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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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Experiencing the Trinity

Trinity Sunday (Year A)
2 Corinthians 13.11-13; Matthew 28.16-20
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Today is unlike any other Sunday in the Church calendar. Every Sunday focuses primarily on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Today is the only Sunday of the year that is not specifically dedicated to Christ per se, but rather is dedicated to a doctrine of the Church – the Trinity. The Trinity, that mysterious concept that boggles the minds of any who try to spend more than a few seconds thinking about it. The Trinity – the understanding that we worship one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God, three-in-one, three persons comprising one God. God, one-in-three, God manifest in three “persons” – really an unfortunate misnomer, but that is the term theologians use.

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Sunday, June 04, 2017

Pentecost - Celebration of New Life

Day of Pentecost (Year A)
Acts 2.1-21; 1 Corinthians 12.3b-13; John 20.19-23
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Imagine the awesome experience of that first Pentecost as described in Acts. Well, strictly speaking, it wasn’t the first Pentecost. In the Hebrew calendar, Pentecost was an ancient celebration. It was originally an agricultural festival. Also known as the Feast of Weeks, it marked the end of the annual grain harvest, which began seven weeks before, during Passover. Pentecost, from the Greek, meaning fifty. Fifty days after Passover. In time, Pentecost also become a commemoration of the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, which occurred 50 days after the beginning of the Exodus. Fifty days after Passover.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

“Wait! Where are you going? You just got back.”

Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A) – Ascension Sunday
Acts 1.6-14; John 17.1-11
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Whenever I go away for a while – be it a few days or a few weeks – I can count on the same series of reactions from my cats upon my return. When I first get home, they will look at me like, “oh, it’s you.” Then they will proceed to ignore me. Anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Their way of punishing me for abandoning them. Then they will not leave me alone. They will keep me in sight at all times. This will go on for anywhere from a day to nearly a week, depending on how long I was gone. But the best reaction, the one that breaks my heart every time, is that first time after I’ve returned home when I have to leave again. To run an errand, go to work, whatever the purpose. Be it later the same day or several days later. The reaction is always the same. As I go to close the front door, the Boys will be sitting there, looking at me with the most pathetic expressions, with eyes purposefully made to melt my soul. In that look that says, “Wait! Where are you going? You just got back.”

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

God's Witness Protection Program

Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Acts 7.55-60; 1 Peter 2.2-10; John 14.1-14
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

In the last half of Eastertide, we focus on identity. Christ’s identity and ours, as revealed through the mystery of the Resurrection. Last week’s Gospel focused primarily on Jesus’ identity and our response to that identity. How Christ is at once the Lamb, the Good Shepherd, and the gate to the sheepfold, whereby we enter into the fellowship of God. Today’s Gospel shifts the emphasis to focus more on our identity in light of the Resurrection. And what that identity means in a deeper sense.

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