A sermon preached at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton, Connecticut for the Great Vigil of Easter, March 26, 2016 ( Roman 6:3-11 and Matthew 28:1-10)
Why is this night different than all other nights? That is the ultimate question to be asked by the youngest male as Jewish families gather on the night of Passover. For them, it is a series of nights to remember how their ancestors, the Israelites, were liberated from slavery. It is a spring festival, with the words “to pass,” “to spring over,” or “to spare” translated from the word pesach. Throughout history, and even today, this is a commemorative occasion, reminding the children of Israel of their deliverance out of Egypt.
For us Christians, tonight is also a night different than all nights. It, too, is a night of remembrance. We might have begun our liturgy asking, “Why is this night different above all other nights?” And the answer we could receive is very similar. It is about an all-night storytelling session about who we are and where we came from. It is about death, as well as life. But this time it is our re-membering, our re-constructing in our hearts and minds the great deliverance we have received from Jesus Christ – the Messiah who has brought all his people from the doom of death on account of sin, and from the bondage of sin itself – something much worse than Egyptian bondage.
It is a night of Alpha and Omega. Beginning and end. From darkness to light. Continue reading The Light of Christ
A sermon preached at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton, CT on January 22, 2016: The Baptism of Our Lord (Year C: Isaiah 43:1-7, Acts 8:14-17, and Luke 3:15-17, 21-22)
I have been reading Diana Butler Bass’ latest book, Grounded: Finding God in the World — a Spiritual Revolution. I have enjoyed her previous bestselling titles, including Christianity for the Rest of Us and A People’s History of Christianity.
However, she seems to be on a new journey with this book. Beginning with earth (dirt), air (sky), and water, she weaves an engaging story of connectedness ending in the revelation of the divine in the here and now. It is a love story about the earth, and as Phyllis Tickle reviewed, is “an anthem to the sacred unity of the physical and spiritual in the formation of human faith and in the maturation of the human soul.” For me, it is her story of getting reconnected to this planet, our island home, in sacramental and environmental ways.
Perhaps it was just me, but in reading her book (I’m not finished with it yet) and reading the scriptures appointed for today I seen some parallels. From Isaiah we hear the plight of the exiles, living in a dry, if not muddy, spiritually space. They feel separated from and abandoned by God. But they have not been forgotten: “I have called you by name, you are mine.” By being named, their fear should diminish and they should look forward to the one who will redeem them. God offers a protecting hand in fire and flood. God declares a covenantal love. From the north, south, east, and west God loves “every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:5-6) Continue reading God’s Waters
A sermon preached at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas on Sunday, September 13, 2015.
Proper 19, Year B:
Isaiah 50:4-9 James 3:1-12 Mark 8:27-38
I’ll admit – I’m a Broadway musical junkie. And for the past few weeks in listening to the Letter from James all I hear in my head is Eliza Doolittle singing,
Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through; first from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
We are inundated with words. Words from politicians, words from individuals who feel they represent us, words from people seeking justice, words from people seeking help. Words telling us what to do and what to believe. Words telling us we are right, telling us we are wrong.
Words are important. They often define who we are, where we come from, and what we are feeling. Words have power. Whoever invented the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” never had a bully taunt them, a parent scold him, a fiancée break an engagement, or a doctor give her a cancer diagnosis. Words cut deep.
And we hear words in church. God’s Word – and words from those who seek to help us recognize a connection between the Gospel and our lives. Continue reading Words! Words! Words!
A sermon preached on August 30, 2015 at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton, Connecticut
The Fourteen Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17 B
James 1:17-27 and Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
It is from the human heart
that evil intentions come. Mark 7:21
It’s not easy to talk about and acknowledge the evil that is in our world. But we see it manifested in many forms all around us.
This summer I have been reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. And exactly one week ago today, John and I were in Johannesburg retracing many of the steps Mandela took along with others in their struggle for freedom.
Knowing I was going to be preaching right after returning home from South Africa, I read today’s Gospel a few weeks ago to allow me to ruminate on it while away. The juxtaposition of Jesus chastising the Pharisees about their adamancy of following the Law while being immersed in how the laws of a country – in this case South Africa – wouldn’t leave me alone. Until recently, laws in South African centered around a formalized, systematic segregation of blacks, colored, Indians, and whites called apartheid. There were hundreds of laws about where one could live, what kind of education one could receive, who one could marry, where you could travel, what kind of job you could have, and on and on. Racism was an accepted governmental policy.
The history of how these laws came to be and where the roots of racism began started many generations ago. They were based on an interpretation of scripture paired with greed and fear by groups that began with Dutch and English colonialism. Their fear grew out of the belief that one race was superior to another as part of God’s creation. It became their tradition and way of life, and became ingrained in generations to come. Continue reading Evil and the Human Heart
The Tenth Sunday of Pentecost: Proper 18 —John 6:24-35
- Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, center, celebrated the opening Eucharist of General Convention. Photo: Sharon Sheridan/ Episcopal News Service
For the next few weeks, our Gospel readings will be focused on bread. Last week we heard the story of the feeding of the five thousand, miraculously accomplished through the division of five loaves and two fish from someone who was willing to share their food.
No matter how we might explain that miracle, it is a story of abundance. Every Sunday we celebrate that abundance of God’s love here and in churches all around the world. Some gatherings are small, some large. My job takes me to many places around the country in which I have had the opportunity to worship in many settings. From a large, ornate cathedral brimming with people to a few people gathered in a circle under a large tree, the eating of bread and drinking of wine – from one loaf and from one cup – symbolize our unity through time and space.
I got to experience a daily Eucharist along with an average of 3,500 people in July at General Convention. Each worship service involved 36 to 40 deacons, two to six vergers and a dozen altar guild members. They used one-and-a-half cases of Taylor Tawny Port and 96 loaves of bread from a local bakery. The elements were distributed by 144 Eucharistic ministers at 12 stations. Not quite one loaf and one cup – but we were one in Christ. Fed with the bread that lasts forever.
There’s another particular church I have visited in San Francisco that many of you may have heard about. St. Gregory’s of Nyssa was built in 1995 in a not-so-great neighborhood of Portero Hill across from a brewery. Their mission statement is “to see God’s image in all humankind, to sing and dance to Jesus’s lead, and to become God’s friends.” Their liturgy is fully participatory and all are welcome–especially strangers—to communion. The sanctuary is incredible: the saints dance high above, depicted by Mark Dukes, a local African-American iconographer, who painted the entire rotunda with a mural of ninety larger-than-life figures, ranging from Teresa of Avila to Malcolm X and King David, dancing in a circle led by a dark-skinned, risen Christ. And as they move in their space, singing and dancing, they move from an area where the Word is shared to the table, where the gather around, centered below the dancing saints. Continue reading Bread for Life