Dec 192016



Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills, O God, that we may serve you today and always.       Amen          

So this begins the 4th week in Advent. This is the Sunday we begin to hear the story that is very familiar to most of us — it heralds that the birth of our savior is near.  For many of us we started hearing it when we are little-bitty kids.  Our church schools tell it, we sing about it in our hymns, Christmas pageants portray it, even Linus from the Charlie Brown comic series recites it on the TV special.  It is very familiar to us.

But, since we really only hear it proclaimed once a year, sometimes we don’t stop and realize that we are hearing slightly different versions of the story depending on which year’s Gospel is being proclaimed.  And, when we do realize that there is more than one version of the story, we may get a bit confused. In Luke’s telling of the story, we primarily hear about Mary and that seems to be the Gospel story people are most familiar with – the one that comes to mind most frequently and the fastest. In Matthew, the Gospel in which this this year’s reading is found, it is Joseph we primarily hear about.  But as many folks do, we can gloss over that it is Joseph and not Mary we hear about and not recognize that they are slightly different stories, or many of us combine them in our minds making it one story. 

Even though we heard in the Gospel that I just proclaimed, that Joseph was a righteous man, he seems to many to be a bit passive, almost weak.  And certainly a bit superfluous…..but, it is necessary to establish the important link of his genealogical tie to King David, in order for the prophesies from the Hebrew scripture to ring true about Jesus as Messiah, important for the people of the time when this Gospel is written. And, it also provides the important legal lineage for Jesus. But all in all, we can easily pay little attention to Joseph’s role in this, the nativity story.  

That is until we take a closer look at it. Because on closer look, Joseph’s place in all of this can teach us some pretty great lessons. If we put ourselves in his place in this Gospel, if we really try to imagine what he must have been going through, I think we get a very different picture of Joseph from the superfluous man he might seem to some at times.  Let’s look at a couple of points.

Cast your mind back for a moment to Martha’s sermon of a few weeks ago on Advent 1. She reminded us then that one of the themes in Advent is the experience of being disoriented …. and then reoriented by the mystical and unexpected movements of God. Now in this Gospel, we are told that the angel appears to Joseph in a dream, telling him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife — pretty disorienting. And when he wakes up he does as the angel in his dream tells him. …..   Now I don’t know about you, but I have had some pretty vivid and realistic dreams in my day  —  and even when I can make them make sense to me in some interruptive way, even then,  I’d say Joseph’s acceptance of, and reaction to his dream is remarkable.  I think it would take the mystical and reorienting movement of God for the dream’s message to be accepted. Otherwise just think how easy it would have been for him to dismiss it as — just a dream about something that was on his mind when he fell asleep – as certainly Mary’s pregnancy would have been.

But, he didn’t just dismiss it as just a dream.  He had faith in the message delivered by the angel, showing us a very real example of acceptance of the difficult and unexpected call from God.  And we shouldn’t forget just how bad the scandal of Mary’s pregnancy was in Joseph’s day – so bad that the violation of the social and cultural mores of their society could have resulted in Joseph divorcing Mary or even having had her stoned to death.  Despite the shame that comes along with Mary’s pregnancy he does none of that.  He willingly risks that the rest of his life could be that of an outcast because his wife had been pregnant, when they married.  His acceptance of God’s call, heard in a dream, could presumably open him and his family to many, many hardships. But Joseph does what some refer to as “stepping out in faith”. And Joseph does this even while knowing that the consequences of that trust might make life hard, that the outcome may not be what Joseph wanted it to be, that trusting in the angle’s message might even be dangerous.

Think of the trust it took for Joseph to act on what God told him through the angel. As Philip Brooks — the man whose large imposing statue stands outside of Trinity Church in Copley Square, prayed,  —  “God who loved us first, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.” Joseph gives us an awesome example of that, of trusting in God. 

We see, through Joseph, that this act of courage, believing in the truth of the angel’s message from God, can result in amazing happenings, often unexpected and often not seen until much later in the future.  Joseph’s life and it’s impact on Jesus (and all of us) shows us that having faith and trusting in God can have far, far reaching consequences.

And he does all of this quietly, as far as we know.  We hear no stories of Joseph running around expecting praise for his part in the birth of our Lord.  We don’t hear in later Gospels that he demands recognition. I understand that our choir this week said that we hear very little about Joseph and his life and of the undoubted impact his life has on a young Jesus.  In fact, he seems to stay on the sidelines, the rest of his life’s story largely untold.  He gives us a wonderful example of humbleness.

Yes, this is the last Sunday before Christmas. By now we are told that we should be almost ready, for this holiday, right? Our shopping finished, gifts wrapped, food bought and cards sent. Time is getting short, it is running out!  In fact, last week as I was walking down an isle at the CVS, a stuffed animal’s motion actifated voice asked me, “have you finished your shopping?  Let me help you with it.”

But this is Advent 4 — and that means so much more than the fact that this is the last Sunday before Christmas and time is running out to have everything ready for that picture perfect celebration….. We have spent the better part of these 4 weeks in Advent together in preparation for, and with anticipation of, the birth of our redeemer and savior and today we lite all four candles as we prepare to welcome the Light of the World.  In the light of these four candles, I hope we can all take time this week to consider how God is calling us to bear witness to the light? Let us stop and be aware of the witness Joseph is to all us of the accepting God’s call — no matter how unrealistic that call may seem. During this last week of preparation for the birth of Christ our Lord, let us be aware of the witness Joseph is to us of the faith and trust we can have in God’s presence and love.  And let us not forget how Joseph shows us how to walk humbly with our Lord.

I think we need to stop and intentionally consider these things because, I believe, that the Holy Spirit sometimes seeps into our souls quietly without fanfare, delivering messages to us that we only become aware of through the sighting of shimmering glimmers of joy and through the whispers of love. So whether the message of joy and love in this season, that I believe Joseph found, gently seeps into our souls gradually or whether it appears to us all of a moment in a dream — let us have hearts and minds open to hear it, to recognize and know it, and to have the will to act on it.


And time never runs out for that!


Happy and joyous Advent!

 Sermon for Sunday December 18, 2016 The Fourth Sunday of Advent  Posted by on Mon, 19-Dec-16 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for Sunday December 18, 2016 The Fourth Sunday of Advent
Dec 062016

Audio Sermon

Sermon for Sunday December 3, 2016 The Second Sunday of Advent

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Repent is one of those words that might have an antiquated feel to it because it is not used very much in our common parlance.  We are more apt to talk in terms of asking forgiveness, or being accountable.  The English word repent and repentance as we find them in the New Testament are translations of the Greek word metanoia which is defined as “change in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion.” So we can see repentance or metanoia does not have to be about wallowing in guilt, though guilt may need to be acknowledged and responsibility accepted.  In the sense that John preaches it repentance is about being willing to let God turn us from one way we have been traveling, and lead us in a new way or on a new path – a way or path that leads to the wholeness of God’s realm of light.

 Isaiah tells us that we will recognize the realm of God when we encounter it, because it will be a place where rifts, divides, wounds will be sutured, closed and healed.  The question is, does the realm of God bring into being the healing Isaiah envisions, or does the experience of metanoia and the healing that comes with it make us aware that we have brushed up against the realm of God?  My answer that question is yes- both are true at the same time!

If John’s call to the turn- around of metanoia can bring us up short for a moment and allow us space to stand back from our lives and see where we are off course and out of whack, then we can again decide to turn ourselves over to God who longs to lead us by another way.  And my experience has been that when I do that, healing takes place.  So the realm of God brushes up against me, and I don’t turn away, but seek God’s power in navigating, and healing begins.  And as that healing takes root, I begin to recognize the harmony and wholeness of God’s realm popping up all around me.  I wonder if it’s a case of more bubbling up of the realm of God, or a case of restored vision to recognize it.  Again the answer is probably yes – both of the above intertwined and woven together!

          As a community of faith, each Sunday  we have made liturgical room for the experience of healing through the ministry of our healing team in the laying on of hands for healing which is offered in our side chapel each  during the distribution of communion.  It is a regular space and time we have set aside for anyone who wishes to pray with others for healing, for ourselves or others.  This Advent, as we seek to heed John’s call to repentance, I want to propose that this space of the laying on of hands and prayers for healing can be a place of metanoia.  Perhaps there is something on your heart that you feel called to repent of.  Certainly the general confession during the service is a time to confess it in your heart and to receive the words of forgiveness in the absolutions that follows.  And still further you could choose then to go for prayers of healing and wholeness with the member of the healing team after receiving communion. The power of asking another simply to pray with you as you prepare to amend your life should never be underestimated – if you try it, you will see what I mean.

Sometimes though the metanoia we need is not about a specific act we have committed what we need forgiveness for. It may be more subtle than that. It may be a way in which we are living our lives – our stance toward life.    A very common stance many of us in this culture work from is the stance of rigid self- sufficiency.  This manifests itself when we believe we can handle all of life’s stresses and demands ourselves.  A major symptom of this stance is that we have trouble asking for help, even when we really need it, and when we do ask for help we feel anxious or guilty about it.  If we recognize this or some other rigid way of being in the world that seems to bind us more than it lets us live joyfully, we could also be called to seek metanoia and reach out in trust of God’s ability to inspire, lead and even carry us each day. As I said before, it is amazing what grace God can work in our lives when we bring such repentance into prayer with another, asking God’s healing power to flow through our connection to one another. 

So this Advent if you are in metanoia, asking God to lead you in a new way, to touch you with the power of that eternal realm of light, consider joining your prayers with those of one of the healing team members. And if you do not feel called to come forward for laying on of hands, you can still participate, by adding your silent prayers to those being raised by others who are in the side chapel.  Metanoia is powerful in our individual lives and even tenfold when we join our prayers together in community.  While it may feel a bit vulnerable or uncomfortable to pray for healing here, with someone else, in this public fashion, it allows us to tap into the power of being the body of Christ.  We are more together than we are separately.   There is a sacramental aspect to asking healing in Christ’s name, and so God works through our petitions for healing to encourage and strengthen each other’s trust in God. 

How it works I do not know, but prayer changes things.  In my experience, healing comes in many forms, and the grace that brings it into being works in ways I can not predict or imagine.  But when it comes I recognize it.  Prayer changes things.  Prayers for metanoia and healing change things. They change the course of things; they amend us in our ways; they allow us to hear ourselves talk to God about the disease or brokenness we experience and the wholeness we envision – and hearing that changes things. Prayers for healing allow us to reframe, to be open to a different way of seeing the circumstances of life – sometimes it is our perspective that is healed.  Prayers for metanoia and healing open us to God’s grace which is always there for us, no matter what.

In a lecture on healing that I once attended, Avery Brooke, an Episcopal lay woman who’s life work has been healing prayer, said “The person who lays hands on another for healing is like a fireman with a hose, but that person does not know which disease or brokenness  God is aiming at.  The person asking for prayer may present one thing for healing only to really need to be cured of another.”

 May the fire-hose of grace douse us.  May that grace lead us on a course that is turned more and more toward the wholeness of the realm of God.  In the name of Christ.  Amen+

 Sermon for Sunday, December 3, 2016 The Second Sunday of Advent  Posted by on Tue, 6-Dec-16 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for Sunday, December 3, 2016 The Second Sunday of Advent
Dec 012016

The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, St. Paul’s Church, Newburyport and the Lower Merrimack Valley Episcopal Ministry Collaborative Invite you to an Advent Quiet Day led by the Rev. Martha Hubbard Saturday, December 10, 2016 10:00 a.m –  2:00 p.m.

“Advent Terrain: Strangers in a Strange Land” Martha will lead us in reflections that invite us to consider how Advent can be a time of holy disorientation, which can open our hearts to the experience of the growing number of people in the world who find themselves living as refugees, far from home, in need of welcome and companionship.

Hosted by St. Paul’s Church 166 High Street Newburyport, Massachusetts (Street parking available) There is no charge for this program. Lunch will be provided. Please register by Wednesday, December 7, 2016. Cal the church: (978) 465 5351 or use the sign-up sheet in the church. For more information email Louise Valleau at or call Clare Keller (978) 465 4483  

 Advent Quiet Day – December 10 at St. Paul’s  Posted by on Thu, 1-Dec-16 Events, News Comments Off on Advent Quiet Day – December 10 at St. Paul’s
Nov 302016

Sermon for Sunday, November 27, 2016 The First Sunday of Advent


          This past week my sister and her family were with us for several days and we all had joyful coming together with our parents to celebrate around the Thanksgiving table.  It took some doing to get my Dad from Country Center to my Mom’s assisted living center, where we shared the meal, but the effort worth it as we saw how happy it made them both to have us gathered around them. I hope that your celebrations brought you close to those you love also, in some way or another, and that those moments were blessed for you. 

          Well, as is often the case, these visits seem too brief, and before we knew it my sister and her family were packing up to head back home. Early morning flights meant they had to leave our house in their rental car in the wee hours of Saturday morning.  We hugged goodbye on Friday evening, but I thought sure I would wake up when they began moving around and get up to see them off. I woke when it was still dark out, but my clock told me it was an hour past the time they were to leave, so I got fearing they had overslept, but in fact they were already gone. I could not believe I had slept so soundly as to miss three people gathering their belongings and leaving my house in the middle of the night!

          This experience made me think of the way our second lesson this morning from Romans starts out – Paul writes, “You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.” Clearly yesterday morning when I woke I was confused about what time it was.  And maybe that is a good way to begin Advent, because in its themes and its timing Advent is about the experience of being disoriented and then reoriented by the mystical and unexpected movements of God.

          Advent begins the New Year before the world expects it.  A whole month before we are ready to flip the calendar to reveal a fresh New Year, Advent places us on day one of the new church year.  Just as commercial world is ratcheting up for the Christmas shopping season, with full-on glitz and everyone’s favorite holiday songs playing on an endless loop, the season of Advent is beckoning us to slow down, and slip away to a quiet, shadowy place to do some deep listening as the light builds gradually on our advent wreaths.  This spiritual focus of Advent is a real disconnect from the activities that are cranking up around me, and I consider that a good thing.  It is not that the larger cultural festivities – the gift giving, the parties, the tree lightings, etc. – are bad things.  It’s just that they are not the whole thing – not the full picture of what is going on, so they don’t really satisfy me in the end – I just keep feeling that there has to be more.

          In a strange way this year, perhaps more than any other I can remember, I am in a place where I feel ready for this season of disorientation to begin. I think that is because I am already feeling that way. sa Some incidents which have taken place in the wake of the presidential election have felt disorienting to me.  The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League – to name just two prominent organizations that keep tabs on how our society is doing in protecting the human rights of all our citizens – both report large upticks in incidents of hate crimes and hate related speech in the weeks since the election.  And the very sad part is that a good percentage of these incidents are happening in America’s schools. This was a real wake-up call for me! I literally was asleep to the fact that such ideology was still so prevalent in our country. I feel disoriented by this reality, but at least I am awake it now, and that is a good place to begin when figuring out how to respond to this new reality.

          This week I was in attendance at an open meeting of the City of Newburyport’s Commission on Tolerance and Diversity.  The meeting was called to be a place for Commission Members and members of the general public to come together to talk about responses to instances of hate speech in our community.  This was brought on by several incidents of hate speech that have taken place in the Newburyport Public Schools.  There have been swastika graffiti found, and at the High school there was an incident in which hate speech was used against a Muslim student by a fellow student.  The attendance at this open meeting was good and I felt the meeting was a positive first step in helping our community figure out how to hold citizens accountable for unacceptable behavior, and the same time look for healing rather than further fracturing of our community. 

          At the close of the meeting, a Muslim friend of mine who had been in attendance told me that he felt the positive part of this situation is that these ideas and thoughts are now being shown, and not hidden.  He made the point that if these ideas and thoughts are present but not expressed, they could not be publically called into question and addressed.  He said he thinks it is much more dangerous when hateful ideas are not whispered in secret where they cannot be engaged.  As painful as it is to hear such things being spoken he said, it nonetheless gives the community the chance to protect those who are vulnerable and to hold purveyors of hate accountable and to help them to grow in a new direction if they are willing.

          In the Gospel lesson for today Jesus says,   

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”


Advent is the season that paradoxically makes us ready for what will be the unexpected hour of the Son of Man.  That hour is coming each and every day in our interlocking communities of church, city, schools, family, state, diocese, nation, as we are enlisted to help unexpected good come out of situations that at first we think can only result in evil.  And these daily occurrences are only foretastes of the eventual final coming of the Son of Man at the end of time, when as our first lesson from Isaiah envisions, all peoples will gather around God’s holy habitation and will know a time of peace and harmony.  May we live expectantly and love courageously in this season, trusting that our God of love is bringing it all to pass, through all of us who look even the least bit interested!

Happy New Year, people of God!  Amen+

 Sermon for Sunday, November 27, 2016 The First Sunday of Advent  Posted by on Wed, 30-Nov-16 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for Sunday, November 27, 2016 The First Sunday of Advent
Nov 212016


The Rev. Roger W. Cramer

Love is strong as death                                      

When I read this week’s Gospel I was reminded of a line from the Song of Songs, “Love is strong as death,” And something in me said, Yes, this is what this week’s Gospel is trying to tell us about our own lives, that even in the face of loss, disappointment, failure, even death, love is stronger, stronger than our fears.  What I see in Jesus on the cross this morning is a man who like us feels the despair that this outcome is not what he would have chosen.  He was in the midst of a fruitful life and yet it comes to this!  I believe He felt like we do when the rug is pulled out from under us, and we face the crush of our own loss.  But for whatever failure and fear he knew, he also had something else that was stronger, deeper, to steady him.

  What is described this morning is a turbulent moment.   People are crying out scoffing and mocking him.  His and ours is a broken world.  People are broken, angry, longing for more, or for revenge.  But then through this clambering darkness, a loving voice breaks through, “Father forgive them.” (2)  And with these words from the cross the darkness begins to shift.  Forgiveness pushes back fear and anger.   Then another voice, this time from another cross, cries out against the injustice of the bystanders, “This man has done nothing wrong!”  And then from that same man his dam of longing seems to break, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  In our own darkest hours, aren’t these words of longing that we’ve all uttered.  Here at last the criminal wants to be re-membered to God. Re-Joined again to God and his own wholeness.   

What still amazes me is that in spite of experiencing his own pain, Jesus also had something else that gave him confidence, trust, that this outcome was not the end of the story.(*)  Thomas Kelly says, Jesus had Eternity at his Heart, the Luminous Light of Love Within, an intimate relationship with God that steadied him, and fueled his loving heart so that he was able to act with compassion even toward those who abused him.    On this cross we see love stronger than death, love overcoming fear, compassion welcoming the criminal, forgiveness offered in healing to the angry crowd.  What Jesus did there, we can also do here.

 I think this story is an invitation to us to find, or deepen, that Light Within, ourselves.  I want it.  That deep, steadying connection to God, fueling healing love and justing love in us.  Its daily silent prayer I’ve found that can lead us to this Trusting Center.  Not talking prayer (where we do the talking and God hopefully does the listening).  But prayer where we surrender our dizzy living, our voices, and listening into the silence of God’s Presence within us.  And there over time you and we will also find the Luminous Light of Love Within ourselves, our love fuel, Eternity at our Hearts.  As the Psalmist today says, “Be still and know that I am God.  Amen.


 Sermon for Sunday November 20, 2016 – the Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King  Posted by on Mon, 21-Nov-16 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for Sunday November 20, 2016 – the Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King
Nov 162016

          When I was growing up, in the northern part of the Diocese of New York, my little home parish of St. Andrew’s, Poughkeepsie was about an hour and a half from NYC, so it was only very special events that took us into our Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.  It is an amazing building! The sanctuary measures 601 feet long and soars up 124 feet from floor to ceiling. 

My first memories of it are from an acolyte festival evening prayer service when I was about 10 years old.  I remember being one in a sea of children dressed in our robes as the late afternoon sunlight streamed through stain glass, the organ sounded out and great plumes of incense ascended into the rafters above.  Then there was the overnight retreat known as Night Watch that I attended when I was in 9th grade and the John Denver concert I went to when I was in 10th grade – both held in that magnificent space.

When I was going through the discernment process toward ordination in that diocese, I often had to go in to the Diocesan Offices that are housed in the same complex as the Cathedral.  Before meetings and interviews, I would slip into one of the side chapels to pray for guidance.  Then when I was in seminary Marco and I attended a quiet day in the cathedral, led by one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle.  Finally, a day I will never forget, my ordination to the deaconate took place there in June of 1993.  To say the least, The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine has been a touch stone place for me – a patch of holy ground- for almost as long as I can remember. 

          So as I read this morning’s gospel, in which Jesus spoke to those gathered with him in the shadow of their wondrous house of worship-their temple and holy ground in Jerusalem -these memories stirred in me I pictured myself with Jesus in the close of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, and imagined how I would feel if he told me that a day is coming when not one stone of that beautiful building would be left upon another.  That really put this Gospel in perspective for me.  Maybe you have a holy of holies.  Maybe it is this very building we are now in, maybe it is another.  What feelings are evoked for you if  you imagine a day when it stands no more?

          Maybe those feelings are not that different from the feelings many of us have been experiencing recently.  It seems to me that whether we were attracted to the campaign of Hillary Clinton or the campaign of Donald Trump, or one of the other candidates that presented themselves over the past 2 years for candidacy for the presidency, there is a way in which this election cycle has left all of us shaken to our foundations.  Marya DeCarlen, who was with us last Sunday as our preacher sent me a Rainer Maria Rilke poem that a friend shared with her this week that seems to capture these emotions.  It reads:

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far off,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”
And tonight the heavy earth is falling

away from all the other stars in the loneliness.
We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one.  It’s in them all.
And yet there is Someone, whose hands,
 infinitely calm, hold up all this falling.

I personally need the reassuring ending of this poem and I know many of you do too.  But more than that I need it’s description of the sense of being shaken, of feeling like the floor has fallen out from under us and that the shelter we took for granted has crumbled around us.  And I am not just talking about those of us who campaigned and voted for Hillary Clinton.  I am also talking about those of us who campaigned and voted for Donald Trump. 

          Our Bishop Alan Gates spoke to this reality so eloquently this week when he wrote these words to our diocesan community:

Our national election is behind us, leaving in its wake a legacy of bitterness and hostility.  For some, alienation is the apparent reason for the election’s outcome; for others alienation is its result.  In either case, we face grievous division and manifest anxiety.

At our recent Diocesan Convention I cited the hazard of viewing the world in terms of winners and losers–a framework which propels us inexorably towards adversarial relationships, and puts self-concern over communal well-being.

Now is not a time to live out habitual behaviors of winners or losers.  Now is a time to rededicate ourselves to the Christian ideal of breaking down the dividing walls of hostility which divide us (Ephesians 2:14).  Now is a time to rededicate ourselves to the American ideal of liberty and justice for all. 

Forbearance is a virtue tested not when we are in harmony, but when we are divided.  Sacrifice is a discipline called for not in the face of prosperity but in the face of adversity.  Hope is a manifestation of faith rendered meaningful not by certainty but by anxiety.  Christ calls us, in this moment, individually and communally, to forbearance, sacrifice and hope.

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

          What Bishop Alan’s words remind me of is the truth that our security does not come from buildings we construct – even when they are beautiful church buildings – nor from platforms we create from our dearest held values. These buildings and platforms are certainly important and can give us shelter and direction.  But our ultimate security rests with the one who holds all of us.  As Rilke put it in that poem, “Someone, whose hands, infinitely calm, hold up all this falling.” The ultimate ground of our being is God and that ground is not shaken. And God gives us to one another in the church, to be a blessing and a comfort to one another – even across lines of difference.

Thinking about all of this made me remember a priest I met several years ago at a clergy conference.  Just 6 months before we met at that conference he had become the rector of a small church in Texas.  He told me that the day before his parish’s Celebration of New Ministry, their church building took a direct hit from a tornado.  All that was left afterward was a pile of rubble.  He told me that once the shock and initial grief had passed, his people began to speak words to each other that, before the tragedy they had spoken, but which now for the first time they really believed and understood.  They said to each other – whenever they could – that the church was not the building but rather the people gathered inside.  He told me, “We’ve really discovered that the church is us – we are the living stones, and though we still grieve the loss of our building, we have discovered that we treasure each other and the faith we share more than we ever treasured the building.”  I pray the same will be true for us in the wake of this election – that we will cherish and treasure each other to such an extent that we will dare to look honestly at what has led to such unhappy political division among us.  May we in the church lean into the enduring virtues of forbearance, sacrifice and hope that our Bishop calls us, as we envision a future like the one described in our first lesson from Isaiah, full of justice and liberty for all people. 

          In the beautiful poetry that prophecy describes a future world in which the partial and the scarce no longer exist. What is to come will be about balance and harmony.  All that we recognize as God’s blessings in this world are a foretaste of what is to come. Our canticle of the day, also taken from Isaiah, is a song of praise from one who has caught the vision and is possessed by the hope it inspires.  May we place our minds and our hearts there – even if just for a few moments here together this morning- and may we cherish this community in Christ and recommit ourselves to be his passionate witnesses in this time in which we live.

          I want to close with some words from our catechism, found toward the back of our prayer book.  Under the heading of The Christian Hope at the bottom of the page there is this question and answer:

  1. What is the Christian hope?
  2. The Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory and the completion of God’s purpose for the world.

In these days, may we be living stones possessed by that hope. Amen+

 Sermon for Sunday November 13, 2016 The Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost  Posted by on Wed, 16-Nov-16 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for Sunday November 13, 2016 The Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost