We must forgive because, if we don’t, we won’t just be trapped by our anger, we won’t be forgiven.

Sermons and audio

Tree with red berriesIf we are unable to forgive others, then we have no real understanding of what God is doing for us. And if we do not recognize that grace of God for us, then we can not truly receive it.

As we pray every time we say the Lord’s Prayer; “forgive us our sins (in the same way) we forgive those who sin against us. It’s a conditional statement. Did you happen to notice that before? It took me years to understand that deeper implication.

Direct link to the video is found here.

Do something before it’s too late.

Sermons and audio

IMG 1720This week’s parable from St. Luke’s Gospel follows directly in the text from the parable we heard last week, the parable of the dishonest steward. Do you remember that one? There was a well-off manager of a rich man’s estates. He was rich because he’d been cooking the estate books and skimming off the top. When he was found out, he came up with a scheme to let his boss’s partners pay off their outstanding debts at a pretty big discount – something like from $50,000 to $100,000 or so on a debt of $200,000. It’s a considerable amount, and it means the customers will owe him, the manager, a debt when this all shakes out.

Jesus in telling the parable commends the dishonest manager. He saw the danger he was in, and he found a way to respond that saved his skin. Jesus tells those of us who have wealth – particularly wealth that may have sinful behavior somewhere in the background, to use that wealth in a similar way. We will need people to speak up for us on the day of judgement because the same God who pardons us also pronounces the reckoning.

That’s not the case in this week’s parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Rich Man sees Lazarus but doesn’t recognize the gravity of his situation and because of his inaction, when he dies, he has no escape from the suffering he endures. There’s no direct condemnation of this wealth in this story. It’s an illustration of the consequence of his inaction – his neglect.

Direct link to the video is found here.

Make Friends for yourself with what you have while you can… you’ll need them, if not immediately, eventually.

Sermons and audio

Cathedral Congregation sharing a mealI remember the first time I heard this reading. I was in a wealth Washington DC Episcopal church. I was in grad school. I was struck by the strangeness of story and the unfamiliar term “mammon”. I spent weeks trying to understand what Jesus was saying. I’m not sure that I ever worked it out.

Years later, in 2008 as Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix during the market collapse and the subsequent regional depression, I finally understood. I watched the way that the managers and the laborers responded to the financial crisis. And I began to see the deeper point Jesus was making. It’s not simply about the afterlife and getting someone to speak up for you before the judgement-seat, it’s also about how to survive in a world when nothing is guaranteed.

I talk about what I saw and what I learned in the sermon this week. I hope you find it interesting and perhaps useful.

The direct like to the video is found here.

The Church of the Second Chance

Sermons and audio

Dawn on the waterI’ve wondered lately if the next time we plant a congregation, we might choose to name something other than after a saint or an event of Jesus’ life or even a doctrine. Maybe we could name it after something we need? Something like the Little Church of the Second Chance…

Jesus caused a scandal among his friends and the people in his community by actively including people who were, well, a little embarrassing to be around, to be honest. He didn’t just tolerate them, he enthusiastically included them. He even ate with them, which was a much bigger deal back then than it would be today.

Congregations that I’ve served over the years struggle with that idea. I struggle with that idea – not just with other people, but even with parts of myself. If there was a congregation explicitly for people who needed a second chance in life… well, that would really be something.

The direct link to the video is found here.

How do we become selfless?

Sermons and audio

Flowers in the yardThis is a hard saying. Who can bear it? Jesus is telling us to hate the people we should love the most: our parents, our spouse, and our children. This thought, taken on its own, contradicts so much of the rest of his teaching as to leave us confused and filled with wondering about his meaning.

But it’s important to remember that you can’t just pluck a verse of scripture out of the Bible and imagine that it contains the whole of God’s revelation in of itself. Each part of scripture is meant to be read in conversation with other parts of the scriptures. And frankly it’s a disservice to the writing of scripture to pick an artificial chunk like a sentence when most likely the fundamental unit of scripture is a story or whole passage, not a single phrase or thought.

So, can we find a deeper spiritual truth here that is in harmony with the other parts of the Gospel or with the rest of scripture? Yes, I believe we can. It is found in what Jesus is asking us to do, and why he’s asking us to do it. This passage, when read in the light of the rest of the Gospel of Luke, contains the prescription to cure us of our selfishness. But not the part about hating the people you should love – you have to read the entire passage.

In this week’s sermon, I develop this idea and try to expound on the deeper spiritual truth.

Direct link to the video is found here.

Common Virtue in Common Life

SOSc

By Poliphilo - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26676928To imitate Jesus is to live a life that is characterized by self-control (temperance) and meekness. To live that way is to live a virtuous life. We don’t talk very much these days about the need to live virtuously in our own lives. It seems we’ve gotten very good at pointing out the flaws in others – even in the Church. But Jesus gives us a model of what can happen when we live a life that is characterized by the four cardinal virtues.

In this week’s Gospel Jesus expands a proverb into a parable about how to live our public lives.

 

The direct link to this video is here.

We don’t have to protect God or God’s holiness…

Sermons and audio

Day Lilly in bloomThis Gospel reading, describing the indignation of a leader of a congregation when Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath day, has an important lesson for us today, and one that has nothing to do with Judaism or purity law.

The indignation of the leader of the congregation isn’t foreign to my own experience. We have all sorts of ways that we get indignant with other people if they don’t conform to what we think God expects of them. I have all sorts of ways that get indignant with myself and with others if I think they aren’t taking holy things seriously enough. But that’s the indignant person’s problem, not God’s problem.

We don’t have to protect God from God’s Creation.

Direct link to the video is found here.

I have come to set fire to the World

Sermons and audio

Flower in a field of weedsWe imagine, viewed through the news of this moment in World History, that all conflict is destructive and regrettable. We imagine that heaven is a place where a great angelic choir sings together in a great harmonious sound, where there is no dissonance, no conflict, but only pure music.

But what if sometimes conflict is necessary for transformation. What if conflict, pain and strife aren’t destruction, but birth? What if fire comes not to burn and destroy, but to cleanse and purify?

Jesus in the Gospel today speaks of fire and conflict, and I think given our present circumstances, particularly in the USA, we hear it as an ominous warning. But it could also be heard as a promise that a transforming moment is about to happen. Certainly, the conflict of our moment does seem frightening and ominous, but if God is in the midst of this storm too, then maybe there is something historic happening.

In the sermon on this week’s’s Gospel, I speak about conflict and transformation. I speak about what living into sustained conflict might be like, and how new communities have been and are being created that understand the conflict as being a creative force rather than simply a destructive one.

The direct link to the video is found here

Some thoughts on the Lambeth Call on Human Dignity

Religion

Web ready lc2022 horizontal reversed pngThe bishops and bishop-elect of the Diocese of Connecticut posted a letter to their diocese about the just concluded Lambeth Conference. (I haven’t yet done so, I want a bit more time to reflect on what happened before I do.)

In their letter they do a fine job of reporting on the experience we had in the afternoon on August 2 as the gathered bishops took up the question of the proposed Lambeth Conference Call on Human Dignity:

Message from our bishops: Letter from the Lambeth Conference | Episcopal Church in Connecticut:

In remarks by the Archbishop of Canterbury before the bishops engaged the Call on Human Dignity around their Bible study tables, Archbishop Welby stated an important ecclesiological and theological truth for the Anglican Communion regarding human sexuality. It is worth quoting his remarks at length here. Archbishop Welby said:

“For the large majority of the Anglican Communion the traditional understanding of marriage is something that is understood, accepted and without question, not only by Bishops but their entire Church, and the societies in which they live. For them, to question this teaching is unthinkable, and in many countries would make the church a victim of derision, contempt and even attack. For many churches to change traditional teaching challenges their very existence.

For a minority, we can say almost the same. They have not arrived lightly at their ideas that traditional teaching needs to change. They are not careless about scripture. They do not reject Christ. But they have come to a different view on sexuality after long prayer, deep study and reflection on understandings of human nature. For them, to question this different teaching is unthinkable, and in many countries is making the church a victim of derision, contempt and even attack. For these churches not to change traditional teaching challenges their very existence.

So let us not treat each other lightly or carelessly. We are deeply divided. That will not end soon. We are called by Christ himself both to truth and unity.”

This was the first time that the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken publicly and forcefully that there are different perspectives on human sexuality across the Communion and both are acceptable in Christ’s call to unity. Archbishop Welby’s remarks set the stage for the remainder of the Lambeth Conference where unity in diversity was embraced and celebrated. We give thanks for Archbishop Welby’s leadership here and believe that with the Lambeth 2022 Call on Human Dignity, the Anglican Communion is in a more united and healthier place.

I started to tear up as the Archbishop of Canterbury gave his remarks prior to our table discussions. I was thinking about the holiness and weightiness of the vote at General Convention in 2003 when I and others voted to consent to Bishop Gene Robinson’s election in New Hampshire. It’s been nearly twenty years. This is the first time, as the letter above says, that the care and prayerfulness of that decision (and subsequent decisions) has been acknowledged in a formal way by the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury. And to be clear, the Archbishop is also acknowledging that many people who have opposed that decision are doing so with equal care and thoughtful engagement with Holy Scripture.

Many of the bishops present last week in Canterbury spoke about the holiness and the heavy presence of the the Spirit in the room when the Archbishop spoke. For what it’s worth, I felt that presence too – and I felt it in June of 2003. God is present in the midst of our journey and keeps showing up in moments like this that I didn’t expect. I was present when Bishop Bob Duncan was elected in Pittsburgh back in the ’90’s. The Spirit was present then too and I’ve wondered about that and what was happening for years. We don’t always understand what God is up to in the moment, or how God is guiding us into all truth. But I believe that is happening now in the Anglican Communion and has been happening for decades if not centuries.

If you haven’t had a chance to listen or read to Abp. Justin’s final keynote, do make time. He lays out, for the first time in my memory, a coherent ecclesiology for a Church that is both Catholic and Reformed, not a single entity but a Communion of independent, autonomous Churches. To me it represents a turning from the effort to build the Anglican Communion into a mirror or recognized partner to the Roman Catholic Church – something that was pursued by the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. If we’re not trying to be a Church as defined by Roman Catholic teaching, then there might well be space for us to find a chance to walk together while differing with each other substantially. And if we can do that, perhaps other traditions and communions might be added to our number in the years to come. We might even yet be managed to be reconciled with those who have resisted reconciliation with us.

As I said, there’s more reflection to be done, but this might be an important turning moment in Ecumenism and Ecclesiology going forward. At least I hope and pray so.

A Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13C) – Luke 12.13-21 1 by The Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns

Sermons and audio

Thanks to the kindness of Canon Gerns, I have this fine sermon to share with you this morning. As I’ve mentioned, I’m in Canterbury attending the Lambeth Conference this week. I send you greetings from the mother church of the Anglican Communion and prayers for all of you this week. Thank you Andrew for this gift.

 

May only God’s word be spoken.
May only God’s word be heard and believed.
Amen.

It has been said that dogs have masters but cats have staff. I learn this every time I visit my daughter’s house and her cat pretty well decides whether I am worthy of attention or not. Since I am not on the feeding staff of that household, my utility is quite limited. My grand-doggy on the other hand definitely has a master, and she pretty well listens to whatever my son tells her, but whenever I visit, my main purpose is give scritches until she says to stop (which is never!). In both cases, the animals pretty well have my number.

If I am a member of my grand-kitty’s staff and if my grand-doggie has psyched me out, I kind of suspect that they have done the same to their resident humans. I wonder… who owns whom?

I don’t think this question is limited to dogs and cats. Given the time and attention my stuff demands from me, I wonder if in fact my possessions don’t own me. If they don’t, in fact, own us all?

Think about it. What happens when your car breaks down on a very busy workday or if your roof springs a leaks or what if your computer crashes in the middle of a project? Having a reliable computer, an operable car and a water-tight roof is a good thing—a worthwhile investment to be sure—as my dad used to say, if you you’re your tools to care for you then you’d better take care of them!

It works that way spiritually, too. Jesus warns us in today’s Gospel to be aware of all kinds of greed—for life consists of much more than the abundance of possessions. Another way to say this is: if we want our things to do their job, then we’d better care for what’s inside us first. First the heart…then the stuff.

Jesus said that to a man who came asked him to sort out a question of a shared inheritance. Now going to a rabbi to sort out a dispute was a fairly common in the first century. In still happens in Judaism. The late Jewish theologian and sociologist Martin Buber recorded the teaching of the Rabbis of 17th and 18th century Russia in a book called “Tales of the Hasidim” recording the stories of Rabbi Baal Shem Tov., today, especially in Hasidic and some Orthodox communities, stories are still a main way that faith is taught.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is doing what Jesus does, he tells a parable—in this case a story typical of the rabbinic tradition. It went like this: a rich man had some fields and one year he had a bumper crop. So he says to himself “Self, why not store up all this extra grain in new and bigger barns and live off of the proceeds?” So that’s exactly what he does. He ate, he drank, he was very merry until, whoops, the next day he died.

Jesus asks: What good did all that preparation and investment do in the long run? Not much.

Jesus tells the crowd, the man with the inheritance (and us), “Beware of storing up treasure outside but being poor inside.”

The man in Jesus’ story is a kind of a “Functional Atheist.” You know, a person whose everyday practice and behavior happens without reference to God or to faith. Notice that when the man discovers he has way more grain that he can either use or sell, he takes his own council. He does not bring his situation to God and he does not take it to his community. He says to himself “build bigger barns!” The rich fool may protest that he has always believed in God, but when it comes to managing his life, dealing with possessions and planning for the future, he lives as though there were no God.

He also forgets the purpose of his abundance which is to share it with others; to use it for the good of all. By hoarding his abundance, he squanders the opportunity his good fortune brought him to share that good fortune with others. He revels in his stuff, but does not feel blessed, and so he has no blessing to share!

Contrast this with another story in the Bible about a person who managed a bumper crop—Joseph. A person that everyone in Jesus’ hearing would know about. Remember from the Book of Genesis and the musicial: “Joseph, he was Jacob’s favorite son of all the family Joseph was the special one?” Joseph was a man given to dreams and their interpretation. It was a gift from God that gets him in a heap of trouble. Through a series of misadventures he lands in jail, where he hears that Pharaoh had a dream of abundance and scarcity. Joseph rightly interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and was then tasked to manage Egypt’s abundance in advance of the famine. Joseph, in contrast to the foolish rich man in Jesus’ story, was doing God’s work for the benefit of many.

Now Jesus knew that when he told his story to the man who came to him, that people would think of Joseph. They knew their Bible, that’s for sure! They’d understand that the Rich Man in Jesus’ story forgot that his abundance was a gift from God. The man in the story is the opposite of Joseph because he was out of tune with God and who hoards his gifts instead of sharing them.

Jesus is telling us that things are not the problem. Money is not the problem. The root of all evil is not money— the saying is actually “the love of money is the root of all evil.” It is our attitude towards money and our attitude towards our things, our time, and our talent that can either create heartache or generate blessing. Our stuff and our money can be our power for good… or our main distraction.

As Jesus said—beware that we don’t get so busy with the having things, that we forget whose and for whom they are.

Heartache or blessing. Scarcity or abundance. No matter how much we have, we have a choice and chance to be in control. The solution is here—in our hearts and our attitude and our mindset.

Allow me to share a story of my own. It comes from Florence Ferrier about a social worker somewhere in poverty-stricken Appalachia. It’s called “We Ain’t Poor!”

The Sheldons were a large family in severe financial distress after a series of misfortunes. The help they received was not adequate, yet they managed their meager income with ingenuity — and without complaint.

One fall day Ferrier visited the Sheldons in the ramshackle rented house they lived in at the edge of the woods. Despite a painful physical handicap, Mr. Sheldon had shot and butchered a bear which strayed into their yard once too often. The meat had been processed into all the big canning jars they could find or swap for. There would be meat in their diet even during the worst of the winter when their fuel costs were high.

Mr. Sheldon offered their visitor a jar of bear meat. She hesitated to accept it, but the giver met the unspoken resistance firmly. “Now you just have to take this. We want you to have it. We don’t have much, that’s a fact; but we ain’t poor!”

Well, what’s the difference between not having much and being poor? Mr. Sheldon’s answer “was that when you can give something away, even when you don’t have much, then (as he would say) you ain’t poor. When you don’t feel easy giving something away, when you hang on to it, even if you’ve got more than you need, then you’re poor, whether you know it or not.”

When we know that everything we have is provided by God, and that everything we have can be used for God’s purpose then we will be rich when we use tap into the gift of God’s generosity, it seems ungracious to doubt that our needs will be met without our clinging to every single morsel.

Jesus and Mr. Sheldon both teach us something about where real wealth is found: wealth is found in an abundant and generous heart.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.