen our commitment to the way of Jesus… or fall further away.
From Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
If we were to set moths free in our closets at home, we know they would eat all our clothes. They would tear at the fabric of garments which define, protect, and warm us. Rust is the “outward and visible” sign of the “inward and actual” decay that comes with a metal’s continued exposure to the natural elements. Over time, rust weakens the bonds of metal… and can be the underlying cause of a collapse. Thieves… at the risk of stating the obvious… steal. The calculating, self-serving work of a thief is to deny what rightfully belongs to a person or people.
In a moment, we will pray together the Litany of Penitence. As we do, God through the Church calls us to pay close attention to the various ways we invest in earthly treasures… practices which tear at the fabric of humanity, weaken our bonds, and impoverish the vulnerable.
While it’s comfortable for me to think OTHERS are to blame for all that is wrong in the world… the Litany rightly calls on me to accept responsibility for, and reconsider, rethink, repent of my role in keeping our society from what God intends it to be. When we speak these petitions… and allow them to take root… we prepare ourselves to hear God’s voice say: will you be mine? Will you give Jesus your heart?
Can we belong to Jesus boldly enough to empower humanity to “give up” our prevailing sins of racism, misogyny, ageism, homophobia, xenophobia, greed, and all forms of overt and subtle exploitation?
Can we belong to Jesus angrily enough to engage civic structures to the degree that our children and teachers once again feel safe in school… and make today’s violence in Florida the last episode?
Can we the family of St. John’s belong to Jesus lovingly enough that we become the heart of Old Town? Or at least an atrium, ventricle, or valve?
As much as we can grow closer to God by giving up food or beverage… may we have the guts to end our participation in practices which tear at the fabric of our community… place us at risk of decline and collapse… and spiral any or all of us into spiritual and material poverty.
And with that, may God give us the grace to build up our neighbors in Old Town… and make real HERE the kind of world God desires.
The Rev. Curt Norman began his ministry at St. John’s on January 8, 2017.
Fr. Curt received his Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film from the University of North Texas (Denton, Texas) and his Master of Divinity from the University of the South School of Theology (Sewanee, Tennessee) in 2001. He served as Curate at Christ Church – Plano, Texas, Associate Rector at St. Peter’s – Del Mar, California, and Associate Rector at Holy Faith – Santa Fe, New Mexico. Prior to arriving in Saginaw, Fr. Curt served as Rector of St. Luke’s – Denison, Texas and Rector of St. Luke’s – Stephenville, Texas
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