“They honor me with words but their hearts are far away.”

My daughter came up to me yesterday and asked, “dad can we do some community service today?”  I asked her what she had in mind, and she was thinking of taking flowers to people in the hospital that have no one to visit them, or offering to do some grocery shopping for some elderly neighbors.  You wanna know what my first thought was?  It was ‘oh man, that sounds like a big production — and then what do we say to these people?”  So I immediately started coming up with some service ideas that involved less face-to-face contact with strangers.  Nice, huh?  Way to support and teach my daughter.  Good job.

 And then I thought about the Gospel reading on that day, Good Shepherd Sunday.  Out of sheer coincidence, the day before while reading the gospels and watching the neighborhood cihldren play, I read this same passage, also the parable of the Widow’s mite.  The next link in the chain of thought was part of the Byzantine prayer before communion which has been on my mind of late:

O Lord, I believe and profess that You are truly Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came into the World to save sinners, of whom I am the first. Accept me as a partaker of your mystical supper, O Son of God, for I will not reveal Your mysteries to our enemies, nor will I give you a kiss as did Judas, but like the thief will I confess to You.

Remember me, O Lord, when You shall come into Your kingdom.

Remember me, O Master, when You shall come into Your kingdom.

Remember me, O Holy One, when You shall come into Your kingdom…

It got me to thinking about how anyone trying to enter the sheepfold by any way other than the gate is a thief.  Yet, here I was trying to find my own gate into the sheepfold — hopefully one that is a nice, comfortable passage for me. I had rationalizied that I had given ‘enough’, and that performing anonymous Christian service was sufficient — that “I had done my bit for King and country.”  I’m a thief, trying to make my salvation on my own terms, and stealing the true faith from my children.  I wonder how much of my attitude as a Christian is reduced to bumper-sticker doctrine.  If I really believed and understood the Truth of our faith, would I be as casual with my actions — or would I have the fire of the early Martyrs who faced the horrors of the Roman empire with a smile on their face and the beauty of the radical Truth in their actions.

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