Sermons

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tuesday Afternoon Bird Photo

American goldfinch




I love seeing these bright yellow birds, and I had heard that if you just put out a feeder full of nyjer (or Niger or black thistle) seed, goldfinches will just find it and start hanging out in your yard.

So off I went a few weeks ago to the bird feeder/seed place to get some supplies. I hung the feeder in the back yard near the bird bath and other feeders. And then I waited.

As it turns out, I only had to wait about five days. One morning I came downstairs and looked out the window and there was a female goldfinch on the feeder. It flew away when I opened the door to go outside.

Next morning, there were two and then three goldfinches on the feeder.

Now they come every morning, still the three of them as far as I can tell (2 males, one female), and they often come in the late afternoons as well. They are more skittish than some of the other birds (the chickadees practically sit on the arm of my chair and the sparrows steadily ignore me while they fill all the perches on the fruit and nut feeder). But oh so pretty and a lovely song as well.














Monday, June 29, 2015

Morning Psalm



Psalm 66: 11 You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water; *
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.


12 I will enter your house with burnt-offerings
and will pay you my vows, *
which I promised with my lips
and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.










Sunday, June 28, 2015

What do I know?


When [Jesus] had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. Mark 5:39-40a

Too often I think I know. I think I know what God wants. I think I know what is going on. I think I know how things really are. So often, I am wrong.

God's work is about bringing wholeness out of brokenness, bringing joy out of sorrow, bringing life out of death. But I am likely to be found among the crowd, laughing with derision, not willing to be open to the beauty that God brings out of the wreckage of the world and out of my own life. It is a failure of imagination on my part, an inability to abide in a place of wonder and awe, to only see the surface and not see what could be.

God has promised abundant life to us, even in the midst of death. That life often comes in surprising and creative ways - ways I am not able to be open to because I think I know everything already.

Lord, help me know you instead of knowing everything.






Saturday, June 27, 2015

Caturday! Happy Birthday, Bella and Sally!


Bella and Sally are one year old this week!

Here's a throwback to their younger days. Today they are too busy sleeping late for a photo.













Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Music Two-fer



The great Van Morrison teams up with the great Chieftains on this live recording from County Antrim in 1999 of The Star of the County Down.

If you are of the Anglican persuasion, you might recognize this tune. We sing the same thing in church to hymns set to Kingsfold. While the more famous hymn is "I heard the voice of Jesus say" this one (sung by the Harvard University Choir) is called "We Sing for all the Unsung Saints," text by Carl B. Daw, Jr.



Happy Friday!
















Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursday Bird Photo with Poem



It was a shame that we didn't get to hear the song of this song thrush. But as you can see, it was surveying the landscape without comment. And what a beautiful spring landscape it was, that sunny afternoon on Iona.

Robert Browning has this to say about April and thrushes in his poem Home-thoughts from Abroad:


Oh, to be in England,
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England - now!
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows -
Hark! where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops - at the bent spray’s edge -
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower,
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!











Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Standing against evil

Luke 22:6 So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.

Judas wanted to find a time to betray Jesus when no crowd was present, when there would be few to stand up for Jesus, to stand against the temple authorities. We might call this cowardly, or we might call it shrewd. Either way, Judas knew that his plan would work best if there were few people to oppose it.

Sometimes I look around the world, or my neighborhood, and see things that I think are wrong, but I don’t get involved. This might be because I am confused, or want to give people the benefit of the doubt, or am uncomfortable. I might be afraid of being hurt. 

When I don’t stand up, when I don’t voice my opposition to wrongdoing, the wrongdoing is more likely to continue. Guarding against evil is more than just trying not to get involved in it myself. I also must become part of the crowd that resists it, calls it out, stands up for its victims. 

Evil is powerful. Like many of us, I often don’t feel equipped to stand against it. Our best chance at resistance can be found in community, a community that commits to being present in both the neighborhood and the world.










Tuesday Sheep Photo


It was lambing season when we were on Iona. We learned that most of the ewes had twins and that most of the lambs would be sold for meat within a very few months (if not weeks). This made us sad, but certainly we saw that the lambs on Iona lived life to the fullest however long that life might last. They played and snuggled and climbed and jumped and basked in the sun and drank their fill of their mothers' milk.

Here are a pair of twins with there mother just before sunset, when the busy world is hushed and the fever of the day is past. It was lovely to see them all together, if only for a while.








Monday, June 22, 2015

Morning Gospel




Then he told them a parable: 'Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.

Luke 21:29-30 




Sunday, June 21, 2015

O Gracious Light



O Gracious Light Phos hilaron 


O gracious light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed! 

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds. 

(BCP 118)
















Being afraid

St Oran's Chapel, Iona


See today's Gospel reading here.

I grew up in one of those 1950’s ranch houses with the living room on one end and the bedrooms on the other and a long hallway in between. When I was little, our living room had nothing but a piano in it. I loved to play the piano in there. I liked how the sound echoed in the empty room. I would play and play until it was dark and my mom called out to me that it was time for bed.

Then I had to go down the long hallway to my bedroom. The rest of the family was watching TV in the family room. The hallway was dark. Really dark.

And I was terrified of that dark. I would stand there, looking down the hall, and feel the fear squeezing my heart, making it pound loudly in my chest. I don’t know what I thought might happen to me in that dark hallway but I was just so scared of it. I had a visceral response - even my legs would be all jumpy and I would dance around in fear.

Sometimes I would call out to my mom and ask her to come and go down the hall with me. If she walked with me, I wasn’t afraid. Sometimes she would come, but not always (if Lawrence Welk was on, I could just forget it). So I would run down the hall as fast as I could and leap into my bed and wait for my heart to stop pounding. Later on Mom would come in to say goodnight and she would tell me that there isn’t anything to be afraid of.

But she was wrong. There was plenty to be afraid of. There still is. Shall I tell you my (partial) list?

Getting the answers wrong. Not getting picked for a team. Fire. Losing a pet. Being rejected. Losing a job. Losing a child. Divorce. Violence. Getting a serious diagnosis. Losing hope. Having a breakdown.

You probably have a list, too.

The whole world has a list, and it grieves me to see how entangled we are with our fears, so much so that we cannot bring ourselves to drag them into the light of day and let them go instead of allowing them to cripple us. It grieves me that my own fears often deafen me to the cries of others who are perishing.

But we’re pretty good at being afraid as human beings. If we weren’t, then “be not afraid” wouldn’t appear in the Bible more than 365 times. That’s once per day plus leap year. Being fearful seems just part of life, I guess, or those verses would not be necessary. 

But “Fear not” is not the same as “there’s nothing to be afraid of.”  There’s much more to it than that.

The message is not simply “get over it and have some guts.” It’s not that there isn’t anything to be afraid of - there is. But in our stories “Fear not” is always coupled with the assurance that God is with us. Fear not BECAUSE God is with us. Things might be scary, but we are not alone. 

Remember our stories? Don’t be afraid to challenge Pharaoh, Moses - I will be with you. Don't be afraid to live in Babylon, you exiles, God is in exile with you. Don’t be afraid that an angel is speaking these strange things to you, Mary - God is with you.

This doesn’t mean that all turns out well. The exiles still had to live in exile. Moses had to wander in the desert and died before reaching the promised land. Mary had to suffer Joseph wanting to divorce her and had her baby in a barn and then had to watch him die on a cross. Life was still hard. Disaster happened and people died. Even Jesus died and God didn’t stop it.

But God was with them. They were not alone in their suffering. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, the Psalmist says, for thou art with me….

The disciples were still learning about Jesus when they got in the boat with him, at night, to go across the lake into the territory of the Gentiles. They were fishermen, so they may have known that a storm was possible. They may have known that they might be rejected when they got to the other side, because Jews and Gentiles hated each other. 

But I seriously doubt they had any inkling that the first thing they’d encounter upon arrival (the story told in the next verses after today’s reading) would be a raging naked man, out of his mind, in chains and living in a cemetery, and the second thing would be a herd of demon-possessed pigs hurling themselves off a cliff, followed by an angry mob of swineherds running Jesus and the disciples out of town. Those would not have been big selling points for the trip. But the disciples went because Jesus called them.

And they were afraid. They didn’t know yet the power of God - that even if they did perish, they would be saved. They didn’t know yet about resurrection, that God brings life even out of death. Don't you care that we are perishing? they ask. Why are you afraid? Jesus responds. Don’t you know I am with you, even in the storm, even with the scary man in chains, even when you are rejected, even if you die?

And he calls us, too. He calls us to things so wonderful we cannot imagine and also things we dread or want to dance around. Sometimes things turn out to be glorious and sometimes they’re just failures. Sometimes we are anxious and afraid. Can I tutor a child? What should I say to a prisoner? Can I go to a neighborhood I’m not sure about? Can I talk about things that make me uncomfortable? Can I get through this illness? Will I survive this loss? 

But God is with us in the boat. And Jesus saves. And the Spirit has come to be our comforter. These are the stories of our faith.

Still, just as I needed my mom to walk with me down that dark hallway when I was scared, we also need each other to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth today. We need to be connected to one another and to ever-widen our circle and bring into it all those who are yearning for healing and support. We need to feed the hungry and visit the sick, as well as ask for God’s spirit to be with them. We need to grieve the dead, name our sins, and work for reconciliation. We need to support each other with our physical presence when one of us loses hope or is feeling bereft and be willing to talk about uncomfortable things when conversation is called for. We need to believe that listening to one another’s pain is essential when following Jesus and that the answer to hate and fear is mercy and forgiveness, as we have been stunned to see in the past three days.

Part of being the beloved community is obeying the command to love one another: to tend to one another, uphold one another, accompany one another down our long dark hallways, individually and collectively. To be there for those who are perishing.


Who knows where Jesus is going to call us next. It may be a fantastic journey or a really scary ride across a deep, deep divide. But either way, because we belong to God and to one another, we can go where we are called even when we are afraid, because we will not go alone. God will be with us. And God’s people will be with us. Thanks be to God.








Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Music: Howells Requiem




A performance given by the Merbecke Choir at Southwark Cathedral, March 2015, directed by Huw Morgan. This is the fifth movement of Howells' "Requiem."








Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Morning Psalm




I will open my mouth in a parable; *
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.


Ps 78:2 












Monday, June 15, 2015

Unplugged



Our office is closed this week because of construction. The power is out for most of the week. Frankly, I think all of us are relieved to get a reprieve. For many months, the construction in the church did not seriously impact our life in the parish house. (Other than the need to move all of our services to alternative spaces, but that is another story.)

But during the last couple of weeks, the courtyard has been filled with diggers and bobcats and jackhammers and then las week the same outside the "front" doors. And then we started switching servers and the email was changed and some of us got it and others didn't and I even had the interesting combination of being able to see my emails but only could open some of them. And periodically guys are in my office on ladders.

All of a sudden, we all had headaches. Naturally, my response was to throw a party at my house (conveniently located next door to the church) on Friday afternoon for the staff.

Now we are all scattered to the four winds. Some are on vacation, already planned. Some are on vacation because the office is closed. The sextons are still working this morning to get the freezer/fridges cleaned out (and moved to alternate locations - I took the ice cream) and shut down all the systems, but after that, they get a reprieve until the power comes back on. The clergy are on call, one each day, and making pastoral calls, but also getting a little extra down time in, too.

We've been advertising this situation as a week of being unplugged. Because, we are literally unplugged. But also I think all of us realize that we need to mentally unplug for just a bit right now, too. We've managed, and managed very well, to work around all the things that a year of construction brings. Some things have moved but are mostly intact. Some things have moved and changed. Some things are just not happening right now. It's discombobulating (and some of us are having more trouble than others with that) but not unworkable.

But oh how good it feels to know that it's all just shut down for a few days. We can catch our breath. We can catch up on reading or chores or just sit and be. We can answer emails in our pajamas. We can think without needing to filter out the jackhammers or drilling. We can pray without the accompaniment of saws and drills.

Ahhh.

Happy Monday!






Sunday, June 14, 2015

Collect for Proper 6B

Iona Abbey
Scotland


Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.







Saturday, June 13, 2015

Caturday! Mom's Home!


Sally: Uh-oh. Mom's home! Better clean up the toys!

Bella: Nah. She'll do it for us.







Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Music: Immigration Man



I have no idea how many times I listened to this album in 1972 when I was a junior in high school, but when I listen to the songs now, I still remember the cracks and pops from the vinyl album. So obviously I listened to it a whole lot of times.

I always loved this song particularly. Seems like a good one to listen to again.

Enjoy your weekend!








Thursday, June 11, 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Sheep in the Grass


Sheep in the grass.  Iona.










He shall come down like showers...


Psalm 72:6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, like showers that water the earth.

During the summer in the South, things can get mighty dry. The heat goes up, and the sun stays high; the grass gets brown, and dusty patches show up on a lawn that was so green just a few weeks ago. This time of year is often the beginning of a long, hot summer.

Psalm 72 sings the praises of the ideal king, one who rules with justice and cares for the poor, who delivers the oppressed and pities the needy. Such a ruler would be like rain watering the earth, bringing refreshment, and life itself to a land thirsting for nourishment.

We in the United States are not into kings, but we certainly have plenty of leaders. We have leaders in our national government, in our states, and in our localities. We have leaders in our churches and in our denominations. We may not have a king, but we have lots of leaders.

My prayer for today is that leaders of all kinds take seriously the call to give life and nurture to their people who are so thirsty and dried out.







Tuesday, June 9, 2015

St. Columba's Feast Day


O God, by the preaching of your blessed servant Columba you caused the light of the Gospel to shine in Scotland: Grant, we pray, that, having his life and labors in remembrance, we may show our thankfulness to you by following the example of his zeal and patience; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.









Monday, June 8, 2015

Morning Psalm




Psalm 57 Miserere mei, Deus

1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful,
for I have taken refuge in you; *
in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge
until this time of trouble has gone by.

2 I will call upon the Most High God, *
the God who maintains my cause.

3 He will send from heaven and save me;
he will confound those who trample upon me; *
God will send forth his love and his faithfulness.


4 I lie in the midst of lions that devour the people; *
their teeth are spears and arrows,
their tongue a sharp sword.

5 They have laid a net for my feet,
and I am bowed low; *
they have dug a pit before me,
but have fallen into it themselves.

6 Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God, *
and your glory over all the earth.

7 My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; *
I will sing and make melody.

8 Wake up, my spirit;
awake, lute and harp; *
I myself will waken the dawn.

9 I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord; *
I will sing praise to you among the nations.


10 For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, *
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

11 Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God, *

and your glory over all the earth.







  

Sunday, June 7, 2015

When Jesus is Crazy



(Read today's Gospel)

I’ve always been intrigued by this strange story in which Jesus is apparently healing people right and left and left and right, so that the word begins to get out not only that an untold number of people are being healed but that the healer, this guy named Jesus who came from Nazareth of all places, is acting very strangely.  

There are so many people gathered, and there is so much to be done, that there isn't even time to stop and eat. Apparently Jesus is so focused on healing everyone who comes to him that he is perceived as being in a frenzy.  He is not just working at a frenzied pace; he himself is in a frenzy.

This disturbs the people. They begin to say that Jesus is not in his right mind and then that Jesus must be possessed by the Evil One.  What else could it be?

Everyone believes Jesus is crazy.

I find it interesting that the focus is on Jesus’ behavior and not the fruit of his work. People are healed, right and left and left and right! But the response narrows down to this:  There's something weird about Jesus. He's out of his mind, maybe demonic. Somebody needs to come and get him.

Nobody asks this question: who is going to help the people who are so needy that Jesus is sacrificing himself daily to bring them back to wholeness? 

Nope. All these people are restored but the focus is on the sanity of the healer. Who in their right mind would do what Jesus does and do it with so much passion and compassion? Who would be so selfless and giving? Who would care so much for those that others don't have time for? Who would be in a frenzy to make others whole?

And so he must be crazy. And his family hears about it and comes to take him away. Leaving the question remaining. Who is going to help the people Jesus came to help?

The irony is, of course, that while everyone is trying to ferret out a motivation for Jesus's behavior, they end up with "mental illness" for an answer instead of "God's overwhelming compassion and desire for healing, wholeness, and reconciliation among God's people." 

Now, we might wonder why is it that God is so passionate about those who are broken and suffering who often go unseen or are even ignored by the rest of us?

Well God is mystery. On my best days, I am content to believe that God made us and God loves us and God wants us to be whole. If that's crazy, then fine by me. 

I don't want to make light of mental illness. Nor do I want to make light of the real anxiety that many of us have when trying to comprehend mental illness or poverty or chronic health issues. 

Often I ignore because I don't believe I am equipped to even cope with, much less actually help, people who are in dire straits. I don't mean to be callous, I just feel inadequate.

But see, God created community. We don't have to solve these huge problems alone. We don't have to take care of everyone ourselves. We do these things together as family or friends or neighbors or just plain members of society. Because God wants healing and wholeness in a big way and we want to want what God wants.



But first, we have to be able to see those that others ignore; we have remember that they are God's beloved. We have to believe that God wants them to be whole. We have to believe that we can contribute somehow to their well-being as a community of God's beloved ourselves and to step out in faith and in love. 

We have to ask this question every day: who will care for those who are in such dire straits, those for whom wholeness seems so elusive? Jesus was crazy about them. Perhaps we should be, too.









Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Music: Fireballs of the Eucharist




Long-time readers of this blog know that I love traditional (Celtic) music. Recently, I discovered Nuala Kennedy, an Irish singer and flute player who is a regular at the Celtic Connections winter music festival in Glasgow, Scotland. Kennedy and her band play traditional music with imagination and verve, not to mention a lot of energy.

There are a number of wonderful videos of Nuala Kennedy, including one called "The March of the Pterodactyls," but being a priest, I just had to post the one of her playing a song new to me, Fireballs of the Eucharist.

The song was written by Canadian Oliver Schroer, and "fireballs of the eucharist" is a medical malapropism for fibroids of the uterus. Whatever. I love it.

Enjoy!







Thursday, June 4, 2015

All God's Creatures: Thursday Sheep Photo


These babies are bustin' out! 

We were on Iona at lambing time when many of the ewes are giving birth or nursing one or two little ones. At one farm, the newborn lambs are separated from their mothers for a little while, perhaps to be checked out before letting them roam. We came upon this lively group who were pretty vocal about their need to get out of this pen right now and enterprising in their efforts to do so.

The next day we came by again and they were gone, climbing the nearby hills with their mamas. 






Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wednesday Evening Prayer

St. Martin Cross, Iona Abbey




Support us, Lord, all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work done; then Lord, in your mercy, give us safe lodging, a holy rest and peace at the last. Amen

(From the New Zealand Prayer Book)






Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tuesday Bird Photo


Drink deeply from the well of life today.















Morning Psalm

Ranald, who transformed Iona Abbey into a Benedictine monastery
and established a nunnery on Iona
Psalm 45 
Eructavit cor meum

1 My heart is stirring with a noble song;
let me recite what I have fashioned for the king; *
my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer.

2 You are the fairest of men; *
grace flows from your lips,
because God has blessed you for ever.

3 Strap your sword upon your thigh, O mighty warrior, *
in your pride and in your majesty.

4 Ride out and conquer in the cause of truth *
and for the sake of justice.

5 Your right hand will show you marvelous things; *
your arrows are very sharp, O mighty warrior.

6 The peoples are falling at your feet, *
and the king's enemies are losing heart.
7 Your throne, O God, endures for ever and ever, *
a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom;
you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

8 Therefore God, your God, has anointed you *
with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

9 All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia, *
and the music of strings from ivory palaces makes you glad.

10 Kings' daughters stand among the ladies of the court; *
on your right hand is the queen,
adorned with the gold of Ophir.

11 "Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely; *
forget your people and your father's house.

12 The king will have pleasure in your beauty; *
he is your master; therefore do him honor.

13 The people of Tyre are here with a gift; *
the rich among the people seek your favor."

14 All glorious is the princess as she enters; *
her gown is cloth-of-gold.

15 In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king; *
after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.

16 With joy and gladness they are brought, *
and enter into the palace of the king.

17 "In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons; *
you shall make them princes over all the earth.

18 I will make your name to be remembered
from one generation to another; *
therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever."








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