2004—Seventh Sunday of Easter—C
I don't know what's happening to me! Last week the inspiration for my homily was a call that I received during the week asking "Is this the Home Depot?" Yes I actually preached a homily on the relationship of the Home Depot to St. Ignatius Church. You can check it out on our website if you're interested. This week the inspiration for my homily is Auto mechanics. You may have seen the article in the globe this morning about the two guys who pray for divine intervention in their mechanics ministry at Cedar Park Assembly of God Church. (I guess it does make sense to have a mechanics ministry in a church that has "Assembly" in its name). I have to say I was pretty skeptical when I started reading about prayer being the answer to people's car problems (although I do remember a time when I was desperate for my car to start, I said a prayer and it started). I don't think of God as a "fixer" who answers our prayers by miraculously fixing all that is broken in our world or in our individual lives.
But as I read along, I saw that these faith-filled mechanics were praying not for God to miraculously fix the cars, (they had the skills for the fixing) but they were praying for the wisdom and the right judgment to figure out how they should proceed with a problem. They were really praying for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to enlighten them and then they could do the fixing. (As one of them said, Sometimes you just pray for a revelation). They also treated their customers with "reverence," (another gift of the spirit) going beyond the quid pro quo of payment for service rendered. "It's always nice to be able to help those who are just in need".
Home Depot, Mechanics Ministry! Where will the Spirit lead me next?
There is a lot in our world and in our church and in our lives that needs "fixing". We would like God to do the fixing for us. We want God to be the physician, the peacemaker, even the "great mechanic in the sky who makes everything "like new". But is that what God wants to be for us? Perhaps God is saying to us "you can do it, we can help" (I find out that's the Home Depot slogan)
I'm sure we all know the experience of praying "for" something to happen or not to happen and so often our prayers are not answered. Even Jesus had this experience. Listen to his prayer in the gospel this evening. It's all about unity for those who believe in him. Jesus' strongest desire is that all who believe in him will be one just as he and the Father are one. Has there ever been a more sincere prayer that has not been answered? There is so much disunity among Christians, even within the individual denominations. No wonder the world cannot recognize Jesus as the expression of God's love when his followers are always fighting with one another about what to believe, how to worship, how to live and who's in and who's out.
If prayer is not about God's fixing things, then why do we pray at all? I think there is great wisdom in the auto mechanics words "Sometimes you just pray for a revelation". Sometimes we just need to pray for the gifts of the spirit; wisdom understanding, courage, right judgment, knowledge, reverence, and right relationship with God and the neighbor. God may not be able to fix our carburetors but there are manifold ways in which God can recharge our batteries. IT is in the openness to the spirit, the letting go of our need to have to have things our way that creates a possibility for something new to happen.
What is the other aspect of prayer? It brings us together as one, as Jesus asks. We go beyond our private prayers and begin to pray as one for the needs of our church and our world that are much greater than our individual needs. And in the asking, the praying, the petitioning, we may realize that we already have what we need to make a difference. WE may discover that we are an answer to someone else's prayer because we have the wherewithal to help someone. WE may have the skills, the talents, the resources to be something for someone else. Ultimately it's all about community. What we are willing to be for the other.
Jesus' prayer for unity is not something God can bring about unless human hearts are open to the spirit of God moving. Jesus' prayer for unity is not something God can bring about unless all voices in the church community are heard and respected.
In this time in the history of this diocese when many parishes will close and many will feel the pain of loss of a spiritual home we are called more than ever to pray for a unity that comes from being what we can for others. More than ever we need to pray for the gifts of the spirit for this whole church community because we are not solitary people, or isolated groups. We are Church. The people of God and we need to be all that we can be for each other.