The Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Sunday, October 4, 2020 @ 11:00 a.m.
When I think of this very special weekend I always think of good times with Bonnie Delaplane in Pacifica and the SpiritCare team on the San Francisco Peninsula planning great programs for “The Blessing of the Animals” each year in honor of the ministry of Saint Francis. This year in 2020, there are changes necessary due to the Coronavirus pandemic. When the time is right we will look forward to wonderful programs during more normal days…in the meantime…God is good…all the time!
Pray with me today:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood, as to understand, to be loved, as to love…for it is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
In many ways, we are so very blessed to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. The City of San Francisco was named after “Poverello”…the poor little man…none other than, Saint Francis (1182-1226). He was a man born into great luxury and wealth. He forsook everything to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in poverty and obedience to the Word. His father was not pleased. He brought Francis before the Bishop of Assisi to straighten him out. Francis took off the last remnant of symbolic wealth provided by his father, his clothing, and stood before the bishop naked. Looking toward his father he said, “Until now I have called you my father on earth. But henceforth I can truly say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven…'” The bishop provided a humble robe to Francis and he went on his way…wholeheartedly to serve Christ Jesus.
In this time period around 1205, Francis had a vision…it is recorded that the Lord spoke to Francis,
“Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you can see, is well-nigh in ruins.”
The fabulous story of what God had done in Christ Jesus with yet another unlikely human being, touched with the power of the the Holy Spirit, boggles the mind. Francis, with incredible affluence and wealth, would have literally by comparison wasted his life in luxury. As it were, in forty-four years, with Christ working within him through the Holy Spirit, he was able to change the world. He is, as if alive, with us today…
Elvis Presley used to sing, “…what He’s done for others…He’ll do for you…it is no secret, what God can do…”
Last night I had the privilege of talking on the telephone with a very Protestant, well-educated, well-endowed and also well-known friend of at least twenty years. He was concerned about receiving a book as a gift from his church upon the occasion of recovery from a fall. His concern to some degree was that Saint Francis was a Roman Catholic. I reminded him that there was no Protestant Reformation yet at the time, and that Francis, to me, was in the same category as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, Jan Hus, John and Charles Wesley and John Knox. I think that impressed him. I hope this pertinent thought may impress you.
Francis was a reformer. He was a member of the Christian Church of his time, but he was an evangelical of the first order. He was despised by the organization of the Church of his time. Coming to Rome to make his Franciscan community official in the eyes of the Church, before Pope Innocent III, he made his bed on the ground outside the Vatican with lepers. Waiting for his turn, he kissed one leper on the hand and telling him how much God loved him and would heal him. On being summoned to come before the pope, Francis was instructed to crawl before the Holy Father in rags and kiss the ring on his toes. He was belittled by the Pope, but finally, it was granted to him to make his community of friars an official part of the Church. As I recall, at first—he was refused…and the pope changed his mind upon counsel with his court.
When Priscilla and I were serving at the Union Church of Lima in Miraflores, Peru, in the 1990s, those were the days of “Sundero Illuminoso” and great national upheaval, death, and destruction. Despite the enforced restriction imposed upon American citizens not to venture into Old Lima, I used to love to visit the Monastery of Saint Francis (circa 1540) right next to the plaza where Francisco Pizzaro, as matador, fought the first “Bull-Fight” in the New World. In the monastery, the first formal library in the New World was established in about 1542. Also featured are priceless works of fine art, classic paintings of Native-South American (Andean) masters (having been schooled by Spanish masters deployed to Peru in those days), fine sculptures, and priceless art objects, pottery, and such.
Among those works of art is a sculpture carved out of pure Nicaraguan cedar by one of the friars, a Native-American master. This masterpiece is located on the northeast corner of the second floor of the monastery. He had heard the story of Francis and the Pope. He decided, evidently, to make a statement in his artistic masterpiece. Now imagine this in your mind. He carved a relief of thousands of heavenly faces and angel wings in the background with a ragged human figure in the front sitting on a throne. There was another figure carved out at the bottom of the piece dressed elaborately in obviously fine robes with a clerical miter on his head crawling before the ragged figure and kissing his feet. This friar wanted to let well-endowed representatives of the earthly church know what it would be like in heaven. Things would be turned completely around. The figure in fine robes was meant to be the pope. The ragged figure was meant to be Saint Francis in heaven surrounded by the heavenly host. The masterpiece, largely unheralded in our post-modern world, is one of the most meaningful pieces of fine art I have ever experienced. Many times in those years I’d marveled at the work, and thought of the outrageous sense of humor, as well as the tenacity and spiritual insight of this Native-American master. His work…a product of the sixteenth century…sending a definite message to all Christians in our twenty-first century Church…
Some Quotable Insights of Saint Francis
“…all the darkness in the world can’t extinguish the light from a single candle…”
[YOUR CONTRIBUTION MAY SEEM INSIGNIFICANT…IT DOES MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE…ALL WORK IN CHRIST IS REWARDED]
“…if you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men…”
[THE PERSONS WHO MISTREAT ANIMALS AND VIOLATE GOD’S CREATION WILL EVENTUALLY MISTREAT YOU]
“…the deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today…”
[BE JESUS IN WHAT YOU DO – AND IF IT BECOMES NECESSARY – TELL SOMEBODY ABOUT HIM]
“…vi volglio tutti in paradiso…”
(literally in English) [I WISH THAT EVERYBODY WOULD GO TO HEAVEN]
“…above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to His beloveds is that of overcoming self…”
[THE GREATEST GIFT WE CAN RECEIVE FROM GOD IS TO STOP CODDLING OURSELVES]
“…when we pray to God we must be seeking nothing—nothing…”
[WHY IS IT THAT WHEN WE ASK THE LORD FOR THE INCREDIBLE JOB WITH THE GREATSALARY, THE FANTASTIC, ATTRACTIVE PARTNER IN LIFE…AND NEW CAR…HE DOESN’T SEEM TO LISTEN TO US…??? THIS RELIGION THING JUST DOESN’T SEEM TO WORK FOR US.]
“…we should seek not so much to pray…but to become prayer…”
[I’LL LET YOU CHEW ON THIS ONE FOR YOURSELF AND COME UP WITH AN IDEA OR TWO]
I am so glad for the conversion, the life, the deeds and the legacy of Saint Francis, touched by thepower of the Holy Spirit, to live a genuine life in Christ…a life of willful denial…a life of Godly love…a life of personal acts and insights that cause us…(as true, genuine believers in the 21st Century to live freely, modestly, compassionately, and confidently even during a time of pandemic and widespread abuse and upheaval of every kind in our world)…to follow the Lord Jesus and really live.
Let me close with a quote from Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians 10:3-5…
“…for though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does…the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world…on the contrary…they have divine power to demolish strongholds…we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against theknowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ…”Have a terrific day and a fabulous week. Delight yourself in your relationship with the Lord and He willgive you the desire of your heart. Remember. There is no failure in the Lord. Trust Jesus!