The Fourth Sunday of Easter
Three Steps to Heaven
I want to focus your attention on the first two sentences of the gospel reading.
My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.
The gospel reading for the fourth Sunday of Easter focuses on the relationship between a shepherd and his flock. A subject many of us find unfamiliar, but very familiar to the gospel writers audience.
Familiar or not there are several lessons for us today living far from the tranquility of a pasture filled with sheep and a shepherd.
My Sheep Hear My Voice
God constantly speaks to us trying to get our attention. The problem is that the world is seeking our attention as well. In addition to the numerous voices trying to get our undivided attention the sights and sounds become jumbled and confusing.
The world screams at us to try this or that while God whispers I love you. Do you hear God whispering your name? To give ourselves a chance to hear God we need to shut out the noise of the world and spend a few moments each day in silence.
I Know Them
A shepherd and his sheep have a special relationship. The sheep know the voice of the shepherd and respond only to him.
God knows his children better than they know themselves. The question is not how well God knows us but how well we know him. Are we so familiar with our shepherd that we are not fooled if a false shepherd speaks to us?
They Follow Me
To me this is a natural response. We hear the shepherd’s voice he knows us we know him and follow.
It may be natural for sheep to follow a shepherd but we lose our way from time to time. God has provided physical signs for us to follow. The sacraments immediately come to mind. By definition a sacrament is an outward physical sign instituted by Christ to provide grace. But I want to expand the signs to include things we see every time we attend mass.
The holy water font is a sign of the beginning of our faith journey.
Pictures of the Holy Father and the local Bishop we are members of a global Church.
The presence of the priest at mass is a sign for us to follow. This is the year of the priest and today is the world day of prayer for vocations.
The tabernacle is a sign of Christ’s true presence for us and a reminder for us to follow our shepherd.
My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.
Our prayer this week to hear his voice, get to know him better and to follow him.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Advent marks the beginning of a new church year. A new beginning a clean slate. My first response to a new beginning is to look back. Where was I this time last year? What was going on in my corner of the world?
Well last year was a medical challenge, prostate cancer surgery December 2nd followed by outpatient surgery in April. And endless days of one step forward and two steps back. Oh and pneumonia twice this year I really am a lucky guy.
I am a lucky guy for a number of reasons one I mention here. I would not be where I am today without the constant care of my wife. She had a difficult year dealing with a difficult patient. Through her efforts I found God each day in all she has done and continues to do for me.
Well a look back can be an eye opener. But what we do with the information is the key to our future. For example I have had two PSA tests that indicate I am cancer free. So looking back will hopefully push us forward to a new place.
We have a clean slate to work with, what we choose to write or draw is up to us.
Advent is a time to look back to the birth of Christ. God became man to die for the sins of all to bring redemption. We must keep the incarnation active and alive in our hearts so the message is not lost.
The world is trying to silence the message with political correctness. Happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Holiday trees no Christmas trees allowed. And on and on the assault to the message of God’s love continues and many Christians are guilty of silence.
Advent is a time to discover how many times and ways God comes to us today. Advent has a past and future but many times the presence of God with us in this moment is lost. Advent is a season of not only past and future but present. Seek to discover God in today.
Advent offers an opportunity to look to the future and the second coming of our Lord. Scripture makes very clear that no one knows the moment or the hour of the coming of the son of man. But scripture is also clear on two other points. Jesus will return and we need to be prepared for his coming.
The season of advent is a time of anticipation and expectation. Past present or future the season is your opportunity to find Christ around every corner.
My prayer for you is a blessed Advent as you find the Lord in your world.
Posted by Tom Stonecipher at 11:55 AM
Friday, January 2, 2009
Today is thirty days post surgery. The surgery was performed on December 2, 2008 as planned.
All went well with one exception; my colon was nicked during the removal of the prostate gland. A specialist was called and the repair was made. This extended my hospital stay an additional three days.
The pathology report of the prostate gland indicated cancer on the left and right side of the gland as expected. There was no cancer in the seminal vessels or four lymph nodes.
A PSA test will be performed the end of February or early March. The result should be a low reading .02 or so. A low reading would indicate that the cancer has been removed.
I am recovering slowly but making progress each day. I plan to return to work on a limited schedule next Monday.
Thanks for all the prayers, cards, notes and calls. Please keep me in your prayers.
A special thanks to my wife for all she has done to help me recover. I cannot begin to tell you the extent of care she has provided but without her I would not be in the place I am today.
I wish everyone a blessed and happy new year.
Posted by Tom Stonecipher at 10:18 AM
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
At the request of my wife I have read The Shack. I did not read any reviews but I did run past several reviews and noticed that they were over the top in the positive column. I noticed a few reviews that let’s say were less than five stars. So I thought I would add my two cents about the shack.
I found several positive thoughts set forth in the book.
1. God loves me beyond my ability to understand.
2. God desires a relationship with me.
3. The intimacy of our relationship is mine to cultivate.
4. The trinity is active in our world.
5. All things work together for good.
6. We need to discover ways to live in the moment.
I am not going to elaborate on these thoughts but I think all of us would do well to spend time contemplating the richness of each thought.
I of course found several items in the book that I cannot put a positive spin on. You had to know I would find something.
1. First we must keep in mind that this book is a work of fiction.
2. It is not well written.
3. The trinity is pictured as way to human.
4. When we find no answer or confront a situation we don’t understand we have a tendency to bring God down to our level.
5. When we humanize God we set aside his divinity.
6. We lose the awe factor or reverence that God deserves.
Some might say if it helps to view God as portrayed in the shack what is the harm. Well we spend a great deal of time trying to justify our actions and putting God on our level is harmful if we twist and turn the nature of God to suit our needs.
The book by the way is about the trinity. Maybe a better title would have been The Trinity for Dummies.
Posted by Tom Stonecipher at 8:50 PM
Sunday, October 26, 2008
From the Horse’s Mouth
Eleven days ago I sat in a doctor’s office waiting for him to come in and give me the results of my prostrate biopsy. The door opened and before he reached his chair he said your test was positive. I have prostate cancer.
A journey I had walked with many others has now become my journey. The conversation was filled with rapid fire options, terms, and questions posed without much time to absorb what was being said. This was not the fault of the doctor he answered my questions and provided many options most of which I had learned about on the internet. I did contact the doctor several days following my diagnosis for clarification and he graciously answered all my questions and addressed my concerns. Then the ultimate question what do you want to do?
I wanted him to leave the room and return a moment later and tell me I did not have cancer. Short of that nothing he could say would make me happy. Based on my Gleason score 3 + 4 and the grade of T1a I made the decision to have my prostrate surgically removed. The surgery is scheduled for December 2nd.
Let me speak to the guys for a moment. Many cancers caught early present the best chance for a positive result but there are always exceptions. Putting the exceptions aside early detection through the PSA test and DRE (digital rectal exam) are the key to early detection. So men get the PSA test as often as your primary care physicians recommends and don’t skip the recital exam.
Consider my case. A normal PSA test range is less than 1 to 4. My latest test was 3.8 still in the normal range. The digital rectal exam was negative. But my last three tests went from 1.8 to 2.7 and finally 3.8. So a biopsy was ordered and the rest is history. In some cases a rising PSA though normal can indicate cancer.
So if you have any questions or concerns about your test results talk to your doctor. If you are still not satisfied get a second opinion. My doctor recommend additional testing and consequently it appears my cancer was caught early.
Please keep me and my family in your prayers. Remember there are exceptions when you talk about cancer and cures. Prostate cancer has a high cure rate 85 % in my case. So pray that I don’t fall into the 15 % category.
I will post as soon as I am able after surgery. Thanks again for the prayers.
Posted by Tom Stonecipher at 4:47 PM
Saturday, July 5, 2008
My wife has had both of her knees replaced one six years ago and the second three years ago. In preparation for the first replacement she turned to the internet to gather as much information as possible. She found a web site she calls the knee board.
The board was not only a place to find much needed information but she discovered two unexpected blessings.
First she found that sharing her experience was a comfort to those who were days from knee replacement and had many more questions than answers.
Second she found many new friends, a relationship built on a common experience more often than not runs its course as the need for comfort or information diminishes. But in her case one friendship has stood the test of time.
She has kept in touch with Eddie and his family for six years. Email, instant messages phone calls and cards have moved the relationship from a common experience based on a common need to a friendship.
Over the year’s getting together popped up in conversation from time to time. Eddie and his family live in the Midwest we live in Atlanta. So they would promise to get together neither believing it would happen.
Well you guessed it Eddie called and said they were on the way. A short four day visit had been planned. They are far from strangers on one hand but on the other had we had not met in person.
I figured if I could tolerate family getting along with Eddie and his wife Lorna would be a piece of cake. After all we would be on our best behavior. I am happy to report all went very well.
We picked them up at the airport and for three days Beckey and I did our best to show them Atlanta as only a life time resident can. In the short time we had together we had the opportunity to share our life stories. They learned about us and we learned about them.
Having had long distance information sharing for six years we discovered we had the job and kid thing settled, so we moved to sharing thoughts and concerns that good friends feel comfortable sharing.
For example Eddie told me about his sock drawer. You need to know that Eddie has OCD obsessive compulsive disorder. No he is nothing like Monk on TV. He just has a need to have new socks in a drawer that he never uses.
I have reflected on their visit and I found Eddie taught me a thing or two when it comes to maintaining a sock drawer. Understand that Beckey washes and dries my socks and puts them in the clothes hamper for me to match up. They may stay in the hamper a couple of weeks before I get around to matching them up. It drives Beckey crazy I think it would push Eddie off the deep end.
Things I have learned from Eddie’s sock drawer:
1. I need to do better with my sock drawer.
2. Being a bit compulsive is a wonderful gift.
3. Looking to the past can provide a clear picture of the future.
4. Little things often forgotten can be priceless if the need arises.
5. There is nothing wrong with being prepared. The boy scouts live by this motto.
6. I have gone to the sock drawer to find the cupboard bare. My friend Eddie has never had this problem.
I discovered many things over our time together none more important than this - I found a new friend and if I need a pair of socks I know who to call.
Posted by Tom Stonecipher at 7:50 PM
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Fifth Sunday of Lent John 11:1-45
Homily: Lazarus Come Out
Two weeks ago the woman at the well found living water. Last week the blind beggar receives his sight. This Sunday’s gospel reading relates the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus is sick. Jesus remains where he was two more days before returning to Judea.
When Jesus arrives he discovers that Lazarus has been dead for four days. The Jews believed that the spirit remained with the body for three days. There was no doubt that Lazarus was dead.
Martha tells Jesus that if he had been there their brother would not have died. Jesus tells her that her brother will be raised. She replies that she understands that he will be raised on the last day.
Martha projected her faith into the future. But Jesus was not talking about the last day. He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead this very day.
We project our faith into the future. We believe that if we are faith full we will find eternal life at the end of our journey. But many are in desperate need of conversion and the freedom conversion brings today.
For we find ourselves trapped in tombs of our own making. The key to freedom is Jesus setting us free. His words are life giving.
Consider our self imposed tombs.
1. SIN – We live each waking moment trying to satisfy the desires of the flesh. The world would like for us to believe that sin is not a problem. That in fact sin no longer exists. You can do as you please as long as we do not harm others.
2. SELF INDULGENCE – The Hollywood crowd are the poster children for living a life of self indulgence. Seems we can’t get enough no matter how much we spend.
3. ADDICTION – Drugs alcohol imprison us in a world of darkness and misery.
4. FEAR – There are many today who fear tomorrow to the point of losing today. The joy of today is lost in what might happen tomorrow.
Jesus asks those present at the grave site to roll away the stone. He was moments away from raising Lazarus from the dead. He did not need help removing the stone. But this request points us to the ministry of the Church. We are to assist the Lord in setting people free.
The stone rolled away Jesus calls Lazarus to come out. Lazarus appears bound hand and foot with a cloth over his face. Jesus instructs those present to set him free.
Jesus called Lazarus to come out. He was bound hand a foot. He faced a challenge and struggle to respond. It was not easy. But he did what was necessary to find life and freedom. The Church stands ready to help one and all who seek true freedom but the first step must be theirs. They must desire to step out.
Have you found yourself imprisoned in a self made tomb today? Jesus wants to set you free. Not only on the last day but today. The stone has been rolled away. He is calling your name.
Step out of the darkness into the light of Christ.
Posted by Tom Stonecipher at 2:18 PM