Saturday, February 18, 2017

7 Epiphany Yr A Feb 19 2017

7 Epiphany Yr A Feb 19 2017 Audio

Here we have the next installment of the Sermon on the Mount. We call this the Sermon on the Mount, but it’s really much more like the teaching on the hillside. Jesus, rabbi, teacher, is teaching about God’s inbreaking Kingdom, Jesus is teaching about what life as a citizen of God’s kingdom looks like.

National Public radio, over the years, has done a project called Story Corps, and this story I’m going to tell you is part of that. I’m telling it to you today because I think it illustrates our gospel very well. The story belongs to Julio Diaz, who stepped off the New York City subway platform after work one night; he was simply planning to walk over to his favorite local diner for a meal. But when a teenage boy approached him with a knife blade gleaming in his fist, Diaz, a 31-year-old social worker, knew the evening was about to take a more dramatic turn. The young man demanded Diaz’s wallet, and Diaz passed it over without objection. But just as his mugger turned to walk away, Diaz called after him: “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something.” The mugger turned around, surprised. “If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”

The teenager looked at Diaz in disbelief, and asked why he would do such a thing. Diaz replied, “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money.” He told the young man that he’d just been heading out for dinner, and that he would be happy for some company. The young mugger decided to take Diaz up on his offer, and they headed into Diaz’s favorite local diner together. As they were sitting at the table, the manager, the dishwashers, and the waiters all stopped over to say hello to Diaz, and the young man was amazed at his popularity. “You’re even nice to the dishwasher,” he exclaimed.

“Haven’t you been taught that you should be nice to everybody?” Diaz asked him. “Yea, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way,” the teenager replied. Thanks to Diaz, he was beginning to see that kindness wasn’t such a strange phenomenon, after all. When the bill came, Diaz told the teen that he’d have to get the check. After all, he still had Diaz’s wallet.

But the teenager slid the wallet back across the table without a moment’s thought, and Diaz treated him to dinner. Diaz also gave the would-be mugger a $20 bill to take with him –in exchange for the young man’s knife. “I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right,” Diaz said. “It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”

The collection of scripture we have before us begs the question, what does the kingdom of God breaking into human existence look like? I think this story wonderfully illustrates what the kingdom of God looks like. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. In the kingdom of God Jesus says, there is not a set of laws, there is not a rulebook. Children of God, citizens of the kingdom are called to love and to serve. Citizens of the kingdom are called to respond with mercy and compassion, healing and reconciliation in all times and all places. Matthew interprets the verses from Leviticus as kingdom life as well. You shall leave some grapes in your vineyard for the poor and the sojourner, the alien, the immigrant, the migrant worker. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Kingdom life is different than worldly life, and kingdom life is not easy or even clear. And, there is not a time when we are relieved of kingdom life, that is the very hard part. Kingdom life starts now, not some later date, and not after death. Jesus says, you have heard it said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. And then Jesus goes on to say, “for God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” You see, we are all in the same boat here. We are all accountable to these standards. Not one of us gets off easy, or even out of this life alive, just because we have money, power, popularity, or fame.

But the reality in which we live is that God’s inbreaking kingdom is happening right now, we live in this in between time, this time before the fulfillment of all time. So we are called to live in this now and not yet reality, we are called to live a kingdom life in this world as God continues God’s work of healing and reconciliation.

So how does this picture of kingdom life form and inform us in this day? Most assuredly kingdom life calls us to walk to a different drummer. Kingdom life calls us to love, not to hate. Kingdom life calls us to treat everyone with mercy and compassion, not disdain and derision. Kingdom life calls us to respond to those who speak and act badly with concern and kindness.

In this world where those who speak the loudest get listened to, how do you use your voice for peaceful change? In this world where spending is about special interest and personal programs, how do we stand for moral budget making? In this world where justice is confused with revenge, how do we turn the other cheek, how do we speak about healing and reconciliation? In a world where forgiveness is unacceptable because punishment is the only acceptable outcome, how do we drop to our knees and approach our creator with humility?

You see, we could very well be with those who were sitting on that hillside listening to Jesus teach. We are the blessed, and we are those who mourn. We are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and we are the ones who loose our saltiness, and we are the ones who put our lights under a basket. We are the ones who come to the altar to bring our gifts, and the ones who need to leave our gifts at the altar to reconcile with our brothers and our sisters. We are the ones who turn the other cheek, and the ones who deliver the first blow. We live at one and the same time as citizens of the kingdom and as those who miss the mark. This is the reality of our lives, we are not perfect, perfection only comes as we live our lives enveloped in the love, the mercy, the compassion, of our God. We may not be perfect in ourselves, but we are not off the hook either.

The truth is that Jesus walks this road with us, to show us the way. The truth is that on our own we tend to miss the mark. But we are children of God, and we are citizens of the kingdom, we are the peacemakers. We are called to avoid the violence and hatred that has crept into our social and political discourse these days. We are called to offer others a chance to escape the cycle of violence and hate that is so prevalent in our society. We are called to share our abundance with our neighbors and others who have come seeking. God’s mission is healing and reconciliation. Our mission is to follow Jesus who calls us to mercy and compassion, loving our neighbors and enemy’s, feeding those who are hungry, caring for those who need care. And it’s our job to live like we really believe Jesus actually is bringing in God’s kingdom, and to realize that we get to practice living like Jesus’ disciples and citizens of this new kingdom in the meantime.

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

6 Epiphany Yr A Feb 12 2017

6 Epiphany Yr A Feb 12 2017 Audio

Our relationships matter to God. At this point of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew really is providing commentary on what Jesus said as he began with the blesseds, the beatitudes. Our relationships matter to God. Our healthy relationships, our broken relationships, all matter to God. God delights in you, and loves you unconditionally and desires the best for you in and through your relationships. So this passage is about how we treat each other in relationship. This is an extension of the ten commandants. The ten commandments are about how God loves us and is in relationship with us, how we love God and how we treat each other. These words can help us create health and healing in our relationships. There is no hierarchy of sin here, breaking relationship is always painful and often tragic. These words remind us that all of our relationships are possible only with God's help.

To claim that our relationships matter to God is to claim two things. First, that this God who creates all that is seen and unseen, is truly the God who not only is God in our midst, but is also God who lived and loved and suffered and died, and who rose from the dead. This God is the God that is not only transcendent, the God who creates the heavens and the earth and all the universe, but also who is deeply and completely immanent, the God whose heart's desire is to be in relationship with us. Secondly, because it is God's heart's desire to be in relationship with God's people, you and me, God is doing something new in this incarnation. God is doing something new with the law and commandments. We hear that in this passage. No longer is it enough just to refrain from murder, or adultery, or lying, or idolatry, or any of the other sins that make up the Ten Commandments. No longer is it enough to not do it, God is calling us to go beyond the law, and to be deeply and completely in relationship with God whose love wins.

The effects of turning away from God, the effects of our sin, the effects of missing the mark, are broken relationships, and broken relationships will kill us. Broken relationships and broken hearts kill us from the inside out. The effect of broken relationships are hearts that are hardened and no longer capable of love, compassion, mercy, justice. They are hearts no longer capable of beating. Well, you might as well cut out your eye, or lop off your hand for as much as your body is good for anything anymore. Do you see what's happening here? God's relationship with us, and our relationship with others is so important in this life that without them we may as well be dead, in effect, we have lost life.

That’s what this passage is about. Murder, broken relationship, adultery, divorce, broken promises. It’s all here. This passage is about relationship, this passage calls us to integrity, do your insides match your outsides?

And this has everything to do with how we respect the dignity of every human being with whom we come in contact. Surely first and foremost the human beings we live with, our partners in life, our children, our brothers and sisters, and all the people we encounter day by day. It also has everything to do with how we respect the dignity of those we know only by our common humanity. Those we read about in the newspaper, those we see on our screens in far away places, those who are in our own communities but must hide because of who they are.

So I'd like you to call to mind one of the relationships in your life that is most important to you. One that is healthy and whole and good and sustains you regularly. Picture that person, that relationship. Think about what makes that a good relationship, why is it so important. Give God thanks for that person and the relationship you share. Now, call to mind another relationship that is important but has suffered some damage. Don’t try to figure out who was to blame for the hurt, but rather hold that person and relationship in prayer. Offer that broken relationship to God as an offering and as an arena of God’s help and healing. Think about what action you can take to move that relationship to greater health. Do you need to ask forgiveness? And now pray with me, Lord God of healing and wholeness, we offer this broken relationship to your care. Show us how to heal and be healed in this broken relationship, give us the words, show us the way, so that your love shows forth, our hearts may be healed, and the world may be a better place. Amen.

In these days when our legislature is considering laws that discriminate, I am reminded of those who have gone before us, those who have spent their lives being loved by God, and loving others, those who have spent their lives not in fear of showing God's love to the world but proclaiming God's love for all to the world. Those whose hearts could have been hardened because to continue to love was not only difficult but dangerous. I am reminded today of the first black Episcopal priest, Absalom Jones, whose life we celebrate each year on February 13th. Absalom Jones bought his wife's freedom, and went on to buy his own freedom, and became a priest at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Absalom Jones was known for his abolitionist preaching, in God's kingdom, there is no owning another human, there is no prejudice, there is no bigotry.

But of course, I'm preaching to the choir. You know these things, you do your best. You ask for forgiveness. Today I want to encourage you. I want to encourage you to take this love that wins even farther. Take it to people whose hearts have been hardened, and show them that it is love that wins, not hate, not prejudice or bigotry. Show them that Jesus took all that fear into his own body and replaced it with his love. Show them what eternal life looks like, it's not some reward after we're dead, it's the life God gives us, life fully lived before we're dead, it's a heart that is living and breathing and loving, not cold and hard. Show them that you will not live your life in fear of those who are different from you, but you live your life loud and proud for God's love. Show them that you are a person of integrity, your insides match your outsides. Show them what it looks like to follow Jesus.

You see, Jesus walked this journey not to uphold the status quo, but to show us that in God's kingdom, everything is different. Jesus goes to the margins to show us that the first will be last, and the last will be first. Jesus protects those who are vulnerable to show us that all relationships matter, women and men matter, respect and dignity matter. Forgiveness matters. Words matter, and the Word matters. Amen.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

5 Epiphany Yr A Feb 5 2017

5 Epiphany Yr A Feb 5 2017 Audio

Jesus' sermon on the mount continues with you are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world. You are the light that shines in the darkness. This is an amazing gift as well as an amazing promise. Not only is God in our midst, God in the flesh, the light in the world, but that light, God in the flesh, God in our midst, is in us, shines through us, and as we bear that light into the world, darkness cannot overcome. That's not nothing, that's something. God's love, the love that wins, gets communicated to the world through you. Martin Luther King Jr. said "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."  And, something more, you are the light of the world, that is who you are, you are a child of God. This is not about what you must do, it is about who you are, you can't help but be the light and drive out darkness.

Well, with that Good News, how does the love of God get communicated in the world through you? You are commissioned to be God's light in the world. As I use communicate in this context, I mean the fullness of that word, not just words. Some of the synonyms of communicate are connect, interface, make known, network, and relate. For me the ultimate meaning of communicate is in communion, "be known to us Lord Jesus, in the breaking of the bread." God's love gets communicated in the world through you and the light that you bear. What does that look like?

These words lead me to picture God's communication through you as a light in the world like a web of relationship. You shine in your workplace, and God is present. You shine in your school, and God is present. You light up the darkness, and God's love is communicated. But that seems all rather ethereal, right? What does it really look like?

The theme of light shining in the darkness is a universal human theme, we all know that from scripture, from Genesis and from John and from Isaiah. And we may get some direction from popular culture. The epic stories of our time show us how light shines in the darkness, and the best of those show us how that light is multiplied in community.

In Madeleine L'engle's book, A Wrinkle in Time, our main characters travel through a wrinkle in time to the dark planet of Camazotz which is entirely dominated by the Black Thing. The father of our main character, Meg, is trapped on this planet, after a time Meg is able to free her father, but only after finding her own strengths, her own giftedness, her own light, and engaging in the web of relationship that is community. In the Harry Potter stories, the power of light in the darkness is a dominant theme. Dumbledore even says, “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” And then he goes on to say, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." Again, the light in these stories is found in the web of relationships among Harry and his friends. I could go on and on and bore you completely with these references, stories I hold dear, but instead I'd love to hear about your own understanding of the light shining in the darkness in the places you go for meaning.

The question is, what does it look like for you to be God's light in the world? What does it look like for your light to be the only light shining, what does it look like for your light to join with and be joined with others to create a brighter light? Again, it is not what we do, but who we are, God's beloved, that shines. But for others to see the light, sometimes it is what we do. So many of you are lights in the world. Your light shines when you give a compassionate word at work, your light shines when you give an encouraging word at the check out counter at the store, your light shines when you shovel your neighbors walk. These light shining moments are so important. And your light, your voice, your words matter in a world that seems to have left compassion and justice behind. You are indeed, a light in the building of the kingdom. But what about when we join our lights in the web of relationship, when we join our lights in a community of light?

When we do that, when lights shine on the darkness of the injustice of racism, when lights shine on the darkness of the disregard for human dignity, when lights shine on the darkness of the lack of access to health care, we begin to see the building of God's kingdom. During this month that is designated Black History, we are reminded of the witness of this kind of light, in the persons and the web of community of the people who sat on buses and wouldn't give up their seats; the people who sat at lunch counters and endured the indignity of insults and attacks; the people who knocked on doors to register others to vote; the people who worked day in and day out at their jobs, so they might provide education for their children.

This sermon on the mount, this gospel, matters in our world today. It is almost as if it was delivered for times such as these. Shine your light, stand up for what is right. Claim God's healing love for you and for all creation. Pay attention to what God is doing. Believe that you are loved.
God's love is what brings us back together, puts the fragments of our lives back together. It is God's love, borne by your light, that can bring healing and wholeness to our broken world. Indeed, it is God's mission to heal our world, and it is our mission to be a part of that healing. It is God's love, carried on the light of compassion, that we must show forth.

We are called to follow Jesus. Following Jesus implies learning about who Jesus is so that we may follow. Following Jesus implies walking a journey in partnership with others. Following Jesus implies activity. Do justice, love kindness, and walk intentionally with God. Look for Jesus in the blesseds that are hard to see. You are the salt, you are the light. Following Jesus is to carry God's love into the world and change it, change the world. Be the light that shines on injustice, be the light that shines on oppression, be the light that shines, and reveals compassion, kindness, and mercy. Amen.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

4 Epiphany Yr A Jan 29 2017

Hadrian's Wall, the northern edge of the Roman Empire

4 Epiphany Yr A Jan 29 2017 Audio

I am convinced the prophetic voices we hear in today’s readings can guide our walk with Jesus. We must listen to them. We hear these verses in Matthew’s gospel that we call Jesus’ sermon on the mount. Jesus’ sermon on the mount is the opening proclamation of the ministry to follow, and it shows us what the kingdom of God looks like. In God’s kingdom, you are blessed, and the purpose and focus of Jesus ministry is to bless. Blessing is what it means to follow Jesus. And in our lectionary today, Matthew’s gospel is preceded by the prophet Micah. So today, we’ll begin there with Micah.

The last verses of what we hear from Micah are what we know best. I want to put those verses into some context. What we have is a sort of trial, with an indictment, “plead your case” the Lord says. And then the sarcasm begins. In the voice of the Lord we hear, O my people, what have I done for you? All I've done for you is to bring you up from the land of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of slavery; I sent before you Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam. As if that's not enough to. And then the voice of the Lord calls us to remember what happened and to remember the saving acts of the Lord. And following that is this question, how shall we come before the Lord? Shall we bring burnt-offerings, rivers of oil, our first born child, again, sarcastic. And then we hear the instruction, what the Lord really needs of us is to do justice, and to love kindness (also translated mercy), and to walk humbly with our God.

Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. Wow. This is what God’s kingdom looks like, and this is also what it means to follow Jesus. But, humbly isn’t quite an accurate translation, it should be more like walk intentionally, walk deliberately, with your God. Do justice, love kindness, and walk intentionally with God.

So then we move into how to recognize blessing in Matthew. We’ve heard these beatitudes so many times, haven’t we. You know, for a long time I taught children using Godly Play. Godly Play is a way to tell the sacred bible stories. So, I’d tell this story about Jesus teaching his friends when the children were in first grade, and then they’d hear it again in second grade, and by third grade they’d say, we’ve heard that one before! And I’d respond with, of course you have, what’s different about it this time? Because you see, each time we hear these sacred stories, we are in a different place and a different time, so we hear something different in them. Friends, we are in a different place and a different time, we must hear these beatitudes differently.

Jesus is speaking directly to his disciples with this teaching. You and I are really just eavesdropping on Jesus’ teaching. Jesus is teaching his disciples about how to recognize blessing. Not, who is blessed, or how to bless, but how to recognize what God has already blessed. God has already blessed the poor in spirit, and theirs is the kingdom of heaven. God has already blessed those who mourn, and they will be comforted. God has already blessed the meek, and they will inherit the earth. God has already blessed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and they will be filled. God has already blessed the merciful, and they will receive mercy. God has already blessed the pure in heart, and they will see God. God has already blessed the peacemakers, and they will be called children of God. God has already blessed those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And God has already blessed those who are reviled and persecuted.

You see, our job, as followers of Jesus is to get with the program, God is already doing great things, our job is to see that and join forces. And what’s odd about this, is God has already blessed those who we would not think are blessed. In our world, when we think of someone who is blessed we most often think of someone who is wealthy or powerful or famous or successful or beautiful or enviable. Blessing, at least according to the standards of this world, is most often of the material kind. Blessing, in our world is missing the close call, or getting something someone else doesn’t get. But that’s not what is revealed in Matthew’s story about Jesus teaching the disciples. God blesses those in need.

So now we have these two scripture that are presented to us together on this day, in this church, in this community, in this country, and the question I ask of them is what does it have to do with us? What do these pieces of scripture have to do with following Jesus?

Following Jesus is about is doing justice, loving kindness, and walking intentionally with God. Following Jesus is to recognize blessing when it is staring us in the face. I think recognizing blessedness has something to do with living in a country of hospitality, a county in which people who can no longer literally live in their own countries can come and find justice, and kindness and mercy, and freedom to walk with God. I think recognizing blessedness has something to do with living in a community, a church of hospitality, a place where people of all stripes can come and find justice, and kindness and mercy, and freedom to walk with God.

Friday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. When I was a kid in civics class, we learned about the Holocaust, and I remember being frightened and disgusted. In my own life I can not come to terms with how people can do such things to other people. And I learned that we learn about such atrocities, so as to never let it happen again. I have been to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, I have been to the Holocaust Memorial in Washington DC, and I believe following Jesus is about offering hospitality and sanctuary to all who come seeking refuge from violence and persecution in their own countries. And I know that seems like it is way outside our control, so the question I bring to these texts today is, right here in our church, right here in our community, how do we follow Jesus by doing justice, loving kindness, and walking intentionally with God. How do we follow Jesus by recognizing blessing when it is staring us in the face?

So that’s what I want for us to consider. What is it you can do, today, tomorrow, and the next day, to offer hospitality to the people you sit next to in these pews, to the people who walk by our church daily, to the people who are in our neighborhood and community, to the people who come to this country seeking refuge from death and starvation. What is in your hands? How can you walk with God and be that light that shines in this darkness? How can you be a partner in building God's kingdom?

Friends, we follow Jesus because we are convinced of God’s love for us, God’s love for all of creation. We follow Jesus because we are convinced that Love wins. We come here, to this place and we offer our own brokenness to be forgiven and healed, we are filled with bread and wine that are Jesus’ body and blood. In the mystery that is God’s love for us, we recognize blessing, we receive mercy, and we enact justice. You are loved, go out into the world to do the work you are called to do, to love and serve as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

3 Epiphany Yr A Jan 22 2017

3 Epiphany Yr A Jan 22 2017 Audio

Do not be afraid, the Angels tell us. Do not be afraid. It seems, these days, fear runs rampant. And yet, over and over, do not be afraid. We must take this admonition seriously. Because it is fear that gets in our way of doing what it is we must do. It is fear that gets in our way of loving the way God would have us love. It is fear that gets in our way of doing something extraordinary. Because we, who are ordinary people, are called to do extraordinary things.

We have lived through a vicious election, fear mongering was used as a tactic. Friday, here at Trinity we hosted prayers on the day of inauguration, we prayed for all our leaders, we prayed for so many, and we sang these words, a poem originally attributed to St. Teresa of Avila, "Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten. Those who seek God shall never go wanting. Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten. God alone fills us." When have you followed Jesus even when you were afraid? When has fear kept you from doing something extraordinary?.

So we have this story about Jesus, who shows up right in the middle of Andrew and Peter, James and John's ordinary lives, and calls them to do extraordinary things. Jesus calls ordinary people, right in the middle of their ordinary lives to do extraordinary things … and Jesus still does.  Jesus calls you right in the middle of your ordinary life to do extraordinary things. It says it right here in our bible, and I just don't think we believe it. We do believe Jesus calls other people, people who are good enough, or holy, or spiritual, or special, or something, but it's so much harder to believe that Jesus calls us ordinary people to do extraordinary things. But friends, the truth is right in front of us. And I believe that the reason we stay in our boat instead of getting up and out and follow Jesus, is that we are afraid, and that keeps us from doing something extraordinary. I do believe that Andrew and Peter, James and John are just like us, I think they were afraid as well, they wouldn't be humans just like us if they were not, but they followed Jesus anyway. What did they see in Jesus? What did they experience in Jesus?

"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people." Ordinary people called to do extraordinary things. What is the extraordinary thing to which we are called? I believe that extraordinary thing to which we are called begins with the epic adventure of life with Jesus Christ, accompanied by this fellowship who has also said yes to this adventure.

What other story is worth the life of the one who is God in the flesh, whose love for us is so complete that this creator is willing to join us in the adventure, to walk the journey with us, and to lay down his very life for us. What other story is worth our own lives? I believe there is no other story worth our lives, and indeed, this adventure calls for our very lives.

There are stories we tell that follow this same arc of love, stories that are epic, stories that teach us about the Love that wins, stories that invite us into the knowing who this God may be. For example, the story many of us have read or watched about Harry Potter, which begins with the Love of parents that was so true and good that they laid down their lives for the hope that Love would win. That story continues in struggle against the dementors, struggle with pride, struggle with justice and prejudice. For Love to win in the Harry Potter story, one must conjure up a memory of goodness or rightness or family, a memory of strength in vulnerability, and that is the power that overcomes the dark forces. But as good as the Harry Potter story may be, as good as any epic story of our past or present, the story of Jesus is the story we give our lives to.

The extraordinary thing to which we are called is this epic adventure, this epic adventure of love and loss, pain and heartache, death and life. And on this epic adventure we are asked to be courageous. Courage is the willingness to show up and be seen in our lives. That is why this story that we tell about God, creator of all that is seen and unseen, Jesus, the one who pours out his life for us and collects our humanity in his, is our story. Each one of us has had our hearts broken, each one of us has been betrayed, each one of us has lost the ones we love, each one of us has failed. Jesus, God with us, shows us that the story of our lives has meaning. Jesus, God with us, shows us that no matter what we think about the story of our lives, God loves us, and Love wins.

And that vulnerability opens up hope. And hope is born. The epic adventure requires vulnerability, courage, and hope. You and I are equipped for this adventure.

And what fear do we need to release in order to respond to the call to do extraordinary things, to embark on this epic adventure? Fear runs roughshod over our families when we try to be perfect, or when we try to do it all. Fear hardens our hearts when we try to protect ourselves from any more loss. Fear causes us to do nothing because we don't want to fail. We begin to protect what we have when we are afraid, fear creates exclusivity. Do not be afraid, the angels tell us. Let go of the fear.

The epic adventure begins in love, but as in all adventures, there is loss, and heartache. But what makes it possible to continue, despite the adversity, what makes it possible to see the arc all the way to courage and hope, is God and each other. We need to find courage and hope in each other, and in the others who will join with us on the epic adventure.

Yesterday I walked with millions of other people, people all over our planet, in solidarity. We walked with love, and courage, and hope, we walked because I believe the arc of God's love includes all of us, every one of us. And it was extraordinary.

So what is the extraordinary thing you are called to? What is the extraordinary thing we are called to? Because, friends, I believe we, right in this moment, right at this time, are being called to continue this epic adventure to something extraordinary. I believe that the pain and loss that we are experiencing breaks us open to see the new thing, the extraordinary thing that we are to be. I don't know what it is yet, but I believe that we have the courage to do something great. I believe in Love, and that Love wins.

Find it, do it, talk about it. What is the extraordinary thing that God calls us ordinary people to? The seeds of it are here already. We are a loving community of faith, we welcome all who wish to worship with us. Can we see it, feel it, name it? We are fishers of people, what does that mean for us? We are courageous participants on this epic adventure of love. We have been pulled together to do this extraordinary thing God is calling us to. Now is the time for courage, now is the time for Love. Amen.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2 Epiphany Yr A Jan 15 2017

2 Epiphany Yr A Jan 15 2017 Audio

Come and spend the day with me, Jesus says to Andrew and his friend. Come and see where I am staying, come and see who I am. Come and spend the day with me. Jesus is the one they were waiting for, Jesus is the one they believed the stories they told were all about. Jesus, the Lamb of God, Jesus, the Son of God, Jesus, the one to whom John points. Come and spend the day with me.

You know, the meaning of words change over time. For example, hospital was a once a place for the reception and entertainment of travelers and pilgrims, from the Latin, "hospitality." Another, if you invested in someone, you clothed them, from the Latin "to clothe." So investment once meant "putting clothes on" which were vestments. The place I am going with this is the place we seem to be today with the word "evangelism," a word Episcopalians have had a hard time with for a while now. Even hearing the word strikes fear in the heart of any native Episcopalian, and even those of us who have come later in life to the light. We think of soap box yellers, we cringe at the thought of the question, "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your lord and savior?" We are polite people, and know that this does not make for good dinner table or cocktail party conversation. Besides, what can stop conversation faster than, "Do you know where you're going when you die?" Or the one I like the very best, "Have you found Jesus?" I am always tempted to answer with, "I didn't know he was lost!" Or, "yes, he's been behind the couch the whole time!" The point is, that the word evangelist means "bringer of good news," therefore evangelism is to "bring good news."

Come and spend the day with me and I will bring you good news. Not such a bad way to evangelize, is it? Today I would like us to take back evangelism, to not be afraid of the word or of the activity. Today I would like us to respond to Jesus' invitation to spend the day, and listen to who Jesus calls us to be, and how Jesus calls us to be evangelists, how Jesus calls us to bring good news.

Another related word that elicits fear in many Episcopalians these days is mission. Mission has been related to the violent act of colonizing a people so that those people look and act and talk like the dominant culture. Our church, and others, have been guilty of this kind of mission in our history. And yet that is not what mission is all about. Mission is about building bridges and forming relationships and partnerships that may result in mutual growth and learning and compassion and healing.

Come and spend the day with me, and I will teach you about the good news, I will teach you about forgiveness and reconciliation, and you can bring that into the world and show others how to follow me. We claim to be followers of Jesus. Our baptismal identity is grounded in that claim. We reiterated that claim when we were confirmed, and we live out that claim every time we gather together to break bread. In the story we hear today, Andrew brings the good news to his brother and his friends, and together they follow Jesus.

Evangelism and mission are nothing more, and nothing less, than the invitation to come and spend the day with Jesus. To notice the amazing creation, to see where God is in your life, and to invite those you encounter into the Love, Freedom, and Truth that Jesus is. As with anything and everything, this takes practice. Your vestry practices evangelism, they may not know they are, but they do. Each time your vestry gathers, we begin in prayer and with stories about how we see God at work in our congregation and in our community. We call them Good News stories. God is at work, and we practice noticing that and describing that. You could practice that too. So the first part is to notice what God is up to.

The second part is to share what is important to you about your faith or your church. Why do you come here to Trinity every Sunday? Why do you seek Jesus? Is it because here you can be your broken, messy, confident, joyful, self in front of God and the rest of us? Is it because you are not perfect, but you want to find out what it is to be perfectly loved? Is it because you miss the mark, just like the rest of us, and in some way you know the freedom of forgiveness? Is it because you always have come here? Is it because you have a place here, you belong here? Is it because you help with GIFTS, or you deliver meals, or you give food and clothes to those who have none, and on some level you bring Jesus' incarnation to people who just need to eat?

The third part is the inviting, and we think the hardest part is the inviting. Like Andrew, who goes to get his brother, we too can invite those we work with, those we go to school with, those who we see in pain, to come and see. It may seem hard, but you invite people all the time, you invite them to your home, or to a movie, or to the concert, or to take a walk with you. It's no different. Come and see, what Trinity has for you. Come and see the Love that wins. Come and see how your life matters. Come and see the good news of Jesus in the word and music, in the bread and the wine, in prayer and silence, in who we are and what we do. Jesus says, come and spend the day with me. Come, and see who I am. Come and find healing, forgiveness, and love. Come.

And then go. Follow Jesus out into the world. Bring the Good News into your families and your work, bring the Good News into the marketplace and the community. Bring the Good News of God's healing love. Our voice matters. Our actions matter. We are the people who can make a difference. We are the people who know the true freedom of God's love. We are the people who know that no matter what we've done, how broken we truly are, that God loves us anyway. Preach this Good News with your life and your love. Proclaim this Good News with your heart and your soul. We are all related in God, show with your life the ways God's love in the world. Amen.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Feast of the Epiphany (transferred) Jan 8 2017

Feast of the Epiphany (transferred) Jan 8 2017 Audio

A New Year dawns, and with it hope and promise, light and love. In the midst of this present darkness, more light has already begun to shine, I can see it and I can feel it. "Lift up your eyes and look shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you." Again, we were made for times such as these. So much hope, so much promise, so much light, so much love. And yet, all of this is tempered by the reality brought to us in Matthew's story about the new birth, and King Herod, who wants to put an end to all that, King Herod, for whom power, instead of love, wins.

It's really the story of our lives, isn't it? That's how we know the biblical story is a true story. The biblical story is our story. The biblical story is the story of God's creation and blessing and abundance. It is the story about how the creation turns away from God, it is about how we begin to believe that it is about us and not God, it is about how we build idols of wealth, and happiness, and power. We even make God an idol when we believe in a God of magic instead of mystery, a God of resuscitation instead of resurrection. But this same God calls us back, this same God in the flesh shows us in the flesh, the way, the truth, and the life. God shows us, that no matter what we do, no matter how bad the circumstances seem to be, no matter how much life hurts, Love wins. The Light will not be put out.

The story we have before us today, this story of the wise ones from the east who follow the Light to the child born in a barn, helps us to see the cosmic importance of this birth. This birth happened in a particular place at a particular time in the context of a particular tribe, but the arrival of these wise ones from the east shows us that it wasn't just for a particular people at a particular time in a particular tribe. Matthew's intent in telling this story is to show us that this birth changes the world, the wise ones from the east know that, and they know the importance of keeping the birth from Herod, so they go home by another way.

God seems to do whatever it takes to reach out to and embrace all people. God announces the birth of the Messiah to shepherds through angels on Christmas, to Magi via a star on Epiphany, and to the political and religious authorities of God’s own people in through visitors from the East. From a manger, where a child lies wrapped in bands of cloth, God’s reach, God’s embrace in Jesus, gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Jesus eats with outcasts and sinners. Jesus touches people who are sick and people who live with pain and suffering. Jesus even calls the dead back to life. Ultimately, Jesus draws all people to himself as he is lifted up on the cross. In Jesus, no one is beyond God’s embrace.

God’s radical grace is wondrously frightening. The Light that shines in the darkness, the Love that wins is wondrously frightening. That is what this story is about. God comes to us in wondrously surprising ways. Ways we do not expect. Ways which we would never choose for ourselves. And we are changed, we are transformed, the world is turned, and we must go home by another way. Or not, the alternative, of course, is to join Herod in not seeing God’s ever-expanding embrace, or feeling threatened by it, and instead giving way to just plain fear: “When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him”. Herod jealously reached out himself, just far enough to violently protect his place and preserve his power.

But I would suggest not being like Herod, and instead of living in fear of what is next, what is new, what could happen, we live in God's embrace, we live in God's light, we live in confidence that Love wins. Instead of living in fear of what the future may bring to us, we live in God's abundant and amazing grace. Instead of holding fast to that which someday we will lose, we get on board with God's mission in the world of healing and reconciliation.

Taking the way of the wise ones from the east, going home by another way, going home by Jesus' way, surely provides a life of adventure, of risk, of surprise. It is a radical route. It takes us through green pastures, and more dangerous waters, it is a route that is filled with wolves and sheep. This is a route that calls us through transformation to wholeness; it is a route on which the adventure is not about you, but about whom we are together, and how we are related to God. On this route home we are called to be Light bearers. We are called to be Love bearers. We are called to bring God’s Love to dark corners, to mountaintops, to raging waters.

We are called to bring God’s Love to a fragmented society, to a culture that is pulled apart by greed and fear. We are called to bring God’s Love to a culture that engages more and more in meanness and name calling and judgement. God’s Love, God’s Power, is the most powerful integrating force in creation. God’s Love moves us from brokenness, from fragmentation, to wholeness, to healing.

How do you bring God’s Love and God’s Light into the world, how do you bring God’s wholeness into your work or your school? It is our call, to bring God’s transforming love to those who have not yet seen or felt or known that love. It is our call to bear the Love that wins into the world.

And, it is God's dream that we do this together. After all, it was three kings, not just one, who came to see Jesus. We don't go this life on our own, we journey together, we go home by another way, together.

An Epiphany poem, by Madeleine L'Engle.

Unclench your fists
Hold out you hands.
Take mine.
Let us hold each other.
Thus is his Glory Manifest.

And the lyrics to "Home by Another Way" by James Taylor.

"Home By Another Way"

Those magic men the Magi, some people call them wise or Oriental, even kings.
Well anyway, those guys, they visited with Jesus, they sure enjoyed their stay.
Then warned in a dream of King Herod's scheme, they went home by another way.
Yes, they went home by another way, home by another way.
Maybe me and you can be wise guys too and go home by another way.
We can make it another way, safe home as they used to say.
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high and go home another way.

Steer clear of royal welcomes, avoid a big to-do.
A king who would slaughter the innocents will not cut a deal for you.
He really, really wants those presents, he'll comb your camel's fur
until his boys announce they've found trace amounts of your frankincense, gold and myrth.
Time to go home by another way, home by another way.
You have to figure the Gods, saying play the odds, and go home by another way.
We can make it another way, safe home as they used to say.
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high and go home another way.

Home is where they want you now,
you can more or less assume that you'll be welcome in the end.
Mustn't let King Herod haunt you so or fantasize his features when you're looking at a friend.
Well it pleasures me to be here and to sing this song tonight,
they tell me that life is a miracle and I figured that they're right.
But Herod's always out there, he's got our cards on file.
It's a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch, old Herod likes to take a mile.
It's best to go home by another way, home by another way.
We got this far to a lucky star, but tomorrow is another day.
We can make it another way, safe home as they used to say.
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high and go home another way.