What sins you bind, are bound. What sins you loose, are loosed.

Sermons and audio

Graphicstock still photo of wooden cross with jesus christ in church SRHSIj2qbIf you step back just a bit from the events of this week’s Gospel reading from the Fourth Gospel, and look at how it functions in the larger narrative, you can begin to see that the Temple and the Priesthood is being remade along with everything else on the First Day of the New Creation.

Rather than focusing on the experience of St.Thomas, let’s consider the meaning of Jesus’ words to the gathered community in the Upper Room on Easter Evening. We are being given a mission of reconciliation and empowered to by the Holy Spirit to be able to carry out that charge.

Has the Pandemic brought an end to our hyper-mobility?

Current Affairs / Religion

Susan McWilliams Barndt has a brief essay posted on the new site “Current” that talks about the implications of new sociological data showing that Americans are moving less and putting down deeper roots than they have in decades:

Rooting for the Future – Current:

Because we know that the more people move, the more they tend to be focused on their individual selves rather than on their communities, favor “duty-free” relationships, have less of a feeling of obligation to other people, and have a lower overall sense of wellbeing.

We also know that the more people move, the less they—as studies show—participate in the governance of our common life. People who move more, vote less. They know less about their elected representatives and have less political knowledge in general. They are less likely to join neighborhood associations and to volunteer at the local level.

[…]While I’ve linked to data that backs all this up, I’m not sure we need social science to know that it’s true. It jibes with common sense: The longer we stay in one place, the deeper our relationships are—both with the other people who live in that place and with the place itself. The more we see our future as linked to that of our neighborhood or our place, the more we have reason to care for our neighborhood, our place, and the other creatures who inhabit it.

Do go read the whole essay. It’s worth it.

From my perspective, there’s an old saying in congregational leadership circles, that if you want to change the culture of a congregation or a place, you need to stay there for decades, not a few years. A few years can be an effective ministry if you see yourself setting up your successor for success, but the really impactful work is generally a result of the sorts of long-term relationships built in a place over decades.

Everything in the essay linked above tracks with that experience of congregation life. And I think that means we clergy sorts need to be thinking about that as we discern a call to a community going forward.

Easter Day 2021

Sermons and audio

Graphicstock watercolor vector illustration hand drawn easter scene with cross jesus christ crucifixion Hd1IfaBzEach year, as we hear the story of Easter Day, there’s some detail or piece of the account that seems to stand out. This year, for me, it’s what Jesus says to Mary of Madgela, the First Apostle, when she encounters him in the garden at the first light of day.

Jesus is recasting his relationship to her, to the other apostles and to each of us in that moment before he ascends to his Father. We are now siblings of the risen Christ.

May this year’s Easter Season be a blessing to you and those around you. May God bless us all as this time of separation begins to draw to a close and a time of restoration and reconnection begins.

Palm Sunday 2021 – Hosanna!?

Sermons and audio

Giotto Scrovegni 26 Entry into Jerusalem2Most years we celebrate Palm Sunday beginning in the church yard, blessing the palms, carrying them singing and shouting Hosanna around the neighborhood and then into the church nave. It feels like we move from light into darkness as the full liturgy progresses and we hear the Passion narrative and celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

This year many congregations are focussing on the Liturgy of the Palms because it keeps the worship out of doors in these waning days of the Pandemic. So it’s a good time to focus on the part of the Palm Sunday liturgy that is often forgotten by the time we preach in a typical service – just after the Passion narrative is read or sung.

Hosanna doesn’t mean what most of us think it means. And it carries a message that the Church as a whole might do well to shout in these difficult times.

BTW: During the filming of this sermon, I noticed that the sun movement changed me from standing in bright light to standing in a gloomy shadow. Rather than re-recording, I decided it wasn’t a bad symbol for the whole of Holy Week.

Look upon the bronze serpent and live! Huh?

Sermons and audio

Syrian Slab with Six Winged Goddess Walters 2116In the opening of today’s Gospel, which includes the famous passage about Jesus coming to save not to condemn the world, Jesus says he must be lifted up like the bronze serpent Moses fashioned in the wilderness to save the Israelites from the snakes that were attacking them.

This week the scriptures take us deep into the mythic world of the late Bronze Age, the World’s empires and the wandering in the wilderness of our lives. And I get to film it all outdoors again!

By what sign do you do these things? How shall we recognize a true prophet?

Sermons and audio

SA 160 Jeremia op de puinhopen van JeruzalemJohn’s version of the cleansing of the temple has it take place in the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, not as part of the events of Holy Week. In John’s version, Jesus’ actions driving out the cattle and overturning the money changing tables doesn’t cause an angry response, but instead it raises questions.

By what sign do you do this? The people recognized that Jesus was acting in the traditional way of a prophet. But prophets needed to be authenticated, usually by a sign or a foretelling of an event. In this case, Jesus does both, but it is not until after the events of Holy Week and Easter, years later that the sign is recognized and understood.

So how do we tell when someone speaks a true prophetic word to us today?

How do we save ourselves? By caring for the people around us.

Sermons and audio

Mighty OzmandiusIn Mark’s Gospel this week we hear Jesus remonstrate Peter when Peter misunderstands what true life is about. Peter imagines that the Messiah’s appearance will usher in a new world that is a better version of the present one, with the true King taking rule from the powerful and the rich. But Jesus has come to recreate the world and transform all relationships.

It is in caring for others that we find the best version of ourselves.

And the angels waited upon him…

Sermons and audio

Desert landscape MkUtjIThe Gospel lesson for the First Sunday in Lent is traditionally the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. This year the lesson is taken from Mark’s’ Gospel and has his version of the story. As you might expect, Mark’s version makes its points in a sharp staccato rhythm. Each word means something and evokes an image of something extraordinary taking place.

In particular this version presents Jesus as the new Adam, remaking our story as God is re-creating the meaning of the Garden in the wilderness. Here the wilderness has safety and consolation. It is the garden of Galilee that brings danger and challenge.

The Lent that never ended is about to begin again.

Current Affairs / Religion / Sermons and audio

C1954CAE 2673 4F3E B8B1 4EBBEAA82F1FIn this past year, it seems we’ve had the longest Lent ever. And now we stand ready to start Lent again before it feels like the previous one is over. But this Lent is different. It brings with it a promise that we can walk with Jesus and participate in hastening the redemption of our community.

In Rhode Island the government is choosing a different strategy to vaccinate the population. Other states are working to get as many people vaccinated as possible and that means that people with the means to get access to the vaccine are going first. Here in Rhode Island the hardest hit communities and groups are getting priority. And that means that we are targeting rather than broadcasting, which is why we lag the rest of the country in vaccinations per capita, and why many of us do not know when we’ll be able to get back to something more normal – when our Lent will end.

And yet, our Lent is ephemeral. The Lent suffered by the most impacted communities in Rhode Island is essentially permanent. If they are given priority, not only is it justice for them, it is likely to be for the common good in the end.

Some of us are asked to deny ourselves so that others can be saved. Seems like the most appropriate Lenten discipline I’ve ever been invited to take on.