Nov 262013
 


This morning I am annotating my words with projected images.  Those who encounter the world best through their vision will probably find this enjoyable.  If you are not in that category, and find the images more of a distraction, (or you are listening on the web) feel free to close your eyes and just listen.  This is really more of a reflection interspersed with prayer than a proper sermon. I hope something in it will speak to each of you.  And thank you to Ollie for his technical help!

(Slide 1 – Christ the King) Here we are at the end of the church year on what has been traditionally celebrated a Christ the King Sunday.  I have to be honest and say that this is an image of Christ that I struggle with. I struggle with it because the word king brings up for me lots of associations that are not even close to my sense of who Christ is.  When I hear king, I think, ruler; I think warrior; I think of one to whom others are subject; I think of one who lives in a grand castle, well insulated from the everyday struggles of lives of his subjects.  But when I think of Christ, I think of one who knows me well – even better than I know myself; I think of an all knowing and all seeing one who is not far away and insolated, but rather down in the stuff of life with all of us.  When I think of Christ I think of one who took off all the trappings of ultimate power for the love of you and me.  So if this is Christ the King Sunday, I guess my only choice is to focus on how Christ radically redefines my images of kingship.  And when I listen to the readings for today I am heartened because they do reveal a radically different image of kingship than the world usually offers us.

In our first lesson from the prophet Jeremiah speaks God’s words on the problem of failed leadership of those ruling Israel at that time.  Through the prophet God describes the leaders as “shepherds who shepherd my people”.  God warns here that these shepherds have not protected the flock of God and instead have scattered the flock (slide 2 – quilt block of scattered sheep) and driven them off.  The solution?  God will step in, and gather the flock back together.  God will then raise up a branch from the house of David – the great King of Israel who ruled with compassion and righteousness, rather than the harshness and self-absorption of the current shepherds.  If we look into the story of David we find that before he was anointed as king, he was a shepherd.  Caring for a flock was his first vocation.  And it seems that is what God is looking for in a new leader for his people – someone who will keep watch over the whole flock, who will be vigilant in keeping track of all the sheep, and will keep the whole flock moving forward together.  And so we have our first alternative image for kingship – the king as good shepherd. (slide 3 – shepherd leading sheep)

Let us pray; Christ our shepherd king we pray to you today to tend us and draw us together. (slide 4 – shepherd counting sheep) Take stock of us and if there are any who are straying, or missing from the fold of your love, draw us back in; if there are any feeling alienated, reconcile us;

(slide 5 – sheep in rising tide) if there are any lost or suffering or in danger, reach us; (slide 6 – shepherd feeding) Feed us with your love and may your healing power move among us.  All for the sake of your love, Amen.

The writer of Luke picks up the thread of God’s word in Jeremiah in the 3rd chapter of that Gospel by listing Jesus’ lineage through the line of David back to Adam. Here is Jesus, the branch of David, (slide 7 – branch) the writer is saying – here is the remedy to the sin of Adam passed down through the generations.  And here in our Gospel lesson of the day, taken from the final chapters of Luke, we find that righteous branch of David, (slide 8 – Jesus with crown of thorns) wearing a crown of thorns, (slide 9 – Jesus on cross) hanging near death on the cross.  And it is in this moment that Jesus reveals the heart of his kingship.  As he is being crucified and experiences the searing pain of that torturous process he prays for those who pierce him.  He prays, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing”.  Then it is only in Luke’s Gospel that we are given the conversation that ensues between the two others who are being crucified and Jesus.  One of these two men joins with the crowd in taunting Jesus, but the other (slide 10) admits his wrongs and asks Jesus to remember him when he comes to his kingdom.  Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

On writer blogging on this passage recently wrote,

“I think Luke wishes to demonstrate the continuity between Jesus ministry and his dying. Even on the cross, Jesus reaches out to embrace the socially marginalized. Who is more socially marginal, more excluded, than a criminal being executed? Jesus, who stood in solidarity with outcasts and sinners, feeding them, healing them, welcoming, shepherding and loving them as children of God through his life, continues to do so until the moment of his death… For those who accept this love, paradise can be found today, as Jesus tells the repentant criminal, no need to wait three days or a lifetime, or for the end of time. The kingdom of God is here and now, even in the midst of suffering.” (only name given on the web was Fr. John)

And so we are given another radical image of kingship in Christ – Christ our king of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Let us pray; Christ, king of forgiveness and reconciling love, (slide 11 – silhouette figure on bench) find us in the midst of our sufferings and the manifold sufferings of our world.  Stay with us and in your good time and ways lead us to the understanding that your love for us (slide 12 – embrace) is stronger than our sin; Where we are wrong, right us;

(slide 13-Jesus and Peter) Where we are sinking, lift us; (slide 14 – person bound) Where we are bound, unbind us; (slide 15 – free woman) Where we are injured, heal us; (slide 16 – dawn over crosses) When our eyes are cast down, lift us to see the dawn of your realm breaking in upon us.  Amen.

I find the final radical image of kingship in our reading from the letter to the Colossians, where we are given the great hymn of praise to Christ as (slide 17 – A&O Christ) the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end who fills all, and is all in all.  This is the cosmic view of Christ as our king.  (slide 18 – Christ raising Adam & Eve) The one who cannot be held by death and who puts an end to death forever; (slide 19 – vigil flame being passed) The eternal light in the darkness from before time. The one who was and is and is to come; (slide 20- Jesus with world in hands) The one who holds all things together.  (slide 21 – hands with globe)The one who holds the whole world in his hands.

Let us pray; Oh Christ our king, help us to long for nothing more than your loving care and forgiveness; help us trust nothing more than your abiding presence wherever we are and whatever is happening; and when images for your kingship fail us, help us to remember that you never will – that you will always hold us securely so we need not fear anything in heaven nor on earth, in this realm nor in the realm to come.  (slide 22 – hands with globe and prayer)

In faith we pray. Amen

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 Sermon for Sunday, November 24 – The Last Sunday after Pentecost  Posted by on Tue, 26-Nov-13 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for Sunday, November 24 – The Last Sunday after Pentecost
Nov 232013
 

Part II (Chaps 6-10) ~ Part III (Chaps 11-15)

These five words below in caps are chapter headings from the book above. This Post is a continuance of

EPISCOPAL RECEPTION 10/05/13 (by) Tom Green. It is also a completion of JWAE (the book above). The numbers in (parentheses) are page #s.

THANK, SHAPE, WORD, MAP, ROOTS (Part II ~ Chaps 6-10).

THANK (65) “We gather at Communion table not to escape the world’s problems but to escape the world’s answers.” Bishop Arthur Vogel. And the Rev. Chris Yaw chimes in with: “Episcopalians gather to worship God not to please ourselves.” (68)

SHAPE (77) “Episcopalians live our way into a new way of thinking rather than the opposite.” (Koinina Community, 77)

What does it mean that the United States has 5% of the world’s population but consumes 30% of the world’s resources? Somehow that doesn’t surprise me, yet it floors me.

WORD (87) The Bible must be taken seriously but not literally Yaw relates; most agree, yet forget in the heat of discussion. It is also a library for community reading and owned by more, by far, than any other tome. And Yaw also states that: “the Bible is God speaking to us.” (89) In Episcopal Churches four selections are made each Sunday from the Old Testament, a Psalm, the New Testament and a Gospel.

MAP (97) refers to the Book of Common Prayer which guides us in the journey of Christian life. It seems to be the Bible “rearranged for worship.” (98) Note: all unattributed citations belong to the author of JWAE, the Rev. Chris Yaw. The Latin saying “Lex orandi, lex credendi,” translates to “praying shapes believing.” (99)

ROOTS (107) A rough estimate indicates humanity as being at least 1,000,000 years old (108) that humans with brains the size of ours the age of 500,000 years and Christ at 2,000 years ago. This seems a long time ago but, with this backdrop chronology, it provides us with a different perspective. In what way, I’m not sure, but there must be a sermon in there somewhere.

And, speaking of sermons, I checked out one made about Cana. All I know, for sure, about this beloved event, is that Our Lady, the Mother of Jesus, said to the servants after her Son balked at doing anything then: Do as He tells you.” She had absolute Faith in her Son. However. the homily I read had a number of paragraphs about Mary’s experience and feelings vv. Jesus, and her life with Him. At first I felt this sermon had to be written and delivered by a woman. When I sounded out my muse about this I was told not to generalize. But, I was right it was written and delivered by a woman. And my muse is a woman too. What lesson can I draw from that I wondered. Maybe when I jump from an airplane I should pull the ripcord. Anyway that sermon was delivered last January. And I am glad that I found a copy of it since I did not hear its stirring words being delivered. So far I haven’t had to use a parachute.

PART III (Chaps 11-15)

ROPES (119) “The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become. Charles Dubois (119)

“History is important because the lives and stories of those who came before us continue to teach and inspire us and people like our parents know the ‘ropes’.” (120) They’ve been there, done that.

PROPHET (129) Here are a few things that we could prepare for when that time comes: “Pick a destination and be open to surprises along the way. Reconcile…with the estranged…it’s called forgiveness.” (131)

Saint Francis of Assisi mentioned love and forgiveness twice in his prayer, everything else only once. That indicates to me the importance of forgiveness And recently somewhere I read that love is found in forgiveness. Prophets are known to “speak truth to power, justice to oppression.” (132)

CONNECT (141) A Kenyan Eucharistic Liturgy says: “I am because we are. We are because He is.” Reminds me of another I like: “I AM love me as I am.” Just in case I add: “But, still I must try to improve.” Get up after every fall.

Chris Yaw tells of visiting the Holy Trinity Church in Dubai where he was handed a bulletin and a book. And he felt right at home although many miles away. (143) That is Connection.

REFUGE (149) Red is the color of many Episcopal Church front doors because that stands for a place of refuge. Red is also the color of Christ’s blood, the sacrifice of martyrs and the power of the Holy Spirit. (150) Besides being a place for those fleeing violence, the Episcopal Church shelters many converts (70% of American members is mentioned. Chris Yaw ends this chapter with this sentence: “I wouldn’t be surprised if the gates to heaven are painted red.” (158)

TREASURE (!59) This chapter heading comes from a friend of the author of JWAE who said: “I think the Episcopal Church is Christianity’s buried treasure.” (160) A recent poll by the Center for American Progress reported: “…that the government should take greater steps to help the poor and disadvantaged in America.” “And that,” said Yaw “was a big reason why this book was written when the Church is in step with 89% of the American people.” (160)

And the Rev. Chris Yaw hopes that I (as a reader of his) begin to understand the Episcopal journey. In my own journey I believe I have grown a bit in my trek from being a nomad to becoming a pilgrim. I Do feel Welcome. My cup brimeth with Joy. And…excuse me… a listener has just called wanting to know who (whom? ~ where is my muse when I need her”)….wanting to know the name of that “Cana” preacher? Oh yes, I have it right here somewhere in my notes…Why it’s someone who live in Essex County, who penned And delivered an inspiring sermon about the Mother of Jesus ~ the rector of Saint Paul’s Church in Newburyport ~ the Reverend Martha + Hubbard.

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 JESUS WAS AN EPISCOPALIAN 11/22/13 Tom Green  Posted by on Sat, 23-Nov-13 Contributing Comments Off on JESUS WAS AN EPISCOPALIAN 11/22/13 Tom Green
Nov 172013
 


Grace to you, and peace, from the One who is, and who was, and who is to come. Amen

Let’s start with a word about our reading from the second letter to the people at Thessalonika.

Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.  —  2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

At its center the passage says “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” Now, there’s a temptation to judgement! Reading this passage out of context we might be tempted to judge hungry people harshly, or worse yet, roll our eyes and dismiss this passage of scripture, and judge other people for taking this passage literally.  For, indeed, it’s never you and never me that’s unwilling to work or willing to judge. Not us. No. It’s always somebody else. That way of thinking is the way to smug self-righteousness. Let’s not go there.

In fact, our lectionary lifts this passage out of its context: critical context. Some folks in that Thessalonian congregation were convinced that the great and glorious Day of the Lord, the day of the New Jerusalem, the arrival of Jesus in glory to judge the living and the dead, was coming sooner rather than later. They were convinced, therefore, that the way they cared for each other and themselves did not matter very much, so they were being lazy and disruptive. Today’s passage takes those Thessalonians to task for that attitude.

Let’s not read an invitation to self-righteousness into this passage. Instead, let us read it, in its context, as a personal challenge. Suppose you knew for sure Jesus were coming in glory very soon. I wonder, what would you do in the meantime? In truth, that’s the question raised by all today’s readings.  How would we live if we knew Jesus’s realm of glory were at hand?

I suspect some of us would work on the church fair. What a wonderful fair it was! Thank you everybody! We donated stuff. We made phone calls. We lugged stuff around, sorted it, and cleaned it up. We artfully arranged all the stuff and adorned our building with it. Our work was all for the strangers who would see it and hopefully have a use for it and buy it.

Then we welcomed crowds of those strangers, smiled at them, talked to them, and did our best to give them a little bit of delight.

We’ve heard the words many times: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul and all your strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  The fair is a big opportunity for us together to throw our hearts, souls and strength into a shared project.

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and, `The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.” — Luke 21:5-19

In the light of our Gospel reading about the end of the great temple, it’s an interesting project: in four days of hard work (far longer of course for many departments) we build a store that rivals Macys, if not in glitz in selection. Then we opened it up and welcomed the public for a few hours. Then in an afternoon we tore it down. By now the only remaining trace of it is what we can feel in our smile-muscles and box-lifting bones. We do this year after year.  Build, smile, enjoy, tear down.

When Carolyn and my kids were little we used to go to the beach a lot. We loved to go at low tide and scramble around looking for little pieces of driftwood. Old planks or broken shingles were perfect for our purpose, which was to build an elaborate sand castle, or sometimes even a big sand city. The shingle, if we could find one, was wonderful for smoothing out the sand walls of the castle. Once the walls were perfectly smooth we decorated them with shells and shiny pebbles, and we planted little groves of seaweed trees. Three kids and a dad can build a lot with a broken shingle. We have photos of some of these great sand-castles, adorned with beautiful stones, looking like fabulous mountain redoubts in the wilderness, like the great temple on Mount Zion in the Judean desert.

Then, of course, the tide came in. It always came in. We were drawn to watch. We witnessed that first wave that undermined the wall, the second one that made it collapse, and the third one that washed over it and left only a dim memory of its former glory. In a way our sand castles were like the fair. Build, smile, enjoy, tear down.

Why did we like building these castles so much? Who knows? There was certainly some fun and joy in making something beautiful. There was also a sense of awe and joy in seeing it erased by nature’s power.  Fun and joy turns to awe and joy. From those almost-endless summer days, our family carries a sense of the power of nature and our contingent place in it. Speaking for myself, I remember that sense of awe and joy in my bones and muscles. It’s the same way I remember yesterday’s fair.

That’s all good. But try telling that story to the people of Tacloban in the Philippine Islands, who were hit by an enormous cyclone this past week. For that matter, try telling it to our neighbors by the ocean in Newbury whose houses were destroyed in last winter’s storms.

The teller of that story would sound callous and silly. Tacloban was the sand castle. Its people were the beautiful adornment of stones. Its farmland was the little grove of trees. Their suffering is as overwhelming as the wave that washes away the sand castle, but unlike the wave it doesn’t just recede.  Maybe those folks have a sense of awe at the power of nature, but I daresay they’re experiencing more fear than they are joy. I wonder if some of those people are hoping that Jesus will come, soon, in glory. Who could blame them?

But still, here’s Jesus saying, “do not be terrified, these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.… there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues.”

Well. We know all about these earthquakes, and famines, and plagues. Even so, you mean to say it’s not over yet, Jesus? How can that be? We have to ask ourselves, and we have to ask you, Lord Jesus: are these words supposed to give us comfort? And if so, how?  Where is your promise of comfort and peace in these words?

It’s the age-old question. We’ve been asking this question for ever. How long, O Lord? When is your promised last day, the day of the Lord, the day when suffering will cease and justice will prevail?

And your answer to us, Lord, is not quite yet: “the end will not follow immediately.” You tell us there’s still trouble ahead. And, surely you know that’s discouraging to us. You taught us all to pray “save us from the time of trial” not because you know we’ll avoid that time, but because you know we’ll face trials that we can’t endure on our own. Our sisters and brothers in Tacloban are facing these trials now. They can’t endure them without your help.

But at the same time, your faith in those people, and in us, is deep and wide. Your faith in us gives us the courage and wisdom to withstand our trials.

Your faith in us gives us your dignity, the dignity by which you forgave your tormentors in the hour of your death. The light of your dignity overcame Herod’s, and Pilate’s, and that Roman centurion’s darkness. The light of your dignity in the face of suffering overcomes the darkness of today’s world of rising water and severe storms. Your faith in us gives us the power to care for one another and care for the world. It gives us hope beyond our own hope.

We know our own works – our homes, our cities, our great temples, and even our church fair – quickly fade away. We know our works are no match for the forces of nature and time.  And still we can embrace your unending faith in us. By your faith in us give us the faith in one another that opens us all to life in the new heaven and the new earth which you create every day. Amen.

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 Sermon: November 17, 2013: Jesus’s faith in us gives us hope beyond our hope  Posted by on Sun, 17-Nov-13 Sermons Comments Off on Sermon: November 17, 2013: Jesus’s faith in us gives us hope beyond our hope
Nov 122013
 


 

   

 

I recently picked up a daily meditation book that I had read through several times and then put away a few years ago.  It is titled “Listening to Your Life”, and it is made up of excerpts of the writings of Frederick Beuchner – one for each day of the year.  The entry for Tuesday of this week was titled Theology and is an excerpt of Beuchner’s 1973 book titled Wishful Thinking: A theological ABC.  Here is how it reads

“Theology is the study of God and God’s ways. For all we know dung beetles may study humans and our ways and call it humanology.  If so, we would probably be more touched and amused than irritated.  One hopes that God feels like-wise.”

I chuckled at that when I read it on Tuesday.  Then Wednesday when I was digging into the readings for today, I remembered what Beuchner had said about theology, because as I paged through the book of Job trying to remember where our first lesson for today falls in that narrative, it struck me – the book of Job is basically a theological conversation among a group of friends about God and God’s ways, in the face of the radical tragedy and suffering occurring in the life of one of them – the man named Job.

The passage we heard read this morning as our first lesson comes from about the middle of the book of Job – which is perhaps better referred to as the poem of Job.  Just a refresher on the plot attached to the front of this poem – we are told Job is a righteous man who knew and loved God and eschewed evil. He had been blessed with 10 children – 7 sons and 3 daughters – and many thousands of sheep, camels and donkeys, and all the servants necessary to manage his household and livestock.  In the heavenly places Satan convinces God that Job – whom God extols for his faithfulness – will curse God if God allowed for everything Job had to be taken away from him and afflicted him with physical suffering.  God allows Satan to test Job’s faith in those ways.  The result is that Job remains faithful but in his agony curses the day he was born, wishing that he had never lived a day because his suffering is now so great.

Then along come Job’s 3 friends – Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.  They find Job so disfigured by tragedy, physical suffering and grief that they sit in silence with him for 7 days.  Not a bad first approach to the suffering of others – to be present first without speaking. It is only after those seven days that the theological conversation between Job and his friends begins.  One by one his friends talk to Job about his suffering.  They speak about how they understand suffering to be the punishment of God on the wicked and unrighteous, and they encourage Job to repent – these conversations take up almost half the chapters of this poem.  Throughout Job maintains his innocence and at last can no longer bear the words of his friends – who seek to understand his suffering in terms of his guilt before God- and so Job rejects them and begins to speak past them – it is from that section of the book that our reading comes.

Despite what Handel and many a Christian theologian has done with this passage from Job, this is not, when taken in the context of the rest of the poem a statement of unshakable and triumphant faith.  It is more a statement of defiant and even desperate faith.  Writing about this passage for the website “Working Preacher” this week, Steed Davidson observes:

“Job’s self-certainty stands against the confidence his friends hold in the received traditions. Most persons of faith are socialized not to stand against tradition of any sort, particularly the traditions of the church and God, with one’s individual experience. Yet, ironically, those who dared to point to other paths, other ways of seeing and being, other modes of thinking have often been the ones to effect reform and progress in church and society.

Job does the unthinkable and stands up to God. Job’s stance consists not merely in the easy and all-too-common question as to why God sends natural disasters. Rather, Job raises the serious questions of who we understand God to be and how God relates to humans in the world.”

(taken from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1843  )

Yes indeed this text and many others under the cover of the Bible do invite us to the landscape of serious questions about how God relates to humans in the world.  Does God cause suffering, or allow other forces to cause suffering?  How did your heart answer that question the last time you encountered an unimaginable tragedy in your life, the life of someone you love or the life of our world?

Job certainly did not accept the idea that God would cause him to suffer as a punishment for sin he himself knew he was not guilty of.  And he is tenacious in his insistence on that.  He very clearly professes – I know that my redeemer lives!  The Hebrew word translated here as redeemer is used elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures to describe God when God is saving God’s people from calamity – God is so named when freeing them from Egyptian bondage, exile in Babylon, or when releasing individuals from oppression.  In so naming God as his redeemer he is calling into question the theological understandings of his time that God punishes through suffering.  And Job is actively pushing back against traditional understandings that measure people’s status as sinners based on the amount and severity of suffering they experience.

Jesus is doing the same in the 20th chapter of Luke’s gospel. The Sadducees who question Jesus here were a group who did not ascribe to the notion of resurrection. They believed instead that one’s only chance at living on after death was through your descendants in this world – hence their question about the 7 brothers dying without an heir. As one commentator I was reading this week explained it:

They may not have believed in the Resurrection because they didn’t find it spelled out in the Books of Moses, and thus they saw it as a foreign innovation, and they may have longed for the “Good Old Days” of Leverite Marriage and perhaps even polygamy as opposed to the strict Greco-Roman Monogamy (much as some contemporary groups decry Gay Marriage as an intolerable innovation). But they couldn’t get away from the heart of the Resurrection which was as Jesus
pointed out so powerfully by using a name for God that came directly from Moses–“the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”, and the simple yet profound insight that God is God not of the dead but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” The heart of the Resurrection is in the eternal and undying heart of God.”
(Bob Jones, Bullhead City, Az. Writing on http://desperatepreacher.com/bodyii.htm )

And it is that heart of God that we can never capture with our mental faculties, our thinking or our theological words alone, but that we can only encounter when we surrender our time bound theories and open ourselves to the power much greater than ourselves that longs to journey with us through all of life as our closest companion – closer to us than our own breath.

In the poetic book of Job, we meet a human being who has traveled in that sort of close proximity with God and who is not about to give up his experience of that reality because others around him interpret his intense suffering as a sign of God’s punishment for his sins.  My prayer is that as we meet God here in this place we will know not with our minds only but with our whole being that God is a God of all our living days.  God said as much to Job in poetic verse from the whirlwind in chapters 38-42 of the poem of Job, and in the end Job repented – not of the sins his friends had insisted God was punishing him for, but of the small mindedness that had led him to rail against God for having brought him into the world at all.  Job came to understand that God had been with him in his past, God was still with him, and God was already out in the future with him because to God time does not exist – all moments are one to God who dwells in the unbroken unity of eternity.  And in that moment of revelation Job was able to surrender his need to understand God and God’s actions, and instead cling to God’s presence with him in all moments.  May the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, and of our Lord Jesus Christ bless us with that same revelation in both the calm and turbulence of our days.  Amen+

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 Sermon for Sunday, November 10, 2013 – The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost  Posted by on Tue, 12-Nov-13 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for Sunday, November 10, 2013 – The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Nov 062013
 

QUARTET FOR-TE PERFORMS SOME FAVORITES

Local quartet shares some works they have always loved.

Quartet For-Te

Quartet For-Te

Join Quartet For-Te as they showcase some of their favorite works written for string quartet. The concert is at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newburyport (166 High St.) on Saturday, November 16th, at 7:30 p.m. The local quartet will feature pieces by Schubert, Barber, and Beethoven.

You may be familiar with the second movement of the Barber Quartet, as the “Adagio for Strings” evokes national memories. Ranging from the soundtrack of “Platoon” to a live broadcast after the assassination of J.F.K., the profound emotion in this one movement is lasting. This performance will put the well-known movement in context of the whole work.

The Beethoven quartet (Op. 59, no 3), composed after the Eroica Symphony and after Beethoven began losing his hearing, is a very emotional, bold, and playful work. Violinist and St. Paul’s Church member Loren Lee remarks “I have always wanted to perform the Barber in its entirety, and to do it on a program with this Beethoven quartet makes for a very exciting program.”

Audience members of all ages are welcome. General admission is $10, and children are free with a paying adult.

Quartet For-Te features Loren Lee and Caroline Lieber on violin, Karen McConomy on viola and John Bumstead on cello. The quartet, established in 2012, explores a diverse repertoire from classical to contemporary music, and performs extensively throughout the Boston area. Advocating for continued musical education, the ensemble has expanded beyond the concert venue and into local schools to perform and conduct master classes.

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 Quartet For-Te, Sat Nov 16, 7:30pm  Posted by on Wed, 6-Nov-13 News Comments Off on Quartet For-Te, Sat Nov 16, 7:30pm
Nov 052013
 


I want to begin this sermon the same way we began this service, so please turn to that first page of the bulletin again and let’s do that volley of words again:

          There is one Body and one Spirit;

          There is one hope in God’s call to us;

          One Lord, one faith, one baptism;

          One God and Father of all.

Yes, those are the words!  Every time we enter into a service of baptism and we have that exchange, I think  – Yes!  That is so true – the oneness of everything in God!  Yes that is the stuff I need to be reminded of time and again.

And here on this All Saints’ Sunday we get to be reminded through prayer, scripture, song and symbol.  This feast day gives us the opportunity once again to consider the oneness of all that is – visible and invisible.

The truth is that we are all one connected in the web of one life story that originates in God.  Each of us is a piece in the mozic – one bit in an enormous whole, and not really existing apart from it. One, one, one – One Body, one Spirit, one hope, one call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who as our second lesson concludes is “fills all in all” . That is the truth that this feast and these readings and this sacrament point to. There is really only one of us  – we are one body in the web of existence held in being by the one life force of God.

The illusion and the ancient lie is that we are ultimately divided and  ultimately powerful in and of ourselves.  This is revealed in the basic assumption that most of us operate from most of the time – the assumption that says, “I am at the center of the story which is very much my story.”  That means all “the others” – human, animal and environment are at best supporting actors, and at worst just stage props or backdrop to my drama.

Please understand, I am speaking in ultimate terms here.  I know that in this time bound existence of ours we do and must operate as individuals within our particular life circumstances.  And a sense of personal identity is central to our mental health.  But that sense of our self as an individual needs to be a foundation to build upon and moved out from, rather than a fortress to be guarded and protected.

I think that is what Jesus may be getting at in this passage of blessings and woes in Luke’s Gospel.  What I notice about these words of Jesus this time around is that the what he says we are blessed by are things that all people must experience in life.  As far as I can tell, no one gets through life without at least some sense of feeling impoverished, without some hunger, without some sense of loss and mourning.  These are experiences that all of us have and so they bind us together as One.  There is that word again – one!

But the words of woe, or warning that Jesus then speaks have to do with actions we take in order to try to stave off these experiences of our common humanity.  If we try to avoid any feeling of lack, hunger or loss by hoarding wealth, food and good times – woe to us because it will never work, because ultimately we are not individuals – we  are one, and trying to go it alone will not ultimately work.

In his translation of this passage in “The Message” Eugene Peterson has Jesus speak the woes this way:

“But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.

 What you have is all you’ll ever get.

 

And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.

Your self will not satisfy you for long.

 And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.

There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.”

 There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them.  Popularity contests are not truth contests- look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.

Did you get that? The call here is to move out beyond the sense of self as the ultimate reality, to a sense of our self connected to all other selves within the divine self.  But Jesus is not ethereal about that – it is not just some heady concept to him and so it cannot be to us either. Jesus goes on to give us direct instructions about how to live into the blessedness of ultimate oneness.  Again I offer you Eugene Peterson’s translation of the second part of our Gospel for today:

“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies.  Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.  When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.  If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it.  If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.  If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.  No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.”

OK, my gut reaction to that is “He’s got to be kidding!”  But then I think about the ultimate oneness that I long for whenever we have that volley of words at the outset of the baptismal service, and I feel like I at least want to try at least some of what he is saying here.  The disclaimer I want to make is that I don’t think Jesus is calling us to be doormats or to give into bullying.  I think he is calling us to have a strong sense of God’s love for each of us and to be willing to move from postures of self defense to postures of creative non-violent resistance for the sake of embodying the oneness that is being revealed to us as we walk the way with Christ.

If we listen carefully a bit later in this service to the promises of the baptismal covenant we say them together once again – we will here all of this echoed.  Ollie and I will put those promise out among us in question form and our answer to each will be “I will with God’s help”, for it is only when we are hooked into the One true power that we can attempt any of this!  In Christ’s name and for his sake.  Amen+

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 Sermon for Sunday, November 3 2013 – The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost  Posted by on Tue, 5-Nov-13 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for Sunday, November 3 2013 – The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost