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Showing posts from 2009

1 Christmas

How do you begin to imagine the Word made flesh? How does the Word in the flesh come to life in your life? For me that may be a good book that ignites my imagination, takes my brain into places it hasn’t been before, it is in the people I know and the stories they tell. It is also in music.

When I read these words from the beginning of the gospel of John, it is a symphony that I hear. I hear a perfect note as the music begins. The choirmaster at my seminary said that the note most common in nature is a G. As this symphony begins, I imagine it is a G that sings into existence the rest of the story. Music is organic; as is the Love of God. It is in every fiber of creation, the stones shout it out, the wind hums the word, the rain keeps the beat, the grace and truth of Christ is made real in the dance of the spheres.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Every time I hear these words from John I hear the language of music. Sometimes for me the lan…

Christmas Eve 2009

Alleluia. To us a child is born: Come let us adore him. Alleluia. This is an amazingly meager set of words to proclaim the event that has changed us forever, the inbreaking of God into our world. "It happened while they were there that her term was up and the days were completed for her to deliver. She delivered her son, the firstborn. And she wrapped him up and placed him in a feed trough because there was no place of lodging for them anywhere else." Certainly an inauspicious set of circumstances in comparison to the cultural celebration of Christmas we witness today. No snowy winter, no animals overlooking the baby's crib, not even a stable, no innkeeper crying out "no room". But then, the inbreaking of God’s kingdom is announced by a rather spectacular appearance to the shepherds by an angel doing what an angel does—delivering a message. At the appearance of the angel, the shepherds respond with fear.

How do we get from the simplicity and grittiness of the f…

4 Advent Yr C

Our King and Savior now draws near: Come let us adore him. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. I was wondering with my group of pastor friends the other day about what it would be like if we greeted one another in this way. Each of us are God-bearers, just like Mary and Elizabeth, should we not greet one in expectation and hope? Our advent waiting draws us ever closer to fulfillment.

Elizabeth, barren and too old to conceive, Mary, too young to conceive, both of these child-bearings are inconceivable. Our response to this inconceivable conception calls forth Holy Imagination. I turn to one of my favorite writers, Madeleine L’Engle, when I ponder these things. She writes in a book called Bright Evening Star, “It is not that in believing the story of Jesus we skip reason, but that sometimes we have to go beyond it, take leaps with our imagination, push our brains further than the normally used parts of them are used to going.” She goes on to write “I had t…

3 Advent Yr C

Advent is a time of active waiting in expectation for the birth of a baby, and for the fulfillment of the hope that began with Jesus’ death on the cross and in the resurrection. Advent gives us the opportunity to listen carefully for the voice of the one who is calling us to repentance and to transformation, to a new way of faithfulness to the God who is already extending grace and suspending judgment before we ask. Advent is about living into the fullness of God’s grace. We are invited to make our decision to follow Jesus, and that invitation comes not just once for a lifetime, but in every moment we live. That is what faithfulness is; it is not necessarily about being on the right path or divining the right plan. It is not the reward at the end, and it is not the romantic and nostalgic worship of a baby, but it is the active anticipation and expectation that Jesus is here with us now, and is transforming our lives in the present, while gathering humanity to redemption and fulfillmen…

1 Advent Yr C

My soul cries out with a joyful shout
That the God of my heart is great
And my spirit sings of the wond'rous things
That you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on the servant's plight
And my weakness you did not spurn
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring;
let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn.


Though I am small, my God, my all,
You work great things in me
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past
To the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame
And to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight
For the world is about to turn.

From the halls of power to the fortress tower
Not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
Every tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more
For the food they can never earn;
Ther…

Christ the King Yr B

Christ the King, 2009, St. Andrew’s, Rapid City,
Virginia Bird, Deacon
There are a number of words in Scripture that all mean ‘king’: the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’, the Greek word ‘Christ’, and the phrase ‘the anointed one’. And there is another important one – ‘shepherd’; shepherd is often used as a metaphor for king. So, one of my favorite hymns “The king of love my shepherd is” could be read as ‘the king of love my king is’. This is perhaps the heart of today’s feast of Christ the King. It is important for us to recognize the uniqueness of Christ’s kingship.

Through a covenant relationship, God chose the Hebrew people to be God’s special people. They were chosen, not because they were better than others, but in order to bring others to know God. People worshipped many different gods and at first the Israelites did not deny the existence of other gods, but rather through the covenant with God agreed to be faithful to the one God who sought them out. It was not until later that …

24 Pentecost Yr B

Over the years we’ve seen quite a disaster movie genre develop. I remember Airport, The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Earthquake, Twister, Independence Day, Armageddon, and so many others. There’s a new slew of end of the world movies out, as some look toward 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar. Additionally, our culture has a bit of a fascination with destruction, and some have even interpreted that biblically resulting with books like the Left Behind series. Today’s gospel from Mark may be all of that, and more. These movies are just movies, they are fantasy, these books are fiction. Our reality however, is the tragedy at Ft. Hood, the devastation of Katrina, the destruction of the two towers in New York, reality does brush against fantasy.

When destruction or tragedy happens in our communities, we will eventually look back at those events and tell each other about it. We know where we were when the images first began coming over our television sets, some of us know p…

23 Pentecost Yr B

What would it be like if any of us here were eating our last bite of food, or putting our last pennies into the collection plate? Those are the stories that we hear today, stories about widows, on their very last bit of hope, two widows who embrace the question of where will my next meal come from, where will my next penny be, and do not act out of fear, but instead act out of God’s abundance.

The Hebrew word for widow connotes one who is silent, one unable to speak. In a society in which males played the public role and in which women did not speak on their own behalf, the position of a widow, particularly if her eldest son was not yet married, was one of extreme vulnerability. If there were no sons, a widow might return to her father’s family if she could. Left out of the prospect of inheritance by Hebrew law, widows became the stereotypical symbol of the exploited and oppressed. Old Testament criticism of the harsh treatment of these women is prevalent, as well as texts that descri…
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Mother Kathy and much of our congregation were in Sioux Falls this weekend celebrating the consecration of our new Bishop Co-Adjutant, who will be assuming most of the duties of our Bishop +Creighton Robertson has he prepares for retirement.

I was part of the choir at the consecration on Saturday afternoon; we premiered a new choral setting (by South Dakota composer Steven Yarbrough) of a text attributed to St. Dimitri of Rostov.

I post this text here in celebration of our new Bishop, The Right Reverend +John Tarrant, and our future in Christian ministry in the Diocese of South Dakota:

Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life, and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds.
Come, Flame of divine love, and consume my sins,
Kindling my heart with the flame of Thy love.
Come, my King, enter my heart and reign there,
For Thou art my salvation.More about our new Bishop:
Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 10/25/2009: New Episcopal bishop focusing on mission, people
Information…

21 Pentecost Yr B

We take up with the gospel of Mark again in the shadow of Jerusalem, on the way to the cross. This story of the blind Bartimaeus is the last story of Jesus’ ministry, before the cross and the passion. It is a story of call, healing, and discipleship. I recently suggested that I think Jesus must be an Episcopalian, he keeps telling those he healed not to tell anyone, not much good for evangelism. Well this time, I think the characters in this story must be Episcopalian. There Bartimaeus sits on the side of the road, probably with many other beggars near the gate of the city, where beggars were wont to sit. When Bartimaeus hears that Jesus was in the house, he shouts and says, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This is where I’m sure there were Episcopalians on that road, many sternly ordered him to be quiet. Bartimaeus’ declaration and claim that Jesus is Son of David may have something to teach us all.

Call him here. A short sentence and a clear command to call the man. And so t…

20 Pentecost Yr B

When you go to see a play, usually you watch the whole play at once. It’s not usual to see a bit of it, then come back once each week to see a little bit more. But that’s the odd thing that’s happening as we read the gospel of Mark. It’s really much like a play, and intended to be read or performed all at once, and yet we hear just a very small portion of it each week. If you remember last spring, a group of people gathered on a Saturday to read the whole thing, as it was intended. And Marty tells me the Education for Ministry group will watch a telling of the Gospel of Mark at their Tuesday night meeting.

The challenge as we hear Mark, is to get ourselves back in the action. It’s like setting your novel down and when you come back to it you need to remind yourself of what you’ve already read. The writer of Mark is telling us a story about an event that radically changes the way we look at and experience the world; there is actually excitement in every word. The Good News that Mark is…

19 Pentecost Yr B

Being that the Twins are in the playoffs, I thought I’d begin with a baseball joke. Hank and Frank were baseball buddies. They were the biggest fans in the whole U.S. Both were stars on the St. Swithins Episcopal Church team, the Faith Lutheran team, just in case, and coached the little boys T-ball for the elementary school team. The guys made an agreement between them that whoever died first would try to come back and report on whether or not there was baseball in heaven. Hank died first, and as he promised, came to Frank as in a dream. “Frank, Frank,” Hank whispered into his buddy’s ear, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that there is baseball in heaven.” “And the bad news?” Frank asked. “You’re pitching tomorrow night!”

We make a mistake when we think this gospel story in Mark is about the reward at the end of life. What must I do to inherit eternal life seems like a question about what happens next. But life is not about the reward at the end; life is abo…

16 Pentecost Yr B

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Joan Conroy stepped in for Mother Kathy this morning. (Kathy is at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest this week.)

Pastor Joan shared some thoughts based on today's lessons:
How can you bless the ordinary?
What kind of things can we do to be like salt?
Look around.... Who around you are "salty people?"
When you see someone who is, say a quick "Thank you, God!"

She also gave us this verse from Edwin Markham:

He drew a circle that shut me out --
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win
We drew a circle that took him in

16 Pentecost Yr B

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I’ve seen this wonderful card in a few different places, it’s a picture of a 50’s wife opening her oven door, you can almost smell the amazing baked goods that you can see in the oven, it’s an idyllic sight. However, the caption on the picture reads, I don’t know what she’s doing either. Must be some kind of ancient housewife ritual. This is the image the reading from Proverbs stirs up in me today. I actually am not going to take much time talking about Proverbs, but after hearing it read, I want to talk a little about Wisdom in general, rather than this passage in particular.

Remember, we’ve been hearing from wisdom literature for some weeks now, and I did talk about it a few weeks back. I commented then that Wisdom in scripture is not just about being wise as opposed to being foolish. But that God has built wisdom into the fabric of the cosmos. And we learn from wisdom that there are certain ways of living in which people thrive, and other ways of living which lead people to death. …

15 Pentecost Yr B

This particular passage from Mark is the one that convinces me that Jesus was an Episcopalian. Why else would he tell Peter not to tell anyone about him? It really doesn’t do much for evangelism. Especially since Peter gets it right, he does in fact know who Jesus is. You are the messiah, Peter answers. But despite Jesus’ best efforts to keep it quiet, the community begins to know who Jesus is, and the rest of the story in Mark tells us the ramifications of that. Knowing who Jesus is is risky business, living your life as a follower of Jesus, is risky business.

The question that is asked of Peter however is not asked just of Peter. The translation, as it is the case so often, doesn’t let us really know the original intent. The language used here is the second person plural, maybe better translated, who do y’all say that I am. You see, the question is not directed just at Peter, it is directed at the others that were with Peter, it is directed at the hearers of the gospel of Mark, it i…

14 Pentecost Yr B Proper 18

Deacon Marty Garwood preaching

Do you ever feel that about the time you get something figured out, things change? That seems to happen to me often and it happened to me again with the homily for this morning. When the Rev. Kathy asked me if I would preach today, I looked over the readings for this morning and immediately got a glimmer of something. Over the next week or so I began to flesh out that idea. The homily was starting to take shape and it was going to be a very good homily. But then I sat down to spend some more time reflecting on the readings and much to my surprise and dismay, the readings appointed for this morning were completely different than I thought they were. I just was getting it all figured out and everything changed.

This particular gospel passage about the Syro-phoenician woman challenging Jesus has a special place in my memory. St. Andrew’s was in the interim time between Father Hibbert’s retirement and calling the Rev. Kathy to be our pastor. One Augus…

12 Pentecost Yr B

My nephew and I are often exchanging books to read, we share the same interest in fantasy and science fiction, he’s and English major like me. The most recent recommendation he made was a book tilted The Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. I went to the used book site I buy books from on the Internet, and learned that this was the first in a series of four books, so I bought them all. As they came I realized that each book was 900 pages long, plenty of summer reading I figured. I just began the third book. This is an epic story of Kings and Queens, Knights and courts and battles. Well of course the knights and the warriors don their battle armor, so I’ve actually been thinking about this image of armor and battle for quite a while now. In the fantasy stories there seems to be much romance in knights doing battle. The armor these particular knights put on shows their status, the armor is inlaid with gems, it shows who they are, the house they belong too has a symbol that is represe…