What is valtrex

Sermon preached at the Easter Vigil, 19 April 2014

Rosebud Episcopal Mission (Western side)

Bishop Jones Building, Mission, S.D.

The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley

(Sung, from the Exultet)

How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined, and man is reconciled to God.

This is the night, my friends, THE night, when death lost its sting, its hold, its final grip on us.

This is an incredible night, the night when God reached down from heaven and overcame all of the world’s struggles, all of the world’s resistance to God’s love, and brought God’s love back into the world.

We know all this.

Because we know this story.

We know the story of Jesus’ birth.

We know the story of Jesus’ life.

We know the story of Jesus’ death.

We know the story of Jesus’ resurrection.

For us, it is our theme in glory, that old, old story of Jesus and his love.

We know all this, and we take it for granted, and as a result, Easter becomes more a celebration of family and flowers and good food and for some, a four-day holiday in which to bask in the sunlight … without ever realizing the power, the surprise, the audacity of this night.

Face it: We are not, on this holy night, filled with despair, because for us, the ultimate story of love has already come to an end.

We are not Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, stumbling through the dark hours of the early morning, filled with grief and despair, on their way to the tomb so they could properly care for the one whom they thought would save the world.

For far too many of us, there is no shock for us, no awe.

Because for far too many of us, this is, alas, just another old story, one that we have heard all of our lives. It is, for too many of us, just like an old, favorite movie that we watch over and over again, knowing every line of the script, knowing who is hiding behind which doors, with all the suspense gone.

We know the end of the story, and so for far too many of us, this is just another night.

But let me assure you: This is NOT just another night.

This is the night, the night when earth and heaven are joined, and man is reconciled to God, and death is defeated, and love reigns triumphant!

Picture this:

Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ disciples – and yes, she was a disciple, despite the fact that she is not named as one in the male-dominated world of the days when our Lord and Savior walked the earth – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (and to be honest, we aren’t certain which other Mary) are on their way to the tomb.

It is dark.

It is probably cold (Jerusalem sits atop a small mountain, about 2,500 feet above sea level, the same elevation as the Rosebud, and we all know how chilly it can get here in the mornings).

They are grieving, these two women. The man they loved – not physically, I’m not pulling a Dan Brown here; no, they loved Jesus with all their souls because Jesus loved them for their souls – was dead.

They were there when he died. They witnessed that awful death.

They were there when he was taken down from the cross, his body broken.

They were there when he was laid in the tomb, hastily buried because it was the day of Preparation for the Feast of the Passover.

They were there when the stone was placed in front of the tomb, to keep anyone from stealing Jesus’ body in order to make the ridiculous claim that he was brought back from the dead.

And now they were on their way, to care for their Lord’s body properly, to make sure he was anointed with the right oils and incenses, to make sure he was wrapped properly in burial shrouds.

And suddenly …

Suddenly …

There was a great shaking of the earth!

And there was an angel – an angel of the Lord!

And that angel moved the stone from the entrance to the tomb!

And then he sat on it!

The guards posted at the tomb were so scared they shook and became like dead men (I’m guessing this means they fainted straight away).

But the women?

Did they faint?

No, they stood their ground.

Terrified they might have been, but they stood their ground nonetheless.

And the angel of the Lord said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

(Isn’t that soooo God-like? Isn’t that what God always has his angels say, because God knows that angels can be very frightening messengers?)

And then the angel of the Lord gives them the very best news of their lives, the news that shocks them, surprises them, has them in complete and total awe:

He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.

What?!?!

He’s not there?!?!

He really and truly has been raised?!?!

Our Lord, our leader, our teacher … is not here?!?!

With some fear and great joy, the women turn around to tell the other disciples, to carry to them the rest of the story: Go tell the others to go to Galilee, just like Jesus said.

And just as they have started running, who appears right in front of them?

Jesus!

The Risen Lord!

Right there! With them!!!

He, too, tells them: Do not be afraid. (I am telling you, if you ever get a message that begins, “Do not be afraid,” you know you’re in the presence of the Lord.)

And he tells them, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Can you imagine what that must have been like?

Can you imagine what Mary Magdalene and the other Mary felt like in that moment?

Sure, we knew what would happen. We’ve seen this movie a thousand times; we know the ending, and we are not surprised.

But those two women?

They had their socks knocked off!

They were filled with shock and awe and delight and hope and joy beyond words!

Because this wasn’t some old movie for them. This wasn’t some repeat.

This was good news … no, it was awesome news!

This was the Best. News. Ever!

Jesus had defeated death!

He was back!

He was risen!

And they Could. Not. Wait. To tell the story!

My friends … I know we’ve all been through this before. That’s there’s nothing new to this story, nothing to see here, move along, move along …

But the fact is, we should be surprised.

We should be filled with awe. And joy. And delight. And most of all, with hope.

Because this story? It is our story.

And it is one worth telling, over and over again, to everyone who has ears to hear and hearts to listen.

Please, I beg of you:

Be shocked.

Because God has fulfilled God’s promise to us.

Be awed.

Because God did what had never been done before – defeated death.

Be filled with hope.

Because what God did for Jesus, God does for us.

Those two women? They got it. They got that this was good news.

And they told that story, far and wide.

And across the centuries, they are asking us to do the same.

We, the present-day disciples, are called to do this:

To go into the world … and tell the story …

That old, old story of Jesus’ love.

(Sung, from the Exultet)

How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined, and man is reconciled to God.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!!

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Ventolin side effects

Matthew 2:1-12

And now we come to what one commentator calls the “’Adults-Only’ Nativity Story,”[1] Matthew’s version of the birth of Jesus, the one without the census-taking, without the “no-room-at-the-inn” rejection, without the stable or the manger or the animals, without the angels or the shepherds, without the pondering in Mary’s heart.

Unlike Luke’s Gospel, in Matthew, we skip the birth narrative and go straight to the Epiphany, to the moment when wise men show up from the East, declaring that the child they seek is the King of the Jews.

We know this story. We’ve just heard the Gospel, just sung the song: The wise men (some say three) follow a star (some say for two years), until they find the Christ Child in a house (a house, mind you, not a stable) in Bethlehem (on this, Matthew and Luke agree). The visitors drop to their knees, offer gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (myrrh? The stuff you use to embalm a body???), and then leave, going home “by another road.”

But what if the story were told from a different perspective? What if, instead, we were to hear the story not of three wise men from the East, but of three wise women?

No, I’m not talking about that old joke about how the women would have asked for directions, gotten there sooner, made dinner and brought di-dis …[2]

I’m talking, instead, about a whole different approach to the Epiphanyt story, one that comes from retired Bishop Steven Charleston, a Choctaw and Native American bishop of The Episcopal Church:[3]

Three wise women set out to follow the star.

Each ended the journey and gave away her treasure along the way.

One dropped out when she was needed to heal the sick during a plague.

The second stayed behind to help prevent a war with her leadership.

The last remained in a great city to provide for the poor.

When the star left the heavens each awoke the next day to discover a gift placed beside her while she slept.

They never solved this mystery, but the meaning is clear:

They had arrived at their destination even though they had not completed their journey.

My friends, the Epiphany is not about the news that the Messiah has come into our lives. It is the story of what we are supposed to do with our lives.

For just as the Magi – two of them? Three of them? Heck, could have been 100 of them, as far as we know – came to make manifest to us the Good News that God is here for all the world, so we are to make that Good News manifest as well.

We are not here this morning to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in our lives.

We are here to celebrate what that arrival means in our lives.

We are here, my friends, to celebrate the revelation, the great “Aha!”, the epiphany that God came into the world, as one of us, to show us, in no uncertain terms, that God loves us.

And not just us not just those of us gathered here in this church … but all of us. The people we know. The people we don’t know. The people we love. And the people we could easily do without.

Brass tacks, my friend: Epiphany shows us the mission of our lives. The mission of living out God’s love with ALL of God’s beloved people.

I do not want us to leave this place this day thinking, “Epiphany – been there, done that, will do it again next year.”

Because Epiphany isn’t some one-day, one-off celebration that we do once a year and then forget until the next Jan. 6.

Epiphany is the revelation of God’s marching orders for our lives.

Marching orders that boil down to one thing, and one thing only:

Love.

Howard Thurman, the great theologian and civil rights leader, was speaking of this day when he wrote:

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among people,

To make music in the heart.[4]

This is the day, my friends, when we turn the joy, the celebration, the glory of Christmas, into the work of the rest of our lives.

Instead of focusing so intently on what we want – more money, more security, less fear, more stability … losing weight, or running that marathon … the Epiphany of our Lord asks us to focus on what God wants … for us, and for all of his beloved people.

And what God wants is for us to live in love, every moment of our lives, in every place, with every person … whether we like them or not.

Imagine … just imagine … what life would be like if we were like those women of whom Bishop Charleston speaks?

What would life be like if we stopped our hell-bent journeys that focus so much on getting ahead and getting what we want, in order to heal the sick?

What would life be like if we stopped to prevent a war?

Or to provide for the poor?

Imagine what life would be like if we spent our lives doing what Rev. Thurman said …

… finding the lost?

… healing the broken?

… feeding the hungry?

… releasing the prisoners?

… rebuilding the nations?

… bringing peace?

… making music?

In a few minutes, we will baptize little Zoe Rose DiBiase, daughter of Lexy Rouse. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if she were to grow up knowing that her whole life is centered in love? That God loves her from before time began to the ages of ages? And that all God wants her to do with her life is to love?

And so, for little Zoe this morning, and for all of us every day, let us listen to yet another great theologian, Mother Teresa, who has the best guidance I know of for how to live our lives:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

            Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

            Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

            Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.

            Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

           Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

            Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.

           Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt.

            Give the world your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

            It was never between you and them anyway.[5]

It is Epiphany, my friends. The day when we receive our marching orders … orders to go into the world, and to love.

So …

Go!

Go on! Go love!

Amen.

Sermon preached on the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January 2013, Year C, at St. Paul’s on the Hill, Winchester, Va.



[1] David Lose, Marbury E. Anderson Biblical Preaching Chair, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, “The ‘Adults-Only’ Nativity Story,” WorkingPreacher.org, http://www.workingpreacher.org/dear_wp.aspx?article_id=653.

[2] What would have happened if it had been three Wise Women instead of three Wise Men? They would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts. (Anonymous)

[3] The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Choctaw, Daily Devotions.

[4] Howard Thurman, “Christmas Poem,” via Facebook.

[5] http://prayerfoundation.org/mother_teresa_do_it_anyway.htm

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Buy amoxil

John 15:9-17

Welcome to Brass Tacks Sunday. This is the day when Jesus makes clear – crystal clear – what he has done and what he expects of us.

And what has he done for us?

He chose us.

We did not choose Jesus.

Jesus chose us.

Jesus chose you. And you. And you, and you, and you, and yes, you …

And me.

All of us.

Brass Tacks: We have been chosen.

And why did Jesus choose us?

Because Jesus has a job for us, a mission for our lives.

To love one another as Jesus loved us.

Brass Tacks: We are chosen in order to love our neighbors. Not just as ourselves … because if we are honest, there are far too many days when we don’t love ourselves very much. We all know those times. For many of us, when we stop on the scale. When someone makes a snide comment about the clothes we’re wearing. Or the work we do. Or the car we drive. Or what we eat. Or don’t eat. Or drink. Or don’t drink. Some days, it takes so very little for us to stop loving ourselves.

Which is why Jesus doesn’t ask us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus asks us – no, he commands us – to love one another as he loved us.

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

Just Brass Tacks.

We all know there are a lot of different interpretations of the Christian faith out there right now. The arguments over what it means to be a Christian are being fought in our own Church, and in this country, vociferously and all too often, viciously. We know this. We have heard it, we have witnessed it, and sometimes, we have participated in these arguments. Some people say, “Christianity means ‘A, B, C.’ Others say, “No, it means ‘whack, whack, whack.’” And still others say, “No, it means, ‘yadda, yadda, yadda.’”

All we do is argue, it seems, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.

Because Jesus is crystal clear:  I chose you so you can go love one another.

Brass Tacks.

• • •

I’m going to say something here, and then I’m going to have to correct myself right away.

For 17 years, I owned two cats.

Here’s the correction: For 17 years, the cats owned me. Anyone who has ever lived with cats know that to be the truth.

The older cat was named Boomerang. She was truly the Queen Witch of the household, and she never – ever – let you forget that.

The younger cat, who was 14 when I left to go overseas, was named Riki Tiki Tavi ( actually, Rrrrrrrikiii Tiki Tavi, because that’s how it is said in the book).

These two cats clearly ran the household, doing exactly what they wanted. And why not? They were cats, and they knew that they were born without original sin, whereas we, the mere humans, were born with original sin, and they never let me forget that.

The house where we lived had a foundation crawl space, which was inhabited, as near as I can figure out, by approximately 1 million crickets. Every night, the two cats would go down to the kitchen and crouch in a corner, staring intently at what they knew was a hole between the kitchen and the foundation. (I honestly never found the hole in all the years I live there.)

The cats would hunker down, with their tails twitching, and their ears pointed forward, staring intently … waiting … waiting …

Meanwhile, I am convinced, down below, the crickets would gather, and one would cry out, “Who will go up into the light, and then come back to tell us what is up there?” And each night, the crickets would send up one – one – representative, and Boomer and Riki would catch it and play with it – because that’s what cats do – and eventually kill it, and the next morning, I would find body parts strewn around the house, usually placed exactly where I would step on them barefoot.

For years, I was under the impression that the cats were bringing me tribute. That’s what the animal experts told me, and I believed them – although why I did I don’t know, because remember, the cats thought they were superior to me, so why should they bring me tribute?

And then I read some new information. It turns out that the cats were not bringing me tribute. They were actually trying to teach me to hunt! That’s right, they were trying to teach me!

It’s called the Mama Lion Method of Ministry.

You’ve seen the Animal Planet shows, right? Well, if you watch that show, you’ll see, in great detail, how Mama Lions train their cubs to hunt.

When the cubs are small and still nursing, she’ll bring them pieces of the animals she kills, not so that they can eat, but so that they can play with the carcasses and, frankly, get the taste for blood.

When the cubs are a bit older, and on the verge of being weaned, she’ll take them to the hunt, place them in a hidden and safe spot, and make them stay still, so they can watch and learn. And let me tell you, if they so much as move, she whaps them upside the head to keep them in line.

After they’ve watched and learned, the Mama Lion helps them hunt. She’ll pick out the target animal – something small and weak, usually – and help the cubs take down the animal.

Once they’ve gotten used to hunting, and had some measure of success, the Mama Lion will go to the hunt with them, but now, she’s the one who settles in on the sidelines. She may direct her cubs in picking out an animal to kill, but she won’t do a thing beyond that to help them.

Because it’s time for the cubs to grow up and feed themselves. She’s got other things to do – have more cubs – so she lets them feed themselves.

In essence, throughout their training, the Mama Lion says to her cubs, “See? It’s not that hard. You can do this too!”

And isn’t that what Jesus did for his disciples? And for us?

Didn’t Jesus teach his disciples how to preach? And teach?

Didn’t he show them how to heal the sick?

Didn’t he teach them to pray? And not just any prayer, but the prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, giving the disciples, for the first time, an intimate way to talk to God on high?

Didn’t he send them out to do all these things, not alone, but two by two (because we are never alone in our ministry)?

Face it, folks: Jesus used the Mama Lion Method of Ministry to teach his disciples – to teach us ­– how to love our neighbors not as ourselves but as Jesus loved us.

Jesus chose us and taught us so that we could love just as deeply, just as broadly, as he loved us.

Brass Tacks.

Now I know this sounds rather simplistic, and I know people say (because they have said it to me repeatedly), “That’s nice. But what does it mean? It’s too vague.” As though love were something hard to understand, hard to give, hard to receive.

Or they’ll say, “Well, of course we are to love one another.” And then turn around and say, “Well, not that person. Because I don’t like that person. Because his dog poops on my lawn every night, and he never picks up after it. So I’m certainly not going to love that person.”

As though Jesus differentiates between those he loves, and those he doesn’t love.

On this day, on Brass Tacks Sunday, understand this:

Jesus is not suggesting we live in love.

Jesus is commanding that we do so.

He has chosen us – us – to carry on his mission in the world.

This is now our mission in life.

To love.

Not just the people we like, not just the people we know, but everyone. Regardless of race or religion or ethnicity or nationality or gender or orientation.

Everyone.

The good news for us this morning is that as Episcopalians, we not only know what we are supposed to do, we know how we are supposed to do this.

Because we have the Baptismal Covenant, which lays out for us the steps we need to take so that we indeed can love one another as Jesus loved us. Take our your prayerbooks and look it up. Turn to page 304.

What does it tell us to do?

To continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, and the prayers. Tell me: How many of you say prayers before you eat? And how many of you pray in public before you eat?  That’s what we have vowed to do, remember.

We break bread together at this table, welcoming all, sharing all that we have with each other.

We know how to repent of our sins – we’ve done the Hokey Pokey in this very church, have we not?

We serve others … instead of demanding to be served.

We work for justice and for peace … and not for our justice and peace, but for God’s justice and peace … even if it means that some will deride us and question our motives.

And we respect each other … always.

Again, some of us may say, “This is too hard. It’s too vague. I don’t understand.”

Well, let me tell you, on Brass Tacks Sunday:

Yes, this is hard. It’s very hard to love someone, especially when you don’t like them. But there is nothing vague about loving. We either love or we don’t.

We didn’t choose.

We have been chosen.

Brass Tacks.

Amen.

Sermon preached on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 13 May 2012, Year B, at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Blue Grass, Va.


Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Antabuse reaction

Matthew 18:21-22

How many of you have found yourself weeping this week?

How many of you have found yourself turning off your televisions and radios, turning past stories in the newspaper, skipping the Facebook comments …

… because you just can’t go there again?

Ten years after the horrible tragedies of 9/11, many of us, myself included, are still filled with grief.

We have moved on from the immediate shock, from the numbness, from the piercing pain that came with the attacks.

But we are still filled with grief.

• • •

This morning’s Gospel lesson from Matthew – chosen years and years and years ago, long before September 11, 2001 – is about forgiveness. In it we hear the story of Peter – poor, befuddled Peter, who never quite gets it but never stops trying – asking Jesus how many times he has to forgive.

“As many as seven times?” he asks, knowing that seven times’ worth of forgiveness would be wildly extravagant.

No, Jesus replies. “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

This is, I tell you, a lesson in extravagance, in the extravagant, wild, radical, never-ending love of God that Jesus proclaims in his preaching, in his teaching, in his healing, and in the end, with his own life.

We are, Jesus says, to forgive extravagantly. More than we want. More than we can imagine.

And yet, on this morning, on this tenth anniversary of terror and murder, that kind of forgiveness seems … well, it almost seems out of our reach.

It almost seems as if God is asking us to do something far greater, far grander than we can possibly imagine, much less accomplish.

And yet … it is what God is asking of us.

Forgive.

More than you want.

More than you can imagine.

I don’t know about you, but I need to admit something, I need to put something out on the table:

I am not certain I know how to do this.

I am not certain I can forgive as extravagantly as Jesus asks.

And I think that is why I am still weeping, 10 years after the fact.

Like you, I remember that day.

I remember hearing the plane fly over my parish in Annandale and saying to the secretary, “Wow, that guy is way off course.”

I remember hearing the plane hit the Pentagon and saying to her, “Man, that guy just dropped a load,” because I thought it was a construction accident.

I remember returning hours later to my apartment, less than a mile from the Pentagon, and finding it filled with dust and ashes … because I had left the windows open – it was such a beautiful day, wasn’t it?

I remember being unable to keep my apartment clean or to sleep soundly for weeks afterwards, because the trucks carrying the debris – the dust and the ashes – drove by my place, day after day, night after night, constantly spreading more dust, more ash, constantly rumbling along.

Like you, I remember the military jets that flew overhead night and day, watching as they left lazy contrails in their wake.

I remember the fear … the grief … the loss …

I remember …

And because I remember … so vividly … so profoundly … I think I cannot fully forgive.

Not as Jesus asks.

Not seventy-seven times.

Not yet.

• • •

And yet …

I want to forgive.

Really, I do.

I want to forgive because it is what Jesus taught us to do. It is what we pray for when we pray in the very words that Jesus gave us: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

I want to forgive, because I think if I don’t, my very soul may be in danger.

But I’m not certain I’m there yet.

Which is why, especially this past week, I have cried.

• • •

You know what is that I cannot forgive?

It’s not the hijackers, Mohammed Atta and those 18 others who turned airplanes into missiles.

And it’s not Osama bin Laden and all who have followed his misbegotten ideas of faith.

No, what I cannot forgive is the hatred that fueled those men to do commit these atrocities.

What I cannot forgive is anyone bastardizing the love of God for all of God’s beloved children.

And what I cannot forgive is the suffering that these men caused, all so they could – they thought – have their own way.

I agree with Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who wrote, in 1955:

“I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and a willingness to remain vulnerable.”[1]

The hatred they rained upon us, the deliberate misinterpretation of God’s will, the suffering they caused … for what? I ask you … those are the stumbling blocks on my path to forgiveness.

From conversations I have had with others, from news stories I have read and the very few news shows I have watched or listened to, I think I am not alone in this pain.

And so I think that perhaps now, on this day, the tenth anniversary of that awful day, which we cannot escape no matter how hard we try, I think that perhaps today is a day to … let go.

A day to … set my feelings free.

A day … for release.

For that is what the word forgive means, in the Greek. It means release. To let go. To set free.

Because only by releasing, by letting go, by setting free, do we have a chance … a chance … not of moving on, but of moving forward.

Author and priest Barbara Brown Taylor, writing in 1998 – again, years before 9/11, proclaimed:

When you allow your enemy to stop being your enemy, all the rules change. Nobody knows how to act anymore, because forgiveness is an act of transformation. It does not offer the adrenaline rush of anger, nor the feeling of power that comes from a well-established resentment. It is a quiet revolution, as easy to miss as a fist uncurling to become an open hand, but it changes people in ways anger only wishes it could.[2]

I want fists to uncurl today. Not just my fist, but all fists. I want our hands to be open … to the possibility of transformation … to the possibility of peace … to the possibility of love.

The Rev. David F. Sellery, a priest in Bay Shore, N.Y., wrote about forgiveness in a reflection for today:

Forgiveness, he says, “is the essence of Christian love. … It is not a largesse we dispense by power of our innate superiority [but rather] the grace of God transmitted through us. It is,” he says, “the ultimate witness of Christ’s love in the world.”[3]

Sellery knows that the pain of 9/11 remains. And he is clear that forgiveness is not a “get-out-of-jail-free card for perpetrators.” God, he says, “has not issued an easy-pass for evil in the world to benefit the bad guys.”[4] There is to be justice – as long as it is not revenge.

Sellery concludes: “The choice is ours. We can live in love or we can live in hate. Both are transformative forces. We can become what we value and love or we can risk becoming the evil we obsess upon.”[5]

Forgiveness, it seems, really is about opening our fists to the possibilities of new life.

Writing in The Washington Post last Tuesday, Lynne Steuerle Schofield, whose mother, Norma Lange Steuerle, died on American Flight 77 when it flew into the Pentagon, suggested the same kind of transformation, the same willingness to open our fists to release. She said that with every anniversary, it is as though she is being asked to go to her mother’s funeral over and over and over again. Instead, she wrote:

What if we all spent the 11th anniversary of the attacks (she is speaking of next year) reflecting on what we admired most about our lost loved ones and trying to emulate those ideals? Or what if we spent time building not another structure in memorial but, instead, building our relationships with others? Or raising money for our favorite charity?[6]

If we want the world to be more compassionate, safer and more equitable, she writes, we have to work to make that happen. We all have to be on board. We should reflect on the characteristics of our loves ones that we want to keep alive, and then we must behave that way.[7]

Our Gospel today, my friends, teaches us about forgiveness. It teaches us about extravagant forgiveness, which can only come from extravagant love.

Not our love.

For our love is, sadly to say, far too often far too small.

But God’s forgiveness?

God’s forgiveness is extravagant. It is overwhelming.

Because it comes from God’s extravagant love.

And it is what God is calling us to.

I may not be there … yet.

But if I can’t forgive extravagantly, perhaps I can love … just a little bit more extravagantly. Perhaps I can, as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori says, be “more inclined toward peace,” at least a little bit more extravagantly.

Perhaps I can relax my hand on the pain that still grips me – and in that moment, release the pain as I reach out to others still in pain, still in mourning.

I think that this morning, I am more like Peter than I realize: I haven’t quite gotten it yet, I still can’t quite go to where Jesus wants me, but I am still trying to understand. Still trying to be extravagant with my forgiveness, my release, my love.

My prayer for us this morning … for those of us here, for the Church as a whole, for this nation and for the world … is that we relax our hands, opening them as much as we can. My prayer is that we focus on the extravagance of God’s love for us, and in the releasing of our pain and sorrow, we set that love free for the whole world to see and know and hear and feel.

We do not have to forget.

We cannot forget.

But perhaps … just perhaps … with the help of our Lord, we can forgive.

Amen.

Sermon preached for the Service of Remembrance on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, Leesburg, Va., Sept. 11, 2011. (Proper 19, Year A)



[1] Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea, 1955.

[2] Barbara Brown Taylor, Christianity Today, Feb. 9, 1998.

[3]The Rev. David F. Sellery is rector of St. Peter’s By-the-Sea Church and Day School in Bay Shore, New York. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/80050_129713_ENG_HTM.htm

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Lynne Steuerle Schofield, “A 9/11 event that embraces the future,” The Washington Post, Sept. 6, 2011, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-911-event-that-embraces-the-future/2011/09/01/gIQAm6np7J_story.html?fb_ref=NetworkNews&fb_source=profile_multiline.

[7] Ibid.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Go ahead: I dare you. I double dare you!

Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20

       ‎In the summer of 2003, I attended the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, out in Minneapolis. You all know that Convention – that’s the one where Gene Robinson’s election as bishop of New Hampshire was consented to by the Deputies and Bishops. If you remember, after the House of Deputies consented to Gene’s election, but before the Bishops voted, allegations of sexual misconduct were raised against Gene.

My job at General Convention is not to be a deputy but to be a reporter for the Diocese of Virginia’s daily newspaper, the Center Aisle. Because I spent so many years as a journalist, I also spend time as an informal adviser to the secular press who come to cover Convention and often don’t know very much about the Church, about who we are and what we believe, much less what we do.

When the controversy erupted over the misconduct allegations, I was but one of many Episcopalians trying to explain to the world that an allegation made between votes by the separate Houses was something new to us; that no, we actually did not have anything in our canons that covered this; no, we were not trying to hide anything from the world, and that yes, that we were investigating the allegations, for which we had a procedure.

       Forty-eight hours later, it turned out that the allegations were not valid, that Gene had not been involved in sexual misconduct, and the charges were dropped.

        Now, what was interesting is that as soon as that happened, my friends in the media rushed to ask, “What will you all do now? Will there be retribution against the person who made the allegations? Will Gene or the Church retaliate?” They were practically daring us to live out our revenge, our retribution, on the front pages of their newspapers and at the top of their newscasts.

         But we didn’t. We didn’t retaliate. There was no retribution. We simply asked forgiveness, gave forgiveness, sought understanding, and most of all, we loved.

         We did such a good job that a few days later, the Dallas Morning News, in an editorial, wrote:

         “…We have been struck by the calm and deliberative process the Episcopalians followed in reaching their conclusion. … Watching these Episcopalians of all beliefs reason their way through their disagreement on this issue could serve as a guidepost for the larger society. … Perhaps their thoughtfulness and mutual respect for one another on this issue will have a positive impact on how all of us Americans carry on our larger societal debates. At least we hope so.”

Now, I know that you, more than the majority of the Church, know how much pain the ultimate decision to consent to Gene Robinson’s election, and his subsequent consecration caused. You lost your home. You’ve spent the last four-and-a-half years in exile.

But you did not retaliate. You have not sought retribution. Instead, you have focused on the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who told us exactly how he wanted us to act as Church in this morning’s Gospel.

            Jesus says, If a brother or sister (and yes, he actually says “brother,” which in the Greek would include “sister,” and not just a “member of the Church”), if a brother or sister sins against you, go talk with him or her. Try to work it out.

            If that doesn’t work, Jesus says, go get one or two others, and all of you go talk to the one who has sinned against you.

            And if that doesn’t work, Jesus says, well, heck, tell the whole church (and here Jesus does say Church), and try to work it out in church.

            And if that doesn’t work, Jesus says, well, “let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

            Now, most people believe that in this passage, Jesus is telling us, “If you can’t convince a person that you are right and he or she is wrong, cast that person out. Make him an outsider. Turn your back on her. Shun that person.”

             But I don’t believe that’s what Jesus means. In fact, I think that right here, Jesus is being both subversive and subtle. Because he certainly didn’t do what most people think he did. He didn’t shun Gentiles and tax collectors, did he?

            Remember, this is the man who healed the centurion’s servant, who was a Gentile. (Matthew 8:13) He was the one who casted the demons out of the two demoniacs in Gadarene, which was Gentile territory. (Matt. 8:28-34) He healed the daughter of the Canaanite woman, a Gentile, who wouldn’t take no for an answer. (Matt. 15:22-28)

            And did he not say that we are to “go … and make disciples of all nations (meaning, the Gentiles), baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you”? (Matthew 28:19-20a)

            Jesus treated Gentiles with love and compassion, not with hatred and condemnation. He did not exclude them. He welcomed them in, showered them with love, healed their sick, fed them, preached to them, prayed over them.

            And how did he treat the tax collectors? Well, you know all those examples I just gave you? They come from Matthew’s Gospel … Matthew, the tax collector, whom Jesus called to be one of his disciples, a member of the inner circle, (Matt. 9:9-13), who was sent out by Jesus (Matt. 10), along with the other 11 disciples, to preach, teach, pray with and heal.

            What I’m saying is this: When Jesus said to treat those who disagree with us, who sin against us, as Gentiles and tax collectors, he was not telling us to turn our backs on them, to disparage them, to make them outcasts. Not if the examples from Jesus’ own life and ministry are to make any sense to us.

            In essence, Jesus was saying, Go ahead. I dare you. I double dare you. Treat those people the way I do: Love them!

            If you read Matthew the way most people do, which I think is the wrong way, you end up excluding people. And you all know about that – because that’s what happened with you.

            But if you read Matthew the way I think Jesus intended for us to read it, then you end up loving people. You end up doing exactly what Paul says in his Epistle to the Church in Rome:

            Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments … are summed up in this word, Love your neighbor as yourself.

            Love, Paul says, does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

           The great German theologian Karl Barth, in his commentary on this epistle, sums up Paul’s words this way: “Love of one another ought to be undertaken as the protest against the course of this world, and it ought to continue without interruption.”[1]           

            Even when people sin against us.

Imagine what would happen if we actually took Jesus at his word, if we actually took him up on his dare and dared to love people, no matter what? Imagine what the world would look like then?

You all already know what it looks like when people read Matthew as permission to exclude. And you all already know what it looks like when you read Matthew as an injunction to include.

Now imagine what would happen if everyone read Jesus’ words as a dare to love … Wouldn’t that be a protest against the course of this world?

We live in a society where partisanship is our way of life. Look at the gridlock in Washington, just across the river. Look at it! Our leaders – with a whole lot of help from the rest of us (and yes, we are just as guilty as the politicians and their staffs are) – can’t get anything done because everyone, it seems, is committed to excluding, to condemning, to making sure that our way is the only way.

Is anyone in Washington – anyonedaring to take Jesus up on his dare?

You and I both know there are some people who are attempting to do this, but louder, more strident voices are drowning them out.

Which is where we come in.

We, who follow Jesus, are the ones who are called to set the example. To say to others, “Wait. There’s a better way.”

To say, “Actually, Jesus didn’t mean we were to shut people out. Jesus wants us to love one another, and we can’t do that if we exclude them.”

And we are the ones who are called to love one another – again and again, no matter how hard that is, no matter how many times we want to walk away, no matter now many times others walk away from us.

           We are the ones who have to dare to stand up against the vitriol, dare to include those with whom we disagree, dare to be with those who do not like us, much less love us.

My friends, this Gospel, which so many have used to exclude and to hate, is really a command to include and to love. It’s an instruction manual about how we are to love one another even when we don’t like each other, even when others are pushing every button we have, annoying us, hurting us, making us feel like dirt. In Jesus’ eyes, none of that matters.

Because above all else, we are still called to love.

One person at a time, one community at a time.

Edward Everett Hale, a 19th century author, historian and Unitarian minister, points the way for us when he says:

I am only one.

            But I am still one.

            I cannot do everything.

            But still I can do something:

            And because I cannot do everything

            I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.[2]

Each of us, alone, may not be able to do much.

But all of us, together, can change the world.

Jesus is daring us to do that. In fact, he’s double-daring us.

To love.

Amen.

 Sermon preached on the 12th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18, Year A, at The Falls Church (Episcopal), Falls Church, Va., on 4 September 2011.

 

[1] Karl Barth, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 492.

[2] Edward Everett Hale, “The One,” via Emergent Village Daily Communique, 29 August 2011.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Seroquel overdose

John 10:1-10

It is odd, in the midst of Easter season, to be thrust back into the life and times of Jesus as he walks purposefully toward Jerusalem and his death, to hear again his words, not as the Risen Lord, but as the itinerant rabbi from Nazareth, castigating those in power, telling stories that no one can really understand.

But this is where we are on this 4th Sunday of Easter. No resurrection story for us this day: Rather, a return to the teachings of Jesus, the teaching of the Good Shepherd, of Jesus being both the good shepherd and the gate to the sheepfold.

Now, we could spend our time today looking at what it means to be a sheep – are they dumb or smart? Dependent or independent? – and how that makes us feel, and how we really don’t know much about sheep anymore, because we are not an agrarian society and we don’t have sheep wandering our streets and fields.

Or …

We can spend our time concentrating on out what it means to be led, to have someone

Good Shepherd, He Qi

(the Risen Lord?) calling us – by name  — and leading us through our lives. We can spend our time together this morning figuring out what it looks like, what it feels like, to follow the Risen Lord so closely that we practically step on his heels, and how the Risen Lord leads us to life abundant (or, as Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message, to “real and eternal life, more and better life than [we] ever dreamed of”[1]).

In this Easter season, we are called to focus on just what a risky business it is to do that which God has commanded us: to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves, and how risky it is to do what Jesus commanded us: to love one another as he loved us. And believe me, living as the Risen Lord calls us to live is very risky indeed .

Start with being called. We all know what it means to be called, don’t we? To be called by name?

Because someone is calling us all the time.

Every day of our lives, we hear the siren song that beguiles us, that beckons us …

To get ahead.

To leave others behind.

To spend, spend, spend … buy, buy, buy!

Every single day, someone out there tells us that we need this new thing or that new thing, that our lives will be incomplete unless we forsake all else to get that particular thing of the day. Do we buy an iPhone 4 or wait for the iPhone 5? Do we get the iPad 2? Or the latest Xbox?

Every single day, someone out there tells us that if we would just do this one little thing – fudge a little on our taxes (“no one will know”) … ignore pleas for help from strangers (“someone else will help her”) … beg off caring for a friend (“she’ll be all right”) – if we would just do that, we will get ahead in the world.

Every single day, we hear the message that if we just work harder, or do this one extra task, or this one little favor, or get this one more promotion, or defeat this one other enemy, we will be able to rest secure.[2]

So we know what it means to be called … because someone is always calling us to stray from the paths of righteousness that the Risen Lord asks us to tread.

Turn your back on all of that, plug your ears so you can’t hear or don’t pay attention to those calls, and listen instead to what the Risen Lord has to say, and trust me, the world will tell you you’re wrong. You’re crazy. You’re a loser. You’re just like one of those people who thinks the Rapture really is going to happen next Saturday, and that the end of the world is coming in October.

See what I mean when I saying that following the Risen Lord is risky?

Face it:

In this world today, in which something like 20 percent of us have more than enough … way more than enough … and 80 percent have nowhere near enough in their lives … enough water, enough food, enough medicine, enough education, enough work, enough money, enough security … it is risky to lead lives of love, instead of hate; to help instead of harm; to share instead of hoard; to give instead of take.

In our society, we aren’t supposed to love wildly, radically, inexplicably and eternally. Far too much of our society is focused on hating someone, on not trusting anyone, on labeling people (Unpatriotic? Un-American? Liberal? Conservative? Left? Right?), on dividing people.

But the Risen Lord, who died for us – for each of us – and who was raised for all of us – didn’t teach us to live like that. He taught us to love. Wildly. Radically. Inexplicably. Eternally.

Society tells us not to live, not to love, like this. But the Risen Lord is calling us, beckoning us, leading us into exactly this kind of life.

This is the Easter season, my friends, when we focus on the fact that God loves us so much that he destroyed death – he demolished death! – so that we can have abundant life! So that we can have lives so much better than anything we ever dreamed of!

Our lives are not supposed to be focused on how much stuff we have, on how many things we can buy, or who has the most toys when they die!

Abundant life isn’t about stuff!

It’s about loving.

It’s about giving.

It’s about caring.

Think about it: What would our world look like if we dared to follow the voice of the Risen Lord, each and every day of our lives?

If we were to focus not on ourselves, but on each other?

Even if those others are people whom we do not know, do not see, have never met and probably never will meet.

• • •

I have been reading a lot lately about how the Church needs to change – not just to adapt to changes in society, but to change how it goes about its business. We are a Church that came into its glory through the Roman Empire, which once despised Christianity and then catapulted it to the religion of the Empire. Our vestments, our hierarchy, the way we do business – far too much of it has been based on the glory days of old.

Now, many voices are crying for us to make straight the crooked paths in the wilderness so that we can bring about this new way of life, a life focused on loving each other as Jesus loved us.

This new life means that we are going to have to do exactly what Jesus did: Feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, cure the sick, proclaim the Good News that God indeed does love us, the Good News that sets us free from the fetters of a society that doesn’t care enough, that doesn’t love enough.

The Risen Lord is calling us each by name so that we can be the ones to make this new life take root – in our hearts, in our families, in our churches, in our jobs, in our society, in our world.

We are being called out of the tombs of our lives so that we can have this new, abundant life right here, right now!

I know, I know … it is much safer for us to stay home. To do things the way we’ve always done them. To listen to the siren song of society.

But there is another voice out there, another song being sung for us, a song that calls each of us. By name. Right now:

Come. Follow me.

Love one another as I have loved you.

This other song is being sung by the Risen Lord, who seeks to shepherd our lives along paths of righteousness, so that we do not simply survive what life throws at us but thrive in the goodness of the Lord. When we listen to that song, when we allow the Risen Lord to be our shepherd, we find new meaning in our lives. We thrive. We have purpose. We find fulfillment. We know, and we are known. We accept, and we are accepted.[3] We love, and we are loved.

I don’t know about you, but I can tell you that I’m willing to take the risk of following the Risen Lord on the paths of righteousness if it means I will thrive … be fulfilled … be known … be accepted … and most of all, be loved.

That’s a risk I am more than willing to take.

Anyone else want to engage in some risky business?

Anyone?

Amen.

Sermon preached on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, 15 May 2011, Year A, at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour, Montpelier, Va.



[1] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message (NavPress Publishing Group, 1993), John 1:10.

[2] Paraphrased from Sarah Dylan Breuer, Dylan’s Lectionary Blog: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A, on www.sarahlaughed.net/lectionary/2005/04/fourth_sunday_o.html, 12 April 2005.

[3] Paraphrase of Professor David Lose, Marbury E. Anderson Biblical Preaching Chair, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., Abundant Life, http://www.workingpreacher.org/dear_wp.aspx?article_id=475, 8 May 2011.

 

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Sildenafil

John 15:12-17

Ba ism al Ab wa al Ibn wa Roho al Kudus, Allah wahed.

En nom de Dieu unique, Pere, Fils, et Sancte Esprit.

In the name of one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

On the morning of Feb. 23, 1992, I was received into The Episcopal Church at St. George’s, Arlington. I had first come to that parish more than a year before, full of fear and trembling, for I was born and bred to the Roman Catholic Church, raised by Dominican nuns, trained by Jesuits priests, and I knew, on that first day I entered St. George’s, that what I was doing was a sin. I was turning my back on my heritage, my ethnicity, my training and my faith as a Catholic to worship – fully and freely – in a Protestant church.

On that morning in 1992, I listened carefully as The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, the 12th Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, preached about what it meant to be a Christian.

“To be a good Christian,” he said, “you have to be boundlessly happy, entirely fearless and always in trouble.

To be a good Christian – one who lives fully into the scandalous message of Jesus – you have to be boundlessly happy, entirely fearless and always in trouble.

You are boundlessly happy, my friends, because God loves you, and what more could you possibly want to know, to experience, in your life? Isn’t that what we all want to know: That we are loved, from before time until the ages of ages?

The good news that Jesus brought in his scandalous message is just that: You are loved. I am loved. Each of us is and all of us are loved. Which makes us happy.

You are to be entirely fearless because the worst thing that will happen to you is that you will, one day, wake up and have breakfast with Jesus. And isn’t that what we pray for each time we pray the Nicene Creed? That we will have breakfast with Jesus?

The good news that Jesus brought us in his scandalous message is that because we are loved, we will indeed have breakfast with Jesus. So be fearless!

And you are to be always in trouble because, let’s face it, Jesus was always in trouble. It’s why his message of unconditional love was so scandalous. The sermons he preached – “Today the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” – the miracles he performed – raising the dead, curing the sick, restoring lepers and shamed women to full membership in their communities – the parables he told – And who is your neighbor? – the people with whom he spoke and ate – the Samaritan woman at the well, Wee Zaccheus the tax collector – all of that was troubling to the powers-that-be, because the powers-that-be don’t like surprises, they don’t like having the apple cart (OK, it was probably a date cart) upset, they don’t like it when someone comes along and challenges the way things are. Because when the way things are are thrown out of whack, the powers-that-be no longer are in control, and that is very, very scary – for them.

The good news that Jesus brought us in his scandalous message was so troublesome that it cost him his life – and it is going to cost us ours as well, if we listen, if we act.

But not to worry: Because we are loved from before time began to the ages of ages, and because we will have breakfast with Jesus, so ….

Let’s get in some trouble.

Let’s be scandalous!

You know what the most scandalous thing was that Jesus said?

Listen, my friends … listen:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. … You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit …

(Sung)

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?

Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?

Will you let my love be shown?

Will you let my Name be known?

Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?[1]

This is our call in life, my friends: Following Jesus, who is calling us – each of us – by name, asking us to go to places we don’t know – far away or close by – so that God’s love can be shown, so that God’s name can be known, so that God’s life can be grown.

And that, my friends, is scandalous!

Because it means that if we are faithful, we will end up in places we have never been (Samaria? Sudan? Haiti? The poor side of town? The other side of the tracks?) … we will meet people we never thought we would meet (The Samaritan woman at the well? The poor? The sick? The disenfranchised? Those people?) … we will let God’s name be known (as St. Francis is alleged to have said, “Preach the Gospel always … if necessary, use words.”) … and if we do all these things, God’s life, God’s love will be known.

Are you ready to live your life in this way?

Are youeach of you and all of you – ready to be scandalous?

(Sung)

Will you leave your self behind if I but call your name?

Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?

Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?

Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?[2]

If we decide that we are ready to say “Yes!” to Jesus, to answer his call, to live scandalously, upsetting the apple carts and overturning society’s ways – ways that make the rich richer and the poor poorer, ways that deny basic medical care to people, that leaving people starving when our storebins are overflowing – if we’re ready to do all this, then indeed we will live scandalous lives.

Mother Teresa, who knew a thing or two about being scandalous (touching the untouchables, welcoming the unwelcomed, loving the unloved),

Mother Teresa

offers us this advice:

The good you do today (she said) may be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable.

Be honest and transparent anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

People who really want help may attack you if you help them.

Help anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt.

Give the world your best anyway.

I can assure you: The most radical thing we can do in our lives is to love. The most dangerous action we can take is to love. The most scandalous deed we can perform is to love.

But … radically, dangerously, scandalously loving one another as Jesus loves us is exactly what we are called to do … no matter how hard it is, no matter how many obstacles we encounter, no matter what other people say, because really, in the end, the only thing that matters is love.

Doing this will not be easy. We will try to love, and find our love rejected. Others will heckle us and wonder if we’ve lost our mind and our way. We will be accused of tilting at windmills and called Pollyanas. But we know what Jesus is calling us to do, don’t we? We know that we are the ones who are called …

… to make the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute sing, and the lame leap for joy! And yes, we are called to raise the dead, and to proclaim the year of the Lord not every 50 years but every year, to set the prisoners free!

In this case, with this charge, it really does become all about us, because Jesus is talking to each one of us. This is not a message for the guy next door, the stranger down the street or around the world. This is a message for us.

The Rev. Dr. Peter J. Gomes

Peter Gomes understood that. Listen to what he has to say on this subject, this subject of God calling us:

The question should not be “What would Jesus do?” but rather, more dangerously, “What would Jesus have me do?” The onus is not on Jesus but on us, for Jesus did not come to ask semi-divine human beings to do impossible things. He came to ask human beings to live up to their full humanity; he wants us to live in the full implication of our human gifts, and that is far more demanding.[3]

God is calling us. God is telling us – again and again – that we are not created to live in a world where the people are hungry, either for food or for love. We, my friends, are created in the image of God, which means that we are created to live in love in community.

Being created in the image of God means, first and foremost, that we are created in the image of love. We know this because we know that we are not necessary to God. God is necessary to us, yes, but we cannot possibly be necessary to God, because God was before we were, and God will be after we are, so God does … not … need … us. Therefore, God must have wanted us, God must have desired us, God must have loved us into being.

And being created in the image of God means that we are created in community because we are Christians, and in our understanding of the Scriptures, of the Word of God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit never work apart from each other. Since we are created in God’s image, we are created in the image of community as well.

Which means …

… That we are created in love and community to live in love and community.

Pretty scandalous, eh?

To have our whole lives dictated by the fact that like it or not, we are created to love? That we are created to love in community?

Now we could, if we wanted, be like one of my favorite literary characters and say, “It is hard to be brave,” said Piglet, sniffing slightly, “when you’re only a Very Small Animal.”

Because this is a seemingly overwhelming call that God is issuing to us.

It is hard to be brave …

But … unlike Piglet, we are not very small animals.

We are God’s beloved.

And we have a job to do, a mission to undertake: We are to love one another, not as just we love ourselves (trust me, on those days when I do not love myself, it is terribly easy for me not to love my neighbor!), but to love one another as Jesus loves us!

(Sung)

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?

Will you set the pris-’ner free and never be the same?

Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen?

And admit to what I mean in you and you in me?[4]

Living scandalously, is not, as I said, easy. But it is our call, it is, in fact, the very reason for which we were created, it is our mission in life. This is why God put us on this earth: to live in love and community, which is a very scandalous thing indeed.

I want to leave us tonight with a prayer by Archbishop Oscar Romero, the holy man of El Salvador who put his life on the line – and who lost his life

Archbishop Oscar Romero

– because he dared to live a scandalous life, siding with the poor and downtrodden, challenging the powers-that-were in El Salvador to do the right thing all the time. For his courage, he was killed while celebrating the Eucharist – literally while elevating the wine and saying, “This is my blood” – on March 24, 1980.

Archbishop Romero’s prayer for all of us:

It helps, now and then (he said) to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Archbishop Romero’s prayer for us is my prayer for you:

Go forth from this place, my friends, and be scandalous.

It is what Jesus wants.

Amen.

A sermon preached during the Preaching Mission: The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, at Grace Episcopal Church, The Plains, Va.,

28 March 2011.

 

[1] Will you come and follow me … (v. 1) Words from the Iona Community © 1989 GIA Publications

Music Mary Alexandra, John L. Hooker, © 1996

[2] Ibid. (v. 2)

[3] Peter J. Gomes, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, page number uncertain.

[4] Will you come and follow me … (v. 3)

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Brand cialis 5mg online

Stephen Broadbent's "Samaritan Woman at the Well," sculpture at Chester Cathedral, England. Sculpted in 1994.

How often have we looked at someone and in that one look, made a snap judgment, placing that person in her place because of the way she dresses, deciding that because he is so good-looking, he must be a good guy?

And how often have we had someone take one look at us and make a snap decision about who we are, because of how we look, where we are, how we act in that one second of our lives?

“You could just tell that she was …”

“I knew just looking at him …”

Snap judgments, we call them.

No matter how many times we discover — later on — that we were wrong, that the scruffy-looking one had a giant heart for helping others, that the good-looking one was really a cad, we still make snap judgments about people all the time.

The first day I dared to venture out on my own in Haiti – completely on my own, with only my newly learned Creole and my bravado to accompany me – I made it only one block before I was surrounded by Haitian men.

“Miss! Miss!” one very tall man yelled. “Buy my painting?”

Soon every single one of these men was saying the same thing: “Miss! Miss! Buy my painting? No, buy mine! I give you a very good price. American money, no problem!”

These men, who had never seen me before and who presumed that because I am white I was (a) American, (b) rich, (c) willing to part with my money, and (d) willing to part with way too much of my money because I was (a) American and (b) rich, made a snap judgment about me. They never asked my name. They never engaged me as a real person.

To them, I was merely a quick buck – a buck they desperately needed, to be sure, so that they could support themselves and their families – but a buck nonetheless.

When Jesus and the Samaritan woman met at Jacob’s well in Sychar, there was a whole lot of snap judging going on.

The woman made snap judgments about Jesus:

•Just another man used to ordering women around;

•An outsider (she didn’t know him, and trust me, in small villages, everyone knows everyone);

•A Jew (most likely because of his dress and perhaps his accent – otherwise, Samaritans and Jews pretty much looked and sounded alike);

•And therefore an enemy of sorts (Jews and Samaritans hadn’t gotten along for almost 600 years, ever since the Babylonian exile – it was an old theological argument about whose worship was better, purer, truer, more faithful …).

The disciples, who show up a tad later in the story, made their own snap judgments about the woman:

•A woman and therefore a lesser human being (sorry, ladies, that was a fact in the days when our Lord and Savior walked the earth);

•An enemy of sorts (remember what I said before about Samaritans and Jews – we’re talking about almost six hundred years of enmity here …);

•A brazen woman (men and women did not speak to each other in public if they didn’t know each other, and since Jesus was their Lord and Teacher, she obviously must have been the one to initiate the conversation, which only a brazen woman would have done);

•And an outsider in her own village (she was drawing water alone, something that women do in groups for all kinds of reasons, the first being the community that forms when people are doing arduous work together).

And Jesus? Well, he, too, made a snap judgment. But his was of a different sort, for he looked at this woman and instantly – instantly – saw who she was and what she was:

Jesus took one look and knew that she was a beloved child of God, in need of all the love and affirmation that only God could give her (because, obviously, her community wasn’t showering her with its love).

It was Jesus’ snap judgment that counted in the end … that overruled the snap judgments of both the woman and his disciples, that declared that despite what the woman thought of herself, despite what the disciples thought of her, despite what anyone thought of her, this woman was a beloved child of God.

So this woman, who came to the well to slake her physical thirst – to satisfy her need for actual water – ended up having her spiritual thirst, her need to be known and loved, satisfied instead.

She already was known – oh, my, was she known in Sychar. Everyone knew that she had had five husbands and was now living with another man – without benefit of marriage. Everyone knew that obviously, she had sinned in some way, for why else would she have been widowed so many times, or divorced so many times, or some combination thereof? And everyone knew that since she by living with a man without benefit of marriage, she obviously was a sinner!

But she didn’t want to be known that way. I mean, who would? Who wants to go through life having others look at you and find you wanting, in just a glance? Who wants to be thought of as a lesser human being, as a sinner, because of circumstances beyond your own control? Who wants to feel unloved in a world in which love is in such short supply as it is?

This Samaritan woman at the well? She was dying of thirst for a little bit of love. And here comes Jesus – an outsider himself, traveling through a foreign land – who looks at her and instead of finding her wanting, knows her to be a beloved child of God, loved from before time until the ages of ages.

He knows her story, he knows her life, so well … he knows that what she wants more than anything else is to know that she is loved, despite the circumstances of her life, despite any choices she has made, despite any sins she has committed. Jesus knows that God looks at her and makes God’s own snap judgment: I love you.

My friends, the bad news is: God knows you. God knows everything about you … everything.

The good news is: God knows you. God knows everything about you … everything.

And God still loves you.

Exactly as you are …

Even when you make mistakes …

Even when you sin …

Even when others do not appreciate you …

Even when others shun you …

God still loves you.

The only snap judgment that God makes about us – about each of us – is that we belong to God. And because we belong to God, we are known … and in that knowing, we are loved.

You want to slake the thirst you have, that we all have, to be known and loved?

Well, know this:

God knows you and God still loves you.

Now, I don’t want you leaving this place today and going home saying, “The Episcopal preacher at church said today that we can do whatever we want, because God loves us.” No! Don’t say that, because God does judge us! God has high standards for us. God’s desire, God’s dream for us, is that we become the people God has created us to be: People who love. People who love God, people who love each other, not just as ourselves (that’s hard enough to do on the days when we love ourselves, but on those days when we don’t love ourselves? Well, on those days, it’s really easy not to love our neighbors), but as Jesus loves us.

Which means that God wants us to live our lives as God’s beloved children in God’s community of beloved children.

Not by looking at each other and making snap judgments based on societal standards that could not care less about what God wants.

Not by shunning each other.

But by caring for each other.

By loving each other.

It’s a tall order, isn’t it? To love one another as Jesus loved us, as God loves us?

Living lives of love means that we have to stop making snap judgments and start living in community. We have to talk with each other. We have to listen to each other. We have to get to know each other, not on the surface, not by our looks or our dress or the color of our skin or our accents … but deep down, by our stories.

Because only then can we really know each other. Only then can we really love each other.

• • •

Patrick, Frantzy and Tony Fleresca, my good friends in Haiti.

Those young men on the street in Haiti, the ones who surrounded me and tried to sell me their paintings, who viewed me as nothing more than a quick buck to be made?

Their names are Frantzy. And Tony. And Patrick. And Enil and Hercules. And Ernest and Salwa and the other Enil …

After I convinced them that I was not going to buy art from them, that I lived there now and was not a rich American tourist or aid worker but a missionary and priest, we started to get to know each other. We told each other our stories. We began to look out for each other. We began to take care of each other.

When we stop looking at each other as objects and start getting to know each other, start learning each other’s stories … well, that’s when we begin to live into the image in which God has created us, an image of love and community.

Trust me:

God knows our stories.

And God still loves us.

And if that knowledge doesn’t slake your thirst, doesn’t satisfy your deepest needs, I don’t know what will.

We are known.

And we are loved.

Amen.

A sermon preached on the Third Sunday of Lent, 27 March 2011, Year A, at Bensalem United Methodist Church, Bensalem, PA.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Are you willing to die for Jesus?

John 3:16

For the last 10 days, we all have watched with great horror and trepidation the terrifying events in Japan.

A 9.0 earthquake, 100 times worse than the earthquake in Haiti.

A tsunami that breached every wall built to defend against it.

Entire small towns literally erased from the face of the earth.

Up to 17,000 people believed dead, some washed out to sea, never to be found.

Hundreds of thousands of people displaced, without sufficient food, water, medicine, or shelter.

And, of course, the nuclear power plants that are melting down, or in the process of melting down.

Fukushim Daiichi nuclear power plants

The rods that cannot be cooled.

The breaches in the containment walls for spent fuel.

The rising radiation readings.

Not only the Japanese but the entire world lives in fear of the latter. Scientists around the world are warning that the radiation will spread, not just across the Pacific to the United States, but from the United States over the Atlantic to Europe.

And yet … there are stories of redemption and hope coming out of Japan as well. Stories of babies being rescued days after the quake, of families being reunited, of those thought lost at sea forever found. And today comes news of a 16-year-old boy and his 80-year-old grandmother being rescued after being trapped in the ruins for nine days.

But the most powerful story of all is that of the nuclear power plant workers, engineers and others, who have volunteered – volunteered – to go back to work, to step into the infernos of radiation hell, risking their lives so that others might live.

Just last Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported a Twitter message “by a woman who Tweeted with pride – and anguish – that her father, just six months from retirement, had decided to offer his help.”

““I fought back tears when I heard father, who is to retire in a half a year, volunteered to go,” the message read.

““He said, ‘The future of nuclear power generation depends on how we’ll cope with this. I’ll go with a sense of mission’ … I’ve never been more proud of him,” she added.”[1]

Her father, 59 years old, who worked for the nuclear industry for four decades, is willing to go back into the inferno, where the radiations readings are rising and a total meltdown is feared, so that others might live.

Risking your life to give life to others is the focus not only of this morning’s passage from John’s Gospel, it is the focus of our lives.

We hear of the brave nuclear power plant workers and we are in awe – Oh, my, we think. How brave they are. They are sacrificing for us!

But do we think the same when we hear this morning’s Gospel? Are we in awe when we hear of the sacrifice God made for us? The sacrifice where God sent himself as a sacrifice for us?

Go anywhere in the world where the Gospel is known, and this is the passage you will hear preached, over and over again.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

It is the best known, most-quoted verse in the entire Bible.

But are we in awe of that verse and what it means to us? Is the news of God’s willingness to sacrifice for us as awe-inspiring as the news of Japanese nuclear power plant workers’ willingness to sacrifice their lives for us? Does it make us fall to our knees in gratitude, or jump with joy for the good news that it bears?

There’s no doubt about it, my friends: We are hearing good news this morning!

And anywhere you go in the world, you will hear people proclaiming it to us.

Because it speaks truth.

Because it gives hope.

Because it has power.

Notice, if you please, that never once does God ask us if we want God to give us this incredible gift.[2]

Just as God never asked Abram if he wanted to go on a journey to a strange place (with no directions, no end point, just “the land that I will show you,” and no, you can’t have a GPS to guide you, because it hasn’t been invented yet!), God never asks whether we wish to be saved, whether we wish to have life eternal.

God simply acts.

God sends his Son, his only-begotten Son, to be born as one of us, to live as one of us with us, to suffer as we suffer, to rejoice as we rejoice, and to die as we die … and not as we die, because Jesus died for us.

It is an incredible sacrifice that God makes …

… because God loves us.

Each of us and all of us.

From before time began to the ages of ages.

God … loves … us.

Now, we could, if you wanted, spend some time discussing Nicodemus, the Pharisee and leader of the Jews who came in fear and trembling to meet with Jesus in the dark of the night, wondering whether this rabbi was the one for whom the Jews waited.

Or we could, if you wanted, spend more time debating how to translate gennethé anáothen, which could mean “born again,” “born anew” or “born from above.” (Trust me, this is a matter of great debate to some Christians. There are thousands of Christians out there who will tell you that if you are not “born again” according to their definition, you are not a Christian, and you are going to hell!)

Or we could, if you wanted, spend even more time talking about Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness and how the Son of Man has to be lifted up as well, and debate whether that is allegorical or metaphorical (I am well aware that I am on a university campus, and these kinds of discussions take place all the time).

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to this passage, this story of Nicodemus’ fearful visit to Jesus in the middle of the night.

But those, my friends, are nothing but side paths to take if we wish to avoid the main point of this passage, which is this:

God loves us so much God that God sacrificed his Son –God sacrificed himself! – for … us!

When we focus on this – on God’s willingness to sacrifice for us – when we go down this path – we end up in a very hard place.

Because then we have to ask ourselves several questions, questions that are hard, questions that make us uncomfortable, but ones that we need to address if we indeed want to be true disciples of Jesus.

The first question we have to ask ourselves is this:

Do we believe that God loves us?

Do we?

Really?

If we answer yes to that, we have to ask ourselves a second one:

Do we believe that Jesus died for us?

Do we?

Do we really believe that Jesus died for each of us, personally?

These are important questions, because if we answer “Yes” to those questions, then we have to confront the big question, the question of our lives:

Are we willing to die for Jesus?

Are … we … willing … to … die … for … Jesus?

Because, my friends, that is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. That is what it means when we say we want to follow Jesus.

God loves us so much that without asking us, without so much as a by-your-leave, God sent his Son, his only Son, to die for us.

And God wants to know:

Are we willing to die for Jesus?

Are we willing to set aside those things that get in our way of loving God with all our heart and soul and strength so that we can really love God?

Are we willing to set aside those things that get in our way of loving our neighbors, not just as ourselves – because trust me, there are days when I do not love myself, and those are the days when it’s easy for me not to love my neighbor either – but as Jesus loves us?

… If we are willing to do those things – to set aside our pride, our envy, our anger, our greed, our need to be right all the time, our feelings of superiority …

… If we are willing to put those down and walk in love as Christ loved us, to respect the dignity of every human being, to love our enemies, to care for the weak, cure the sick, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and voice to the mute, to make the lame leap for joy, to set the prisoners free, to proclaim the year of the Lord not every 50 years but every year …

… If we are willing to do all those things, to, in essence die to our old ways, die to the ways of a society that does not care about the weak, that offers them up as sacrifices so that it can have more, more, more!

… If we are willing to do all this and more, all for the love of God, then … then! … we can answer: Yes.

Yes, I am willing to die for Jesus.

Because Jesus died for me.

Make no mistake.

God is not asking us whether we want to be loved.

God is not asking us whether we deserve to be loved.

God simply … wildly … radically … inexplicably … inexhaustibly … love us.

So much that God sacrificed his beloved son for us.

Are we willing to do the same?

Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves – for each other and for God?

Those nuclear power plant workers who are walking into the hell of failing nuclear reactors right now? They are doing this, they are sacrificing themselves, so that we might live.

Would we be willing to do the same, to sacrifice ourselves for others?

God sacrificed God’s self for us so that we might have life eternal.

Are we willing to sacrifice … for God?

Amen.

A sermon preached on the Second Sunday in Lent, 20 March 2011 Year A, at R.E. Lee Memorial Parish, Lexington, Va.



[1] Entire story found at http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/japanquakenuclearvolunteers by Agence France-Presse, 17 March 2011.

 

[2] From Like It or Not!, Professor David Lose, Marbury E. Anderson Biblical Preaching Chair, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, on WorkingPreacher.org,

http://www.workingpreacher.org/dear_wp.aspx?article_id=463, posted 13 March 2011.

 

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Provera side effects

Matthew 17:1-9

Icon of the Transfiguration by Andrei Rublev (1405), now located in the Moscow Annunciation Cathedral

When Peter and James and John went up the mountain with Jesus that long-ago-but-memorable day, they literally had no idea what was about to happen.

 

They thought they were going to pray. After all, that’s what Jesus regularly did, and so for them, this was just another day following their teacher and Lord.

But, really: They had no idea what was in store.

Up they go, and boom! Jesus is transfigured right in front of them! His face shines like the sun, his clothes are dazzling white, and right there stand Moses and Elijah, chatting with Jesus!

You know that was a surprise. You know this was not on their agenda for the day. (Take a walk with Jesus? Check. Climb the mountain? Check. See Jesus transfigured? Huh?)

But the surprises didn’t stop there.

Because just as Peter in his great excitement was babbling away – “Lord, this is great! Let me make three little houses for you …” (perhaps to fix Jesus, Moses and Elijah in that moment?), just as he was reacting as only Peter could react, God spoke.

Now remember:

In the Hebrew Scriptures, God speaks to people all the time.

But in the New Testament, in the Gospels, God only speaks a few times (one of them being up on that mountain, when God interrupts Peter to proclaim Jesus as God’s son, the beloved, with whom God is most pleased).

In the Hebrew Scriptures, God commands all the time (often on a mountain – remember Moses and the 10 Commandments?)

But in the New Testament, God only commands once.[1]

Only one time – right here, right on the mountaintop – does God issue a commandment:

Akouete![2] Listen to him!

Like the commandments of old, this is not a suggestion. This is not God saying, “Hey, you know, when you’ve got a moment, I’d really like it if you’d pay attention … but only if you want to.”

This is not God throwing a hissy fit like a little kid who’s trying to win an argument on the playground and whining: Listen to me!

This is God in all of God’s glory – remember Jesus’ shining face and dazzling clothes? Remember Moses? Remember Elijah? This is God on high booming out (because you know God wasn’t namby-pamby here):

Akouete! Listen to him!

Not “Listen to me,” but “Listen to him.

If ever you have wondered whether Jesus was the real thing … if ever you wondered – and many have – whether perhaps we got it all wrong, that perhaps Jesus is more of a prophet and less the Son of God … now’s the time to pay attention.

Because right now, in this moment, on this mountaintop, God is making it crystal clear:

This is my son.

He is my beloved.

And you had better for darned tootin’ listen to him!

• • •

For the last eight years, the non-profit organization StoryCorps has been collecting the stories of Americans “of all backgrounds and beliefs.”[3] The stories are great; I listen to them on NPR’s Morning Edition every Friday. But to me, what’s more important than the stories themselves is the idea behind StoryCorps:

Listening, StoryCorps proclaims, is an act of love.

Listening … is … an act … of love.

That’s important for us to remember, because, you see, we are created in love. Remember, we are not necessary to God. God is necessary to us, but we are not necessary to God, because God was before we were, and God will be after we are, so we cannot possibly be necessary to God. So God must have wanted us. God must have desired us into being. God must have loved us into being. So we were created in love.

And this command, Akouete? Listen to him?

This command is our blueprint for how we are to live in the image of God in which we are created. It is our blueprint for how we are to love.

I have something to tell you ... will you listen?

If we want to be faithful servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, if we really want to live our lives as God would have us live them, we … need … to … listen … to … Jesus.

Listening is how we love.

When we listen, we are loving God.

When we listen, we are loving our neighbors as ourselves.

When we listen, we are loving our neighbors as Jesus loves us.

The great 20th-century theologian Paul Tillich once proclaimed that “The first duty of love is to listen.”[4] That duty comes from God’s direct command, not through prophets and apostles, but from God on high to the actual witnesses – Peter and James and John, who heard God speak to them, who heard God say to them, Akouete!

And now, today, on this last Sunday of Epiphany, with Lent beginning in just three days, God is speaking to us.

God is commanding us: Akouete! Listen to him!

And if we are wise, if we are caring, if we are faithful, we will listen.

For when we listen and are wise, we can see what is happening around us, and figure out what God wants us to do about it.

When we listen and are caring, we can build the relationships God is calling us to build, with God’s beloved children.

When we listen and are faithful, then … and only then … can we follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

What it all boils down to is this:

Listening is an act of love … so listen up!

We already know what Jesus wants us to do … because he’s already told us. But sometimes, we need to listen again, because sometimes, once is not enough.

So what is it that Jesus wants us to do?

Feed the hungry. Give water to the thirsty. Make the blind see … the deaf hear … the mute speak … the lame leap for joy.

When we listen to Jesus, what do we hear him saying to us?

Live lives of love.

Live lives of wild … radical … inexplicable  … never-ending … love.

This is our mission in life, my friends. This is why God created us: to go into the world and love … just as God loves us … wildly, radically, inexplicably, eternally.

But … we say … but … this is hard! How are we supposed to love like this? We don’t know what to do? (And yes, all of us say this, all the time … because loving like this really is hard and we really do need a set of directions, we really want to see a blueprint before we begin.)

The good news is, God already has told us what to do and how we are to do it. God has already given us the directions and shown us the blueprint.

Step one: We listen.

As a missionary – I served for five years overseas on your behalf (all Appointed Missionaries represent the entire Episcopal Church, not just our own dioceses, which means that I was your missionary) – I can tell you that listening is key to serving.

Listening is how we learn of other's needs, desires, joys and sorrows.

Wherever I have served, particularly as a missionary – in Kenya, Sudan, Haiti, Honduras, Appalachia or Pine Ridge, in homeless shelters and food pantries, with poor, inner city residents and rich suburbanites – I have learned that when I listen to the people of God, I hear the voice of God. I hear Jesus’ commandment to love.

And this call I hear?

It’s not just mine. It’s a call to all of us – because all of us are God’s missionaries in God’s very good creation.

How many of you are Episcopalians? Did you know that the legal name of our Church is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of The Episcopal Church of the United States of America? That we made that change in 1821? And that we made that change in our name because we determined then that we were going to a Church that went out into the world and preached the Gospel, and if necessary (as St. Francis is reputed to have said) using words? Which means that all of us here are missionaries.

So all of us are sent forth into God’s world, not to speak, not to tell others what to do, not to be so all-fired certain that we are right and everyone else is … well, they’re just delusional!

No!

God tells us: Akouete! Listen to him!

Listen to Jesus as he tells us: Love your enemy. Tend the sick. Visit the prisoners. Bring joy to the sorrowful. Give courage to the fearful.  Feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty and sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf and voice to the mute and dancing to the lame!

Jesus has told us … in no uncertain terms … what he wants us to do. Jesus wants us to love!

And the first act, the first duty of love is to listen.

Not just to the people we love, not just to the people we know. No! We need to listen to each and every one of God’s beloved children, because God doesn’t discriminate. In God’s very good creation, there are no us’s and them’s. In God’s very good creation, no one gets voted off the island!

Only when we take the time to listen to God’s beloved children, only then do we hear their joys and sorrows, their dreams and disappointments, and their hopes and their desperate desire to know that they are loved, that they are the beloved.

Make no mistake, my friends:

God is speaking to us. God is on this mountaintop with us, right here, right now, and God is telling us – in every way possible – that our call is to love.

So listen up!

Amen.

A sermon preached on the Last Sunday of Epiphany, 6 March 2010, Year A, at St. Stephen’s, New Hartford, NY, and St. John’s, Whitesboro, NY.



[1] Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes at Crossmarks Christian Resources, Matthew 17:1-9, Transfiguration of our Lord, Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A,  http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/matt17x1.htm.

[2] Ibid.

[4] Paul Tillich, German-born American Protestant theologian (1886-1965), in a story about Tillich, as quoted in O Magazine, February 2004.

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter