Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pentecost 5, 2015: Our sacred work

Lectionary: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43\
Preacher: The Rev Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

En el nombre del Dios, Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

In case you haven’t heard: we have a new Presiding Bishop: Michael Curry, current bishop of NC, and now, our PB-elect! In a time when our country is confronted with racism and violence like it hasn’t seen since the 1960’s, The Episcopal Church has elected our first African-American PB. I’ve been a fan of Michael
Curry for a long time, so I’m very excited about his leadership of our church at this time in our church’s life and in the life of the world.

In the midst of all the Episcopal excitement yesterday, however, I got smacked down in a Twitter discussion about the KKK protesters at the Alabama statehouse. More accurately, I should say, I had been asleep in the boat (as we discussed last week) and I was jolted awake – and, believe me, it wasn’t comfortable.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality and the call from the governor of AL governor to take down the Confederate flag, members of the KKK showed up at the AL statehouse in significant numbers to protest. While I stand by my initial Twitter statement that all Americans, even members of the KKK, have the constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, what I didn’t know was how real and present a threat the KKK is becoming again.

In the comfort of my white privilege I had dismissed them as an impotent remnant of racists who had little power to do harm anymore. I was wrong - and I thank @Nig-ella Lawson for crying out and waking me up.

The KKK is alive and active. As their own flier says, the sleeping giant has awakened, and they’re exploiting current issues and events to promote their racist agenda – issues like immigration and events like the shooting of Michael Brown by police in MO, where the KKK called for “lethal force” by their members against the threats they perceived from Ferguson protesters.

The Southern Poverty Law Center warns us “against underestimating the influence Klan values can have on so-called lone wolves.” (Source:, 11.14.14, Caitlin Dickson) Lone wolves - like Dylann Roof maybe – who spoke of white supremacy as he shot and killed nine black people in their church? And let’s not forget that in the last five days, three black churches in NC, GA and SC were “purposefully burned” (asron) and are being investigated as hate crimes. (Source:, 06.26.15, xxdr zombiexx)

I tell you all this because the world is a bit nightmarish these days – especially for black Americans – and many of us are still comfortably asleep in the boat. But the time has come for us to wake up. As Bp Curry said last month when he preached at Trinity Wall Street, Episcopalians need to get busy “participating in the Jesus movement… committing to making a practical, tangible difference… helping the world look more like God’s dream and less like our nightmare… It’s sacred work” he said.

To do that, Bp Michael Curry recommends we make these five things a priority:

1) Formation: +Michael asks, how do we form disciples? He wonders what might happen if all Episcopalians studied the teachings of Jesus every day? (First, can I mention how affirming this is of my article about formation in the Parish Notes last week? Also, a reminder that we offer MP here weekdays at 7:00 am. We also offer the Episcopalian Rosary- which has Biblical references – Tuesday through Thursday afternoons at 5 pm.
2) Evangelism: (the “E –word” +Michael suggests that we practice a kind of evangelism “that is as much listening as sharing… [evangelism that is] an invitation, a welcome” to the church where persons can discover and develop a relationship with God and one another.
3) Witnessing: +Michael says we need to “get out in the public sphere [and] be a voice for those who have no voice.” As we have seen here over the last year, that can be risky. It may draw to us hateful verbal attacks or protesters, but it truly is our sacred work.
4) Relationship: +Michael points to ecumenical relationships - all faiths participating in ways that bring about God’s dream; he also talks about relationships within the Anglican Communion where more than a little conflict has made the news. I would add that relationships within our own church, our family of faith, are equally vital and also equally conflicted.
5) +Michael says we need to create structures that serve our mission. He’s talking here about institutional structures that help the church be “vessels of the Jesus movement.” (Source: The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry on Vimeo) Doesn’t this sound like what we heard at our parish meeting with the Rev. Bill Livingston last week? How nice to be affirmed that we’re on the right track!

This also agrees with what we heard in the 2nd letter to the Corinthians, where St. Paul is giving his advice on stewardship and participation in ministry to new members of the church. Paul says, “it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it… For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable… I do not mean [Paul coninues] that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.”

Whatever privilege we enjoy, we are called to participate in making a tangible difference in our world by 1) sharing from the abundance our privilege affords us; and 2) receiving from the abundance of experience of those outside privilege that they have to share with us. This is how we bring about a fair balance.

We who have enough to eat are called to share food with those who are hungry – like Jesus did when he fed the 5,000 out of his compassion, not just out of duty.

We who are accepted according to societal preferences of skin color, gender, sexual orientation, educational or economic standing are called to build bridges of friendship and inclusion with those who are marginalized – modeling what Jesus did: visiting with Gentiles, dining with tax collectors, healing the woman with the issue of blood, in fact, healing the many who were unclean, insane, or judged by religious types as unworthy.

We who have financial means are called to share with those who don’t, or at least take up our responsibility to support the church’s mission and ministries so that our church can be a vessel of the Jesus movement.

Finally, we who are believers are called to share the Good News. What is our Good News? Salvation in Jesus Christ. We can use Jesus’ own words: “Do not fear; only believe” – or these words: “Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28)

Beloveds, we are a people of hope – and our hope is in Jesus Christ our Savior. There is no nightmare that the dream of God isn’t already overcoming. Our salvation is already won. We are already enjoying eternal life in him, so there really is nothing to fear!

Here and there a voice will cry out and wake us up, and it will likely be uncomfortable. Our choice then is to be offended by the wake-up call and walk away justified in our indignation or to draw closer to the pain and allow the truth in it to wake us up and get us moving.

We have the opportunity to make a tangible difference this week. I invite you to participate in the picnic on the court square sponsored by CCG (Cross Cultural Gathering, the anti-racism group I mentioned last week) at 6pm this Tuesday evening. Join the conversation and let’s practice the kinds of evangelism Bp. Michael Curry calls us to – the kind that involves listening.

We are truly blessed to be able to give our thanks to God and be about our sacred work together, participating in the Jesus movement, helping to make our world look more and more like the dream of God.

All we have to do is wake up and get up – and participate in the Jesus movement.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Counter-cultural love

Love is counter-cultural, which is why the Church is counter-cultural, and has been from the beginning. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Mt 5:44) He told Peter to put down his sword when the soldiers came to arrest him. (Mt 6:52) He taught that the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Mt 19:30); that we must lose our life in order to save it (Mk 8:35).

The Episcopal Church recognizes that living as our Savior calls us do takes preparation, practice, and support which is why we commit ourselves to lifelong Christian formation as a church. There is a trap called busy-ness (over scheduling) which is cleverly disguised as good parenting, productive employment, and sometimes even exhaustive leisure.

The problem is nobody wins. Parents and children alike burn out, sleep becomes disturbed, quietness disappears, and spiritual development is pushed aside as if it were a hobby or non-essential activity. Church becomes another “thing” in our schedules and we’re just too tired.

The truth is, tending to our spiritual lives is the most important thing we can do for ourselves, our children, our families - even our culture. If that sounds like an exaggeration, consider the events of the last week. The mass murders in Charleston opened up discussions on a variety of topics: racism, gun control, the meaning of the Confederate battle flag, parenting, sin, forgiveness, religion and politics, etc.

If we are to be faithful to our founder, our response to these issues will look as counter-cultural in our time as Jesus’ responses did in his time: dining with sinners, relieving the suffering of those whom society says deserve the misery they know, calling out those moral authorities who are “hypocrites” and a “brood of vipers” (Mt 3:7, 6:2, 12:34, 15:7, 23:33, Lk 3:7, 12:56, Mk 7:6….) while speaking the Good News to all.

We will not only pray for our enemies, we will actively rebuke any move toward vengeance as we promote justice – which in the kingdom of heaven is the reconciliation of all. For most of us, that means hearing the cries of those who suffer and changing ourselves and our habits to ease their suffering, despite what our friends might say about it.

We will lay down our weapons, whether they be guns or power or words, refusing to sacrifice peace and trusting in the plan of God, like Jesus did at his arrest. Arrows slung at us mustn’t distract us from the path set before us by the Prince of Peace.

Finally, we will lay down our lives - the privileged among us reaching out and raising up those who are suffering, exiled, or oppressed, until as Isaiah said, the valleys are lifted up, the mountains brought low, and the uneven ground becomes level. (40:4) We who can must level the playing field, even though the price we pay will be some loss of comfort, privilege, and personal power. Take heart, the reward is heavenly.

Love is counter-cultural, which is why we have to be continually strengthening our spiritual muscles. That’s what we do in spiritual formation. Our Adult Formation group is strong and doing well, but our formation for children and youth needs resurrection. We have some amazing young ones who deserve our best efforts in their formation, including making time in their schedules for their spiritual strengthening. It’s important for them, for us, and for the world.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A prayer for our discernment

Our vestry/leadership team had our first discernment meeting led by The Rev. Bill Livingston this week. I watched as this group worked hard and courageously to open themselves and let go interior barriers so as to begin to hear God’s will for us now as church. They went lovingly into some very difficult topics of conversation, and by doing so, modeled the very definition of church community. It
was a beautiful thing to behold and I am so grateful for their faithful devotion. Please come to our congregational meeting this Sunday to hear more about this and offer your feedback.

I closed our meeting with a prayer by George MacLeod (1895-1991), a minister in the Church of Scotland and the inspiration for the restructuring of the Abbey in Iona, Scotland – a project which began in 1938. I have loved this prayer for a long time and I hoped it would bless us at this first discernment meeting.

A little background first… Founded in the 6th century by St. Columba as a Benedictine monastery, Iona Abbey, like most monasteries, fell on hard times. The eventual restructuring led to a new community at Iona Abbey - an ecumenical religious order known as the Iona Community. Iona Abbey is currently one of the most popular sites for spiritual pilgrimage in the world. The hard times are over and the community is radically different than it once was, but Iona Abbey continues to fulfill its purpose: being a place that welcomes pilgrims into the presence and transforming experience of God’s love.

Here is the prayer:

It is not just the interior of these walls,
it is our own inner beings you have renewed.
We are your temple not made with hands.
We are your body.
If every wall should crumble,
and every church decay, we are your habitation.
Nearer are you than breathing,
closer than hands and feet.
Ours are the eyes with which you, in the mystery,
look out in compassion on the world.
So we bless you for this place,
for your directing of us, and your indwelling.
Take us ‘outside the camp’, Lord,
outside holiness, out to where the soldiers gamble, and thieves curse,
and nations clash at the cross-roads of the world…
So shall this building continue to be justified.

People often ask me if I think Redeemer is really going to be OK. I do - absolutely. God continues to look through our eyes with compassion into our world and leads us to serve beyond our comfort zone, touching the wounds of our world with the love of Christ who dwells in us. Our church buildings are beyond beautiful and our worship definitely welcomes people into the loving presence of God. So yes, I really do think we’ll be OK. I don’t know what that means, however: how we’ll look, operate, etc., but I trust in God’s plan for us.

As Brother Geoffrey Tristram from the Society of St. John the Evangelist said, “When God calls us on, to larger life, we rarely see much beyond the next step.” We don’t have to, though, because God is guiding each step and God’s plan for us, while often surprising, is always perfect. Guaranteed.

Pentecost 4, 2015: One people, one voice for justice, freedom, and peace

Lectionary: 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16; Psalm 133; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41
Preacher: The Rev Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

A storm is raging in our land and it’s causing us to perish. It’s been building for years… decades… centuries… and last Wednesday night it blew wide open when nine people were murdered at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, SC.

On Thursday morning, our church called for a prayerful response to this tragedy (as we generally do) and we began planning a Candlelight Compline on the court square. I had to go to Charlotte for an appointment that day, so I spent the car ride calling my friends and colleagues at the NAACP, the CCG (Cross Cultural Gathering – a local anti-racism group), and both ministerial associations to invite them to our prayer service.

Then the suspect in this mass shooting was captured here in Shelby. Dylann Roof, a 21-year old – barely more than a boy, still wearing a child’s haircut – admitted to killing those innocents because of the color of their skin. I stopped in Gastonia to pray and process how I felt. My heart was broken thinking about the pain the families of the victims must be in and how such hate could infect that fair-haired young man.

As I prayed, God gave me this phrase: “One people, one voice for justice, freedom, and peace.” It became the tag line for our prayer service.

I called everyone back I had spoken to earlier and opened our prayer service to our sisters and brothers in the community. About 100 people gathered that evening on the court square. Six local ministers, including two bishops, a deacon, this priest, and two lay people co-led the prayer service. We sang Amazing Grace as we lit the candles and read the names of the lambs of God slaughtered at Mother Emanuel Church. We read from Holy Scripture and prayed like Episcopalians, Pentecostals, and Baptists – manifesting unity in all our diversity. It was a very healing moment.

As the story continued to unfold, the light of Christ shone brighter and brighter. The families of the victims publicly forgave the shooter. If you haven’t seen it yet, please watch the YouTube video (posted on my Facebook page) in which you can hear the families of the murdered victims addressing Dylann Roof and forgiving him, praying for him, and calling down God’s mercy on him. It was like listening to the voice of Jesus as he hung on his cross, forgiving over and over.

I cried as I listened to the mother of murdered 26 year old Tywanda Sanders who had just graduated from college say, “Every fiber of my body hurts…” It was too close for my comfort - my own 25 year old son also just graduated from college. I was slain by her words and shared, to the degree that I could, in the absolute aching she described.

I was totally moved by the words of the sister of Depayne Middleton Doctor, the 49 year old mother and minister of the church murdered that night. The sister shared honestly about the anger she felt. You could hear it in her voice – but then her anger gave way and her faith rose up as she cried out: “We are the family that love built!” then concluded with the softly spoken, honestly given blessing, “May God bless you.”

And suddenly, the gospel made sense to me. In the midst of the storm, it is our faith in Jesus Christ that will bring about peace, because he can still the raging storm. But more than that – as temples of his Holy Spirit, WE have been given the authority to still the storm in his name now, in our time.

So how do we do that? I think we begin by following the example of the families of the Emanuel Church victims, and we forgive Dylann Roof. That doesn’t mean condoning his actions or relieving him of his accountability for them, but we, like the families of his victims, must pray for the transformation of his soul through the love of God in Christ.

Then we must let the reality of the systemic nature of this problem enter our minds and hearts undefended. We are good people, but we are also complicit in the system that created Dylann Roof if we remain silent and let this moment pass by so that we can return to our comfortable lives. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, if we are silent in the face of oppression, we have taken the side of the oppressor.

Today, I call us to remember the nine persons murdered last Wednesday by a hate-filled boy, but we must put them in the context of a larger picture. We must also remember:

• 18 year old Michael Brown, killed by the police in Ferguson, Mo last August;
• 17 year old Trayvon Martin, shot by neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman;
• Dontre Hamilton, 31, killed by police in Milwaukee;
• Eric Garner, 43, killed by police in NYC;
• John Crawford, 22, killed by police in Dayton,
• OH; Ezell Ford, 25, killed by police in Florence,
• CA; Akai Gurley, 28, killed by police in Brooklyn, NY;
• Tamir Rice, 12 years old, killed by police in Cleveland, OH…

This list of black deaths at the hands of white cops just last year goes on and on. (See this site:

Add to that the mass shootings at the army base at Fort Hood, TX, the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the 12 people killed at a movie theater in Aurora, CO, and Sandy Hook elementary school, where 20 children and 6 adults died in Newtown, CT. Sadly, this list goes on and on too.

We have a problem, two problems, actually, which our bishop, The Rt. Rev. G. Porter Taylor, names in his letter to the diocese (see the insert in your service bulletin). The first is the “sin of racism” and the second is “the lack of the political will to take any effective action against the sea of guns” in our country. Our country is complicit, he says, because “our commitment for effective action against racism is not sustained.”

A storm is raging in our land and we are perishing in it.

I know that dropping our defenses and letting this reality sink in is uncomfortable. Of course it is. Otherwise, what will rouse us from our slumber?

My colleague Mike Kinman, the Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral in St. Louis, MO, answers this question well. Speaking to those heading to our General Convention in Salt Lake City this week, Mike says,

“… what my heart longs for is an Exodus 3 moment. I long for us to hear God saying: ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver the… and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.’… I long for us to recognize that our hearts have been hard but they need be hard no longer … but that will not happen unless we forswear the original sin of self-concern and, not with a well-written statement or a brief public handwringing, but with all that we have and all that we are commit ourselves to listening deeply to the voices who have been crying for too long and… with all that we have and all that we are, honor them and follow the Jesus we meet in them…. I am praying for you to not be afraid to upset a church that truly needs to be made upset, to bring discomfort to a church that is far too comfortable and to be agents of the Holy Spirit rousing the Body of Christ from her slumber.” (Source:

That’s another thing we can do: pray for our church that meets in convention this week, that we may choose to have an Exodus 3 moment.

Finally, we can get involved. You also have a flyer in your bulletin about a picnic on June 30 sponsored by CCG. We can be a part of the discussion and help bring about unity in our diversity here in Cleveland County.

My beloved family, we are the living members of the living Christ, and we are asleep in the boat. We are the ones who must awaken to the cries of those who are suffering and afraid, those who are perishing. We must awaken and still the raging storm by claiming the authority given to us by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now let us take a moment of silence and let the Spirit of God disturb us, , comfort us, and awaken us to act. In this moment, we will remember the names of those who died Wednesday night. (A bell is tolled at the reading of the names of each victim.)
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, age 45; Mira Thompson, age 59; Tywanza Sanders, age 26; Ethel Lee Lance, age 70; Cynthia Hurd, age 54; Daniel Simmons, Sr., age 74; Susie Jackson, age 87; Depayne Middleton Doctor, age 49; Rev Clementa Pinckney, age 41, pastor of Emanuel AME Church, and Senator for the state of SC. (A moment of silence is kept.)

In a moment we will renew our Baptismal Covenant and re-commit to being sisters and brothers of the living Christ who are willing to awaken, to still the raging storm, and be one people, one voice for justice, freedom, and peace. Amen.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Charles Tichenor funeral sermon: Show up and receive the grace

Thank you all for showing up and sharing with us as we remember and honor the life of Dr. Charles Tichenor, a saint, as St. Paul described those who believe, who is now living eternally among the communion of saints in heaven.

Episcopalians love the communion of saints. We celebrate them on our liturgical calendar. We sing songs about them, study them, and ask them to pray for us as we walk our earthly journey. For us, it’s the same as asking a friend or family member here on earth for their prayers.

We can learn a lot from the saints. For example, from Sts. Peter and Paul, we learn the grace of surrender. The will of God was so surprising for each of them, so outside what they expected, that each one had to finally surrender to the love of God that kept leading them to grow in their faith, understanding, and service in the name of Christ.

From St. Mary, the mother of God, we learn, among other things, the graces of humility, courage, and obedience. Trusting that nothing would be impossible with God, Mary gave her yes to God, knowing she would face ridicule and exile, and she persevered in her faith even as she watched her son being tortured and unjustly executed.

Every one of us faces challenges and is blessed with gifts from the very beginning of our lives. Our faithful response to these gifts and challenges forms us into the people we become, the direction our lives will take, and the legacy we’ll leave behind.

Every day we have the opportunity to choose how to respond to life because we are new every morning. We can choose to trust that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and his mercies never come to an end, or we can doubt – and find ourselves being tossed about as if by the wind on a stormy sea.

Even then, however, we are not abandoned. Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, dwells in us. He breathed his Spirit into us and promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age. All we need to do is believe.

In the six years I’ve been here, I’ve only had a couple of in-depth spiritual discussions with Charles. He generally sat near the back of the church and left quickly when the service was over. Charles always had somewhere to go and something to do – which, as you know, he always did extremely well.

One time I asked Charles about something I’d seen in him during the service. The Spirit had drawn my attention to Charles who was sitting with his eyes closed and his face pointed slightly upward.

My sense was that he was in receiving mode – receiving the gift of the presence of God in that moment. Charles acknowledged to me that, indeed, he was. It’s why he came to church, he said, because every once in a while, God chose to fill him body and soul.

Helen told me a similar story about Charles. I have interpreted that story into a prayerful reflection which I offer to you now:

Somewhere far, far out in the vast ocean,
a young naval officer keeps watch on the deck of his ship
as night begins to fall.

The ocean is calm.
Stars appear in the sky in numbers that almost overwhelm,
there being no city lights to dim their bountiful beauty.

The light from the stars reflects on the smooth waters ahead
blurring the horizon.
He strains to discern where the water ends and the sky begins,
but then
he surrenders,

and in that moment, realizes the truth –
that it is all one, and we are one with it.

On earth as it is in heaven.

Earth… the war… the ship…
thoughts begin to fill his head.
A torpedo could come from anywhere at any time.

His body tries to brace against the threat of danger,
but instead
he surrenders

to the unity of spirit and the peace that fills him;
a peace that only comes
through faith in the God who created the world he is witnessing.

It is the peace that passes understanding– even in a time of war –
and all he had to do
was show up and receive it.

And that’s what Charles did, throughout his life. May we learn to do the same from his saintly example.

Rest in peace dear Charles. Thank you for giving so generously from your gifts, and struggling so honestly with your challenges. May you now receive our love that sends you into heaven. Amen.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Jay Mebane funeral sermon: We're all bozos on this bus

Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33, Psalm 121, Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:11-16
Preacher: The Rev Dr Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

While talking with Jay’s family this week, I learned something new about Jay. He was a big fan of Firesign Theatre, a radio show from the 1970’s. So am I! I can see how this show fit well with Jay’s …unusual… sense of humor.

In one of the episodes, called, “I think we’re all bozos on this bus,” the main character, Clem, and his friend Barney, board a bus filled with circus clowns, also known as bozos, which takes them to “Future Fair” where they experience a hilarious take on the future. The journey is also filled with astute social commentary, and even has some religious overtones – some of which are irreverent, some ingenious.

For example, there is this gem from a character named Artie Choke: “The future's comin', and there's no place to hide!” But the wisdom from this show I want to share with you today is a statement by the main character, Clem who said: “I think we’re all bozos on this bus…”

It’s profound, theologically sound, and comforting to us as we bid our brother Jay farewell into the future he now knows and we can only trust. Here’s what I mean: we know that it is beyond our ability to comprehend God. What we can do is believe. We believe that the promises of God, fulfilled in Jesus Christ, are true, promises like: the love of God is steadfast and never ceases; and God does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.

We grieve because we love. When a love we cherish – even a love that challenges us – is taken from us, we grieve, and we experience an emptiness like nothing else we’ve ever known.

Love is like that. It’s beautiful, complicated, challenging, exhilarating, and comforting – and when we lose someone we love, it’s devastating. It may sound strange, but that’s something to celebrate. We celebrate that we can know a love so true, that the loss of it devastates us.

So let your tears flow. They are living waters made of love.

Life will continually hand us opportunities to love and challenges to faithfully endure. Thankfully, we have God and one another to celebrate each love with and to accompany us through the challenges.

Most of us have lived long enough to know that the love of God who dwells in us guides us and heals us as we navigate the rough times we face. The comfort that provides is immeasurable.

Losing a love we cherish makes our Savior’s sacrifice for our salvation that much clearer to us. Our Good Shepherd willingly laid down his life for us. He suffered betrayal, an unjust trial, and an unfair execution – because he knew that the love of God could and would redeem the world – for all time and for all persons – through his sacrifice.

And it did – in the resurrection. Now we are people of the resurrection and our call is to love – to love God, and to love one another as Christ loved us.

Today, as we gather, we remember the love that walked the earth whom we knew as Jay. Jay was a gentle, humble man, whose life demonstrated what sacrificial love looks like. Jay was a generous giver of love – to his family, his community, and his philanthropic efforts. His love was often expressed in his music – which is where Jay’s worship and love of God were deeply experienced.

Like all of us, Jay had his struggles, but he was steadfast in his efforts to confront and deal with them. In the end, he succeeded, and manifested the truth we know about ourselves: we are all sinners of God’s own redeeming… or as Clem from Firesign Theatre would say, “we’re all bozos on this bus.”

And that’s OK, because the promises of God, which we believe, assure us that we don’t need to fear the future or hide from it. Because we believe that God is love, we see a future where there will be no hunger and no thirst; a future where the Lamb of God sits on his throne and shows us the way to the springs of the water of life; a future where God wipes away every tear from our eyes; a future where every love we’ve ever known greets us and welcomes us to the company of heaven.

Rest in peace, Jay. Glorify God with your music in heaven now, and hold us in your loving prayers until we meet again. Amen.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Simple Surrender

Welcome to the “long green season after Pentecost,” a season during which we work to grow in Christian discipline and our Anglican identity. The following prayer, taken from the 1514 book of hours used at Clare College in Cambridge, is a wonderful meditation for
this purpose. This prayer has been set to music (H- 694) and whenever I read it, it is the sung version which prays in me:

"God be in my head and in my understanding; God be in my eyes and in my looking; God be in my mouth and in my speaking; God be in my heart and in my thinking; God be at my end and at my departing."

One of the things that moves me about this prayer is that it is a prayer of simple surrender. In this prayer we invite God to come into our unguarded soul. Such an invitation requires faith - faith in the tender mercy of God who loves us, delights in us, desires communion with us, and protects us. We have precious few opportunities in the world to safely learn or practice this, but isn’t that what church is for? In prayer, in the presence of God, whether alone or in community, we can trust enough to let go of all fear, control, and goals…and just rest in the presence of God.

By this prayer we open ourselves to be aware of God’s Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, in all we think, do, know, see, perceive, and say. When we ask God to be in our ‘mouths,’ we are connecting to our Judeo-Christian tradition, where God speaks creation into being, and we are asking God to be in all that we speak into being. God speaks (acts) now in and through us, and as Christians, what we are called to speak into our world is the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. We speak this Good News by living it, by proclaiming it, and by being it.

In this prayer, we are asking God to BE… not to DO. So often when we pray, we have a list of things we’d like God to do – for us, for our loved ones, for the world. While intentional prayer is important and transformative, it is also important for us to invite God to be God - in us - transforming us continually, and through us, the world.

Finally, in this prayer we experience the promise of the risen Christ: eternal life… life lived in the eternal presence of God. I believe that it is because of this promise that we can surrender, that we can trust completely and let go totally, knowing that God loves us, delights in us, and desires to BE in us.

As we journey into the “greening” of our soul, as St. Hildegard of Bingen called it, during the season after Pentecost, I offer you this prayer as a daily practice. May it lead us into the grace of God in Christ who is all in all for us.