Lectionary: Isaiah 65:17-25, Canticle 9, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19
Sunday, November 13, 2022
Sunday, November 6, 2022
Lectionary: Daniel 7:1-3,15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31
En el nombre del Dios: que es Trinidad en unidad. Amen.
I love the feast of All Saints because it reminds us that our experience of reality in this world is only part of a larger picture. The larger picture, for Episcopalians, includes heaven and earth and all that is in them: the vast expanse of interstellar space and this fragile earth, our island home… along with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven (BCP, 370-371) who sing their praises with us each time we gather for Holy Eucharist.
In our earthly lives, we witness and experience a world that often isn’t safe for us and it seems like we need to take care of ourselves even as we profess our belief in God’s redeeming love. The Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ ends up being reduced to a set of beliefs or practices that function more like ecclesiastical fire insurance (you know, staying out of hell) rather than as an invitation to live transformed lives.
When we are baptized, we are baptized first into the death of Christ, and everything we think we know about God, the world, and even ourselves dies there. In Baptism we are reconciled to God in Christ, becoming part of that larger picture of love. We take on the title and the identity of saint: one who shares life in Christ.
We are baptized into new life and we emerge from the baptismal waters already living a new reality. We then spend the rest of our lives sharing the Good News of that truth by living it so that all who know us know that God’s love is the true reality of the world.
In his book, “Proof of Heaven,” neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, M.D., admitted to being a C&E Episcopalian who wasn’t particularly spiritual – until he contracted E.coli and nearly died. Dr. Alexander talked about having a near-death experience in the hospital after which everything he understood about everything was changed. He said he was transformed by a Love he encountered in a place he calls heaven while his earthly body lay in a coma in a hospital bed.
He described his experience of heaven saying: “It seemed that you could not look at or listen to anything in this world without becoming part of it – without joining with it in some mysterious way (45) … Everything was distinct, yet everything was also a part of everything else…” (46)
Dr. Alexander goes on to describe other worlds, higher worlds that “aren’t totally apart from us, because all worlds are part of the same overarching divine Reality.” This is reconciliation and it is what the world witnessed for the first time at Jesus' baptism when the heavens opened and the voice of God declared Jesus the beloved Son. It's what we continue to witness today at this and every Baptism.
Our earthly experience that we are separated from God is replaced by the reality of our eternal oneness with God in Christ, and that transforms how we live and the choices we make, which Jesus kindly outlines for us in today’s gospel from Luke.
It’s the outcome of the reality of our oneness with God. As Jesus’ disciples in this moment of the Christian narrative, we can expect that the world’s response to us will be much like it was for those first disciples: we will be hated, excluded, reviled, and defamed by those who choose to live as if they are separated from God’s love, power, and mercy. When that happens, Jesus says, “Rejoice,…and leap for joy, for …your reward is great in heaven.”
Episcopalians don’t see this reward as something we collect upon the end of our earthly lives. We understand it to be an eternal reward, eternal – having no beginning and no end. It doesn’t start later, it’s happening now. The reward is that we are able to look beyond the circumstance of any earthly moment and trust the continual working out of God’s plan of redeeming love on earth as it is in heaven.
creates, sustains, and directs it. We believe that the world belongs to its creator; and that we are called to enjoy it and care for it in accordance with God's purposes. We believe that all people are worthy of respect and honor because all are created in the image of God…” (BCP, 846) We believe that the communion of saints is the whole family of God, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.
Living this larger, heavenly reality, in the face of a very different earthly reality isn't something we can do on our own. It's something we must do together as the church, the mystical body of Christ on earth.
I invite the family to join me now at the Baptismal font.
Sunday, October 30, 2022
Lectionary: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4; Psalm 119:137-144; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12; Luke 19:1-10
As news of the shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts HS developed this week, a letter written by the shooter, 19-year-old Orlando Harris, was found in his car. In that letter, Orlando said, “I don’t have any friends. I don’t have any family. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’ve never had a social life. I’ve been an isolated loner my entire life.” Source.
Sunday, October 16, 2022
Lectionary: Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalm 119:97-104; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8
En el nombre del Dios: creador, redentor, y santificador. Amen.
Did you know that the roots of our Anglican-Episcopal tradition are Celtic? It wasn’t until 664, at the Council of Whitby, that the Anglican Church voted to shift from the Celtic tradition of the monks in Iona, to the Roman tradition under Pope Gregory the Great, thereby solving the perplexing problems of how to calculate the date of Easter and how monks should cut their hair.
Be to me, O God, a bright flame before me, a guiding star above me, a smooth path beneath me, and a kindly shepherd behind me, today, tonight, and forever. (St Columba 521-597AD, Iona) Amen.
Sunday, September 11, 2022
Lectionary: Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28; Psalm 14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10
Happy homecoming! I give thanks that ours is a happy church to come home to – it’s one of Emmanuel’s most attractive qualities.
Sunday, September 4, 2022
Lectionary: Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-5,13-17; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33
C. S. Lewis once said, “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
Change is part of life. Granted, some changes are better than others and it can be hard to know which changes are good for us and which are not – but that’s where faith comes in.
Telling the people through the prophet Jeremiah (twice, to be sure we hear it) that God’s plan is not fixed, God says: I will change my mind. God’s mind changes in response to the changes that happen in the world around us and in response to us and our choices.
That’s amazing, isn’t it?
On the downside, this means that we can never fully figure out God’s plan - it’s a moving target. We can never be absolutely sure that we know what to do to get it all right - but we aren’t called to be right. We’re called to be faithful.
On the plus side, this opens to us an amazing truth: that what we do and how we live matters and affects the plan of God…or is that a downside? Not if we are like clay in the hands of our Potter - clay that is malleable on the wheel where it is formed and re-formed into a vessel of the Potter’s design.
If you have ever worked with clay, you know that you have to pound the clay and knead water into it (it’s quite a workout!), or else the clay is dry, rigid, and unusable. By the same token, if we choose to be rigid about anything in our church life, we have chosen to make ourselves unworkable by the Master Potter, who honors our choices, even when they are regrettable.
This metaphor of the Potter and the clay illustrates how intimately and actively God is with us. It also clarifies the trust we must have in the Potter, especially during the pounding and the kneading.
God has a plan of love for us and for the whole world. If we trust that, and if we trust God, who knit us together in our mother’s wombs and whose hand is laid upon us, we must be willing to let go of everything else – everything else - which is what Jesus is teaching in today’s gospel from Luke.
Speaking to a large, enthusiastic crowd of followers, Rabbi Jesus says: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” You can almost hear the hearts of the people drop with a thud. Is God asking us to hate our family?
We’ll get to that. First, we need to hear the rest of this hard teaching.
There are many things we possess, are attached to, and place before God’s call to us: our families, our reputation, our independence. We can be attached to our secrets, our self-image, our way of doing certain church ministries… even our ideas about God.
Jesus says that to be a disciple we must give up all of these and trust in God alone. We must shift our priority of loyalty (which is how the word ‘hate’ translates) to God before everything and everyone else – including ourselves.
We do not come first. They do not come first. God and God’s will for all of us come first – and we must trust God completely when we are called to choose. Only then can we be Jesus’ disciples.
Once upon a time, I was sitting in quiet prayer and study when my rectory doorbell rang. My dogs went crazy doing their protective, dog-thing: lots of noise and running around. I answered the door confident that whoever was there had heard the ruckus and knew I had 4-legged protection if I needed it.
On the other side of the door stood a large African-American man in a uniform with a name tag. He introduced himself and launched into his spiel about a risk-free plan for controlling the cost of monthly gas payments. I interrupted his presentation and informed him that this was a rectory belonging to the church not me, and anyway, it didn’t use gas as a utility.
He looked over at the church then back at me and said, “Oh. OK. Are you the pastor’s wife or something?” I smiled and said, “I’m the pastor.”
I never know how news like that will go over, so I waited and watched while he decided how he felt about it. After a moment, he asked, “What is your mission?”
When I looked at him kind of blankly he said, “What do you stand for? What do you believe in? I mean, are you followers of Jesus Christ who said ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life?’”
He’d obviously never met an Episcopalian before!
Finishing the quote he started, I said: Jesus said, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14: 6) Jesus also said, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me. And I will raise that person up on the last day.” (John 6:44).
It pays to know a few Bible verses.
We shared a short conversation on what we believe as Christians, quoting the Bible often and faithfully. Though we were obviously speaking from VERY different denominational perspectives, we were truly and wonderfully grounded in and united by the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
As we shook hands and said goodbye the man began to pray. His prayer covered me with holy love, and I received it gratefully. When he finished praying, we embraced. We were no longer strangers, but members of one family – Christ’s family – having been reconciled by the sharing of the Gospel.
remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. How proud Paul would have been of this disciple at my door.
I was blessed by my encounter with this man. It was an experience of oneness with God and another human being that broke down all divisions, all earthly barriers, and inspired me with hope. I made a mental note always to try to be open to the surprises of love God may send.
We are continually being formed and re-formed by God into disciples. As we grow and change at Emmanuel according to God’s plan for us, I pray we will be asking ourselves the same questions this man asked me: What is our mission? What do we stand for? What do we believe in? Are we followers of Jesus Christ?
I pray also that God will help us maintain our malleability so that we can be molded and fashioned into the kind of disciples who can be sent to create moments where oneness with God and another human being can be known and experienced, where we can inspire others with the hope that is the truth of the Gospel.
Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts… Amen.
Sunday, August 21, 2022
Lectionary: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17
En el nombre del Dios: creador, redentor, y santificador. Amen.