Archive | August 2014

THE GARDENER-Rev. Becky Robbins-Penniman’s Sermon for the Feast of Mary of Magdala

This sermon has been reblogged from Karpos Kalos the website of Rev. Becky Robbins-Penniman

Pastor Becky was my local Priest mentor as I studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood with the Romancatholicwomenpriests in 2007 and 2008. She was a wonderful mentor and I was blessed to learn from her. Her sermons are always inspired and excellent and it is with great joy that I present her sermon for the Feast of Mary Magdalene. I met Pastor Becky when she was co-pastor at Lamb of God Lutheran-Episcopal Church in Estero,Florida. She is now Dean for South Florida and Pastor at the Good Shepherd Church in Dunedin ,Florida. It is my hope to hear her preach at her church in the future as hearing her is even better than reading. I enjoyed this sermon immensely.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Cpmmunity in Fort Myers, Florida

THE GARDENER
PENTECOST 6 – MARY MAGDALENE – YEAR A
July 20, 2014
Becky Robbins-Penniman
Church of the Good Shepherd, Dunedin, Florida
Copyright notices: The Scripture text is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division
of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used
by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted, all other content is original and copyrighted by Becky
Robbins-Penniman, 2014. All rights reserved.

Collect of the Day:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and
called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed
from all our infirmities and know you in the power of his unending life.

Judith 9:1,11–14
Judith prostrated herself, put ashes on her head, and uncovered the sackcloth she was wearing.
At the very time when the evening incense was being offered in the house of God in Jerusalem, Judith
cried out to the Lord with a loud voice, and said, “Your strength does not depend on numbers, nor
your might on the powerful. But you are the God of the lowly, helper of the oppressed, upholder of the
weak, protector of the forsaken, savior of those without hope. Please, please, God of my father, God
of the heritage of Israel, Lord of heaven and earth, Creator of the waters, King of all your creation,
hear my prayer! Make my deceitful words bring wound and bruise on those who have planned cruel
things against your covenant, and against your sacred house, and against Mount Zion, and against
the house your children possess. Let your whole nation and every tribe know and understand that you
are God, the God of all power and might, and that there is no other who protects the people of Israel
but you alone!”

Psalm 30:1–6
I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lifted me up and have not let my enemies triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to you, and you restored me to health.
You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.
Sing to the Lord, you servants of his; give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.
For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, his favor for a lifetime.
Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning.

2 Corinthians 5:14–18
The love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all
have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him
who died and was raised for them.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once
knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ,
there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is
from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

John 20:11–18
Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she
saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other
at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away
my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and
saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are
you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if
you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to
her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to
her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and
say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary
Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had
said these things to her.
Sermon Song: I Love to Tell the Story
Have you ever been misunderstood?
Have you ever had people tell lies about you that made you look bad?
Imagine if you were Mary Magdalene.
She is, without dispute, the first person to see Jesus at the tomb.
She is, without dispute, mentioned by name in the gospels
more often than all but three of the male disciples.
In today’s Gospel, the first word out of the risen Christ’s mouth
calls out to her.
Yet, if I were to ask you all who she is,
I’ll bet most of you would say she is a prostitute.
This is simply untrue – a speculation by some theologians
that began hundreds of years after she died –
way too late for her to defend herself.
The Greek Orthodox church never taught Mary was a prostitute,
and very recently the official Roman Catholic teaching changed:
from now on, no one was to refer to Mary Magdalene
as the “repentant sinner” that anointed Jesus’ feet.1
Who was she? Her most high-falutin’ title is “the Apostle to the Apostles,”
the one who is entrusted with the message
that Jesus is risen from the dead, and is ascending to the Father.
Jesus sends her to give that message
to others who will be sent to give the same message.
We’re used to hearing about the resurrection every week,
but it was startling news back then.
Startling? Maybe I should say it was flatly unbelievable.
Do you know what happens when we see something
or when people tell us something that we think is impossible?
We actually can’t see it or hear it,
not until something in us changes to open our minds up
to allow a new possibility to worm its way in.
1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_magdalene3
Mary saw Jesus. But, it couldn’t possibly be Jesus. So, it had to be the gardener.
She couldn’t see him until he spoke her name;
that familiar voice she knew and loved reached into her soul.
Something changed inside her – and new things became possible.
THEN she could see. She could see Jesus, not dead, but alive.
If that was true, then death is no longer the end –
that God really is greater than death.
But all that about the end of death is the Easter story, so enough for now.
Today, we’re looking at Mary Magdalene’s story.
After Jesus speaks to her, Mary goes to the other disciples
All four Gospels put the message about Jesus’ resurrection
in the mouth of Mary, the Apostle to the Apostles,
and then *POOF* she utterly disappears from scripture. Why?
I’m not much of one for long-term conspiracy theories.
I used to prosecute antitrust cases – which are, by definition, conspiracies –
and it’s really hard to keep an actual conspiracy going.
Sooner or later, someone cracks, or messes up, and the game is over.
So, unlike some authors, I don’t think there has been a 2000-year conspiracy by men
to write Mary Magdalene out of the church’s story.
But, a mindset, a cultural attitude, THOSE hang around for a long time.
The mindset of the 1st Century was that it was categorically impossible
for women to be trustworthy.
For something to be true, a man had to witness it.
Have things changed in 2000 years?
Not so much; in law school, the women were told not to go into litigation
because no jury would believe a word we said.
We tried cases anyway. We won some, we lost some – just like the guys.
Do I need to say that the wider church is still struggling with this?
Certainly not here at Good Shepherd, but I can’t tell you how many times
I’ve been out and about wearing my collar, just like the guys do,
minding my own business, and someone will say, “a WOMAN pastor?”
For some men and women, it’s a categorical impossibility, and then I get called “sister.”
I don’t get upset – why? They can’t help it. It’s their world view, how they think of things.
Until something in them changes, they truly can’t see me for what I am.
And, I’m not in charge of changing others.
The only person I can change is me, and that’s a full time job.
And, even if we change and are able to see a new possibility,
it doesn’t mean we’ll change our minds about what we think is right.
But sometimes we DO change ourselves and our minds.
A story. When I first got to my previous church, in Fort Myers,
there was a parishioner we’ll call Betty – not her real name.
Betty was the daughter of an Episcopal priest.
Her dad had brought her up to believe that
women could not, should not, must not be priests.
Other than that, they could do as they pleased.
And Betty, who is about 10 years younger than I am,
was a strong, confident, intelligent business woman.4
When I got to my new church, Betty avoided me,
she wouldn’t take communion from me, all that kind of thing.
I didn’t take it personally, because I knew it wasn’t personal –
it was all about Betty’s mindset, taught to her by a beloved dad
who had died some years earlier.
I usually don’t mess with the memories of beloved dads.
But Betty was pretty vocal with other parishioners,
and finally one of them said, “Listen, Becky’s not going anywhere.
You either need to make peace with her or find another church.”
So, Betty made an appointment to see me.
That morning, she came in, sat in a chair, crossed everything she could, and said,
“What makes you think you can be a woman priest?!”
I said, “Well, I didn’t have a lot to say about being a woman,
but I can tell you the story of my call to the priesthood.”
Then I told her the story I’ve told you, and if you don’t know the story,
it’s on the bulletin board outside the downstairs office.2
Betty listened. As she listened, she started uncrossing things.
When I was done, she sat there, silent, for a full minute.
The first words she said were,
“I didn’t have a lot to say about being a woman, either.”
After another pause, she said,
“Your story is a lot like my dad’s story of his call to the priesthood.”
Then she said, “I’m going to have to talk to my Mom about this.
She’s here visiting, you know.”
I already knew her mom felt the same way Betty did.
Every time her mom had visited from Pennsylvania,
they had gone to a different church.
That next Sunday, however, Betty was the very first person
to take Holy Communion from me; the second was her mother.
After the service, I found them and asked,
“Do you mind me telling what happened?”
Betty told me that her mom was going through the same thing
at her Episcopal church up in Pennsylvania.
Those dang women priests were showing up everywhere.
Betty’s mom really liked her new priest, though.
So, after Betty’s morning with me, they began talking things over.
As it happened, the next day Betty and her mom did Morning Prayer,
as Betty’s dad had always insisted they do together growing up.
The Gospel reading for that day was the story we read today.
Betty and her mom burst into laughter and decided
that if Jesus could trust Mary Magdalene with his word,
they could trust their female priests.
What changed? What changed was Betty; new things were now possible.
Betty changed because she took time to listen to my story and made a decision,
based not on labels, but on her new understanding,
2 http://www.scribd.com/doc/226827390/May-2014-Southern-Cross5
and from that understanding, she changed what she thought is right.
Humans have had to do this many times in history, and it is rarely easy.
It took 500 years for the Roman Church to absolve Galileo
for the sin of saying the earth orbits around the sun.
The people who disparaged Galileo weren’t demonic,
they just couldn’t comprehend there was a new possibility.
At least, not until something in them changed and they had a new understanding,
and that made them change what they thought was right.
But most issues aren’t as straightforward as astrophysics.
Most issues are about those mindsets and cultural attitudes
that begin shaping us when we are very young.
For example, in the U.S. and around, the world, many, many folks
are still wrestling with mindsets and cultural attitudes about race and sexual orientation.
When we are brought up with a certain mindset about these things,
it’s our world view, how we think of things.
Unless and until something in us changes, we truly can’t see people differently.
In the U.S. and around the world, we use mindsets and cultural attitudes
to label people so that they are no longer flesh and blood humans.
It’s so simple to have blanket opinions about labels.
It’s so easy to conclude that it is categorically impossible
for someone with a particular label to be good or to do a certain job
or to marry your kid or move next door.
We use labels for immigrants and people of other religions
as well as for people whose opinions differ from ours on economics,
on health care, on education, on defense, on 10,000 issues.
So, what’s a Christ-follower to do with all this?
A good place to start is in Paul’s words to the Corinthians.
Paul starts by insisting that Christ died for all,
and those of us who follow Jesus need to take that “all” seriously.
Paul teaches that Christ-followers look at others,
not from the human point of view, but from God’s.
God’s point of view is that of a loving Father
yearning to reconcile all humanity to himself through Christ.
“To reconcile” means, literally, “to bring back together.”
And how did Christ bring God and humanity back together?
By rejecting and shunning and shaming and threatening?
No! He did it the way God has done it since the beginning.
How did Judith put it? He is the God of the lowly,
helper of the oppressed, upholder of the weak,
protector of the forsaken, savior of those without hope.
Jesus did it by healing, listening, and calling people by name.
We need to start with the mindset that every person on this planet
isn’t first a label, but a flesh and blood human being with whom God seeks reconciliation.
Paul says WE are the ones who now have been given that ministry.
How do we do that ministry? May I suggest we all learn from Betty?
She had the courage to begin the process of understanding:
SHE chose to speak face-to-face with someone who was a categorical impossibility.6
Gradually she let go of her judgmental and defensive attitude and just listened.
What if we all did that?
However, instead of starting with everything crossed,
with our labels and mindsets and assumptions,
what if we begin with the attitude that we are God’s ministers of reconciliation?
Who would be the most difficult for you to come back together with?
Remember, reconciliation does not mean agreement.
Even if we change and are able to see the new possibility,
it does NOT mean we’ll change our minds about what we think is right.
It does mean we will have greater understanding
and we will have respected the dignity of another human being –
which is right in our baptismal covenant.
I had one priest from Africa once ask me how to get his peers in Africa
to understand why the Episcopal Church policies are so friendly to gays.
“You can’t begin with policies,” I told him. “This isn’t about policies and labels.
It’s about people. Listen to people. Listen to their stories, their sorrows, their joys.
They may not change their minds, but they will understand our church better.”
If we start by learning a person’s name and listening to their story,
we shouldn’t be surprised to find that their story and our story
have more in common than we might have imagined
because we are all part of the old, old story –
a story that, Scripture tells us – began in a garden with Adam and Eve
and how they became separated from God and left the garden.
Since Jesus came to reconcile humanity, to bring God and people back together,
maybe Mary Magdalene was absolutely right;
maybe Jesus was indeed the gardener, after all.

 

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This is Kiyah who loves our Good Shepherd Garden,

and is getting to know the Gardener.

Faith in the Wind: Rev Judy’s Homily for Sunday 8/8/14 OT 19

People are saying that the weather has gone crazy. With our poor stewardship of the earth global warming and pollution seem to be taking a heavy toll. There are tornados where they never were. Huge hailstones in summer, and hurricanes have not touched Florida in years. Yet we can all remember Andrew and Wilma and Charley, with winds raging, trees falling on everything, roofs blown off and power gone. Wind is a powerful thing. That is probably why it is a symbol for God’s presence in the Scriptures, And, when there are strong winds in our lives we desperately need the presence of God.

In the reading from Kings (19:9-13) we see the prophet Elijah fleeing from the city where his life is threatened to the mountains and a cave. Elijah is afraid and running for his life (9:3). He has done all that God asked –he was God’s messenger, and with the usual response, the messenger was to be killed. Elijah says to God, “I have been zealous for you …. but they have broken your covenant, they have killed your prophets and now they are trying to kill me too” (19:10). The job of God’s prophet is so often a thankless and dangerous one. Only rarely does the city repent and the people turn their lives around although it happens. But not for Elijah. I wonder if he isn’t beyond frustration to being consumed by anger at the way things are turning out? But, God does not abandon Elijah despite his fear, frustration and anger. God stays in constant communication with Elijah and promises him Presence. So Elijah again does what God asks and steps out on the mountain. There “a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart”. And poor Elijah grabbed the nearest rock and held on, but God was not in this shattering wind. Then there was an earthquake and a fire. Fire is another symbol for God’s presence, but God was in neither of these. And after Elijah risked all of this he must have been about to give up and crawl to the back of the cave and die as he wanted to do before this when he reached the desert and sat under a tree and prayed to die. “I have had enough” he said to God (19:4)”take my life…” Well, God provided for him and urged him on in his journey until now he stood, clinging to the mountain as the wind and fire raged on. Did you ever feel like Elijah -did you ever feel you had enough. You tried to do right but nothing worked and you simply had enough-and then the storms kept raging. I have felt that way. And ultimately I had to stand before God and wait for God’s presence and word right there in the midst of the great raging winds of my life. And, finally, finally, the gentle voice of God came and calmed the storm, and also gave direction that worked so Elijah could indeed fulfill his mission. One of the things that worked for Elijah was doing as God asked in choosing Elisha as a prophet for Elisha also loved him and stuck by him no matter what: “I will not leave you” Elisha said as Elijah and he walked toward Elijah’s final moments on earth (2 Kings 2:2,6). Not only did God remain present to Elijah but God gave him a friend and one who would carry on after him. What a beautiful gift God gave Elijah as the winds abated. Oh, if we could have the faith of Elijah who did God’s work no matter what.
In the Epistle to the Romans we hear Paul’s anguish and grief for those of his own Hebrew people who could not accept the Good News of Christ. Paul was so distraught that he said “Indeed, I would cut myself off from Christ it that would save my sisters and brothers, my kinfolk…” (Rom. 9:1-5). Paul would give up his all for his people, for God’s own people, even as Elijah did. And the winds would rage. Paul was very much aware of his own clay feet, but his love for his people was constant. With their rejection the great raging winds of sadness almost consumed him. And yet, like Elijah, Paul lived by faith and hope that in God’s loving kindness all of Israel would be saved (Rom. 11:26) and loving as Christ loved would save the day for all (Rom 12 and 13). Both Elijah and Paul faced deepest despair and found God’s presence there.

In our ministry we have been working with a woman who lost everything. Job, home, physical and mental health and worries for her children and her own life. And yet as we shared reflections in our Tuesday worship service she shared: “I can tell you for sure that when things were so bad and I hit the bottom, it fell through and I went lower still-but I found the most wonderful thing. God was there and God provided for people to come and lift me up and the people are right here” she said looking around the room. “All of my needs are met and I don’t have a penny. I will get a home this week and this is my greatest joy. God is there when you fall lower than you ever thought you could fall. God is there”. And after the silence, everyone clapped.

That too is the meaning in the Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33). Jesus has recently heard of the horrific death of his cousin and prophet, John the Baptist. He had tried to get away by himself to grieve and pray but was met by the huge group on the mountain side. He healed, he preached, he taught, he fed. He must have been exhausted. He sent the disciples away in the boat and he finally had some time to himself. I think every parent, teacher, social worker, counselor, preacher, pastor and parish priest knows how he felt. In the middle of the night he woke up and saw the boat full of disciples tossed about in the waves by the fierce wind (14:24). So Jesus got up and walked across the water toward them. We are to see his God-ness in this for he walked on the water-but we can see it even more because he couldn’t even get a full night’s sleep without responding to the needs of his people. Full of grief, sadness and exhaustion he got up to help them. But here they were in a heavy storm at night and they saw him coming toward them and were “terrified” (v. 26). “Take courage, It is I, don’t be afraid” he said. In the terrible storms of our lives we can hear these words and know God is with us. Indeed we do take courage and we are no longer afraid. We may even try, like Peter, to walk on water. Doing something new and unheard of is walking on water. Being a woman Roman Catholic priest is walking on water. But one has to keep one’s eyes on Christ or we flounder and sink. Still, and this is the miracle, still, Christ is there with us catching us before we go under. God is there in the raging storm at sea. Jesus got in the boat and the wind died down. Let us know deeply that although the storms of life may rage, if we listen, we can hear Jesus saying “Courage, I am here, don’t be afraid”. And the winds die down. AMEN!

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Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Pastor of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church, Fort Myers, FLorida

“I Can’t Believe It”:Two More Women Get Homes

Betty,58, sat down on her new couch and beamed. “I can’t believe it,” she said, adding”now I have a beautiful home that I can afford on my disability check.” I can’t believe I have a place where my grand children can visit and I can buy them some treats too.” Betty lived for many years on her sister’s couch in a very crowded household because she had become disabled from a fall and had no income.The women priests from Good shepherd Ministries assisted her and she did qualify for Disability benefits. We also placed her on the list for Goodwill housing and gave her support throughout the long wait. Pastor Judy Beaumont helps Betty manage her benefits. Finding something within her range was hard. She was able to move into a small one room efficiency up a treacherous flight of stairs. The rent took almost all of her check and the stairs were a challenge keeping her mostly home bound but she was pleased with her own place. The property changed hands and the high rent went up. She held on. But finally in late July, after almost three years,her name came up for a one bedroom totally accessible  town house with Goodwill Housing for the physically disabled.   Good Shepherd helped her to make the move assisting with furniture and making the move. She says that she has never been happier, “Now I can act like a Grandmother should act. They can visit and sleep on the couch and I have my own bedroom. It is like heaven!”  

This is Betty On August 6th,2014 enjoying her new home. Her smile says it all!

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Rose,57, lived behind the church in our Good Shepherd hospitality unit since May 2nd. She was so happy that God led her to us in May as she was living in her car in a truck stop and was separated from her beloved dog. She could now have her dog with her as she waited for a final court decision on her Disability benefits. In the meantime, she had no income. Thanks to a grant from The Father’s Table Foundation and other donations we were able to house her and her dog and give her a regular stipend for gas,storage, and personal items and dog food. Yet, as the time wore on and the court decision was not rendered her stress increased. Her fears and depression increased and became severe. She was responsive to getting help and reached out for it. This made her eligible for special HUD funded apartments through Renaissance Manor. We helped her apply for this.  Today, August 7,2014 she was able to move into a beautiful large shared apartment near a lake that she and her beloved dog could walk to and enjoy. We will continue to give her a stipend. She too kept saying “I can’t believe it. I have no income yet, but I finally have a home”.  She still awaits the Court decision but you could see her cares recede as she replaced them with a smile and gratitude that came from the bottom of her heart.

 

Rose packs up the car and dog to move to her new home. They will not have to live in the car again. 100_4118 100_4119 100_4120 

Rose in front of her new home with Bob Tonetti, Director of Renaissance Manor Agency.100_4121 100_4122 

Rose is receiving the keys from Assistant Director Will Shaw.  100_4124100_4125

Pastor Judy Beaumont and I are celebrating Roses’ new home with her.  Thanks be to God!

Both Rose and Betty also continue serve others who have experienced hard times with our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church. 

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP and Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP, Co-Pastors 

Come,Without Paying or Cost: Rev Judy’s Homily for the 18th Sunday in OT 8/3/14

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The Scriptures for this week assure us that God loves us and will meet our needs on all levels of being.  Wow!

These are some of the most beautiful and meaningful messages in all of the Scriptures. We can take these Scriptures on two levels: with literal meaning, that is, God will indeed provide food and sustenance for the poor and hungry, and on the metaphoric level. God’s word is the living water and the bread of life. The teachings of Christ are the food that fills us with what we need to want no more.  God’s words from the prophet Isaiah(55:1-3) to the Psalmists refrain( Psalm 145) “The hand of our God feeds us; God answers all our needs”;  to the Epistle (Romans 8:35-39) and the Gospel (Matt 14:13-21) fill us with knowledge of a God who is mindful of our every human need, and responds accordingly whether our needs are for basic survival or for connection to God and peace in our spirits. Yet it is Jesus’ words in the Gospel (Matthew 14:16b) that teach us that God meets our human needs through the care we have for one another: “You give them something to eat!”.

It is of no use to those who are poor and in need of assistance to eat, and have clothing and shelter to say “God bless you” or “enjoy God’s word” and do nothing. Our Good Shepherd ministry in Fort Myers, Florida, like most of the Ecclesia Street Ministries throughout the USA and elsewhere and many churches who care for the poor and low income, is a literal feeding ministry. Every time we have church and break open the word, we also break open our storehouses and cook and serve nutritious meals, wholesome drinks and food to take away if it is needed.  We take literally the words of Isaiah 55:1-3 “You who have no money, come, buy and eat; Come… without paying and without cost….”Our faith-filled volunteers make this meal possible. And these include those with considerable means and those are those who were poor and homeless and now have the means to help others.

Roger was the first man we helped as we reached out to the homeless in 2007. When he comes to church now he brings an envelope upon which he has printed “Roger’s Foundation” and in it is ten -twenty dollars to share with someone else as we see fit. He also chooses people in his residential community to share with on a regular basis. He gets the meaning of today’s Scriptures. Lauretta lugs a heavy back pack full of produce from neighboring trees and farms on the bus to share with others. She gets it. Lauretta, Linda and others reach out and bring people to our church. Because Lauretta brought Diane, Diane, who was homeless in the park, now has a home.

This is Diane in her home with Pastor Judy Beaumont. She is telling us how she takes her shopping cart on the bus to go and buy food. 100_4020

Linda brings her own kids, her sister’s kids and a young Haitian teen who is sometimes ridiculed by other kids simply because he is Haitian. She sets the example, she goes and gets him and he is welcomed by all. He is one of our happiest teenagers now. Linda gets it.

Jerry with our Teen Class100_4038

After the meal we open our pantries and offer food to take home and also clothing and personal items at no cost.  After the meal we say “the store is open” and people go to the room where they shop for no money. People also see us for counseling and referral and prayer during that time. They also love sitting in the living room and socializing. So that which is not tangible is also given away freely. Our worship and study of the Scriptures is enthusiastically attended so the teachings that fill the inner spirit and soul are also available to those who want them. We say that in our church we have many preachers. I do a shorter version of the sermon matched to their needs on Sundays. Then I stop and ask for “their word upon the word”. Two or three may expound on the Scriptures and share their own experiences of God.  The meal becomes a feast.

This is Elder Gary who preaches by word and deed with Joelle, his God Child and Keke IMG_0102

Were the disciples guarding the purse strings when they tried to send the people away “to buy their own food”? Or were they just short of faith, feeling that they truly did not have enough to give? Did Jesus literally multiply their little food or did the people sit down and open up their own supplies and share with one another? I can accept it either way or both ways.  Either way it was a miracle. The Aramaic culture that Jesus came from may sometimes teach by metaphor and exaggeration. So was it really 5,000 families-or 500- or 50? It doesn’t matter because it means a LOT of families were fed and ALL present ate their fill. And, it was Jesus, the Christ, making that happen with the help of the disciples.  

Let us remember that this whole section of Scripture is prefaced by Jesus withdrawing in grief over the loss of his cousin, John the Baptist and yet, not able to get away, he was still loving the crowd, with his heart being being moved by them to heal them and now to feed them (Matt 14:13-14). So  does it mean that they ate a good lunch and were full, or they ate of the bread of life, the word of God, the teachings of Christ, the love of Christ, and were full? I think it is clear that it means both-we are to “feed them” ourselves, we are to feed one another. When food is needed we provide food. When material help is needed we provide it-no strings attached. When we have two coats, we share one. When Christ’s teachings are needed, we teach them.  They are always needed and we can only teach them when we live them. Live what? Live love even when we are tired and want or need to get away.  And live justice and celebrate the love God has for ALL of God’s creatures.   

And finally, Romans 8: 35 asks: “What will separate us from the love of Christ” and verse 39 concludes NOTHING “will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus”.  For us as women priests that the Roman Church hierarchy thinks it can cut off from Christ, or for the divorced, those civilly married, the LGBTQ community and all who may be deemed or may therefore feel less than worthy,  these Scriptures provide the healing balm of Christ. Nothing and no one can cut us off from the love of God in Christ. And, my dear friends, no one can cut you off either so let us eat and be full of the love of God. Thanks be to God!

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers, Florida

This is Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez, RCWP, feeding the children the Bread of Life in Cali, Colombia Dando la Eucaristía a los niños de Colegio Educativo Navarro

Good Shepherd Youth Explore Water Fun and Sea Treasures

Our Group of Seventeen at Tarpon Bay Nature Preserve on Sanibel Island100_4056

There is nothing like a dip in cool water on a hot day.  Our last two outings, on 7/24 and 8/1/2014 were to the water. We have some great water parks in the greater Fort Myers area, like Sunsplash where ten of our young people aged 7-22, spent the day floating in tubes and sliding through huge tubes into the water last Thursday, July 24th.

Jolinda, Keeondra, Marcella, Joelle and Keion at Sunsplash100_4029

And, learning about the other creatures who live in the water, in Tarpon Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico off of Sanibel Island makes for a thoroughly exciting day.

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Keeron, Jerry,Marcella, Aleigha and Gaspare at Touch Tank

 

 

 

Today, August 1,2014, thirteen of our young people, from ages 7-26 and two parents and Good Shepherd’s two Pastors, Judy Beaumont and Judy Lee went to Tarpon Bay Preserve in Sanibel. First they attended a literal hands- on session where the young docent and guide taught us about oysters and shrimp, hermit crabs,horseshoe crabs and a variety of mollusks. The kids were able to gently lift these up and interact with them.  The awe and joy this produced no matter what age they were, was a moment with Creator God and we reflected on that.

Jakeriya, Keeondra, Jolinda, Jakein, Keion and Paarents, Linda and Debbie watch the crabs and shrimp

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Marcella, Gaspare, Aleigha, Efe, Joelle, Keeondra, Keeron and Natasha

 

 

A Hermit Crab Emerging

 

 

Then we took a boat ride in the bay where we spotted manatees and dolphins. This pontoon boat ride was the first boat ride most of the kids ever had. They loved it. They saw pelican roosts and beautiful birds. Their eyes were glued to the water waiting to see dolphin and manatees. Keion, age 12, had the greatest widsom: “have patience” ,he said, “they are here and they will show themselves if you are patient!” And he was right. Who would have ever thought Keion would know this and guide us in this way. Keeron knew that Manatee were called sea cows and Natasha spotted the first dolphins. Jolinda wanted to see more than the big dorsal fin and back but we were happy to know they were circling us.

Pastor Judy Lee and Natasha, Keeondra and Jakeriya on the Boat100_4091100_4054

Debbie and her daughter Joelle and Jolinda and Keeondra

 

 

 

 

 

Keeron Spotting Manatee100_4087

 

Jakein Swimming to Shore 100_4106

 

 

Our Mermaids, Joelle, Aleigha, Marcella and Jakeriya100_4102100_4097100_4100

After our time on the water in the boat we drove about ten minutes to the beach and several of the kids loved swimming in the gulf. The others looked for shells and waded in the water with Pastor Judy Lee. We were all happy with out day at the sea. Our adventure ended at McDonalds where we began to plan our next trip. Stay tuned for that one!

100_4105 Pastor Judy Beaumont and Youth Leader Efe Jane Cudjoe

For Pastor Judy Beaumont and I this was a wonderful way to spend our 25th Anniversary-with our children at the sea! Thanks be to God!

Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP

Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers,Florida