En el nombre del Dios: creador, redentor, y santificador. Amen.
Sunday, November 26, 2023
En el nombre del Dios: creador, redentor, y santificador. Amen.
Sunday, November 5, 2023
Lectionary: Revelation 7:9-17; Psalm 34:1-10, 22; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
(Note: there is no video of this sermon due to being at the diocesan convention through Saturday afternoon. This sermon, as part of our service, can be viewed on Emmanuel Episcopal, Webster Groves' YouTube channel.)
En el nombre del Dios Omnipotente, Cristo el Hijo, y el Espiritu Santo. Amen.Source.
“To be a saint is to be a little out of one’s mind…” he said. Finally, a qualification for sainthood I can meet! I live a little bit out of my mind all of the time. I always have, especially when it comes to my spiritual life. I know many others (even some here) who could say the same but mostly don’t because, well… people will think they’re out of their minds.
The early church considered a saint to be anyone who believed that Jesus is the Christ. The current church still believes that. That’s why the saints we remembered today in our Litany included people of many faiths, civil right advocates, medieval mystics, military generals, and peace activists. They are lay and ordained, women and men: they are all of us.
The gospel reading today reflects for us the character of saints. These aren’t people who rise above their human frailties. On the contrary, Jesus makes very clear that saints are deeply and totally human, and he calls them blessed, that is, holy and worthy of praise.
Jesus says that saints are blessed when they come before God in absolute poverty of spirit, because knowing they need God, they place themselves into God’s care. Saints are blessed when they suffer loss, or desire justice …when they are generous with mercy in the face of sin, … when they work to bring peace out of conflict …when they keep God’s will as their priority, even though they themselves may suffer indignities and injustices for it. Blessed are they, Jesus says. They are holy and worthy of praise.
The call to purity in these Beatitudes is about our willingness to rely totally on God. This complete reliance, no matter the circumstances of our lives, keeps us in the will of God. It’s a choice: waiting on God’s redeeming love to act rather than asserting our wills (and solutions) into it. This was made real for me by my beloved aunt and godmother, whose bitterness and anger, though justified by the circumstances of her life, made her quite unlovable for many. But as she would tell me the stories of how she made it through terrible ordeals, I saw how she trusted God and waited the very long time it took for redemption to happen. I knew even as a small child, that when I was with her, I was in the presence of purity of heart, and it made her beautiful to me. Blessed was she, holy and worthy of praise.
In his address to our convention, Bp. Rafael Morales of Puerto Rico, exhorted us over and over to go – get out of our churches and into the world and share the good news of the amazing, transforming love we know in Jesus.
So, let’s choose to bring down the boundaries we’ve built up in our minds and in our faith - the ones that keep us safe and sane but separated from one another. Let’s be a little out of our minds and be led by God, taking our place in that eternal procession of saints who were, saints who are, and saints who are yet to come.
Then we too will be blessed, holy, and worthy of praise. Amen.
Saturday, October 7, 2023
Lectionary: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46
Sean gratos los dichos de mi boca y la meditación de mi corazón delante de ti, oh Dios, mi fortaleza y mi redentor. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.
When I was preparing for my First Communion, I had to learn the answers to the hundreds of questions in the Baltimore Catechism. I studied the catechism with my Latina mother, may she rest in peace, who would frequently say to me, “You don’t have to believe that. Just memorize the answer in case the bishop calls on you.” Early in my spiritual development, my mother taught me to respect the rules of the church while also giving me permission to discern my own relationship with God.
Following the rules doesn’t keep us safe from wrong. It’s like the symptoms and the disease I spoke about last week.
Where there is sin, there is a disruption of our right relationships - our righteousness - with God and one another. That is the disease, the dis-ease which is, according to the dictionary, “a disordering of structure or function.” (Source: Apple dictionary)
When we see murder or coveting or dishonoring of elders, when we don’t make time to be in the presence of God, or when we use God’s name to curse someone or invoke fear in them, falsely claiming divine power as our own, we are seeing symptoms of the disease - the disruption of righteousness – and we know we’ve sinned. Knowing that we can repent and return to the Lord.
In our Bible study this past week, someone said, “Context is everything.” Taking that to heart, I want to offer a little context for our gospel reading today. Today’s story comes after Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, his very public overturning of the tables in the temple and cursing of a fig tree. He cured the blind and the lame as the people cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David.”
When Jesus returned to the temple the next day, the religious leadership ask by what authority he does all these things. Jesus answers, I’ll tell you IF you can tell me whether the baptism of John was of divine or human origin. When they couldn’t answer him, Jesus refused to answer them. Instead, he began to tell parables, a common rabbinical teaching technique, only Jesus was a genius with them.
- the absent landowner is God
- the vineyard is a common metaphor for the nation of Israel
- a watchtower is built which means God is keeping continual watch over the people
- the slaves represent the prophets, about whom Jesus laments later in this gospel “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing? (23:37)
- and finally, the tenants are the people of Israel and their religious leaders who kill even the landowner’s son
What should this landlord do with these tenants? Jesus asks.
The religious leadership reply that according to their rules, ‘They should suffer a miserable death, and the land should be leased to someone else – someone who will give the owner the fruits of the harvest.’ Jesus has led the religious leadership to declare judgment on themselves – and once they realized it, they were steaming mad. But they couldn’t kill him because of the crowds.
Another important thing to notice about this parable is that, like the parable of the two sons that preceded it, this parable is inclusive. Jesus doesn’t condemn the religious leadership or their followers to exclusion from the kingdom of God, but he does take from them their purpose and gives it to another people. The word Jesus uses here is ‘nation’ – and it would have meant ‘Gentiles’ to his listeners.
This new Gentile people, he says, will produce fruit for the owner to harvest. This was always predicted, though. As Isaiah prophesied, it is too small a thing for you to restore only the tribes of Jacob and Israel… “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (49:6)
The Jewish people knew all along that they were God’s chosen, and that salvation would be extended one day to everyone. Jesus is letting them know that the time is now, and he is the one inaugurating it. Still, it can be hard when you’ve been the only child, to allow new siblings into the family. It’s especially hard when those new siblings are those you have traditionally despised or feared.
1. “I want to know Christ [he says] and the power of his resurrection…” How do we come to know Christ? We pray, but when we pray do we remember that God is always more ready to hear our prayers than we are to pray them? Do we remember that God’s plan for us is more than we can ever ask or imagine? Do we pray to a loving heavenly parent or to a fearsome judge waiting to smite us for every mistake or infraction of the rules?
As a parent, my heart would break if I thought my kids were too afraid of me to come to me for comfort or in their time of need. We don’t hate or punish our kids for making mistakes – even big ones. We guide them. That’s exactly what God did giving Moses the 10 commandments to be our signposts, our guidance.
If we want to be of that mind, then we must pray, making time for a Sabbath for our souls. The true benefit of prayer is not that we get what we want, but that it re-sets our minds and our hearts, aligning us to God’s will and we get what God wants.
2. “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal…” God’s mercy and forgiveness set us free to let go of what was and move toward what could be, what God desires for us, for our neighbor, and for creation as a whole. In other words: shalom.
This is why the psalmist proclaims that the law of God revives the soul, rejoices the heart, and gives wisdom to the innocent. As Jesus said, it is to those who come to God like innocent children that the kingdom of heaven belongs. (Mt 19:14)
3. “because Jesus Christ has made me his own…” In Jesus, we have all been made siblings in the family of God. We are God’s own, cherished, and beloved in all our imperfection. This should give us cause to celebrate and it is this celebration that is our evangelism – the good news we have to share.
Didn’t see that evangelism twist coming, did you?
Despite what you may have heard, the purpose of evangelism isn’t to save anyone. Only God can save and Jesus already did that “once for all.” (Ro 6:10) Neither is evangelism about convincing anyone of anything. That freedom of choice, offered by God, extends to all.
So, it is by living in right relationship with God, one another, and all of creation as Jesus did, that we embody and proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, the good news that we are never alone, never forsaken, always beloved, forgiven, connected, and provided for by the One who is Unity in Trinity.
So, I offer you what my mother offered me: permission to respect the rules while also discerning your own path to shalom. While you’re at it, feel free to break the rules of traditional evangelism, trusting instead in the love, mercy, and grace of God, then celebrate the good news we have to share – that Jesus has already saved us, reconciled us to God, and calls us to share that good news by living as if it were true. Amen.
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Lectionary: Exodus 16:2-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 ; Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 20:1-16
En el nombre del Dios: creador, redentor, y santificador.
At our Bible study this week one of our members told us about his son who has a vineyard in CA that grows grapes for wine. He says that when the grapes are ready to harvest, there is a small window to get them all picked before they go bad. It’s possible that the whole vineyard might have to be harvested in a single day, requiring lots of help. He talked about there being a sense of urgency, and that his son would welcome anyone who could come help any time during the harvest.
This urgency, and the welcoming of anyone who will help with the harvest, is reflected in our gospel story today. It’s a story that is rich in teachings about the differences between the way of heaven and the way of earth, about faith and reward, and about our sense of justice vs. God’s. Also, like last week, it comes down to our choice.
The parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard is disturbing. It pricks our sense of fairness. Why should someone who worked only an hour get paid the same as someone who worked all day?
We move easily from that question to the faith-related one: why should someone who has lived a lifetime of sin be able to have a last-minute conversion and receive the same reward as those of us who have lived a good and moral life all along?
It makes me wonder… are we jealous of them? Is living sinfully more appealing than living virtuously? Would we, if we could, choose to get away with living sinfully for as long as possible, then start living right just before we die?
And what exactly is the reward we are seeking? Is it admission into heaven after we die – or the avoidance of eternal hell and damnation?
The truth is, God doesn’t hold up any enticements for us. They aren’t necessary. Neither is God waiting to punish us if we don’t go where we’re led or do what we “should” do. The choice to follow God, to live in the life of God on earth, is always ours to make. When we choose that, then cry out in distress because things went wrong, God is there, listening, loving, and sustaining us.
As we heard in our reading from Exodus, even when God’s people balked and complained, God remained with them, responding to their needs and providing all that was necessary as they journeyed to the Promised Land.
And what is the Promised Land? I’ll tell you what it isn’t: it isn’t a place in the same way the kingdom of God isn’t a place. The kingdom of God, in Greek the basileia of God, is about God’s dominion, God’s power, and God’s way.
God’s dominion is over the totality of all that is, ever was, and ever will be because God is the creator of all. God’s power is love, emanating again and again into physical form in what is created, transforming sin by forgiveness and division into unity, in other words, earth into heaven. Finally, God’s way is becoming one with the created, first in Jesus, then by our Baptism, in all of us, dwelling with us on our earthly pilgrimage, and, at the end of our lives, reconciling us back into the love that created us.
Our Promised Land, our reward is living our lives in the eternal presence of God, becoming aware of our oneness with God in our hearts, minds, spirits, and souls. How blessed are we who get to know this for most or all of our lives? How much, then should we rejoice, each time someone comes to know and live this reward - no matter how late they arrive at it?
The day would begin for them standing outside in the town square waiting to get “picked” for work. Some might say that those who came early were motivated to work and, therefore, more deserving of being picked than those who came later. Unless… they had a sick family member or little ones at home they had to prepare to be alone all day. Unless… they themselves were sick or worn out from their labor the day before. Unless… they had arrived early and were picked by a cruel employer, so they left there and went back to the town square to try and get picked again.
Each day, these laborers would wonder if they would survive the day. They’d fret over not earning enough to feed their families and stress over whether or not they’d get picked to work or get picked by a cruel employer and what that would mean for them. Would they survive unhurt? Would they get sick from poor food, intense labor, or unsafe conditions?
These laborers weren’t getting away with anything. The grace the vineyard owner showed them was divine grace. Their suffering was known, and someone cared about them enough to provide what they needed. The amount they received was the right amount in the way of heaven, even if it seems unfair in the way of earth.
The way of heaven is different. Remembering the urgency of the harvest and the need for help, what if the laborers chosen in the morning celebrated each time more help arrived? What if their focus was on the harvest, and not themselves? What if the community of laborers bonded in solidarity with one another, celebrating what they had been given rather than complaining about what they didn’t have compared to someone else? That would be the way of heaven happening on earth.
Now let’s consider how this metaphor works regarding faith. Do we celebrate that one who had been lost and now has been found, that one who had been separated and is now reunited in the family of God?
The way of heaven on earth is not a zero-sum game. One doesn’t get reconciled to God by kicking another one out. The love of God is inclusive of all who are created of God - which is everyone, anywhere, in any time.
Remembering that sin is separation from God, one another, and even oneself, when someone is living a sin-full life, they aren’t getting away with anything. They are lost, alone, desperate to be truly loved and to belong to a community.
They may look like they’re OK or having fun in their debauchery, but they aren’t. That’s just their public face, which is a defense against their pain and loneliness. Behind closed doors, there are drugs or alcohol to numb their pain, licentiousness to help them feel connected to anyone in any way, and self-harm to punish themselves for their unworthiness – or just to feel alive, instead of like the walking dead.
How can we not rejoice when one of these finally recognizes that they can choose to receive the grace God is continually offering? How can we not celebrate that by this choice, their suffering and loneliness are ended, they know they are loved and cared for, and that they are part of something big and wonderful: the family of God?
Let us pray: Generous God, thank you for setting us free to receive the abundance you always have ready to give to us. Help us to remember that you created us all, you love us all, and you choose us all. Unite us into one body by your Holy Spirit, that we may rejoice to serve you, working to make life on earth more like life in the kingdom of heaven. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Sunday, September 17, 2023
Lectionary (Proper 19): Exodus 14:19-31; Psalm 114; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35
En el nombre del Dios: creador, redentor, y santificador. Amen.
“I will forgive you.The words are so small, but there’s a universe hidden in them.When I forgive you, all those cords of resentment, pain, and sadnessthat had wrapped themselves around my heartwill be gone.When I forgive you, you will no longer define me.You measured me, and assessed me,and decided that you could hurt me,that I didn’t count.But I will forgive you because I do count.I do matter.I am bigger than the image you have of me.I am stronger. I am more beautiful.I am infinitely more precious than you thought me.I will forgive you.My forgiveness is not a gift that I am giving to you.When I forgive you,my forgiveness will be a gift that gives itself to me.”
Sunday, August 13, 2023
Lectionary: Lectionary (Proper 14): Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33
En el nombre del Dios, que es Trinidad en unidad. Amen.
Sunday, July 16, 2023
Lectionary: Genesis 25:19-34; Psalm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9,18-23
picture of abusive dysfunction. This young woman left home as a young teenager hoping to find a better life. But she was unprepared. She had never learned the basic things so many of us take for granted, like how to read, how to brush her teeth, even how to use a chest of drawers to store clothes. She never learned or saw modeled how to earn money legally or how to be in a relationship that wasn’t abusive or exploitive.