November 18, 2012


Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

– Mark 13: 31

   Soon after entering college, a young man sent a telegram to his father that read: “Feather in my cap – elected class president.” A few weeks later he sent a second wire: “Another feather in my cap – accepted into best fraternity.” A month later he sent a third telegram: “Still another feather in my cap – leading role in class play.” At the end of term he sent a message to his brother:  “Flunked out; prepare father; tell him to send money to come home.” His brother replied: “Father prepared; better prepare yourself. Father says stick all those feathers on your shoulders & fly home.”

   In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us to put our trust in his words to bring us home to God. The feathers in our cap will pass away, but His words will not pass away.

   The problem for many of us is that we’ve taken on so much baggage in our life’s journey. We can fill our life to overflowing with the things of this world but if we place our trust in them to fulfill our life, we will discover one day that we cannot come home to God under their heavy burden. When we realize that these things do NOT bring us happiness, we make it worse by going after MORE things.  The burden gets heavier & heavier. The frustration gets deeper & deeper, & the journey back home to God gets rougher & rougher. The distance gets longer & longer & our life becomes more & more complicated.

   One of the sayings in Alcoholic Anonymous goes “Keep it simple, stupid!” An old New England “shaker” hymn expresses this sentiment a bit more poetically:

It is a gift to be simple, it is a gift to be free. It is a gift to come down to where we ought to be. When we find ourselves to be in the place just right, it will be in the valley of love & delight.

“The valley of love & delight” is simply to be with God. That is why we worship: we want to come back home to God. But many of us are carrying so much excess baggage we cannot make it. The journey into that valley is made even more difficult by the social pressures we live under. We’ve been taught the Gospel of plenty. We’ve been taught to measure success by how many feathers we have in our caps.

   Complicating the simple is a way of life for many. An American archbishop stationed in Rome once remarked, “All I ever wanted to be was a simple parish priest.” The response came back, “Why aren’t you?” One of my seminary professors put it this way, “It is God who is simple & we who are complicated & refuse to give up our complications.” Our Lord tells us not to be anxious about our life. What do we do? We literally invent things to worry about.

   There are times when the truth hurts. Facing up to the reality of our frantic efforts to put more feathers in our cap will not bring us the peace of soul we need & want. It is a frustrating experience. It is not easy to accept the fact that our life has been moving in the wrong direction.

   When we ask the Lord in faith to give us the simple life, He answers with words that will never pass away: “Come back to God. Follow me into the valley of love & delight. As I have cared for you, care for one another.” It is as simple as that!  AMEN!