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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Sunday, May 07, 2017

I AM, the Gate

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
John 10.1-10
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

We’re only halfway through the season of Easter, but with last week’s journey to Emmaus, we have finished the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. Throughout the rest of Eastertide, we turn our attention to what it means to be the followers of the Risen Christ. It is quite appropriate that the imagery that is used as we shift our focus involves sheep. Not so much about what the image of sheep says about us, but what it says about Jesus.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Way to Go, Thomas!

Second Sunday of Easter
John 20.19-31
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

I often start off sermons for the Sunday after Easter – for which the Gospel reading is always the story of Jesus’ appearance to Thomas – with some statement like “poor Thomas. He always gets a bad rap.” But not this year. Instead, I say, “Way to go, Thomas!”

Now sure, when, on the evening of Easter, of Jesus’ resurrection, he appears to all the disciples except for Thomas, and when the disciples later tell Thomas of their encounter, Thomas famously responds, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20.25b). A comment that has forever labeled him as “Doubting Thomas.” But casting this in a less than positive light is neither fair to Thomas nor particularly helpful for us. If anything, Thomas is to be applauded. After all, he is merely being honest.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

It Has Just Begun . . .

Easter Day
Acts 10.34-43; Colossians 3.1-4; John 20.1-18
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Spoiler alert! Christ is risen!

Although the details of the Easter narratives as contained in each of the four Gospels vary in specific details, in all of the accounts women are the first to arrive at Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning. In John’s version, Mary Magdalene, common to all the accounts, is the only woman to come to the tomb that morning. Having a women be the first witnesses to such a monumental event is a remarkable thing in and of itself. In that day and age, women were not considered credible enough to give testimony in Jewish courts. Yet, women were the first to offer witness to the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead, just as he promised. And Mary Magdalene is the first to have a face-to-face encounter the Risen Christ.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Earthshaking News

Great Vigil of Easter
Genesis 22.1-18; Exodus 14.10-31, 15.20-21; Ezekiel 36.24-28; Romans 6.3-11; Matthew 28.1-10
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

“Suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it” (Mt 28.2).

In Matthew’s account, the resurrection is heralded by an earthquake. And if you remember back to our Passion narrative on Palm Sunday, at the moment of Jesus’ death, “the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Mt 27.51b). Coincidence? Of course not. In the Hebrew scriptures earthquakes are often interpreted as a signs or manifestations of God’s power and authority. We see this reflected by the response of witnesses at the crucifixion – “when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’” (Mt 27.54).

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