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December 11, 2011

On a Sunday Afternoon

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

After everyone left church this early afternoon, I sat in my church office planning this Wednesday’s and next weekend’s worship services when the urge to do nothing came over me. It wasn’t that I was overly tired; I just wanted to do nothing. With the Jets game playing on the radio behind me, I slumped down in my chair and just stared ahead.

I am not a big fan of ‘doing nothing.’ My ability to ‘veg out’ is limited since I can never get my brain to stop thinking.

As I slumped, I started thinking about church, where we are and where we are going both as a physical church entity and spiritually as brothers and sisters in Christ. No church out there is in perfect condition regardless of what congregation members say or how they appear from the outside. We’re all in the same boat, struggling under the weight of a sinful and spiritually thoughtless society that rejects Jesus Christ as the savior of the world.

Our culture is vapid, at best, when it comes to God. And because all of us live in this spiritually empty world, at times we can all be impacted by the selfishness that engulfs so many people.

As a church, we need to recognize this not just as a challenge to our faith, but as an opportunity to evangelize. We don’t like to leave our personal or churchly comfort zones, yet this is what we need to do if we are reach the lost.

For that is our mission — reaching those whose faith does not exist or to re-touch those whose faith has been weakened by a culture of selfishness and sin. This is the church’s great challenge.

And all of us have a stake in this struggle. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself “older” or if medical issues prohibit you from walking out of your front doors. This is a spiritual battle we all face.

And we face it head on as a people reborn in the waters of Holy Baptism, strengthened by the body and blood of Christ our Lord in the Eucharist, and encouraged by the Word that reminds us just how important we are to our Father in heaven that He sent His only Son to die in order to pay for our sins.

We stand united in Christ to bring Him to the lost and wavering.

At around 2:30, I finally gained enough physical strength to get out of the chair, turn off the computer, and come home. As I stepped outside this afternoon to take my long walk home, it was certainly less frightful outside than it was this morning when temperatures were hovering in the 20s. Our friendly neighborhood rabbit was sitting in the center of the yard staring ahead as I quietly walked past him to come into the house. Sitting on a fence post was a squirrel looking around, just taking everything in.

This afternoon, my lunch consisted of a cup of lentil soup and a cup of pineapple (I admit, when I think of lentil soup, the last thing I think of eating with lentils is pineapple). Yet, the combination worked very well. My friend, Stephanie, called a little after 3pm letting me know that her weekend shopping excursion in Pennsylvania with her family was “thankfully” coming to an end. I  kind of guessed from her voice that she was looking forward to getting home. She explained that she picked up some Christmas gifts, though she mostly bought stuff for herself.

But she said something that put a smile on my face.

“You know, all of this gift buying misses the point of why we’re celebrating Christmas,” she said. She’s right.

After saying our good byes and hanging up, I walked upstairs to change my clothes. My original plan for this lazy Sunday afternoon was to go to Whole Foods to pick up a few items, namely another container of Nutritional Yeast, a slab or two of tofu, and maybe some vegetables to make vegetable broth. But after taking time to ‘veg out,’ I decided just to lounge around for the rest of the afternoon. Upon changing out of my black clerical and black pants, I realized that I had some wash that needed washing. I figured it could keep until tomorrow. Then I slipped into my gray sweatshirt and black sweatpants and went back downstairs.

This sweatshirt is exceptionally big on my now that I have lost a good deal of weight. Theoretically, I could fit another person inside of it, but I won’t go there. Even my sweatpants are baggy. A combination of cancer drugs and a plant-based, whole foods eating habit (think vegan) could cause anyone to lose weight. My oncologist tells me that not carrying around nearly 290 pounds is a good thing and that I should consider buying clothes that fit. Not right now, I explained to her. I want to wait until my weight drops a little more.

Well, the Chicago Bears – Denver Broncos game is now on the television here, not that I care much about either team. I have items on my DVR I could watch, but I think those can wait for another day.

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