Tag Archives: Baptismal Covenant

God’s Waters

bautismo05A 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

Evil and the Human Heart

11947543_10153637925899367_6423622083761918630_n 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

Discussing Violence in Church

Last week I attended the annual Christian Formation Conference held at Kanuga, a conference center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina outside Hendersonville (near Asheville). The conference theme was Hope in the Midst of Crisis: From Tragedy to Healing through Forgiveness. Plenary sessions and workshops largely focused on how we address the issues of hope, reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing in a world that is often beset by tragedy on a national as well as personal level. From the events of 9/11 (World Trade Center) to 12/14 (Sandy Hook) to our cities today, stories were shared and processes for healing were shared.

I was invited to give a workshop based on a book that I compiled and edited, Reclaiming Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace Coverthe Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence (Morehouse, 2015) based on a conference of the same name held in Oklahoma City in April 2014. In preparing my workshop I hoped to broaden the conversation to discuss how many forms of violence (such as gun violence, inter-partner/domestic violence, bullying, and video-game addiction) are issues that need to be addressed and acted upon as imperative to our baptismal promises of “respecting the dignity of all human beings” and “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” As followers of Jesus, we are called to turn the other cheek as well as speak out against injustice in our world.

While I was caught up short the two days before my presentation over lunch with some Christian educators who shared their opinions with me (as gun owners with licenses to carry concealed weapons), I knew I had to tell the truth (from my perspective) and focus the conversation on why and how we should be having such conversations in our churches. It is why I put the book together. And my angst following this lunch conversation showed me how much our church needs to engage in this conversation. It is not about being opposed to hunting, target shooting, and banning of all guns. It is about creating a world in which we can create safe places and promote the gospel of peace. Continue reading Discussing Violence in Church

Helping Youth Find Their Voice

EYE bannerLast week I was immersed in a gathering of over 1,000 Episcopalians (800 of them high school youth) from over 80 dioceses including Taiwan, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and the continental United States. It was a time of joy-filled worship, music, fun, learning, and growing in discipleship. While this was the largest gathering of Episcopal youth, the triennial EYE (Episcopal Youth Event) just touches the tip of the iceberg of all the young people who call the Episcopal Church home.

How can we engage all those who don’t have access to diocesan youth programs, let alone the experiences and connections made on the campus of Villanova last week?

Continue reading Helping Youth Find Their Voice

Truth in Advocacy

A sermon given at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, CT on May 25, 2014 (Sixth Sunday of Easter)

Acts of the Apostles 17:22-31 + 1 Peter 3:13-22 + John 14:15-21

spiritThe last six weeks of my father’s life were not pleasant. He was shuffled between the hospital, a rehab facility, and numerous doctors and therapists. He was not capable of making his own decisions and was confused by the chances and changes that were rapidly accelerating into his waning life. My role as daughter changed; I became his advocate to make sure he was fed and received the dignity he was due in his last days. And my role didn’t go away after his death; I realized I needed to ramp up my activism for him so that others did not need to suffer the way he did. My advocacy became a principle of justice.

We all advocate for that which we believe in. We go to bat for our children to make sure they have health care and the best education. We put our money and efforts in causes we believe in – whether it is a candidate running for political office, a community organization or charity such as Habitat for Humanity or finding homes for abandoned dogs. We speak out to the injustices we see around us through writing letters, attending hearings, signing petitions – for equal pay, environmental issues, human rights.

Every one needs an advocate at some point in their life. And we are often called upon to serve in that role, at expected and unexpected times. Advocates are important to those who are helpless and voiceless.

Have you ever wished you had someone to advocate for you when no one else stepped forward in your time of need?

As all of our readings today remind us – we DO have an advocate! It’s not the advocate we think about in our day-to-day life. And I would guess it is not one we call upon when we are in need. Yes, we may cry out, “God help me!” but this advocate is present to us at all times and in all places, whether we ask for it or not.

As our Easter season begins to come to a close, our lectionary texts shift focus from the resurrection of Jesus to the presence of the Spirit as the mode of the Risen One’s continuing engagement with the community of faith. This week we have the promise of an Advocate that is called the “Spirit of Truth.” We might call it the “Coming of the Advocate” season.

On Thursday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, forty days after the Resurrection. Jesus will depart from us, being elevated to sit “at the right hand of the Father” as stated in our creeds. Ten days later – June 8th this year – we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost when the focus falls directly on the presence of the Holy Spirit, that completion of God as Creator and God as Redeemer in Jesus, to make the Trinity. That holy mystery of three-in-one, one-in-three, which we then celebrate the Sunday after Pentecost. So we are entering a very theological and non-scientific time in the life of our church calendar.

And this human Jesus prepares to depart from his disciples, he does not leave his followers orphaned. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus comes to abide with his disciples of every generation. As Pentecost draws near, we are reminded that the risen Christ dwells in each of us as the Spirit of Truth. We receive this Spirit in baptism and prayer that in our gathering at the Eucharistic table the Spirit will transform us to be the body of the risen Christ in the world.

In the midst of this shifting of seasons, it is fitting that this Saturday we will participate in the Rite of Confirmation with Christ & Holy Trinity – Westport, Emmanuel Church – Weston, and St. Mark’s – Bridgeport here at St. Matthew’s. Bishop Jim Curry will join us as we gather to support those who will make a public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and receive the laying-on-of-hands. We will be reaffirming our belief in the one Body and one Spirit, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.  We will be proclaiming our faith publicly, albeit within the four walls of a church.

What if we were to publicly affirm our beliefs in the public arena, like Paul and Peter did? Our confirmands (and we) face a world much like the world of Paul. He faced the challenge of proclaiming the gospel to Greeks who know nothing of either Jewish or Christian tradition. Reaffirming our faith is committing to be partners in advocacy with the Spirit; to be the voice of Jesus for those who need to hear the Good News.

We live in a society that doesn’t talk about such things openly. We read about “nones” and “spiritual but not religious” in the news. In reading the faith statements of our confirmands, I am always struck by their hesitancy, which is very age-appropriate, to commit to this belief system of a three-in-one God. Bishop Curry will prayer over them for the Holy Spirit to strengthen and empower them to be faithful servants of the Gospel. As they continue go forth, my prayer is that they will continue to be bold in proclaiming their faith beyond these walls.

For Peter, our Christian beliefs and behavior are to be a matter of public record, just as our baptism is. I think Peter would like our confirmation service. In some regards it is safe – the real world is beyond our doors and as Christians, we are faced with all of the temptations that pull us away from our Baptismal Promises: sin, racism, brokenness, greed, and isolation.

But we are giving a glimpse of the truth today that shows us the way. God has given us the gift of love through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and such love creates a life and world God intended from the very beginning. The Spirit is the Advocate that brings the truth of that love and life to people in this time after Easter, which makes faith possible. Jesus glorifies God, and the Spirit glorifies Jesus. Both of them bear witness to the truth and expose us to the sin of the world – all those things which we promise to fight against in our Baptismal Covenant.

How we act and what we do matters to God. We need to be able to respond creatively to the challenges we face as Christians in today’s world. We need to be Paul in the 21st century.

Being strengthened by the Holy Spirit, we CAN be advocates for one another, knowing we are not alone. We CAN proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. We CAN seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. We CAN strive for justice and peace among all people. We CAN respect the dignity of every human being. We can’t do it alone. We need each other for support. We need to gather regularly together to be fed with spiritual food, prayer, teaching, and fellowship.

As Christians, our call is to be an advocate for God.

Jean Vanier has asked, “How can we live and love as [Jesus] did, except through the mysterious gift and power which he gives through his Spirit, so that we become his face, his hands, his heart and body?”

We are given this “truth” from the reality that is God, in whom we live and move and have our being.