Sunday, January 23, 2011

Epiphany 3A: Lights Witnessing Freedom

Lectionary: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 5-13; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23

Today we read Matthew’s account of the call of Peter and Andrew which differs from the version of this story we read last week in John’s gospel. In John’s gospel, Andrew spends time with Jesus and becomes so convinced that he is the Messiah, that the first thing he does is run to get his brother Peter to come and see. In Matthew’s version, Peter and Andrew are at work (fishing) when Jesus walks by and calls both of them at the same time and both immediately follow Jesus.

So which version is true? The answer is both. Remembering that these are not historical accounts but narratives of the experiences of those who followed Jesus, and that Scripture is meant for our learning as St. Paul said, we can look at the variation in these stories not as discrepancies, but as gifts for our learning.

John’s gospel affirms for us that taking time to be with Jesus, to listen and learn “where he stands” on things can fill us with such enthusiasm that we are compelled to run to those we love to share this amazing news. Matthew’s account affirms for us that sometimes, the transformation of our hearts is so immediate and so complete, that we are willing to repent as Jesus says, to turn and go another way leaving behind all we know, all we love, and all the security of the world we’ve established to follow God’s call to us in Christ.

Each of us hears and responds to God’s call to us a little differently and Scripture enables us to hear the same event from differing perspectives, affirming that there is room for our diversity to live in the words of our salvation narrative. And that, in the end, the result is the same.

What’s important about this is that it shows us that we can be of the same mind, and in agreement, without giving up our diversity of thought and perspective. This is what St. Paul is telling the members of the church in Corinth when he says, I appeal to you, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. He isn’t asking them to give up their diversity. Paul’s whole ministry was about incorporating the diversity of those to whom he proclaimed the good news, Gentiles and other foreigners, into the unity of the body of Christ. Later on in this same letter, Paul uses the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ, all parts of the body being different, and each individual member being united in one body for a single purpose: the reconciliation of the whole world by the proclamation of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

There is always a temptation to limit the grace of God’s Spirit who moves in us as we read Scripture, pray, and proclaim the good news. Understandably, we want to be doing these things right. But the temptation to be right, maybe it’s really a temptation not to be wrong, can lead to a rigidness that is counter to the freedom won for us by our Lord. As Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Christians and Christian institutions have a history of limiting who could read Scripture, and legislating how it should be understood – seriously constraining the free movement of the Spirit in their day. Thankfully this sort of thing never happens any more – NOT!

We know, however, that in the end, the Spirit of God moves freely. Like the wind, it blows where it wills. And thank God for that.

In Isaiah, we hear that the light of God’s Spirit breaks into the darkness of the world and the people on whom the light shines are freed from all that constrains them (their yokes and the rod of their oppressor are broken) and they praise God with exultation because of it.

Anyone who has been imprisoned by any kind of darkness knows the overwhelming joy that freedom brings. In today’s reading, Isaiah proclaims that God has multiplied the nation, increased its joy and released its people from their burden as on the day of Midian – the day when Gideon battled the Midianites and won freedom from oppression for the Israelites.

Note: This is the northernmost area in the northern kingdom of Israel and it was historically indefensible. It experienced 800 years of war, 800 years of oppression. So many generations had lived in oppression that they couldn’t even imagine anymore what it would be like to live in freedom. And this is the place, the gospel writer tell us, that Jesus made his home – the city of Capernaum, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. This is were Jesus issued the call for the people to repent – to turn around and live another way – God’s way.

Oppression continues in our world, all over the world, in many forms. There are tribal wars in Africa, holy wars in the Middle East, and wars within families right here in town. There are people everywhere battling the oppressions of addiction and disease, and suffering the ravages and indignity of poverty.

The good news found throughout Scripture, in the Old and New Testaments, in all of its diverse stories and perspectives, is that it is the light of God that breaks into and dispels the darkness and sets us free from whatever oppresses us. As the psalmist says, The Lord is my light and my salvation... This light, manifest most completely in Jesus, the Son of God, is what we are called to witness in our world.

Immediately after telling his new disciples that he would make them fishers of people, Jesus begins his public ministry by going out into the multi-ethnic region of Galilee [and] teaching in their synagogues …proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.* Remember that touching people who were diseased and sick would have made Jesus, the rabbi, ritually unclean according to the law. But he went to them and touched and healed them anyway.

We are called to do likewise – to go out and be fishers of people, to teach and proclaim the good news of the kingdom by word and example, and to offer the light of God’s healing to any who suffer. Then, if anyone shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, maybe they’ll see it in us.

Later today we will gather in all of our diversity of thought and experience, and we’ll look back on how graced we have been by God this past year. Then we’ll make our plan for the coming year hopefully heeding Jesus’ words to us to repent to go a new way - God’s way. To give ourselves over to God and let the Spirit of God move freely in and through us.

As we do that, I offer this quote from theologian and Methodist Bishop, William Willamon, who said, “… I challenge you … to do a little fishing, to attempt to share your faith, perhaps even using words, with one person whom you know. Try to express why you are here [at church – then] invite someone to come [with you] next Sunday… Do one visible act of Christian charity to someone in need in the name of Jesus. See where it gets you.”

Please turn with me in your Prayer Books to page 215 and let’s re-read our Collect for today together. Let us pray…

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

* Source:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Epiphany 2A: Saints of light

Lectionary: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

I heard a story once about a 6-year old named Isabella, who, along with her mother, visited a church with beautiful, traditional stained-glass windows. The sun was streaming through the stained glass leaving brightly colored sunbeam footprints on the floor.

Standing in a sunbeam, Isabella pointed to the figure in the window above her and asked, Who is that? That’s St. Peter, her mother replied. Jumping to the next sunbeam, and pointing to the brightly lit window above her, she asked, 'Who is that?' 'That’s Moses,' her mother said. Running to the next sunbeam and pointing up at the window, Isabella asked excitedly, 'Who is that?' 'That’s St. Mary Magdalene,' her mother replied, smiling at her child’s obvious excitement.

Suddenly, Isabella got it. She understood what the stained-glass was teaching her. 'Well - now I know what a saint is…' Isabella exclaimed. 'A saint is somebody the light shines through.' (Adapted from, Preaching Well, Voicings Publications, Margate, NJ, 2005, 8.)

And according to St. Paul, she’s right. In fact, in his letter to the Christians in Corinth, St. Paul says that the whole church, all the people of God are sanctified … called to be saints – people through whom the light of Christ shines, so that ALL the world might be brought to know God, to love God, and to do God's will.

This is a theme we’ve been hearing throughout the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany. In our Collect on Christmas Eve we prayed, O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true light… At the feast of the Epiphany, the light from the star of Bethlehem guided the magi to the child Jesus, confirming that God’s grace and salvation are for the whole world and fulfilled in this little one.

And in today’s Collect we prayed: Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ¹s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth… That WE may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that HE may be known, worshipped, and obeyed… to the ends of the earth.

We have moved theologically from a focus on God’s revelation in Jesus, to the meaning and purpose of that revelation for the world. You’ll notice that we’ve changed our liturgical color to green, the color of new life in creation.

We’ve moved from Advent preparation, through the excitement of the Incarnation of the Word in Jesus, and into a season of greening, allowing all that has happened to take root in us. For the next two months (the Season of Epiphany) we’ll reflect on what it means to be called by God to be saints, people through whom the light of Christ shines, and why.

Our reflection begins with what we heard in today’s reading from the Prophet Isaiah. God says: It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the survivors of Israel I will give you as a light to the nations… There’s the ‘what.’ It isn’t enough, God says, to share the good news of my salvation only amongst yourselves, the Jewish people… I will give you as a light to the nations [God says, because] my salvation [is meant to] reach to the end of the earth… And there’s the ‘why.’ We are lights meant to shine with the brilliant good news of salvation in Jesus Christ until the world has heard it,received it, and been transformed by it.

Tomorrow we celebrate the birthday of a remarkable person who truly radiated this light: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a prophet for our time who, like Isaiah, was deeply despised for preaching a gospel of peace and freedom for all people. And while he didn’t get to see the transforming effects of his efforts, Dr. King’s cause [was surely] with the Lord, and now he is certainly honored in the sight of God and of us.

His message of the value and dignity of every human being threatened those in power and upset the status quo – and for that, he was killed, as are most prophets. Sadly, it takes a while for our minds to even begin to comprehend so large a thing as the inclusiveness of God’s plan of salvation.

The thing is… we’re not called to understand it. We’re called to love God, to love each other, and to do God’s will. We’re called to be saints through whom the light of Christ shines in our world – and transforms it.

Next week we will gather for our Annual Meeting and plan our common life of faith and service for 2011. Our goal is to be lights that shine brightly… to be faithful disciples who respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow him. Then we, like Andrew, will be compelled to tell others and bring them in to see for themselves.

Yes, Virginia, Episcopalians CAN invite friends to come to church with them! And who knows? The person we invite to come and worship with us, or the little one in our pews who seems not to be listening much, may be the next Peter or Martin of this age. It’s a good bet Andrew had no idea what God had in mind for his brother, Peter.

Great things are they that you have done, O LORD [our] God! how great [are] your wonders and your plans for us!

Honoring one whose light shone brightly and bravely, and did transform the world (is still transforming the world), I’ll close today with the conclusion of Dr. King’s famous, “I have a dream…’ speech:

“…I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

…I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

…I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Note: The full text of Dr. King’s speech can be found at:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mother Valori's article for the Shelby Star: God's Love Descending

…and when Jesus…had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, like a dove…

There are four things to notice about this very short bit from the Gospel of Luke. First, Jesus had been baptized. Why would the one who was without sin need to be baptized? Well, it wasn’t for him as much as for us. Like so many other times in the stories about Jesus in Scripture, the revelation was intended for those who were witnessing the event.

Second, Jesus was praying. Still in the company of those with whom he had just been baptized, his faith community, you might say, Jesus modeled inviting God’s action into his life and into the world by praying…communally and privately. All four of the gospel writers often describe Jesus praying alone or corporately at the temple.

Third, heaven was opened (or more literally – ripped open, it was a cataclysmic moment). The boundary between heaven and earth was torn apart, ushering in great change. And God’s Holy Spirit became present in such a way that everyone who was there could see it and know it. By using the phrase, in bodily form, Luke was making plain the point that this thing that was happening was REALLY happening. (Jerome Commentary, 687.) People could SEE it, even if they couldn’t quite understand or describe it.

And Fourth: God is not a bird, nor did God look like a bird that day. When Luke says that God descended in bodily form like a dove, he’s not trying to describe WHAT was happening, but HOW it was happening. As the boundary between heaven and earth was being ripped open, the Spirit of God descended softly, gently (like a dove would) on Jesus, revealing the great change being ushered in by God. Suddenly, this man, Jesus, whom everyone knew up until then as Mary’s son, the cousin of John the Baptizer, was understood to be the beloved Son of God, the light of God’s love radiating in the darkness, the One sent to bring salvation to the whole world.

We, like Jesus, are transformed by our baptism into beloved daughters and sons of God, into lights radiating in the darkness in our world. And this is the covenant to which we, God’s children, are called by our baptism.

The covenant we make in our baptism is our response to the covenant made first by God: As we read in Isaiah: I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness… I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

This was the ministry Jesus claimed and his ministry was characterized by humility and hospitality, mercy and forgiveness, and reconciliation. He broke bread with Gentiles and sinners, women, and others who were outcast in his culture. Boldly proclaiming a new revelation of God’s mercy and forgiveness, Jesus freed people from the bondage of their sins, or from the bondage of those who sinned against them, and expanded the boundaries of God’s kingdom to include the least and the lost, the outcast… the outsider.

Sometimes, living out God’s covenantal call can cause some discomfort. It can definitely cause insecurity, even fear, about what we should do next. But being faithful means being willing to pray, together and privately, to listen for the voice from heaven which will guide us as God ushers change into our world.

Being faithful means resisting the temptation to determine how things ought to go, and instead, making space in our lives (and our life in community) for the Spirit of God to descend upon us softly, gently, like a dove, so that we can be transformed by God’s love, and radiate that love into our world according to God’s will.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How are you called to serve in 2011?

Dear friends,

Thank you for the indulgence of a late newsletter, allowing me to make a trip to Michigan to move my son into his apartment for school (yes, again) and to see my grandson. Steve and I made it back in time for our Epiphany Party, which it turns out, was the perfect way to come home!

I’m very excited about the year ahead - the year of our ReBirth - and the opportunities presented to us as church. As you know, the life of our church is a team effort. This is part of our identity as Episcopalians. Clergy and vestry work together with ministry leadership and membership to build a culture of spirituality, hospitality, and service in the name of Christ.

We begin the planning for our life together in 2011 at our ANNUAL MEETING, which is scheduled for Sunday, January 23 in the Main Parish Hall. We will gather at 11:30 a.m. for a pot-luck family dinner Redeemer-style! The Annual Meeting itself will begin at noon and end at 2:00 p.m. Nursery will be provided. I ask all leadership of missions and ministries to send me a short report on the activities of your mission/ministry over the past year so that this information can be included in the official Annual Report.

At our Annual Meeting, we will be electing three new members to the vestry leadership. According to our church canons, vestry members must be confirmed (or received) communicants in good standing who are over the age of 16. Is this where you are called to serve? If so, or if you would like to recommend someone to serve, please contact a member of the Nominations Committee: Karen Lattimore, Brett Niblack, or Maggie Watson and they’ll guide you through the process.

In last month’s newsletter article, I announced that 2011 would be “The Year of our Youth.” This comes from the priorities the people of Redeemer established during our corporate discernment last year (those purple sheets), having met our first priority: the establishment of a feeding ministry. The Year of our Youth is a team effort, requiring members of all age groups at Redeemer to work together to accomplish our goals. In preparation for this, and in order to come into compliance with national and diocesan church policies, we have spent a great deal of time and effort (thanks again Jane Shooter!) doing training on Safe-Church policies and practices so that Redeemer can be safe place to gather for worship and to grow spiritually.

It is my hope and prayer that the Year of our Youth will include the development of at least one mission trip, one spiritual pilgrimage, and participation in some of the diocesan youth events that build friendship and spiritual strength while providing real opportunities for service. Is this where you are called to serve?

The Year of our Youth will also include creating a physical environment at Redeemer that is safe, fun, and formative for our young members. Our inside and outside spaces are ready for this to happen: the Children’s Chapel (some tiny vestments would be nice), a playground (simple, with symbols of our faith in and around it), a worship area for the children in the nave (needs a rug and a couple of bean bag chairs)... Is this where you are called to serve?

A clear priority for 2011 is Christian Formation (TEC has recommended we use this term instead of Christian Education or Sunday School) which is ready for a rebirth. Deacon Pam and I have held this up for an interim period, but the time has come for a new vision for the formation of our children and adults. Is this where you are called to serve?

Finally, there is the reality that our budget is, at this point, significantly less than it has been in the past. Churches around the country are experiencing an average of 30% decrease in pledge income this year, and Redeemer is no exception. At our diocesan convention in November, the Bishop, seeing the signs of this coming, said: “We’ll have to do more with less.” He was right. Thankfully, mission and ministry are not solely dependent on money. To help the new Treasurer make the most of what we have this year, we’ll need to reform our Finance Committee. Is this where you are called to serve?

The blessing is that this change in our financial status urges us to go a different way – not a bad thing during a time of ReBirthing. We’re going to have to get creative to do the work God is calling us to do - offering our own gifts of time, passion, and skill. We’ll have to seek resources beyond ourselves to support our work in mission and ministry, but as we’ve already seen, collaboration is a good thing - witness the development of our relationship with Westside Praise and Worship over this last year. There are grants to be written and partnerships out there waiting to be made. Is this where you are called to serve?

I truly believe that we have all we need at Redeemer to be the church God is calling us to be. Earthly circumstances are real, but temporary. The promises of God are real and eternal.

Happy Year of our Re-Birth, Redeemer! See y’all at the Annual Meeting!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Feast of the Epiphany, Yr A: Overwhelming Joy

Lectionary: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7,10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

I remember the first time I heard my daughter play Bach’s Air on her flute. It was her first professional gig - playing at a wedding. She was nine years old, but the sound she made with that flute was like angels singing and I was overwhelmed by joy. I could feel it rushing through my whole body. I realized that day that an important gift had been given into my care and I committed to doing whatever was needed to nurture that gift and bring it to fruition.

I knew that her gift was from God and would glorify God - and never cease to bring me joy. I was right. That day was for me, an Epiphany, and I was forever changed by it.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. The word “Epiphany” is a Latin word with Greek origin and it means 'manifestation or appearance.” The story of the Epiphany is only found in the Gospel of Matthew which was written primarily for Jewish readers. Matthew spent a great deal of time and effort showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophesies and promises in the Hebrew Scripture.

In the story of the Epiphany, someone came to visit the baby Jesus. Wise men/magi/astrologers – they have been given many names. Note: The word magi means “sorcerer” and is the source of our word “magic.” These visitors, whoever they were, were probably Zoroastrians, members of a religious group from that time and place who studied the stars – astrologers, who also interpreted dreams.

Scripture doesn’t tell us how many magi came or who they were. It lists the 3 gifts, but not three magi. The names Melthior, Caspar, and Belthasar came up about 500 years later in a Greek manuscript. These names are traditional, not Scriptural.

Whoever these visitors were, they saw a star and somehow connected it to the prophesy of the Messiah of Israel, “the one born king of the Jews.” As Zoroastirans, they would have had no investment in the fulfillment of this Jewish prophecy.

According to Zoroastrian belief, every person is connected to a star. This presence of this unusual and magnificent star signified the birth of an unusual and magnificent person. It was so compelling to them that (think about this) they packed up their camels and loaded up their treasure chests and headed out on a long journey to Jerusalem to find the person connected to this amazing star.

These magi must have been pretty important people since they sought and received an audience with King Herod. Herod apparently had not seen or recognized the sign from God until the magi pointed it out. Upon hearing of it, however, Matthew tells us that Herod and “all of Jerusalem” were frightened. Other versions of the Bible say they were ‘troubled’ or ‘disturbed.’ That makes sense, though. Earthly power-holders always fear the threat of confronting real power. i.e., divine power.

So Herod calls together the Jewish religious leadership and demands that they tell him where their Messiah is to be born. The NRSV version says Herod inquired this information, but the Greek makes it clear that he demanded it. It was a forceful inquiry.

The Scribes and Pharisees give Herod a summary of what was predicted the prophets using the prophets Micah and Samuel, and they recount what was predicted in the book of Numbers – that “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter (that is, a king) shall rise out of Israel.” (24:17) This is probably NOT what the current king of Israel wanted to hear.

Herod then plots a way to find the child, presumably to destroy him. Playing it cool, though, Herod asks the magi to find the infant king and report back to him so he too can pay him homage.

The magi leave their meeting with Herod and find that the unusual, magnificent star is still waiting to lead them. They continue to follow the star which finally comes to rest where the baby Jesus is with his mother, Mary.

Matthew tells us that upon seeing the place where the star came to rest, the magi were overwhelmed with joy. The Greek tells us that it wasn’t so much what they saw as what they understood, what they perceived, that gave them great joy. The star had been in their view from the beginning. But now, as it rested on the spot where the infant king lay in his mother’s arms, the magi were filled with an overwhelming sense of joy. Being in the presence of the Christ is like that.

Their response was two-fold: 1) they bowed or knelt before this baby king showing him respect; and 2) they opened their treasure chests to give generously the kinds of gifts typically given to a king… gold (a symbol of earthly wealth and power), frankincense (a symbol of spiritual power – used in the anointing of kings and priests), and myrrh (an expensive plant extract often used by royalty as a perfume and as medicine, and also used to prepare a body for burial).

As the story comes to a close, an angel of God sends the magi another sign – this time in a dream – telling them not to return to Herod, so the magi went home by another route.

It’s interesting (isn’t it?) that while the people of Israel had been waiting for centuries for the coming of their Messiah, he was revealed first to these foreigners. The story of the Epiphany shows us that the reconciling work of Jesus the Christ had begun long before his ministry as an itinerant rabbi had even started.

But this first revelation of the appearance of God on earth would characterize the rest of Jesus’ earthly ministry:
 A ministry of actively seeking people, especially outsiders, and including them in the story of salvation
 A ministry of humility and faithful obedience to God even in the face of destructive human power
 A ministry handed over to us – the followers of Jesus – to continue.

We don’t know what happened when the magi returned to their homes in the east. We don’t know how or if they were affected by their meeting with the baby Jesus beyond being told of their overwhelming joy at finding him. Only God knows.

What we do know is this: When the Messiah was born, creation trumpeted the news with a sign (a star) that was compelling even to foreigners who weren’t particularly looking for salvation. How many people do we know today who are like the magi - nice people, good people, who aren’t particularly concerned about their salvation? What is our role toward them as followers of Christ?

We know that when the Messiah was born, those possessing earthly power wanted to destroy him. How many people do we know who put their faith in their money, their status, their ability to think or reason, or their ability to make things happen - to control their own destiny? How many people do we know who scoff at or criticize “organized religion” and us as believers? What is our response?

We know that being in the presence of Jesus Christ is an experience of overwhelming joy. How long has it been since we have been overwhelmed by joy? If it’s been a while, maybe we should stop using our judgment about the institutional systems that run our church as an excuse, and return humbly into the presence of God.

And finally, we know that when we are in the presence of God in Christ, the path we had planned for our lives is given over to the path God has planned for us. Obedience is a difficult thing – especially for independent, self-reliant folks like us. But it is the path of faithfulness and it does lead to that overwhelming joy.

A tremendous gift has been given into our care – this church. Look around and see the beauty of this place. Listen to the voices (the music) of our children and hear the sound of angels. On this Feast of the Epiphany, let us commit to doing whatever it takes to nurture this gift and bring it to its fruition. We can be certain that our efforts will glorify God and bring us endless, overwhelming joy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas 1A

Sunday services were canceled due to snow. There is, therefore, no sermon to post.