Sunday, October 01, 2017

Journey to Generosity

17th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 21 (Year A)
Exodus 17.1-7; Philippians 2.1-13; Matthew 21.23-32
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach


This being the first Sunday in October, that can only mean one thing. It’s time to begin our annual parish stewardship campaign. By now you should have all received, and hopefully read and pondered, my stewardship letter, in which I introduced the theme for this year’s campaign: “Journey to Generosity.” In which I shared some of my own experience of what this ongoing journey has been like for me. And hopefully, which prompted you to begin to think about your own Journey to Generosity.

Today’s Scripture readings each provide a key piece of the picture that ultimately leads us to a fuller understanding and appreciation of what this Journey to Generosity is about. An understanding that is based not just on the usual expressions of why we do our annual pledge campaign – that we need money to pay our staff, to maintain our facilities, to provide for our parish programs, to fund our various ministries in our community. Yes, these are all important. They are all true. Our readings for today provide a scriptural – even a spiritual – justification for why we will spend the next seven weeks focusing on stewardship in general, and pledging in particular. Each of our readings contain threads that when woven together reveal a beautiful tapestry of why we truly commit to giving financially to this parish.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Loving Our Neighbors As Ourselves

14th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 18 (Year A)
Romans 13.8-14; Matthew 18.15-20
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach
  
The words of today’s Gospel reading are not quite what you would ordinarily expect out of Jesus’ mouth. Rather than his usual message of love and mercy, Jesus lays out what amounts to a disciplinary procedure for the church – a way of dealing with a member of the church who is problematic, who has gone astray, who has sinned against another member of the church or the church itself. This procedure contains a number of potential steps, starting with one-on-one discussion. If that doesn’t work, additional witnesses may be brought in. If that doesn’t work, the proceedings elevate to what amounts to a trial before the entire church. And if that doesn’t work, the offender is to be banished from the church. Seems kind of harsh. What happened to love and mercy?

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Sunday, September 03, 2017

Get Behind Me

13th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 17 (Year A)
Romans 12.9-21; Matthew 16.21-28
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach


Poor Peter! How the mighty have fallen! One minute Jesus is telling him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! . . . And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Mt 16.17-18). Where he is being praised for having great insight in answering Jesus’ question, “But who do you say that I am,” to which Peter correctly responds, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16.16). Praised to the point of being given an exalted position in God’s Kingdom, of being the one who will, because of his great faith and insight, be the foundation of the Church and a model for all who follow Jesus. And the next minute, Jesus is telling Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mt 16.23a).

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

"Who Do YOU Say That I Am?"

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 16
Romans 12.1-8; Matthew 16.13-20
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mt 16.13). This question isn’t just directed to the disciples. It is really directed to all who would follow Jesus. There are as many answers to Jesus’ question as there are individuals who might offer a response. Some say Jesus is a prophet, a great teacher, a moral leader, a healer. After all, the Gospel accounts of Jesus, his words and his actions, certainly support each of these qualities. And all would be right. To a point. Because of these qualities – qualities shared by various prophets of old – Jesus is assumed by some to be John the Baptist or one of the other great prophets.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Things will work out; they always do"

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 14 (Year A)
Romans 10.5-15; Matthew 14.22-33
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

My mother is a great listener. Whenever I have a problem or am having a difficult time, I know I can always talk to her about it. Sometimes it’s to seek her advice, but more often than not, it’s just to have a sympathetic ear. Most of the things I kvetch about to Mom are things that she can’t do anything about or advise me on. But just knowing that she is there and willing to listen is enough to make me feel better. Even if it doesn’t actually solve the problem. But for as long as I can remember, there is one thing that makes me want to scream whenever I talk to her about problems. After patiently listening and offering the appropriate “uh-huhs,” she always – ALWAYS – ends with “things will work out; they always do.” Aaagh!

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Sunday, August 06, 2017

Transfigured!

Feast of the Transfiguration
Peter 1.13-21; Luke 9.28-36
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Today we journey with Peter, James, and John, as they accompany Jesus up a mountain. Where they – where we –experience something extraordinary. The Transfiguration of Jesus. The Transfiguration is recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels – in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These accounts leave little doubt about who Jesus is. Whereas Matthew and Mark put periods on the subject, Luke, the version we heard today, puts an exclamation point. Luke’s version, while conveying the same events as in Matthew and Mark, provides even more detail that further emphasize who Jesus is for the disciples. And for us.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Living Into the Kingdom of God

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 12 (Year A)
Romans 8.26-39; Matthew 13.31-33, 44-52
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

[N.B. In the parables in Matthew, Jesus says “the Kingdom of Heaven is like . . .” In this sermon, I chose to use the term “Kingdom of God” instead of “Kingdom of Heaven.” While the terms are synonymous in the Gospels, I think “Kingdom of God” is more accurate, as it feels more expansive, including not just the Kingdom of Heaven but also the Kingdom of God here and now.]

We humans are a naturally curious breed. We inherently want to know that which is currently unknown, and what the future holds for us. This means that as people of faith, as those who believe in the Triune God, as those who follow the Risen Christ, we naturally set our sights on the promise of the Kingdom of God. We want to know what awaits us in the life to come. Of course, since none of us have experienced that directly, we have a hard time fathoming such an unknowable mystery. But that doesn’t stop our questioning. Thankfully, Jesus provides some insight. But since we do not have a frame of reference, Jesus must use common, everyday imagery to paint a picture of that which has been promised to us.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Embodying Thin Places

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 11 (Year A)
Genesis 28.10-19a; Romans 8.12-25; Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Jesus’ parable of wheat and weeds as being an allegory for good and bad in our midst should come as no surprise. One only has to look at the world around us to see that this is, sadly, the case. While we might like to think that it should be possible to easily identify good from bad, and therefore be able to separate out the bad so that the good may thrive, as do the Master’s servants in the parable, Jesus gives a realistic, albeit sobering, assessment. In theory, yes. But in actuality, this is not always the case.

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Sunday, July 09, 2017

The Yoke Jesus Offers

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 9 (Year A)
Romans 7.15-25a; Matthew 11.16-19, 25-30
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11.28-30).

This well-known passage is at the same time comforting and maybe a little confusing. Comforting because many of us can relate to being weary and carrying heavy burdens – work, family obligations, health issues, relationship issues. Comforting because of Jesus’ promise of rest. But at the same time, it is a little cryptic. In order to obtain this promised rest, Jesus asks that we take on his yoke. How can taking on a yoke, an additional burden, bring rest? He says the yoke is easy, the burden is light. But how?

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Sunday, July 02, 2017

Hospitality as a Sacred, Holy Act

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 8 (Year A)
Matthew 10.40-42
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Jesus is preparing to send his disciples out on missionary work. The Gospel readings we have heard over the last few weeks comprise the preparatory instructions Jesus gives them before they depart. Today, he concludes his discourse on what the disciples can expect in their missionary work. Until now, Jesus’ words tend to imply potential hardships that the disciples will face. But today, the focus turns to the rewards to be expected.

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