Friday, August 26 2022
“What does the LORD require of you?
Today’s collect asks God to increase in us true religion. To me, true region is accepting Jesus Christ as our savior, who died on a cross for our sins that we might have life everlasting. True religion offers abundant life, a purpose driven life that provides meaning to this temporal existence. The collect continues, “Nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works.” When we believe in Jesus Christ, our lives are forever changed. The whole point of coming to church is to worship God, be drawn closer to Christ, and be sent out into the world to do God’s work with the power of the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is calling for a radical restructuring of society.
Martin Luther King, Jr. noted that, for peace and equity to be realized, individuals and nations would have to look beyond their own interest and work for what is best for all of humankind. He called for a revolution of values, for the formation of “a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation.” In reality, he said, this is a call “for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all people,” in contrast to the self-defeating path of hatred and retaliation.
In his conclusion, King wrote, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action…If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history” (Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Riverside Church in New York City, April 1967).
King wrote those words more than fifty five years ago. And while it may be true that nothing resembling expertise exists in the Christian life, if we aren’t yet convinced that tomorrow is today, if we aren’t feeling confronted – every time we read the news – with the fierce urgency of now, then we have more practicing to do We all have a lot more practicing to do. Fortunately, God’s invitation to us is always open. It is always now that we are invited to experience God’s grace and love, to sit at God’s table with all of God’s children. And it is an invitation we are empowered not just to answer but to extend to others, especially to those children of God who desperately need to know – NOW – that they, too, are worthy, they too are loved, they too, just like us, are the recipients of the totally undeserved mercy of God, every day. Remember that we serve humbly because of the commandment of God and not necessarily the goodness of other people.
I ask for you to join together NOW to be the church that God calls us to be. Please think of ways that you can take better care of God’s creation and all of God’s children.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, August 19 2022
“God is transfiguring the world this very moment through us because God believes in us and because God loves us. What can separate us from the love of God? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And as we share God’s love with our brothers and sisters, God’s other children, there is no tyrant who can resist us, no oppression that cannot be ended, no hunger that cannot be fed, no wound that cannot be healed, no hatred that cannot be turned to love, no dream that cannot be fulfilled.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)
In the next few weeks, thousands of refugees from Ukraine will receive food and medical supplies. The World Central Kitchen has sent over 11 million pounds of food into Ukraine and is feeding refugees across Poland. Direct Relief has sent 456 million in medical relief to Ukraine. Both charities are top ranked with a 100% rating. At the United for Ukraine event, several people commented to me that St. John’s is doing what the Gospel tells us to do. Presiding Bishop Curry asks us to love one another by our words and actions. There will always be tyrants in the world, but they have no power over us. The only power that cannot be shaken is the love of God through Jesus Christ. In this week’s lesson from Hebrews, we hear the words, “But you have come to Mount Zion and the city of the Living God…Therefore since you are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks.” (Hebrews 12)
In today’s Gospel Jesus risks criticism and his life when he heals a woman on the Sabbath. The mercy and love that he feels for her is greater than the risks of offending the hypocrites. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle gave a talk at the Lambeth Conference and shared some personal stories. “He spoke with a town governmental official while there and discovered she was not there in any official capacity, but instead donating her time in the refugee camp. She told him: ‘My ancestors were refugees too. I have refugee DNA. These refugees are my brothers and sisters.’ We are called to the border this fall to show the same mercy and love to the refugees in Nogales, Mexico that we just showed to the refugees in Ukraine. Many come to the border to flee from tyrants and to have a better life for their children. I don’t have any opinion on what to do politically, but as Christians, we need to show compassion and mercy. “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (Psalm 103:8)
I hope you have made some adjustments to your carbon footprint and that you are changing the way you think of this fragile earth that we live on. I believe that it is good for your soul to “act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) As God loves us with compassion and mercy, we should love one another with the same love. Loving creation is one way to return our love to God. We become part of the eternal (that which can’t be shaken) when our hearts overflow back to God and one another.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, August 12 2022
This Sunday’s gospel is a challenging passage for me, as I do not like confrontation. As a Christian, I see part of my mission is to try and create peace wherever I go, in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Here, we witness that same Jesus actually stating that He came to earth to cause division. This boggles my mind; how I’ve built up my ministry around one way of acting is now challenged by the same God who calls for division at some points.
While studying this scripture at length, I cannot help but recognize that we live in a broken and divided world. We all have different views and stances on topics. In some arguments, I also see scripture used to defend these points of view, as the Gospel’s effect on people can spawn derision among our ranks. The existence of different Christian sects illustrate these divisions amongst Christ’s followers. It seems to be difficult to find hope at some points based on these facts. Where is the good news in this?
I hope we can find the good news in the fact that there are still conversations happening with Christians around the world, looking to bridge the chasms that divide us. There are continued dialogues with multiple denominations. In recent years, The Episcopal Church has bridged a gap between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which is one of the three major groups of the Lutheran Church here in the U.S. Our bishops from both denominations have established relationships and we agree in creed and in doctrine about our beliefs: to the extent that an Episcopal priest could cover for a Lutheran pastor of the ELCA and vice-versa.
Frank Sinatra sang a song called “That’s What God Looks Like to Me.” In the song, Sinatra sings to his son what God looks like to him. One of the lyrics he sings about God is “His heart is like a mountain: so vast and so strong. That's why all of his children have room to belong.” I believe that God is big enough to be on both sides of an argument, given that the argument is not morally against the unconditional love of God.
When typing the word broken before, I was reminded of the communion wafer on Sunday mornings that Fr. Duncan and I break in half at both the 8:00am and 10:00am services. This happens immediately following the Lord’s Prayer. In the Prayer Book, it’s called The Fraction. The fraction is the breaking of one bread for the many. As a church that believes in full presence, we believe Jesus is present in each and every piece that is broken off, as we share in the meal together. We will be receiving communion in the church with people who differ from us across the aisle and across the world. This broken bread is symbolic of how we come together. Although we have different views, the good news is that we still strive for wholeness, despite the brokenness.
We still pray for peace in the world. We pray for those whose theology may differ from ours. I hope we can acknowledge that despite the differences, we are attempting in the church to worship the Almighty, the author of peace and lover of concord, who’s heart is like a mountain - so vast and so strong. Amen.
Your sibling in Christ,
Friday, August 05 2022
In the last few weeks, we’ve heard some of the greatest hits in our gospels: the Good Samaritan, Mary and Martha, the Lord’s Prayer. Summer gospel readings are some of the great stories of Jesus’ life. The message behind each one of these gospels is that Jesus is giving us his tips for living a fuller, more present life. In our gospel this week, we are three chapters into Jesus’ travel narrative. His disciples are just getting past the honeymoon stage of the idea of going from place to place and they’re focusing on things of this world: the temporal, rather than things eternal (as last week’s collect stated). If given the choice between the two, the human inclination is to trust in things seen rather than unseen.
Karoline Lewis is the chair of Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She wrote an article about ten years ago about this Sunday’s gospel that caught my attention. The way she put it, is that we would rather put our trust in “achievements, acquisitions, and assets.” At least, that is our inclination as human beings. She writes at length about the overall theme of this passage: “fear, treasure, and being prepared.”
In my homily from last week at St. Luke’s, Sea Cliff, I talked a bit about our needing to be prepared and what that looks like for each of us. I tend to live day to day - even hour to hour. My schedule is jam packed with productivity: meetings, check-in’s, office organizing, and paperwork. I tend to forget how important it is for one to be present in the moment. That is why I emphasize how important the daily office is, as I tend to forget it myself!
Every weekday morning, a group of approximately fifteen of us gather on Zoom to pray Morning Prayer together. If interested, reach out to Fr. Duncan or myself. We’d love for you to join our worshiping community. We have a coffee hour social afterwards that isn’t necessarily the most productive part of my day, but really does recenter me on who I should be focused on - the people of God. I also have been pushing for weekly Noonday Prayer and Choral Evening Prayer (Evensong) on a monthly basis. This discipline of praying grounds me. It helps me to be alive.
What grounds you? How are you preparing yourself for life? For death? How are you living: for the things of this world or for your spirit and communion with God? How are you recharging this summer? How do you honor your achievements, acquisitions, and assets, while not overly dwelling there with them? Are you following Jesus’ tips for living? As our collect calls us to this Sunday, may we be enabled to live.
Your sibling in Christ,