What is our apostolic witness to Easter Joy today?

Sermons and audio

Blooming Day LilliesThe first apostle, the Apostle to the Apostles, was Mary Magdalene. That’s a surprise to some people, but it is an ancient tradition and today’s Easter Gospel closes with the reasons we make that claim. But while Mary was the first apostle, she was just the beginning of a worldwide movement that has, for almost twenty one centuries, spread out from that garden in Jerusalem to share the Good News of the Resurrection to all the world.

But that work is not done. To be honest, that work is never done. Each generation in their turn takes their part in the task, sharing the Gospel with the people of their day. And that’s true for us now. But I worry that the words we use and the message we share is essentially meaningless to people outside the faith today. We talk of Jesus being alive, we speak of an empty tomb and we exult that Death has lost its sting. But… Watch the news, or listen to people talk today and none of that seems to impact what they are experiencing.

Jesus sent the apostles into the world to proclaim *and* to teach. This Easter, I ask you to commit yourself to teaching others why the Gospel is good news just as much as we’ve been committed to proclaiming it. The world needs to hear the good news, but the world will also need to understand it before they can truly be transformed by it.

Palm Sunday: how do we respond to terrifying evil?

Sermons and audio

The disciples at the foot of the crossThis Palm Sunday, like many before, is being observed in a time of war. And as in many previous wars, the evil acts committed against the innocent, young and old, strip away any sense we might have had that civilization had somehow transformed human nature. The war in Ukraine remind us that humanity has a profound need of healing, forgiveness and transformation. The story of the Passion of Christ takes on an urgency and a poignancy as we learn of the inhumanity that still lies hidden within our hearts.

But while we wait to be remade; what do we do in a time like this? What do we do when we are powerless to end the pain or to save the one we love?

The disciples at the foot of the cross stayed present and witnessed the sufferings of the person they loved. Jesus was not completely abandoned by his disciples, though many did flee. We can not stop the evil, we can not stop the pain; but we can walk with the one who suffers. It’s not enough perhaps. But it is something. And it matters.

We are saved by the same love that we so often reject

Current Affairs

Grunge cross signNewsletter article April 6 2022

We are watching the images from Ukraine with horror. The human suffering of this war is unimaginable. I have had to turn off the news on several occasions because I couldn’t bear to witness anymore of it.

This war has happened as we have been keeping Lent this year. And the terrors and the cruelty of the war are being revealed more broadly as we are about to begin Holy Week. Some years I have struggle to make sense of the violence of the crucifixion and the death of Our Savior. But this year, given these current events, I find myself recognizing that the painful cruelty of Jesus’ death on a cross isn’t something that happened once upon a time. The rejection of love and the choosing of violence that happened then, happens today.

The death of the innocent person on that cross outside the walls of Jerusalem wasn’t unusual then and it isn’t unusual now. Human life experience has changed, but not nearly as much as we imagine. To me the cross can be a mirror that reflects to us what we are capable of doing to each other, and to the fount of Love who came to live among us. But that cross is also a place where our Lord forgave us for what we did and what we do. It is both mirror and mercy seat at the same time.

We are saved by the same love that we so often reject. Even as we witness of horror of war today, we see a multitude rushing to provide refugee housing, food and medical care as best they can. Instead of being lost in despair, we can still see the light of hope. The Easter victory takes on a deeper meaning in a season like this one.

May God grant you the light of hope this year as we begin our journey through Holy Week to the Triduum and to our Easter moment.

Are we using the Church to meet our needs? For own ends?

Sermons and audio

Mary Magdalen anointing Christ s feet f 15v CroppedThis week’s Gospel tells the story of the extravagant act of adoration by Mary toward Jesus. She anoints his feet with something like $30,000 worth of perfumed oil. Judas sees it and objects that the money could have been better spent on the meeting the needs of the poor. The author of the Gospel tells us that Judas’ objection wasn’t made out of concern for the poor but because he wanted the money that was spent on the oil for himself. In that he was like anyone who has ever stuck their hand into the money box at a church social or a Little League concession stand.

The point is that Judas wanted a relationship with Jesus that met his needs, not because he was thankful that Jesus had given him so much. And in that, well, Judas is like a lot of people we meet in the world who are interested in what the Church can or will do for them, and less interested in a relationship of gratitude and love for God.

It’s a hard thing to hear because, truthfully, we are all sort of mixture of both Mary and of Judas. Sometimes even on the same day.

The Church is called to extravagant acts of reconciliation

Sermons and audio

Prodigal Son CHS cathedral; BY FRANZMAYERSTAINEDGLASS - OWN WORK, CC BY-SA 4.0,This Sunday’s Gospel is one of the most familiar parables in the canon of scripture. It’s the story of the Prodigal Son, an arresting story that Jesus told to the shock and surprise of the people who originally heard it. It’s filled with shocking and scandalous behavior on the part of all three of the main characters: the Father, the Older Son and the Prodigal Son. When it is heard in the culture in which it was originally told, people are still astonished and dismayed the humiliating actions of all three characters, but particularly that of the father.

We’ve lost the shock at the story over the years, and in so doing may have misplaced at least one of the meanings. (This being a parable tells us that there’s more than one meaning. Perhaps there are many meanings.) In this sermon I explore the implications of the parable for the life of the modern Church, particularly in this cultural and historical moment.

Cathedral Lent Book Study canceled for Wed. March 23rd

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Friends, I for having to say this, but I’m not able to lead the book study this evening. I didn’t catch a conflict on my calendar. I’m leading our Diocesan Council meeting at the same time as we’re supposed to be discussing the book tonight.

I am sorry for the late notice. I’m just back from the meeting in Texas and because I was focused on the meeting details, I didn’t look ahead on my calendar till I got in late yesterday afternoon. I was hoping we might be able to meet tomorrow night, but there’s a presentation for the Center For Reconciliation at the same time and I’m previously committed to that.

I’ll try to cover the questions you’ve already sent me when we meet next week, and we can talk then about how to cover the material we’ll miss if you so desire.

We seek straightforward connection between actions and consequences. Turns out it’s complicated.

Sermons and audio

Parable of the Fig Tree Lent 3CI’m not able to post a sermon this week. I’m at the House of Bishop’s meeting and I don’t have access to the resources I need to be able to film a sermon and then post something. But I’m delighted that one of my favorite preachers/writers, The Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns, a colleague of mine from when I served in Bethlehem PA, has posted a wonderful sermon on this weekend’s texts. I’ve posted his writings many times before and bless him for coming to our rescue this weekend.

The Gospel reading describes Jesus’ teaching on the relationship between human sinfulness and suffering. Spoiler alert; it’s complicated. Humans want to see meaning and connection in our experience. It’s hardwired into our language loving, story seeking brains. And that’s a wonderful gift for us as we learn language or express ourselves in metaphor. But it can trip us up when we seek a connection between two things that might not be connected. (Scientists struggle with this frequently.)

Here’s a bit from Andrew’s sermon “Bad News Travels Fast”:

Some Christians like to have God be the one behind every circumstance and every event…the cosmic manager (or puppeteer, some will sneer). Others understand God as the one who makes the clock, winds it, and walks away. That’s because we humans are binary. We like things to be either one or zero. Yankees or Red Sox. Ford or Chevy. One way or the other. Our brains cannot wrap themselves around too much contradiction. 

But instead of living in an either/or, one or zero world, I believe we live in a universe of concurrent realities. This ought not to surprise us. After all, we know Jesus to be fully human and fully God. Christians know that God is Trinity of three distinct persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit– who contain the fullness of the one God without diluting the personhood of the three. When we say the creed or close a collect, we acknowledge in shorthand that the nature of God is a unity of concurrent realities. 

And it is true in nature, too. Physics tells us that concurrent realities are part and parcel of the
created order: light is at once a wave and a particle. Today we live in a world that at once makes use of Newtonian and quantum mechanics—Newton shows us how to launch and keep things in orbit, drive your car, or play ping pong, while quantum theory helps us scan our groceries and makes our GPS and cell phones work.

And just as concurrent realities live in the physical world and in the person of God, they are part and parcel of the mystery of living. 

Do take a moment to follow the first link above and read the texts appointed for this third Sunday in Lent. And then read Andrew’s sermon. And then give yourself time to reflect. There’s a lot to unpack in what he’s written. You might start by reflecting on ways you’ve sought correlation between your own actions and your experiences. Maybe what you think is true isn’t as true as you’ve imagined. (And that’s likely true in good ways and in hard ways.)

And then join me in this prayer:

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

God bless you this week.

Jesus, our Mother

Sermons and audio

Prayer Vigil for UkraineOthers often describe Jesus in his day as the Lamb of God. In the Gospel passage read this week in church, he describes himself not as a lamb who will be slain, but as a Mother Hen who wishes to save the ones who reject him.

The image is both familiar and foreign to us because while we know about hens and chicks, few of us have enough familiarity with foxes and hens to get at Jesus’ meaning here. But the people of his time understood him – as do people today in parts of the world where they raise chickens out of doors.

Jesus is our Savior. He came to shield us, to save us. We often neglect that when we talk about him, seeking to uncover the hidden historical contexts or plumb the deeper meaning of his words. But that role, the role of the savior, is the key to unlocking so much of the Gospel. And it is a call to us who seek to imitate him, to find ways we can save others.

The Ruler of this World; the Father of Lies

Sermons and audio

Sunlit rocks on a barren landscape SBI 300962984The traditional reading for the first Sunday in Lent is the account of how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the Ruler of this World. He can overcome the tests by living out the truth of Scripture and rejecting the lies.

Every year, in a different context, we hear this story, and some aspect of it becomes new and startling. This year, as we watch the Invasion of Ukraine by their Russian neighbors, I’m struck by the words of the Devil in the second temptation as he claims that all the power and authority of the kingdoms and the nations of the World are his. He can bestow them upon whom he chooses. All Jesus has to do is turn aside and worship this ruler, and they will all be his.

But Jesus, embodying the story of God’s Chosen people, remembers their history and can turn aside the temptation. And, truthfully, when you look at all of the temptations, Jesus can turn them aside by remembering the whole story of his people; the Children of Abraham, who were enslaved and oppressed and freed by God.

There’s much more to this, of course, and in the sermon below, I speak about other aspects, the core teaching in this moment in history is that God had and still has the power to save.

Ash Wednesday 2022

Current Affairs / Religion

A single rose rises from a pile of ashes SBI 301099382World history swirls about us as we begin Lent today. I have the sense that what has been happening over the past few years, particularly over the past week, will define the world that the next generation of leaders will manage. We are watching the atrocities in the Ukraine with horror. We are facing the accelerating rate of Climate Change, And the pandemic, though waning, is still part of our lives. It is easy enough to despair.

And yet, we are people of hope. We believe in the victory of life over death. We believe in a God who has come to save us all. We long for the full revelation of the new Creation that the prophets longed for, knowing that Jesus’ resurrection began its coming into the World.

In the context of our deep concern about today and our unshakeable hope for tomorrow, this Lent is like all other Lenten seasons and somehow different. I feel a purposefulness about my Lenten observance today, and a profound desire for Easter. I imagine that it’s the same for many if not all of you too.

Every year we call on people to keep a Holy Lent. This year I encourage you to keep a purpose in mind for your Lenten days. For me, that purpose is to pray for peace and end to war and oppression in all the World.

These next forty days of spiritual fast and discipline will, for me, be done with an intention of prayers for peace and an end to violence. I invite you to join me in that intention, offering up your Lenten pilgrimage to that particular prayer. I’m sure your clergy and lay leaders can help you with resources for season.

Lord Jesus, let your love vanquish all that challenge your reign as the Prince of Peace. Let war end in our time. Let us find our unity in you and in service to your Creation. Remake our hearts in Lent this year so that we may be a sign to others that life and joy will triumph over despair. In your name we pray.

Amen.