Sermons

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Preening


Great blue heron does a little grooming by the pond.






Collect for Joy in God's Creation





O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty:
Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works;
that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve
thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all
things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 814)











Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday Afternoon Bird Photo



Juvenile (herring? or ring-billed?*) gull shows plumage transition. As it matures it will become gray and white. On this photo, the gray feathers look like an additional pair of wings!

(*Every time I think I can tell the difference between juvenile ring-billed and herring gulls, I change my mind. So I'm not committing to one or the other this time!)

Here is another photo of the same bird - again, check out the gray feathers on the back.













Collect for Church Musicians and Artists

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah GA






O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 819)










Monday, April 28, 2014

Lifting Up



I am one of those people who was raised in the church but went away from it for awhile. A pretty long while, actually. I had a little trouble with the whole community thing. I thought there was a little (no, really, a lot) too much judging going on. I didn’t think I needed it. I wasn’t sure what I could believe. I thought I could be a believer in a kind of general way by myself, in my own way, when I felt like it.

But eventually I came back to church and over the course of a few years discovered that the whole community thing was not only good, but essential and life-giving.

And then I got a scary diagnosis. And people from my church, which was now my community, started saying to me, “I’ll pray for you.” “I’ll pray for your family.” “I’ll pray for your doctors.” “I’ll pray for healing.”

Whereas other people were saying, “What’s going to happen to your children?” “Aren’t you scared?” “How are you going to deal with this?” the people in my church community were talking about prayer.

So I went to the hospital to have surgery. The waiting room was so full of people who were there to sit with my husband that they all had to move into another space outside. And when I came out of surgery, my husband said that my face was shining and that I looked more peaceful than he had ever seen me. 

When he told me that, later, I thought, “Duh - anesthesia!”

But then when I thought more about it, I realized, “Duh - prayer!” Because I remember in the hospital how light I felt. And I had a new understanding of the phrase “lifted up in prayer.”  I felt so light because those strong prayers were lifting me up - I felt lifted up bodily, I felt as if many arms and hands were really holding me up, lending me their own strength and their own hope and their own love so that I could just be, so that I could just rest, so that I could just heal.

And yes, they fed us and kept our children, too. This was a full-service community of faith that I had become a part of, and we got the full meal deal, prayers AND lasagne and pie.

But the best part of the experience was that sense of being bodily held up and supported by prayer. It felt very real and very reassuring. I felt loved and I felt those prayers as if they were physical touches by those who whispered my name to God.

Physical touch is important to healing. So it doesn’t surprise me that Thomas needed to touch Jesus to be able to believe the unbelievable. What I sometimes wonder is whether Jesus himself needed Thomas to touch him, too, so that he might feel truly loved before he left us to return from whence he came.







Collect for St Mark





Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.









Sunday, April 27, 2014

Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter



Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.











Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday Morning Movie Twofer: Hop It! and Drawing Rabbits




Here's an oldie but goodie for a Spring Saturday - Simon's Cat meets a yard bunny!

And here you can learn how to draw bunnies yourself:




Have a great Saturday!
















Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Afternoon Flower Break



There are a lot of these beautiful pink dogwoods in our church neighborhood.

Enjoy this fine spring day!





Collect for Friday in Easter Week

Chickadee turning his back on the leaven of malice and wickedness


Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.















Thursday, April 24, 2014

Deeply Joying



Now we are deep into Easter Week. Has it been hard for you to sustain the joy of the season, which lasts 50 days? For many of us, particularly those who minister in the church, but also parents who host big family gatherings or have been immersed in children's activities, we may have just slept for a couple of days. There are many events, much planning, some rehearsing, shopping, cooking, cleaning, whatever that contribute to Easter Monday exhaustion. More than one person I know simply slept most of the day.

And then we wake up and we remember that it is still Easter. Not only that, but we are asked to keep this season in joy just as we kept the season of Lent in repentance and reflection.

It's easier to repent and do that heart-searching thing than it is to try to be joyful for fifty days. There's only so much celebrating that one can do.  But we are, nonetheless, called to joy and celebration during the Great Fifty Days of Easter.

If you need some help with this, some of us have come together under the flag of Forward Movement (of Lent Madness, not to mention Forward Day by Day, fame) to keep an Easter blog called 50 Days of Fabulous. Visit us daily at 50days.org to read, reflect, and encounter suggestions for keeping the joy in Easter through actual "things to do."

And if you can't take on another daily obligation, do try to practice mindfulness during the season. Pay attention. Be mindful of your blessings, of the beauty of the earth, of the joy that is there for the picking every day as we live together with family, colleagues, friends.

For if Christ is Risen, then life should be different. Amen, Alleluia!















Collect for Thursday in Easter Week

Eastern towhee


Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.








Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Now the Green Blade Riseth


Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.











Collect for Wednesday in Easter Week


O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.









Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday Afternoon Bird Photo



Happy Earth Day!

This is a pine warbler, doing what pine warblers do, I guess - 
hanging out in a pine tree on a beautiful day!

Hope you are having a beautiful day, too.











Collect for Tuesday in Easter Week


O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.






Monday, April 21, 2014

Collect for Monday in Easter Week



Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.






Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday




O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 283)









Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday

My God, my God, this is an ugly story.  It’s in all the Gospels, and we read it every year, yet it is tempting to gloss over this so we can get to the good part. But God has something to say to us here. And so today we must look again and listen closely.

Jesus has been arrested by a cohort of both imperial soldiers and Temple security police. They take him to the religious leadership, where he is questioned about his friends and his teachings.  
They take his answers to be smart remarks. He has not bowed to their authority.  They want him silenced. 

A guard hits him in the face.  Peter, himself afraid of the authorities, denies him.  Jesus is taken to Pilate, the local Roman governor.

Pilate and his soldiers dress Jesus in a crown of thorns and a purple robe to mock him. And then they beat him up and they bring him out and show him to the people to humiliate him.  

And the religious leaders and the police and soldiers see how he is humiliated and see his face all black and blue and they despise him.  They shout out their demand that Jesus be crucified.  The people also clamor for his death. They hate what they see, this man who seems weak and powerless against them all.

This scares Pilate.  The people are showing their strength as a mob.  They are not being docile or obedient after Pilate and his soldiers have flexed their muscles by beating Jesus up, parading him around in a pretend king’s outfit, exhibiting the public humiliation of a bloody and bruised man.  

This “moderate” show of violence should have done the trick.  Should have reminded the people that the imperial government has the power, and this is what they can do with it.

But the people are agitated, perhaps by the smell of blood, the smell of fear, the public display of something shameful.  It is going to take more than this.  Pilate is nervous.

He goes back to Jesus and demands to know where he is from.  Jesus, who has just been beaten by this man’s soldiers is now silent in the face of this demand for an answer.  

An incredulous Pilate says to him, “Don’t you know that I’ve got all the power here?  What are you thinking, man, that you refuse to answer my question?”

So Jesus does answer Pilate.  But not his question.  He merely states that there is a power higher than Pilate, and that, in truth, Pilate is completely powerless.

Now Pilate is caught between a rock and a hard place.  Jesus has made what sounds like a subtle threat to him on the one side, and the people are overtly threatening him on the other.  The people play a political power card.  They goad Pilate. They shout that they will expose him to the Emperor, the most powerful of the powers that be, at least in Pilate’s mind, if he does not do away with Jesus.

So Pilate stages an even more elaborate show.  He brings Jesus back out — Jesus with the bloody face and the pretend king outfit.  “Shall I crucify your king?” he shouts sarcastically.  He goads them back, he pumps them up.  Pilate shows the people - this is what else we can do:  not only can we beat you up, but we can kill you.

And the religious leaders answer, Jesus is not our king.  The Emperor is the power WE respect.

Ah yes, this is the correct answer.  This is what Pilate needs to hear.  The religious leaders respect his power, his ruling authority, and the people support his power to put troublemakers to death.  This is the answer Pilate must have, the answer all his posturing show was meant to bring about.

And then he handed Jesus over to be crucified.  Pilate and the leaders together, with the people jumping in to have their say.  (“Don’t say he IS the King of the Jews but that he SAYS he is King of the Jews.”)  They all share in the power that the use of violence seems to give.

And everybody else stands there and watches.

And at the end of the day, when the Sabbath is about to begin, the soldiers go with clubs and break the legs of the men still alive on their crosses so that they will die more quickly.  Since Jesus is already dead, they cut him open with a spear.  Because this is a weekday activity, this beating and mocking and killing.  Not something we want to see on the Sabbath, especially around a big religious holiday.  We all need to get home to fix a special dinner and have our religious observances.

This text has been used to vilify Judaism and to justify the killing of Jews in revenge for this act against Jesus.  But this is not about Jews versus Christians.  John was written by Jews for Jews.  There were no Christians at the time of Jesus, and John’s Gospel was born out of a deeply divided community of Jews who were each trying to prove the other wrong about Jesus.

For John, “the Jews” means “those other Jews” - those in the community who don’t believe what we believe. For John, violence and power are what the bad guys use.  The bad guys (those other Jews, not us Jews) want to kick their rivals out of church.  And what’s more, the bad guys beat people up and even kill them.  Jesus never lifts a hand to retaliate, or even to defend himself.

Somehow we don’t always seem to get this.  Those who have gone out to do violence to non-Christians, something we have seen once again just in the last week, don’t get that they are buying into the world of Pilate.  The world appeals to our basest emotions.  The world wants us to be afraid so that we will be obedient and allow someone to have power over us.  

The world wants us to fear the unknown, to despise the one who is weak, to blame the victim, to shut down the one who goes against the grain, and to fight our uneasy sense of vulnerability by asserting our power, using violence - physical, emotional, social - if necessary.  Or approving the use of violence by those who run the show.  Or at least accepting that violence is just something out there that we can’t do anything about.

This story may have taken place 2000 years ago, but it also describes our world, where fear and hate still hold sway and where someone who does not play the game by the rules of those in power will suffer the consequences.

We are all caught up in this world of power and violence - physical, emotional, social - in one way or another.  Some of us are implicated as perpetrators.  Some of us have been victims, and we may hear this story and feel our own humiliation and pain.  Some of us are just standing by in our own bewildered grief trying to hold up some kind of hope.  

On this day, we look at Jesus being beaten, being humiliated, bearing the brunt of the world’s anger and frustration and its fear; we see Jesus betrayed by a man whose feet he washed, and deserted by those with whom he ate.  And maybe some of us can see what we have done and some can see what has been done to us or to those we love.

And yet, amazingly enough, this is the world that God wants to save.  Our world that worships power and justifies violence, that thinks the work of the world is for business days and that religious matters are only for religious days.

This is the world to which God sent angels over and over to tell God’s people to fear not!  Don’t be afraid!  Because fear is what gets us every time; it’s what makes us think in terms of us and them, winners and losers, powerful and powerless.


It seems to me, as we look on this heartbreaking convergence of hatred, violence, fear, power-mongering, along with brokenness and powerlessness — this is the way Jesus draws us all to himself: gathering us all together the way a crash, a smash up, so powerfully draws the gaze and attention of us all - perpetrator, victim, and by-stander alike.  

And so we are called to stand together today, as painful as it is, and look upon this man the world despised and finally, finally see the web in which we are all caught up and realize that the world’s ways are not God’s ways.


Today, we have seen the world’s ways. But on the third day, we will see God’s.

Collect for Good Friday


Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.







Thursday, April 17, 2014

Music for Maundy Thursday: Pange Lingua




The pange lingua is THE song for Maundy Thursday. Words by Thomas Aquinas. Sung in Gregorian chant here by the Gregorian Choir of Paris.


Sing, my tongue, the Saviour's glory,
of His Flesh, the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our Immortal King,
destined, for the world's redemption,
from a noble Womb to spring.
Of a pure and spotless Virgin
born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
then He closed in solemn order
wond'rously His Life of woe.
On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He, the Paschal Victim eating,
first fulfils the Law's command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own Hand.
Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His Word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.
Down in adoration falling,
This great Sacrament we hail,
O'er ancient forms of worship
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith will tell us Christ is present,
When our human senses fail.
To the Everlasting Father,
And the Son who made us free
And the Spirit, God proceeding
From them Each eternally,
Be salvation, honour, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
Amen. Alleluia.

Collect for Maundy Thursday



Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.








Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Preparing for Baptism


Many of us have baptisms coming up at both the Easter Vigil and the Sunday after easter, so we are helping people prepare for this momentous step. May we all approach this with the joy and total abandon of this little sanderling in the ocean.













Collect for Wednesday in Holy Week



Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.








Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Prayer



Give us this day our daily bread. 








Collect for Tuesday in Holy Week


O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.












Monday, April 14, 2014

Fragrance


At Christmas time we sing a lovely song called "What is This Lovely Fragrance?"  I don't know if there are any Holy Week songs about fragrance, but there should be. At this time of year, the air is perfumed with daphne and viburnum and hyacinths and more. This daphne in my neighborhood makes walking to the mailbox an adventure in loveliness.

The juxtaposition of beauty and sorrow during Holy Week makes the season all the more poignant, don't you think?








Collect for Monday in Holy Week



Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.













Sunday, April 13, 2014

Collect for Palm Sunday



Assist us mercifully with your help,
O Lord God of our salvation,
that we may enter with joy
upon the contemplation of those mighty acts,
whereby you have given us life and immortality;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

(BCP 270)






Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday Morning Music: Dupre plays Depre



French composer Marcel Dupre plays his Cortege et Litanie (Opus 19 No.2) in St Sulpice, Paris.

("Cortege et litanie" means procession and litany, so it's kind of a churchy thing.)

Enjoy. More Dupre coming up next week.












Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Morning Surfing Break


It's a beautiful day in Virginia! Hope you are getting outside today.







Collect for Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent


  1. O Lord, you relieve our necessity out of the abundance of your great riches: Grant that we may accept with joy the salvation you bestow, and manifest it to all the world by the quality of our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. 






Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hanging On


I'm in my fourth day at my new church. I'm loving every minute of it! But this is pretty intense time, as one might imagine with Holy Week nearly upon us and a very different cast of characters on hand this year as opposed to last year, both for the church and for me. 

The great thing is that I simply love Holy Week and am so energized by the excitement that surrounds it. There are many parts to the whole thing and yet those parts are not at all new. The Church has been doing these things for such a very long time. I feel that I have been doing them for a very long time, too, although granted I've played many parts. 

My very favorite liturgy of the whole church year is the Easter Vigil. I love how it helps orient (and re-orient) us to remind us of how we are embedded in the wonderful story of salvation. It shows us where we came from and also where we are going. I love the fact that it's a little bit foreign, not something we do very much. I love carrying the Paschal candle into the church and chanting "The Light of Christ" three times. I love the Exsultet. I love the readings that remind us that God has acted over and over again to give us life and intervened with a mighty arm to save us again and again. 

The story gives me comfort. It gives me strength. And it gives me hope that God is there for me, for all of us, again and again, because we are going to need saving again and again as people and as a people who are but dust.

And so, things may be intense right now, but I'm hanging on. I'm grounded. There are new details to master, for sure, but this is the old, old story, and I know that it ends in salvation, and that knowledge makes me secure and ready to face anything.









Thursday Extra

Great news from Clear Faith Publishing, the folks who are behind the two (soon to be three) volumes of reflections and homilies I've been part of these last two years.

"We just received word that “Naked, And You Clothed Me” (the book for this liturgical year A) has been named a finalist by the Association of Catholic Publishers for their Excellence in Publishing Awards in the category for Scripture!

To celebrate this recognition we are discounting the book down to $16.00 till Easter Sunday!"

Click here to order!

You may recall that last year we released the first of the three books, Hungry, and You Fed Me (reflections and homilies for year C), and it won a couple of awards from the Association of Catholic Publishers, too. Stay tuned for the last of the three books to be released next fall!

Meanwhile, thanks to all of you who have bought the books. You may remember that all of the proceeds from the sale of all of the books in this series go to benefit ministries to the homeless in the Princeton, New Jersey area. I am very proud to be associated with this project.

Thanks!








Collect for Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent


  1. O God, you have called us to be your children, and have promised that those who suffer with Christ will be heirs with him of your glory: Arm us with such trust in him that we may ask no rest from his demands and have no fear in his service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 












Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Getting Ready For Holy Week


So, here we all are trying to get ready for Holy Week.









Collect for Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent




  1. Almighty God our heavenly Father, renew in us the gifts of your mercy; increase our faith, strengthen our hope, enlighten our understanding, widen our charity, and make us ready to serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 










Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuesday Afternoon Bird Reflection


Sanderling runs through the surf.








Collect for Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent




  1. Almighty God, through the incarnate Word you have caused us to be born anew of an imperishable and eternal seed: Look with compassion upon those who are being prepared for Holy Baptism, and grant that they may be built as living stones into a spiritual temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 













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