I saw Satan fall like lightning

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Night sky with lightning thunderstorm at night SBI 300870177In this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus sends the disciples as heralds into the countryside to proclaim the Peace to people and the Kingdom of God. When they return, they joyfully report that they have witnessed the forces arrayed against God routed and fleeing before them.

Jesus responds to their joy and triumph by telling them, prophetically, that he saw the Satan fall like lightning. The Ruler of this World’s time of dominion is coming to an end. While we have yet to see the vision Jesus spoke of, we have seen the signs of the rout with our eyes and seen the impact in the lives of the Saints.

In moments such as we are experiencing in our common life today, it’s crucial to remember Jesus’ words. We can easily lose hope or lose our belief in the triumph of God’s Love over the forces of division running free in the World.

In this week’s sermon, I speak a bit about how to live in time when we have hope, but have not seen the fulfillment. I speak about the root cause of the breakdown of social norms today and what we can do to overcome the trauma that is tearing each of us, and the whole of us, apart.

Direct link to the sermon video found here.

Love can overcome division

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Little girls on meadow at sunset large copy space SBI 300996190Paul writes to the Galatians and strongly affirms their freedom in the Gospel. But he warns that their freedom can become a base of operations for earthly passions and emotions to create division and pain. The reading from Luke’s Gospel this week, where the disciples want Jesus to smite the Samaritans because they don’t agree with Jesus’ behavior, is an example of what Paul is talking about.

So too is this long month of the past week. It has been filled with hot takes and quick reactions that have inflamed passions and led to violence, tear-gassed demonstrators and fear. Paul says there’s an antidote to this pain; loving your enemies and serving them. But that’s not a message anyone seems to be sharing at the moment.

For the Church in this moment, divided as we are, living into Paul’s prescription for our fear and pain is what we should do, but I’m not optimistic we will do. But some will try to do what Paul suggests, and perhaps that will be enough. We can be among those who try. It would be a profound witness to the World if we did.

Direct link here.

Love will overcome division

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Greek Papyrus manuscriptWhen St. Paul writes his letter to the people of the Church in Galatia, he’s writing because of a challenge to his teaching, and a change in the way that they are living out their faith. Paul taught them that the Law of Moses was only part of the truth of God. He taught that the rest of God’s will for Creation was revealed in the life and person of Jesus. And Paul taught that the complete revelation of God showed us the right way to live in relationship, the division, and purity that the Law of Moses required.

Paul is not saying that the Law was wrong, he’s teaching that it can only get us so far. The rules we learn when we are in school are true and good, but they can be superseded once we graduate and understand their use and limits. This isn’t at all the same thing as saying there are no rules, or that rules don’t apply to a life lived in faith. Now that we know that Love is the Way, we can cross the boundaries and bring the light of the Gospel to those previously apart.

The question about boundaries and purity, the questions of who and what can be tolerated by the community of God’s children, isn’t historical. Much of the division in the World today centers on the same sorts of questions. People who reject others because they can bear to be in their presence or in relationship with them are acting out of the same impulse as those who were taught by the Law. But there is a deeper Law…

Direct link to this sermon video here.

Some thoughts on scripture’s role in Anglicanism

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The question of how Anglicans (Episcopalians) use the bible has come up a couple of times this week in various conversations. And as luck would have it, I’m working my way through a book by Paul Avis on what we mean when we speak about an Anglican Church, and in my reading this morning, I came across this quote:

This faith is said to be ‘uniquely revealed’ in the Holy Scriptures. Here the Scriptures are accorded the status of the vehicle of revelation. But neither here nor in the Articles is there any theory of revelation or of biblical inspiration. The Articles state that ‘Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation’ and this is echoed in the Chicago—Lambeth Quadrilateral (1886–88) which upholds the Scriptures as ‘the rule and ultimate standard of faith’. Anglican formularies do not recognize the Scriptures as a source of binding precepts and precedents which should determine the worship or polity of the Church. Reason and tradition also have their part to play.

Avis, P. (2008). The Identity of Anglicanism: Essentials of Anglican Ecclesiology (p. 11). London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

I’m grateful for the way Avis puts this. We use Scripture as the rule and ultimate standard, but it, in of itself, is not the source of “binding precepts”. It’s in Scripture’s conversation with Reason and the Tradition of the Church that we comprehend the Truth.

(This allows space for the Creeds and the Liturgy as well as our own engagement with both and Holy Scripture as the vehicles the Holy Spirit uses to reveal God’s truth to us.)

It’s the conversation that matters. Which further implies that Truth and God’s will is discerned in relationship to others rather than as a solitary endeavor. And that, to my mind, is the key to understanding Anglican hermeneutics.

Just an early morning thought today.

A Contradiction wrapped in mystery

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Dogmatic sarcophagus with earliest representation of the TrinityIs God one or is God three? The answer is as you’d expect; “yes”. You’ll most likely encounter the nature of God that you are seeking. Is Love a state or is Love a relationship? The answer is “yes”; it depends how you are looking. Is Light a particle or a wave? Again, the answer is “yes”; it depends how you look.

The Doctrine of the Triune God contains within it a great truth and a great mystery. But to me, most importantly, it contains an apparent logical duality. Two ideas or statements which appear to be in complete contradiction to each other and yet are both true. That truth despite contradiction is perhaps the most important take away for us, particularly in this historical moment.

Direct link to video is here.
The link I mention in my sermon above to the sermon by Canon Gerns is here.

We are living stones, fired by the Holy Spirit and sent

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The Holy Spirit of PentecostThe story of Pentecost is best understood in the context of the story of the Tower of Babel. The stories in the Bible have layers and layers of meaning, and both of these narratives contain multitudes.

The Tower of Babel at its core is a critique of human desire that is separate from God’s action. When nations work their human designs, they are destined to fail. The Day of Pentecost is the recasting of that story. The fired bricks of mud described in the building of the tower are replaced with the stones (such as Peter) now on fire and alive in the divine life of the Holy Spirit. The common human purpose is replaced with the diversity of God’s mission as the nations are gathered and transformed, still retaining their diversity.

There’s a lesson for this moment of American political history in all of this.

Direct link to the video here.

There might be a way out of this present nightmare… it’s hard, but it’s worked before.


Love your neighborIt has been a difficult couple of weeks for our nation. We have suffered through multiple mass shooting events. Two in particular by teenage males, a racially motivated in Buffalo and the shooting of school children in Texas, have been shattering. We are in pain. We know we need to do something, but we’ve known that for a long time and nothing seems to change.

The majority of people in this country want to change things, want to see these killings stop. But a small group of people in power, leading a wedge group of American society, see advantage in the deaths and will not help. What can we do as citizens? What can we do as Christians?

This week’s Gospel reading, once again from St. John’s account of what happened the night of Jesus’ betrayal and denial by his companions, gives us a hint of what to do. People who, in our history, have taken Jesus’ words to heart and lived them with their lives have made a profound difference again and again. I talk about this in the sermon below.

It doesn’t require all of us to do this to make a change. It only needs a small portion of the community. Maybe just one of us is enough. But it’s worked before. I think we should try now.

Do you want to be healed?

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FlowersI’m not aware that I’ve ever preached on this passage of scripture before today. The gospel reading from John tells of a man who waited thirty-eight years to be healed, waiting by the waters of the pool of Beth-zatha, near the Sheep Gate in the Temple in Jerusalem, for the waters to be troubled. When the waters were troubled, the first one to enter was healed. But he was never first.

Jesus encounters him. He doesn’t offer to take him to the water. He asks him directly if he wants to be healed. The man explains why he hasn’t been able to be healed. Jesus commands him to get up now and walk; the man does.

It’s striking to me that Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush. He asks the man directly what he wants. The man doesn’t answer directly. Jesus doesn’t follow the man’s lead; he tells the man to act on his desire, if it truly is his desire. Jesus does this again and again in scripture. He tells us to take the first step, to own the desire to be healed.

In the sermon below, I wonder about the crowd that saw this man not be healed for thirty-eight years and who didn’t help him. But I also wonder about what it means for us to respond to Jesus’ question. Do we *want* to be healed? Will you do as Jesus commands?


Why can people always count on Christians being jerks to each other?

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Dogwood blossomsWhy is so hard to love one another? It’s such a rare thing that the powers of this world plan on our apparently endless capacity for division and strife in the Church. The division starts from the beginning and continues to this day. The division was the proximate cause of Jesus’ death (by Judas’ betrayal) and conflict causes almost all of the Epistles to be written.

Jesus asks us to do just one thing in particular. He charges us to “love another as I have loved you.”  Maybe it’s the Adversary. Maybe it’s our sinful, selfish desires. Whatever it is, the division is keeping us from being able to have the impact on the World that we are intended to have. And the World is suffering because of it.

I talk about this state of apparently permanent division in this sermon, place the Gospel into the narrative context of the events of Holy Week and suggest what we can learn from juggling manuals.

So you’ve heard the voice of the Good Shephard… now what?

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IMG 1400The fourth Sunday after Easter is traditionally called Good Shephard Sunday; and we read passages from Scripture where Jesus explains that he is the Good Shephard, the one that will lay down his life for his sheep. This week’s reading comes from the end of his teaching on this language and imagery. It takes place in the Winter, in Jerusalem, and is followed by the account of raising Lazarus from the dead.

There’s much to unpack about Jesus’ identity, but we don’t often think about our response should be to his voice if we can hear it. What does it mean to be part of the Good Shephard’s flock? How do we live with the people who aren’t part of the flock, or who haven’t heard his voice yet? In this week’s sermon I try to think through that question.

Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Easter.