A Message from Jason Shelby that may make you shout ‘Alleluia’ involuntarily.

By Guest Bohemian Jason Shelby

The following is a word for word transcription, with a few edits for clarity, of Rev. Jason Shelby’s homily given on Sunday, April 29, 2012 at the historical St. George’s Episcopal Church in Clarksdale, Mississippi. While listening to his message, I actually shouted out loud, involuntarily, while sitting in my pew, the words “Alleluia” and it felt wonderful! Thank you, Jason, for sharing with the DELTA BOHEMIAN. MM

The scriptural readings: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

I speak to you in the name of the Living God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

Amen. 

Jason Shelby right before he began the Warrior Dash in Jackson, MS 2012.

Jason Shelby right before he began the Warrior Dash in Jackson, MS 2012.

This is one of those rare Sundays when all of the readings go together, and all of the readings add up to the mission of the church, to what we are supposed to do.  We’re not supposed to praise God just in thought and word, but in truth and action.  God knows our hearts.  God knows everything.  God knows our hearts and we are marked as his own forever, and if we go to God and say that we have no sin, if we say that we have clean hearts, we are wrong, and we are being brash and brazen.  We’re being proud.  We are to confess the name of the Lord at all times.  It was God that is responsible for all good.  We’re to call on God when we are in trouble.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.  You are with me.  You are my comfort.

These are the words that describe the church.  These four readings describe the church beautifully.  I could let you all off easily; I could say, “Go home!  Read!  Read these readings again!”  Or I could say right now, “I will stop speaking.  You can read in your pew.  Digest these words.”  But I don’t want to let you off easy.

Think about these words and what Jesus is saying, that he is the shepherd, that he is the shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.  And we are the flock; we are his sheep.  And on this day, this Sunday, this morning, we are like a flock all gathered here.   All of us, coming together to worship, in community, to have communion, to be together.

But when we leave, we’re scattered.  When we leave we are scattered, and some of us are leaving alone, and it doesn’t mean we’re separated from the flock, not yet.  But the wolf, the adversary, the evil one, Satan, the devil…whatever you want to call him, or her, is ready.  Is there ready to pounce, to say, “Hey, could have slept in, you could have slept in.  You should probably go have a burger, or you should have double Abe’s, or maybe go get some ribs, maybe some fried chicken.  Don’t have vegetables, today’s a no vegetable day.  You can eat cake, brownies…go take a long nap, don’t worry about your homework if you have homework, you can do it on the bus in the morning.  If you don’t ride the bus do it in the car before you’re dropped off.  Don’t worry.”

It’s immediate.  That voice, that pressure, that presence, that, “Hey, heyyyyy….don’t worry about it.” Trying to scatter, trying to separate, trying to turn us in on ourselves.

Evil exists.  Evil is real.  And evil’s soul desire is to destroy.  And evil excels at destruction, but none of us and no one is destroyed by evil.

The worst thing about evil, the most cunning thing about evil, is that we destroy ourselves.  There’s no need for Satan to light a fire under us, or to trip us up.  All Satan has to do is plant the idea.  We do a fine job of destroying our selves.  Of pulling ourselves apart, of listening to that voice that says, “you are not good enough.  You are not loved.  You should not have worn that today.  You’re hair is awful.  You’re hair is AWFUL.  Look at ‘So-and-so’s’ hair.  Her hair is beautiful.  Your hair…yeeeesh.  I don’t even know what you were thinking.  Look at your collar.  Your collar…do you even wash your shirt?!  You should probably just leave without saying ‘hi’ to anyone.”

It starts…it’s always there, and the idea is to pick us apart.  And it might push us in a certain way, it might push us towards sin.  “Hey, I know you quit for ten years, but I think a cigarette would be really good right now.  Especially during this boring homily.  Pretend you’re going to the bathroom, and go grab one!”  But then when you do it, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you did that?!  You idiot!  Ten years down the drain.”

So it pulls you in, and then when you succumb, evil doesn’t even have the heart to say, “Alright, evil!”  Evil says, “Oh.  You are so awful.”

More than anything, Satan, whatever you want to call him, the adversary, does not think that we are worthy of God’s love.  The adversary does not believe that we should be beloved, that we should be marked as Christ’s own forever.  The adversary believes that we should be controlled, at all times, because if we are given control we will mess things up.  And to prove that point time, and time, and time again, he’s right there buzzing in our ears.

“Go have a drink.”

“Go have a smoke.”

“Go ahead and buy the 200 dollar outfit.”

“Go ahead and buy more video games.”

“Stay on the boat, it’s cool.”

“Don’t give that man money.  He’s probably crazy, and he’s gonna’ do drugs.”

Over, and over, and over…

They say the devil is in the details, and I believe this.  I believe this is one of the most true sayings in all of the world.

Let me show you some details, some things that we’re getting wrong.  These crosses should be turned this way.  This alb should be touching the floor.  And if I see anybody standing during the Eucharist…what the heck?!  We don’t stand during the Eucharist, we kneel!  And if you are sitting down, but you’re able to kneel…leave!  Leave!!!  We don’t want your kind, non-kneelin’, sittin’ lazy people.

And we do this!

Somebody here may be thinking, “I can’t believe that priest doesn’t have a chasuble.  What is he thinking?”

(The chasuble’s a big poncho, it’s heavy, it’s hot.)

We do that.  And that’s just in our own church, our own Episcopal church.  How many denominations do we have?  How many denominations of this church do we have, of people who believe in Jesus?  Some say that prayer must be extemporaneous, we must pray from the heart.  Some say we can’t have stained glass, some say that all glass must be stained glass.  Some say that we need to use the King James Bible, while some say we must use the Message.

I don’t think any of this is a mistake and I think a lot of this is whispering in our ear saying, “You are the one who has it right.  All these other fools, they’re not getting it right.  They’re using the 1982 Prayer Book…I mean Hymnal.”

Now see right there, the evil one might be like, “You idiot!  How did you mess up the prayer book and the hymnal?”

It’s constant.

How can there be one shepherd and one church, when we can’t even agree on which direction the crosses are supposed to face, when we stand or when we kneel, or what prayer book we should use?  We are always picking apart, and we are never focusing on what God says, what Jesus says, over and over and over:  Love God and love your neighbor.

(from the congregation: Alleluia!)

Alleluia!  Love God and love your neighbor.

It’s like the “Got Milk” ads.  Do you remember those, “Got Milk?”  It’s extremely simple, black letters on a white field or white letters on a black field, “Got Milk?”

Love God and love your neighbor.  It’s easy, and it’s simple in its message, but it’s hard to live.  And it’s so easy to succumb to temptation, to give over to anger, hate, despair and sadness.

What I do when I feel overwhelmed, when I’m overwhelmed and angry or upset, I begin to pray the Lord’s Prayer.  I say the Lord’s Prayer, and it doesn’t matter where I am, I don’t need to find a quiet spot to kneel.  I just say it…in my car, in my office, in the hospital, on the sidewalk…and I’ll say it to myself if I have to.  And the first time I say it I’m still angry.  And the second time, it’s still kind of there, but the third, fourth and fifth, I’m speaking to God, and as I’m speaking to God everything begins to fall away, and I begin to calm.

But what if the Lord’s Prayer just isn’t cutting it?

Then I seek someone out, and I say, “I’m having a bad day, I’m having a bad time, I just need to talk,” or, “I just need to shoot baskets, or I just need to play catch,” or whatever it is…Look at the flock around us, these are all your sisters and brothers in Christ.  We have all vowed to support one another, we have all vowed to lift one another up, we are all in the same boat. So when you are down, or when you are hurt, or when you are tempted, don’t ever think for a second that you’re alone, that you have to fight on your own.  Reach out…reach out to a friend, to a neighbor, to a loved one, to your priest, and say, “I’m having a bad day.”

And don’t think you have to solve it if you’re on the receiving end.  We’re not there to solve, we’re there to listen, to say, “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day, tell me about your bad day.”  You’re there to give a hug, a handshake, a glass of water, or a brownie and a glass of milk.

The devil is constantly trying to separate.  And God is always working to unite. We are each and every one of us God’s most precious creation, God’s beloved, marked as His own forever.

God does not care what watch you wear, what your hair looks like, if you have something in your nose or if your shoes aren’t shined.  God loves you…regardless…in spite of…because of…and that’s an amazing thing.  It’s a gift beyond measure.

Do not forget that you are marked.  Do not forget that you are saved.  Do not forget the grace bestowed upon you.  And if you forget, say the prayer that our Lord Jesus Christ taught us to pray.  And if that ain’t cuttin’ it, call your brother or sister in Christ.  Reach out…because you are not alone.  You should never believe that you’re alone.  And so long as we’re in this flock, you’re protected by Christ, at all times and all places, and for that I say thanks be to God.  Amen.

The scriptural readings for Sunday, April 29, 2012: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

Jason is the rector at St. George’s Episcopal Church. Every Sunday Jason delivers inspirational messages. I hope you will make an effort to go listen to him. He talks weekly at the Care Station, too.

St. George’s Episcopal Church in Clarksdale welcomes all. The church is located at 106 Sharkey in Clarksdale. 662-627-7875
Check out their Facebook Page.

Art student and exceptional translator and preacher of The Word Reverend Jason Shelby

Art student and exceptional translator and preacher of The Word Reverend Jason Shelby. Photo by DB

Warriors of the Dash. Lesley Speck Johnson, Kate Dunn, Tom Ross, Abby Diddle Flowers, Rev. Jason Shelby, Rachel Trimm-Scarbrough at Warrior Dash 2012 in Jackson, MS.

Warriors of the Dash. Lesley Speck Johnson, Kate Dunn, Tom Ross, Abby Diddle Flowers, Rev. Jason Shelby, Rachel Trimm-Scarbrough at Warrior Dash 2012 in Jackson, MS.


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