Sunday, May 21, 2017

Easter 6, 2017: Entering the heart of the other

I had the pleasure of supplying again at St. Mark's, Chester, SC. This was our interactive homily. Below are the audio file and notes for this extemporaneous sermon.

Lectionary: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:7-18; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

If this player doesn't work on your device, click HERE

St. Francis of Assisi: The result of prayer is life. Today we hear Jesus’ prayer…

“On that day you will know that I am in my Father (trans: originator, progenitor, founder of a race. Plural: father and mother), and you in me, and I in you.”

Jesus = first advocate and in this gospel, promises to send ANOTHER advocate whom the world won’t be able to see b/c he won’t be incarnated.

You will know this advocate who will dwell in you – the Spirit of truth. (Note: week’s gospel: Jesus said, I AM the way, the truth, and the life) This is the Spirit of God who dwells in each and every one created of God, connecting us, making us one.

At Celtic retreat yesterday, we asked this question: HOW DO WE ENTER THE HEART OF THE OTHER?

Regarding God --- Our example is Mary – who demonstrated the process for us: prayer, invitation, & reception of the Spirit of God.


Jesus said: On that day you will know that I am in my (originator, progenitor, founder of a race. Plural: father and mother), and you in me, and I in you.

Regarding other people (especially those whom we rather not) --- the process is the same: prayer, invitation, reception.

Story of maximum security prison visits… Serial rapists, murderers… My expectations of them… their expectations of me… I spoke from my experience – not blaming or condemning them (society had already done that). I simply spoke truth - the truth of how it felt (to me) to be dominated, violated, and disrespected, the humiliation and the degradation. Inner story: the “Mountain Man.”

In response, most of the men spoke of their early childhood abuse. And suddenly, all labels of distinction (male-female; perpetrator-victim; free-imprisoned) disappeared --- and we were one.


Bp. Bennett Sims, HenrĂ­ Nouwen spoke of us, as followers of Christ, as wounded healers. Each of us living our own,unique vulnerability - our cross, which becomes the strength of our evangelism.


For we truly are in Christ, who is in us, who are in God…and THERE is life.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Easter 5A, 2017: Oneing as a royal priesthood

I had the privilege of supplying again today at St. Mark's, Chester, SC. My sermon was extemporaneous, but the voice file failed to capture properly. So... I post my sermon notes instead.

Lectionary: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

Rhythm of life: crucifixion, death, resurrection. Our story never ends at death - no matter how bad the circumstances look. Jesus speaking to his disciples, preparing them for what is about to happen (his arrest, trial, execution, death, and resurrection). They don't get it. How could they?

Jesus says over and over (6x) Believe... Believe = trust. Trust me. Trust God. No matter what happens. Don't get stuck in the death. Let the rest of the story unfold. Trust God. Trust me...

The end of our story is always resurrection and new life.

Plan of God: love and redemption. Always. At all times.

SALVATION: The Greek word translated as “saved” literally means to make sound, that is, in good condition – free from injury or disease. It meant to preserve someone from danger, loss, or destruction. It was used by our forebears in the faith to mean being delivered from the consequences of sin and death and it included the bringing in of blessings in the place of condemnation.”

ONEING: Julian of Norwich: Her concept of the Trinity. “For the almighty truth of the Trinity is our Father, for he made us and keeps us in him; and the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother in whom we are all enclosed; and the high goodness of the Trinity is our Lord and in him we are enclosed and he in us.”

Her concept of “oneing” confirms that we can never be completely cut off from love. “For he says… ‘I am loving you, and you are loving me: and our loving shall never be parted in two.’”

CHRIST THE MOTHER OF MERCY: she describes the wondrous kindness and tenderness of God’s maternal love. “And therefore he is compelled to feed us, for the precious love of his motherhood makes him a debtor to us. The mother may suckle her children with her own milk (see 1Peter reading for today), but our precious Mother Jesus, he may feed us with himself…he may lead us homely into his blessed breast by his sweet open side and show within part the Godhead and the joys of heaven, with spiritual certainty of endless bliss.”

ROYAL PRIESTHOOD: (See 1Peter reading)
"let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ... But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

Jewish temple priests served as intermediaries between God and the people of God - bringing God to the people. They conducted animal sacrifices meant to please God.

Jesus seeks different from us: the sacrifice of ourselves - our praise and thanksgiving. To move from a concept about God to the indwelling of God.
• Holy Eucharist - taking the body of Christ into our bodies, which metabolize, and literally become part of us - our very cells. The concept becomes an embodied reality.
• We do this regularly, together, to help us "grow into our salvation" - maturing our Christianity all our lives.

The Psalms:
• God also called for “a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14, 23).
• “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” (Psalm 51:17)
• “Let my prayer be set before you like incense; the lifting up of my hands like the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2).

• “to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service” (Romans 12:1).

• “Through (Jesus), then, let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which proclaim allegiance to his name. But don’t forget to be doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Eucharistic Prayer:
• We offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving...

Why this matters: WE are the dwelling places of God in God's household. The spirit of Jesus dwells in us - as individuals, as a faith community, AND as this moment in Christian history - that we might carry it into the darkness of the world.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Easter 4A, 2017: Listening for the divine voice like crazy Christians

I had the true privilege of supplying at Trinity Episcopal Church in Spruce Pine, NC. Below is my sermon in audio and text for Easter 4-A.

Lectionary: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

If the above player doesn't work on your device, please click HERE:

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

When my daughter was little I was the Brownie troop leader. As an expert in the field of abuse prevention, I was called upon every year to help teach the children how to stay safe. I used to begin by telling those little ones that there are some grown-ups who may try to trick them and do them harm, and because they are grown-ups they can trick them.

Then I would do this demonstration (asks for a coin) and ask them as I ask you: If you get it – don’t say anything until I explain the trick. Tosses a coin. Heads I win, tails you lose. Call it! (explains the children’s response) These Brownies, however, had a community of family and friends who were committed to helping them stay safe - good grown-ups – who want to protect them from the grown-ups who intend to do them harm.

I want to make a plug here for the Safeguarding God’s Children, People, and Church curriculum.
If you haven’t been trained, PLEASE DO. If your certificates have expired, PLEASE RENEW. People who perpetrate harm aren’t easy to identify. They don’t look like perpetrators and they often seek out and hold positions of trust that give them access to their victims. Positions like: teachers, youth leaders, police officers, pastors…

In today’s gospel story from John, Jesus makes these same points, but most of us today don’t have much real experience with sheep or shepherds, so here’s a little background about sheep, shepherds, and sheep-gates. In those days, sheep roamed freely during the day, but at night the shepherd would gather the flock and bring them into an enclosed area, so they would be protected while they slept.

Most shepherds would put planks across the gate to keep the sheep from walking back out during the night. But the really devoted shepherd would lay himself down across the gate and sleep there. That way no sheep could leave, nor a predator enter, without him knowing. Of course, lying across that gate also meant that the gatekeeper was vulnerable to the predators.

Jesus was claiming to be THAT sort of shepherd – the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep.

Jesus identifies himself as the gate as well. This makes sense if we remember that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, who is fully divine AND fully human, the Word made flesh through whom all things were made and reconciled into the unity of the Trinity. Whoever enters into this way of living and being will be saved, Jesus says.

I want to stop right here and do a quick word study, because who hasn’t been asked, “Have you been saved?” The Greek word translated here as “saved” literally means to make sound, that is, in good condition – free from injury or disease. It meant to preserve someone from danger, loss, or destruction. It was used by our forebears in the faith to mean being delivered from the consequences of sin and death and it included the bringing in of blessings in the place of condemnation.”

Jesus says, “Whoever enters by me will be saved (now does that change how you understand that sentence), and will come in and go out and find pasture” …the kind described so beautifully in Psalm 23.

We are the sheep who follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, AND we are his shepherds in the world today – the church. As such, it is our job guard the gate – to make sure it opens every time a sheep comes in or goes out following the voice of God – and to keep it closed to protect the flock from those who intend to do harm.

The key in this story, for the sheep and the shepherds of the sheep, is listening – knowing how to hear the voice of God. So how do we do that?

Luke tells us in Acts, that the early church “spent much time together in the temple.” We are called to do the same. The reason is we discern the voice of God individually AND in community. Listening for the voice of God is something we must choose to learn and practice,
and church is where we do that.

So, I have a question for you – do you hear the voice of God? Do you hear Jesus calling you by name? If you don’t, why not?

The divine voice speaks to us all the time in so many ways: in our bodies (we are, after all embodied spirit), in our dreams (just like in Scripture), in sudden insights during our prayers, in the reading of Scripture, in the voice of a friend, in the smile of a child, or in the beauty of a sunset.

Some people worry about be able to recognize that it is God’s voice. It’s true, we are all vulnerable to being tricked, but having been marked as Christ’s own forever in our Baptism, we know that we can never (ever!) be tricked out of God’s loving protection.

Even if we walk away from God or the Church, mad about something, or disapproving of another thing, we are still one family, one flock, being constantly gathered back into the fold by our Good Shepherd.

We, like those early Christians, need to be devoted “to the apostle’s teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” Imagine with me for a minute what it might be like if Christians today looked and acted like those Christians described in Acts…

What if wonders and signs were being done by the followers of Jesus today? Why aren’t they?

Maybe they are. I think they are, but we don’t talk about it very openly. I do healing work and so I hear many, many stories of miraculous healings of body and soul, as well as powerful stories of forgiveness and reconciliation - but they’re told to me in secret, because of a fear that other people wouldn’t understand and might judge them as crazy or something. Well, as our Presiding Bishop says, we are crazy! We’re crazy Christians!

What if church members had all things in common, (this is the hard one…) selling their possessions and distributing the proceeds so that everyone had what they needed?

For one thing, we could do away with annual pledge drives completely and churches wouldn’t be just one more charity its members support. Members would actually BE the church and would give with glad and generous hearts to the greater cause. We’d also purge our churches and their members of shame and empower them to respond without judgment and with compassion to someone who has need.

And what if we truly had as a priority the goodwill of all the people?

I think it would free our churches from the self-centeredness of a survival state of mind. Once freed from that we could actually fulfill our divine purpose! It would also help us remember, especially in these present circumstances, that what we do to “the least of these” we do to all of us – and to God.

That is the nature of living in Trinitarian unity.

What if our churches were full of Good Shepherds who provided a place where all – Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s “all, all, all, all, all” people could find green pastures, still waters, and blessings in the place of condemnation?

The good news, as we read in Acts, is that, like that early church, this would add to our numbers day by day, those who were being saved – and isn’t that ultimately our divine purpose?

I truly believe that if we were to learn once more to listen for the voice of our Good Shepherd, we would let the way of the world go - it kills and destroys by infecting our hearts and our churches, and we would embrace the Way of Jesus, a way of verdant pastures, still waters, and blessings in place of condemnation – abundant life, as Jesus calls it.

If we did that, don’t you think our churches would be busting at the seams with people seeking to be saved? Don’t you think they’d want to be a part of that?

Let us pray: Good Shepherd of our souls, open our ears to hear your voice, our hearts to respond to your leading, and our eyes to see where to carry the light of your love into the world so that all people may have the lift abundant you came to bring. Amen.