Sermons

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gone Fishin' Again



I'm on vacation for the next two weeks, beginning tomorrow. Hooray!

I'll be in and out here on the blog. The new Friday break series will feature baby ducks and those are already programmed in.  Other posts will occur sort of randomly.

During some of my time away, I'll actually be without internet access. We'll see how that goes.  Other "vacation" activities include gardening, Mom stuff, kids stuff, lunch with friends, errands.

The best part will be spent on an island where there are no cars. 

Enjoy your first half of June!  I know I will.

Collect for the Feast of the Visitation



Father in heaven, by your grace the virgin mother of your incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Starling Speaks





Collect for Jeanne d'Arc



Holy God, whose power is made perfect in weakness: we honor you for the calling of Jeanne d’Arc, who, though young, rose up in valor to bear your standard for her country, and endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat; and we pray that we, like Jeanne, may bear witness to the truth that is in us to friends and enemies alike, and, encouraged by the companionship of your saints, give ourselves bravely to the struggle for justice in our time; through Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel




I saw the vibrantly colored, beautifully peopled movie "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" yesterday. I thought it was delightful.  I like those ensemble movies (and what an ensemble! Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith! Bill Nighy! Tom Wilkinson! Penelope Wilton!) where a bunch of random folks get thrown together and we get to see how they all react.  Who cares if it's not an original plot device?  There's nothing new under the sun, after all.

No doubt you've seen the reviews, and they are mixed.  I will admit that Maggie Smith's character turns out to be something of a deus ex machina at the end, but I thought it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours on a hot day.  (And I contend that reviewers see films differently than you and I.)

Particularly, I was struck by Penelope Wilton's character.  She makes up her mind as soon as she arrives in India.  She is determined to hate everything and to refuse to engage or learn or open up at all, and so her husband goes about exploring and getting to know the other characters while she sits in her room drinking white wine and not finishing the slim book she is reading and not even finishing for fifty-three days and looking forward to plain grilled chicken for dinner.

I was struck by her because I recognized that part of myself that sometimes acts just the way she does (if not in quite as exotic locations).  Sometimes I decide I don't want something and I'm not going to be open no matter how enjoyable it might turn out to be. No matter how much I might grow. No matter how it might change me.

Because that's part of the problem, of course.  Being changed can be painful. While other characters (particularly the one played by Judi Dench) have had change thrust upon them in a way that they simply can't ignore, Wilton's character is able to hang on to a slender thread of hope that she doesn't have to change. She doesn't have to engage. She thinks she has the luxury of staying inside an impervious protective shell dictated by some kind of code and self-image to which she clings oh so tightly.  

The thing is, she is still in pain. It is quite painful to watch her act out of this place of violent self-protection that isn't at all necessary, given the relative safety (if not familiarity) of her situation.  Even the otherwise xenophobic Maggie Smith character takes a bite of food she is afraid of because she understands the harm she will do someone else if she doesn't.  But Wilton's character stays behind her fortress even thought it ends up costing her everything.  She will not be touched or moved, in contrast to all of the other players in the drama.

And so I enjoyed the movie. I enjoyed seeing how the characters each played out their story. Even if it was somewhat heavy handed, I appreciated the different approaches each character took to what first looked like a disaster but of course turned into an opportunity for exploration and growth.

And I liked the "old saying" that everything will turn out all right in the end. If it's not all right, then it's not the end.

We just sometimes have to adjust our understanding of what is "all right." 






Collect for Social Justice






Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us
grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace
with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom,
help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our
communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy
Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day


Remember.




Morning Collect for the First Book of Common Prayer




Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, restored the language of the people in the prayers of your Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Musings on Pentecost



(This is a reprint from last year.)

This is not a Pentecost sermon.  (This one is, from a couple of years ago.)  But I always have some thoughts about Pentecost.....

Lots of people celebrate Pentecost as "the birthday of the church."  Sometimes there are balloons and cake and other birthday party type things to make the experience of a church festival real, especially for the children.  It's fun, it's tangible, it's not about saints in the sky or whatever.  It's a day to celebrate!  I get that, I really do.  The church came about through the work of the Spirit, which was given at Pentecost, according to Acts.

But ultimately I think that thinking about Pentecost as the birthday of the church makes Pentecost much smaller than it really is.  Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Spirit, the manifestation of the Third Person of the Trinity, the coming of that power promised by Jesus that leads us into all truth, that gives us the strength to love our neighbor and to persevere in doing justice and loving mercy and walking humbly with our God.  The Spirit blows where it will and brings unexpected things into our midst; the Spirit gives us the eyes to see when God is doing a new thing.  And so the coming of the Spirit is an on-going thing, the Spirit is always with us and always coming anew, and reducing Pentecost to a party commemorating an event in the past does not do justice to the place of the Spirit in our history, our present, and our future.

I don't want to argue that the church is not the vehicle for our following Jesus and being empowered to do so by the Spirit.  At the end of the Eucharist, the deacon dismisses the people saying, "Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit!" We are formed through the church and the church is to be the symbol of Christ's body and Christ's mission in the world.  And I don't want to argue about when the church was actually formed and how it was ordained by God or by Jesus.  That's a discussion for another day.  As is the fact that the Gospel of John gives us a different account of how the Spirit was given.

But what I do want so say is that the Spirit is not bound by or limited to the church.  The Spirit is about fire, about wind, about peace, about standing up to hatred, about receiving the breath of God again and again. The Spirit is what powers us to go out and continue Jesus' work in the world that we've been talking about nearly every week in church since Easter (if you've been following the lectionary).  And I would rather celebrate the giving and receiving of the Spirit - the Spirit as power, the Spirit as profound comforter, the Spirit as that which drove Jesus into the wilderness after his baptism, the Spirit that helps us bear the things we thought we could not bear, the Spirit that works through us and through the church to do the unimaginable - than the birthday of the church.

Bonus historical paragraph:  "Pentecost" in the Acts of the Apostles is originally the Jewish festival that celebrates the giving of the Torah, fifty days after Passover.   Pentecost is also known as the Festival of Weeks and was originally a harvest festival, when the first fruits of the harvest were brought to the Temple.  The giving of the Torah was once, but it is received again and again - and this notion has been brought forward into Christian practice.  The Spirit's original appearance is primarily what is celebrated on Pentecost - not so much our receiving it over and over.   And yet just as at the Passover Seder the past is brought into the present and at the Easter Vigil during the Exsultet someone sings "THIS is the night...." so, I think, while it is certainly not wrong to commemorate the giving of the Spirit in its original setting, it is also traditional to see Pentecost as also a time to bring past into present and future.  

Blessings!
















Collect for Pentecost



Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Picture Story: How to Be Like Mom

Line up after a swim.


Scratch behind your ears.


(Scratch behind your ears.)                                                          







Groom the feathers on your back.  







(Groom the feathers on your back.)    





Flap your wings.





(Flap your wings.)      




Swim into the sunset




Friday, May 25, 2012

Look, a bird!


Shy gulls.











Morning Collect: Venerable Bede





Heavenly Father, you called your servant Bede, while still a child, to devote his life to your service in the disciplines of religion and scholarship: Grant that as he labored in the Spirit to bring the riches of your truth to his generation, so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make you known in all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hair-do basics



































First, get your hair good and wet.




Then dry it by rubbing your head on your back. 





Et voila!  You hair is properly fuzzy again.





The beginning of wisdom....


According to both Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10, fear of the Lord (read fear as "awe" not "being frightened of") is the beginning of wisdom.  Proverbs 1:7 says that "fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." It is an open question as to whether wisdom can be equated with knowledge.

On the other hand, according to a Chinese proverb, the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.  

I rather like all of these proverbs and like the ideas intertwined here - wisdom, knowledge, attitude, actions.  Fortunately, they don't have to be considered in either-or fashion. God is first, unquestionably. But this whole "calling things by their right names" thing is pretty good. Maybe we could say that's maturity.... but is being mature equal to being wise?

What thoughts do you have about the beginning of wisdom?  Discuss.





Morning Psalm




Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to hi, sing praises to him,
and speak of all his marvelous works.

(Psalm 105:1-2)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Foxglove



There is a public garden across the street from the church and at the moment it is filled with foxgloves. I took many pictures, and none do the scene justice, but here is a taste.

The foxglove is one of those interesting plants, not only for its beauty but because of its medicinal value. Digoxin (not dioxin, the toxic substance!) is made from foxgloves and is used to treat various cardiac conditions.

Speaking of cardiac conditions, my mother is back in the hospital because her internal bleeding returned rather quickly after she returned home last week. It may well be that some of the medications she takes to manage her various long-term conditions are working at cross purposes and her pharmaceutical regimen may need to be re-evaluated. She is in no danger and quite stable, being closely monitored now, and with a little more testing and some doctor consultations to be done in the next day or two, and some decisions after that about how she needs to be monitored in the coming weeks in order to regain her strength and to watch for how she is doing on a new drug regimen.

Meanwhile, the spring carries on in its glorious splendor. Soon enough we will be complaining about heat. But our little village here is quite pretty with foxgloves adorning gardens all over town.


Morning Prayer for Doctors and Nurses




Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study
and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of
disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit,
that by their ministries the health of the community may be
promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ
our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Afternoon Fuzzy Cuteness Alert



































We have four new residents at our pond!  Aren't they adorable?






























Here's the proud mom with her very obedient children!





I see you! Can you see me?




Prayer for the Sick







This is another day, O Lord.  I know not what it will bring
forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.  If I
am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.  If I am to sit still,
help me to sit quietly.  If I am to lie low, help me to do it
patiently.  And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. 
Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit
of Jesus.  Amen.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Thoughts about Ascension




The Feast of the Ascension, which occurs 40 days after Easter, according to the timetable of Luke, was last Thursday.  But it is an important feast of the church and an important occasion for us as Christians, and so even though we celebrated it in our church on Thursday, we attended to it again today.  

Ascension is a curious feast.  It’s puzzling, this idea of Jesus going up into heaven while his disciples stood around watching.  Perhaps you’ve seen those images of two bare feet sticking out below a cloud to illustrate it.  The literalism is kind of disturbing.
We 21st century people don’t believe in a three-tiered universe any more and so we may well fear being laughed at by the likes of Carl Sagan, who liked to remind religious folks that if Jesus rose up from the earth through the clouds into the space above them, then he would have ended up caught by the earth’s gravitational pull, and would now be in orbit, circling the planet like a satellite, round and round.
So we don’t always know what to do with the Feast of the Ascension.  We can’t get our heads around it or we can’t get past the physics.  Or we can’t get past the part where Jesus says, I am with you always, but then - poof! - disappears.
The point about the ascension is not the physics of it but the theology of it.  The ascension is the completion of the work of Jesus to reconcile us to God, work begun with his incarnation on Earth, God made man to live among us and to die for us as one of us. Work continued in God’s act of raising Jesus from the dead, making death no longer our final destination.  The ascension, the final scene of this reconciling work of Jesus, illustrates Jesus now taking the human dimension into the realm of the divine, not negating the incarnation but expanding it so that it is not simply confined to earth but reaches into heaven itself.  
Wherever and whatever heaven is.
Jesus has not only broken through the barrier of death but also through the barrier between human and divine, both ways, a pioneer both in his coming to us and bringing divinity into our realm and in his returning to God taking humanity into the divine realm.  
And so, because of the ascension and the opening of that way, we are now free to draw near to the very heart of God.
And because of the ascension, the way is also now open for us to be able to know the presence of the Holy Spirit, whose coming from that same heavenly eternity we will celebrate next week on the Feast of Pentecost.  It is through the Spirit that we now know and feel the presence of the risen Christ whose realm extends throughout all conceivable universes, three-tiered or four-dimensional.  The same risen Christ who is eternally present to God in the divine realm and whom we also meet here at the altar in the bread and the wine.
That spirit empowers us to do the work that Jesus has asked us to do in his name. To feed the hungry and clothe the naked and visit the sick and imprisoned, and stand up for the poor. Our work is commingled with God’s work.  Our work is now all part of the great divine occupation of creation and peacemaking, and healing and reconciliation.
And we will meet Jesus in that work, too, if we will have the eyes to see him in the lives and faces of those who are suffering. 
Always looking up into heaven obscures our view of the work we have been given to do here and now, which is not in the clouds but in our community and around our world.
And so as the season of Easter draws to a close, in response to the glorious joining of heaven and earth through the work of Jesus the Christ, let us commit to looking to see God at work not in the clouds but in the world, and to join into that divine work right here on earth.

Collect for the Feast of the Ascension





Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens 
that he might fill all things: 
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, 
he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Music Video: The Lark Ascending




The BBC Concert Orchestra (conducted by Barry Wordsworth) and Dutch violinist Janine Jansen play Ralph Vaughn Williams' exquisite tone poem "The Lark Ascending" in the Royal Albert Hall.

The announcer is a bit bouncy, as if he were commenting on a sports event, but this live performance is well played and the video allows us to see into the mysteries of musicians at work.

Enjoy.




Friday, May 18, 2012

Look, a bird!





A ring-necked piping plover.  This is an endangered species of shorebird.








Morning Collect for Knowledge of God's Creation







Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with
all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and
the infinite complexity of living creatures: Grant that, as we
probe the mysteries of your creation, we may come to know
you more truly, and more surely fulfill our role in your
eternal purpose; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

There go the ships....



I drove from Atlanta to Williamsburg yesterday. It's a 560-something mile trip. The Google map always wants me to go all the way on interstate highways, but I usually cut through the countryside on the Virginia end of the trip. That much interstate driving is mind-numbing.  And depending on the time of day, it doesn't take more than a few extra minutes to go the scenic route through the forests and fields.

An unexpected pleasure on the trip was having to stop on the bridge over the James River. The drawbridge was opened so that a ship could go through.  It was just after dark and the moon peeked out from behind some clouds.  Everyone parked their cars on the bridge and got out to watch the ship glide by.  The breeze was damp and smelled like river (the good kind of river smell) and the ship's motor purred and the lights sparkled on the little ripples around the bridge supports. Smaller boats were stopped to let the larger one through.  The ship's wake rocked them and it left a smooth pathway in the water.  It was surprisingly quiet, and we all mostly stood there silently, watching.

After the ship cleared the bridge, it blew its horn a few times.  The children in the car behind me were waving into the dark.

It seems that we all had an instinct to get out and watch. Something pulled out us out of our car-containers and into a common space.  It was nice to stretch my legs - 90% of the trip was done - and smell the air and just stop and watch the ship. I felt connected to the earth again after nine hours of rolling along interstate highways.

Today I get another treat - I'm taking the ferry across the James River twice! There will be cormorants and great blue herons and all sorts of gulls parked on the wooden pilings, and some of the birds will follow the ferry's wake - I suppose the ferry churns up some easy pickings for them.  Most people will stay in their cars, but a few will get out and feel the breeze and smell the river.  If it's not raining, I think I'll get out. I'll have had enough sitting in the car!

It's good to be back in Virginia.


Collect for Ascension Day












Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.





Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Today's Update



I am very happy to report that I took my mom home from the hospital today and she is sleeping in her own bed, which she found to be very comforting even though she's been in a bed for a week!  Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers for her and for me.  This has been an intense "vacation" and I'm looking forward to going back to Virginia tomorrow and doing something besides hanging around medical facilities.

I didn't get to work in my garden, and it needs it badly, but I will be back in Atlanta in just a few weeks and plan to spend much time out there getting it back in shape. I did get to snuggle with my pets and my husband and son (well, son doesn't much want to snuggle any more) and wish I'd been able to spend more time with them, but it turned out that Mom really needed me, and I am glad I could be here for her.

I picked up a bug and haven't quite shaken it off, so my energy is rather low, but I hope to be back to blogging again soon.



Morning Prayer



This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it!



Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mothers' Day

I spent Mothers' Day in two places: in bed, accompanied by Miss Kitty, and on the couch with Bunny. Mom is at the hospital preparing for another GI test tomorrow. She doesn't need my germs and I didn't need to go out in the pouring rain. We will see what tomorrow brings.

Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter


O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Story in Pictures: Flight

 This is a small gull - I think a juvenile in its winter plumage, so a little hard to identify for sure.  
Doesn't matter.  It's about to take a short flight.



 First, though, it's important to get those feathers groomed.



 And here he (?) goes!



  Check out the fuzzy breast and the amazing way the wings work to keep this guy aloft!



 Now the downward beat is complete.



 OK, about to come in for a landing. 
Notice the spread tail feathers and the very neat tucking of the feet.



And he sticks the landing! I give him a 10.




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