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March 19, 2023: Blind Sighted
In today’s Gospel reading we hear about Jesus curing a man blind from birth. For some people the miracle part of the story may be the hardest to believe, because modern people don’t believe in miracles, or because we have trivialized the meaning of a miracle. As an example of the latter how many times will we hear during March Madness that a player made a miraculous shot,
March 5, 2023: Night Shift
Nicodemus could be an example for how we can approach Jesus when we feel confused, concerned or anxious. Instead of feeling that we must have it all figured out, we can approach Jesus in the dark of our mind or in the dark of our room much as we would that old roommate or friend whom we spoke to in the dark. We can invite Jesus into conversation as we would a friend. Allow the darkness of the room help us feel safe.
February 26, 2023: Desert Days
We are four days into Lent, and I bet that some of us are in a quandary. On or before Ash Wednesday we decided what we might abstain from for the duration of Lent or what spiritual practice or service opportunity we might take on. I find that in the first days of Lent I am either very zealous and I am keeping up with my intentions, or more often I am very forgetful and keep foiling my own good intentions breaking my fast or forgetting my new practice. There is also the in between where I intend to keep my promises, but I start bargaining with myself about them.
February 22, 2023: An Opportune Time | Ash Wednesday
I think it is best to enter Lent with the attitude of opportunity rather than duty. Otherwise our Lent is like those drive by ashes events—all show and no substance. If we prepare ourselves for the entry into this time of reflection in the hopes, not of earning some brownie points in the afterlife, but rather for a closing the distance between ourselves and the God we are more likely to feel a sense of joy in this time.
February 19, 2023: Tell it Slant
James and John seem to be dumbstruck. Peter on the other hand seems to never be at a loss for words. He is not dumbstruck just dumb. He starts to jabber some foolishness to Jesus while Jesus is in the midst of this conversation with the prophets. Peter wants to build three dwellings to honor the event. That is actually not a bad idea. The ancient Jews often built altars, cairns, or booths to mark something momentous. But on the whole it seems a rather inadequate response to what is happening.
February 12, 2023: Blessed Atonement
Having said that the righteousness of the Pharisees and Scribes is hollow, Jesus speaks about the difference between the letter and spirit of the Law. His first example is quite jarring. His listeners knew the sixth commandment was, “Thou shall not commit murder,” but Jesus says it is not only murder that kills. Anger to the point of murder, anger that becomes spite, or anger that becomes a grudge also kills. This level of anger may not kill bodies, but it kills relationships. This level of anger destroys hearts. It destroys the one who is angry as well as the recipient of the anger.
February 4, 2023: Jot and Tittle
Like many of you I grew up reading the King James Version of scripture and I am still enamored with their translation of verse 18, which reads “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Jot and tittle are so evocative and charming. A jot is the dot over an i or j. A tittle is the line that is used to cross a t. Jots and tittles are the most insignificant of marks used to make letters. Jesus makes it clear that nothing will pass out of the Old Testament (that is what he is referring to when he says the law and the prophets) until all that he is teaching is accomplished.
January 22, 2023: Come and Follow
When Jesus is calling the brothers by the seashore, he uses the fishing metaphor because it makes sense to them. They understood fishing and the effort it took. They understood the patience it required. They also knew that commercial fishing is not a one-person operation. It required a group to haul nets, steer the boat, repair nets, sort fish, and get them to market for sale. Fishing is not a one-man show, and neither is evangelizing the world.
January 15, 2023: Come and See
The season after the Epiphany is a time of revelation in the church. We hear stories about Jesus being revealed as the Messiah at various times in the gospels. Last week it was the revelation to the Magi as representatives of the Gentiles. This week we hear how John the Baptizer reveals to his followers who Jesus is.
January 8, 2023: Maybe I'm Amazed
Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” If we live as though everything is a miracle, then we are opening ourselves to the possibility of countless epiphanies each day.
December 25, 2022: The Work of Christmas
Each year at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. We Anglicans also celebrate the goodness of creation. We revel in the creation, enjoy it, and tend it as Adam and Eve tended the Garden. We do this because God pronounced creation good and because God, in the form of Jesus Christ, joined us in the flesh and dwelt within the creation.
December 24, 2022: So this is Christmas
The trials of the world can put a damper on our Christmas merriment and wonder. Of course, we can just put out of our minds all that is distressing or uncomfortable. Sadly, many do just that. But I do not think Jesus came into the world to encourage apathy any more than he came into the world to condemn the world. What he came for was to teach us how an old way could be a new way.
December 18, 2022: Anticipation
We have the opportunity to make space in our heart to have Jesus be born again within us. We can make a manger in our heart to allow the Christ child to have new birth within us and thus have new birth in him. I know that I am getting all metaphysical and metaphorical with this suggestion, but our imagination and faith are not limited by time or space.
December 11, 2022: Joy to the World
We who are anticipating the birth of Jesus and share with Mary and Joseph in that anticipation are also sharing in the happiness that they experience as the day of that birth draws near. However, joy is not to be confused with happiness. Happiness is a transient emotional experience. St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the Doctors of the Church, wrote that “Joy admits no sorrow for it is not an act of the sensitive faculties.” That is, joy is not an emotion so it cannot succumb to feelings of sadness.
December 4, 2022: Prepare the Way to your Heart
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Now that is the way to get people into a Christmas mood. Why do you think that we have to hear from John the Baptizer in this Advent season? According to the Gospels, John is the first to herald the coming of the Messiah in his time. To the people of his time and even moreso to ours, John is a mess.
November 27, 2022: God's in his Heaven, All's right with the World!
Advent is a dual time in which we look forward to two events. First it is a time of waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. It is something that happened in the past but will happen again in our hearts. That is perhaps the easiest part to grasp. What is harder to grasp is what the church calls us to on the early Sundays of Advent; the second coming of Christ.
October 30, 2022: In Line with God
God knows, even if they do not, that their neglect of the poor, widows and orphans is the same thing as intentionally killing them. When God makes it clear that it is there treatment of the poor that is the stain on them and the reason that they are not welcome before God I would bet that it was news to them. Not so much because they thought they were taking care of the poor but rather because the poor were never on their minds.
October 23, 2022: Stepping Stones to Life
We who have heard so many parables where Pharisees are the bad guys need to adjust our hearing to that of a first-century Jew. In that time Pharisees were behind the reformation of Judaism. They refocused religious life on a closer observance of the Mosaic Laws. They taught and practiced a reverence for the Torah. They followed the commandments and taught others to do so. This is in contrast to the Sadducees who had sold out to the Roman Empire in order to keep power in the Temple. St. Paul was trained in the Pharisaic tradition, and some scholars believe that Jesus was trained as a Pharisee.
October 16, 2022: Written on Your Heart
Have you ever wondered where you stand with God? Have you in vulnerable times, times of stress and challenge, or times of unaccountable bliss wondered where God is in your life?
October 2, 2022: The Waiting Game
We are in a world that runs to and fro like ants around the anthill. We seek to make our busy-ness a status symbol. How often have we asked someone how they are doing and the response is busy. God forbid that we should respond I am at peace. My soul is resting in the Lord.
September 25, 2022: A Right and Good Thing
When we offer our thanks and praise to God we realize too that we are not on our own. We remind ourselves of our utter dependence on the God who created us, redeemed us and sustains us every day. We remind ourselves that God walks with us all the days of our lives. We can find respite in sharing our burdens and responsibilities knowing that it is not all up to us. When we give thanks and praise, we claim our place in a partnership with God ...
September 18, 2022: Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
A few weeks ago I began a sermon by asking “Who stole my Jesus?” In that instance we were confronted with Jesus saying that he did not come to sow peace but division, to create enmity within families, generally to make things bad and not good. Now we are confronted with a Jesus that seems to be condoning, indeed encouraging, dishonesty, love of wealth, and looking out for number one at all costs. Given all that we think we know about Jesus and his ministry this does not seem right. What is going on here and why does it seem so wrong?
August 21, 2022: What, Me Worry?
If worrying accomplishes nothing what are we to do in these dangerous and stress filled times?
I think one answer is in today’s passage from Isaiah. First of all, when we read this passage we realize that this is not the only time that the world has been a mess. There always seem to be politicians, corporations, peoples, or nations who are trying to gain water, land, wealth and power at the expense of others. Lust, the basis for all of the deadly sins, keeps the world in turmoil. Sometimes it is at a low simmer and other times, like now, it seems to be on the verge of boiling over. While we feel a heightened anxiety and a sense that we can do nothing about the state of the world God says through Isaiah that we indeed can make a difference.
August 14, 2022: People Get Ready
Whenever I get stuck in a passage like this I wonder about what is going on around the passage. In real estate the old saw is “location, location, location.” In biblical study the adage could be “context, context, context.” While today we read this section of Luke in isolation in truth it does not exist in isolation; far from it. Luke has taken us on a journey with Jesus since mid-June. Initially, his ministry was around the Sea of Galilee, but then Jesus makes an important decision to, “set his face toward Jerusalem.”
August 07, 2022: Gotta Have Faith
There is a sense of reciprocity here. God keeps faith with us and we keep faith with God. We have loyalty or duty to God because God is loyal to us. But this is where it can get sticky. For when we ask something of God we have to realize that God is not some cosmic Amazon Prime that sends what we ask for via two-day delivery. God does not work like that. God hears our prayers and pleas but is not a vending machine.
July 31, 2022: Poor, Poor Cynical Me
I do not think that being impenetrable to hurt is worth the cost of cynicism. For by being impervious to hurt we also become impervious to creativity, joy, love, and wonder. These are the emotions and gifts that we are made for. If life is just a grumpy, hollow, trudge toward death there is no good in it. We are good for little in this world if we cannot see the spark and feel it in ourselves.
July 24, 2022: Kill 'Em with Kindness
Desert Hospitality was a bit like Southern Hospitality. We saw a prime example in last Sunday’s reading from Genesis. Abraham did not just welcome the three travelers, he ran to greet them and draw them into his encampment. He invited them to come into his camp and brought them some water to drink and with which to wash their feet. By the time they got seated he has already ordered special food to prepared. Instead of just giving them a short break on their desert journey he is providing a feast for them.
July 17, 2022: Love Makes Us Welcome
I believe we are surrounded by angels. They may be in the pew sitting next to you. They may be a helpful stranger on the street. They may be someone we fear, the way the Israelites feared the Samaritans, yet in Jesus’ parable it was the Samaritan who is the righteous one. We have to train our eyes to see and our hearts to know when an angel approaches. We have to push aside fears, prejudices, and notions of what an angel might look like.
July 10, 2022: The Word Is Very Near
The word of God is very near to us. We are invited to take hold of it, chew on it in pondering like a cow chews her cud. We are to, as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer wrote in the 15th century, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Word of God. We are to become so filled with the scriptures that we find them on the tips of our tongues and at our fingertips.
July 3, 2022: Decluttering for Love
Twenty-first century people find the concept of self-denial preposterous. We ignore it in favor of fulfilling our wants at every turn. Our consumer society is the antithesis of St. Francis and Jesus. If it were not then we would not need Weight Watchers, diet books, Marie Kondo and other decluttering gurus, slogans like “live simply so others can simply live,” closet organizers, life coaches, Real Simple magazine, and the list goes on and on.
June 26, 2022: Just Say No to Cheap Grace
When Jesus calls another man to follow him the man asks first to go bury his father. Jesus does not deny the commandment to honor father and mother, but rather he is telling the man that family too may have to be released in order to follow the way of Jesus. Remember Jesus’ family thought he was out of his mind and wanted to take him away. Jesus said in that instance that his family was made of those who followed him.
June 19, 2022: Cast Away Your Bonds
Jesus’ curing of the demoniac also upsets what is normal. The people of the town have gotten used to dealing with the man. His insanity was the status quo. Now that he is in his right mind they are not sure how to deal with him. Humans are adaptable, but we also like things to be regular and average. Large changes upset our equilibrium. Moreover, the townspeople are worried about what other sorts of “cures” Jesus will bring to them. Rather than waiting to find out they ask Jesus to leave. Like Chuck and Kelly in the movie who cannot stay together because it upsets her new equilibrium.
June 12, 2022: Salome: Abused by Her Parents and Abused by Time
We in the church have many centuries of wrongs to right especially in regard to women. Biblical women such as Salome, Mary Magdalene, Bathsheba, and Tamar are a few of those women. There are many more nameless women whose reputations have been sullied by mostly, but not entirely, masculine interpretations. Let us go forth reading scripture with clear eyes that look at each person portrayed in their context and see how their actions may have more to do with the situation than is first apparent.
June 5, 2022: Comfort My People
I am sure that some of you remember a hit song from the 60s that has become a pop music classic— “What the World Needs Now is Love.” There is no doubt that love is what there just is too little of. But in the midst of war; massacres in grocery stores, schools, hospitals, cemeteries and churches; the ongoing COVID pandemic; threats to our democracy; and so much more I think we also need some comforting.
May 29, 2022: Come
The world may be calling out in desperation for Jesus to come to us, to save us from the plagues of war, violence, pestilence, plague, famine, and the downright evil of some of our fellow humans. At this time many of us feel like we are living in a novel, the ones that they told us about in English class where the theme is man’s inhumanity to man. Despite our calls Jesus does not come.
May 22, 2022: Beautiful City of God
God no longer needs a private residence to which only a few have access. God now presides in the open among all people. God is truly with us. What is even more remarkable is that all people will be able to see the face of God. In the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament, it was considered a sentence of death to see the face of God. Even Moses was not allowed to see God’s face. But now all will be able to gaze upon the creator of all things in wonder, love and praise.
May 15, 2022: Lovers in Dangerous Times
The passage from Revelation does point to a new future but it is not otherworldly. When I read this passage with an open heart I do not focus on the future, but on the present. I feel as Cockburn wrote, “Spirits open to thrust of grace, / Never a breath you can afford to waste.” Revelation tells us that we are being given God’s grace in the here and now, because “the home of God is among mortals”. God is not far away, we are not alone, God is here with us. It is just as our forebears said when they named this church Emmanuel—God with us.
May 8, 2022: Speak Plainly
When we listen, really listen for the sound of Jesus’ voice and not the sound of our ego, our wants, our inner lusts and desires, we know who is talking and what we should do. But it is not just because it is something we “should” or “ought” to do, it is because we have a symbiotic relationship with the shepherd.
May 1, 2022: Follow Me
The poignancy of Jesus’ care for Peter and the gentleness with which he gives Peter the opportunity to atone breaks my heart each time I read it. Jesus gives us that opportunity to repent as well. He also sets the example for how we are to forgive. We do not need to rub the nose of our violator in the stench of their hurt in order to gain true repentance. We just need to ask, even in an oblique way for them to offer their apology.
April 24, 2022: Faithful Doubts
The Gospel does not tell us what happens during the following week. Instead it is like a movie that fades to black and on the screen we see the words “A week later.” Over the coming week the experience of seeing Jesus alive that Easter Day would certainly have come up in discussion. The group would have continued to try to convince Thomas of what happened. But there were also other things to take care of.
April 17, 2022: Left Behind
This Easter Day we thank God for the gift of eternal life found in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But Jesus’ resurrection is incomplete if we do not take the opportunity to leave behind those things that separate us from him and God.
April 10, 2022: Save Us, We Pray
We humans are a fickle race. We want our needs met ASAP. They had been under the thumb of Rome for nearly one hundred years and their patience was short. Jesus parades into Jerusalem and all he does is teach and preach. There are no miracles, no uprisings, and no call to arms. What good is he if he cannot get the Romans off of our backs?
March 27, 2022: A Man Had Two Sons
When we hear about two sons we know a few things. First of all, the older son is supposed to be favored. Second, we know that in those three stories it was the second born son who turns out to be the one whom God favors. This proves that human rules are not God’s rules. As God says to Samuel “the Lord does not see as mortals see.” Thus we are set up for this story about a man with two sons.
March 20, 2022: The Whys of Lent
Today we heard Jesus presented with the age-old question of, “Why do bad things happen?” and in particular “Why do bad things happen to good people.” For example, we might think it is ok for a dictator to be the victim of a violent rebellion, after all they have hurt many people in the course of their rule. But when it is a team serving with Doctors Without Borders we wonder what the world is coming to that those doing good are killed in the process of doing good.
March 13, 2022: Trust
In 1974 a quirky book was published that had previously been rejected for publication 121 times. Despite all of this rejection when it was finally published the book initially sold over five million copies. This is one of the few books that I can say changed my life. It actually changed how I live. If it taught me only one thing it was to not allow the enormity of a task stop me dead in my tracks. If I could break down a large task into steps and focus on only completing that step, I had a better chance of completing what at first glance might seem impossible.
March 6, 2022: Word Up
Verna Dozier writes in her little book The Dream of God, 5 that when the Church went from following Jesus to worshiping Jesus it started to lose its way. Jesus did not come into the world to create a new religion, indeed he remained a Jew throughout his life. However, he did come to set for us an example that is “The way, the
March 2, 2022: Draw Closer to God
Instead of beating ourselves up during Lent as the liturgy suggests, the contemporary church sees Lent as an opportunity to sort out our relationship with God. We are called to actively take time to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the messages that we encounter in scripture and the writings of the saints of the Church. We are called to step back from the frantic pace of life and focus on God. We are offered the gift of this time to sit, breathe, clear our heads and hearts, and settle into God.
February 27, 2022: Light from Light
I am in a quandary. I have two topics I want to talk about today and one that I do not. The problem, of course, is that the thing I do not want to talk about is what is crying out to be discussed. My three topics are baptism, transfiguration, and you might have guessed that the thing I do not want to talk about is the war in Ukraine. I would rather that this war had not happened. I would rather that we not have to deal with truly evil people like those autocrats and oligarchs that dominate Russian government right now. We must speak about the problem of evil or we are denying the reality of life. Jesus did not deny evil so neither can we.
February 20, 2022: Judgement at Middleburg
It seems to me that judging others is actually something people like to do. Looking at today’s passage from Genesis we hear the end of a story where everyone was judging someone at one point or another and most of their judgements were ill conceived. The back story to this scene is that Joseph is the youngest of the sons of Jacob. He is also Jacob’s favorite which his brothers resent. Additionally, he is annoying. In his dreams his brothers and even his father bow down to him in respect.
February 13, 2022: Take Two
Luke like Matthew reports Jesus preaching a set of blessings to the people. But compared to the Sermon on the Mount, Luke’s Sermon on the Plain can feel stark and more condemning than comforting. In Matthew’s Jesus only offers blessings. We can look at his list and figure out where we might fit into the list of eight blessings. Perhaps we are meek, poor in spirit, a peacemaker and so forth. Whatever we conclude there is a blessing for us. Luke’s list is different.
February 6, 2022: Two of a Kind
The two readings we heard today could not be more different and yet more similar. The differences I think are obvious, but the similarities are not so much so. The Isaiah passage is a vision that he has of God and himself in the Temple in Jerusalem. In contrast the passage from Luke is Jesus and Peter on the shore of a Lake Gennesaret. These are clearly very different scenes. Isaiah is encountering God and Peter is fishing. Isaiah also sees seraphim which are very frightening looking angels with six wings that look like something out of a horror movie. They are not at all like what we see in Renaissance paintings. Peter sees nothing he is unfamiliar with; only boats, fish, water and people.
January 30, 2022: Read On McDuff
There is something in what Jesus says in the next part of the passage that changes the mood of his neighbors in the blink of an eye. Only a modern person who is immersed in the Old Testament can understand this rapid change of mood. Having told the people that he is fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, he is now telling them that they are not the sole recipients of the prophecy.
January 23, 2022: Lament Heals
Sometimes to get us to calm down our mother would sing something slower. I think that is where I first heard the spiritual “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” To three young children in the backseat of a car after a long day of driving it could be a lullaby. Looking at the words we realize it is much more than that. The pain in the lyrics is almost palpable.
January 16, 2022: For Zion's Sake I Cannot Keep Silent
Each year we set aside a day to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is to honor the man and the cause of equality for all for which he worked and for which he was killed. As a white man I am among the most privileged people in this world. Some might ask how I can even talk about the struggle for equality that Dr. King waged. I am the ultimate outsider, even if I want to consider myself an ally to the cause. I cannot know what it means to be vilified and suffer prejudice just because of my skin color.
January 9, 2022: Awake, Alive, Alert
Some years ago I read a seminal and for me life changing book. Despite growing up in a rural area I had become blind to the natural world in which I lived. Then I read Annie Dillard’s book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Then, as if scales had fallen from my eyes and ears, I heard geese migrating overhead, and really saw individual trees as they changed color. I experienced the natural world around me even as I was living in a small city. Reading the book was like a series of epiphanies as I became more aware the natural world around me.