Sunday, January 14, 2018

Call and Response

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (Year B)
1 Samuel 3.1-20; Psalm 139.1-5, 12-17; 1 Corinthians 6.12-20; John 1.43-51
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

The season of Epiphany is particularly focused on exploring the ways that Jesus is revealed as the Son of God. Last week we saw this revealed in a very direct way. Where at his baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, and the voice of God proclaimed, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mk 1.11). You can’t get a much more obvious revelation than that. Today we move to a far less dramatic revelation. And to a far more personal one. Today’s Gospel, and even our Old Testament reading and Psalm, point to the fact that God – and Jesus as the Son of God – is indeed revealed to us. But even more so, that God through Christ seeks us out and calls us into relationship.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Resolution for New Life

First Sunday after the Epiphany – Baptism of Our Lord (Year B)
Genesis 1.1-5; Acts 19.1-7; Mark 1.4-11
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Show of hands. How many of you made some sort of New Year’s resolution this year?

So, what kind of resolutions did you make? I seriously doubt any of you resolved in this new year to work even more hours per week. Or that any of you resolved to eat less vegetables and more desserts. Or that any of you resolved to create more stress in your life.

No, our resolutions typically are designed to help in our quest to live a better life.
  • To eat better or to exercise more, as a way to better and healthier physical life.
  • To save more money or to pay off debts, as a way to better financial life, and more peace of mind.
  • To spend more time with family or friends, as a way to better relational life.
  • To have a more positive attitude, to be more compassionate, as a way to better emotional life.
  • To pray more, read the Bible more, go to church more, as a way to better spiritual life.

As we think about those ways that we can improve our lives, those ways that will help us live better lives, those ways that will lead to a new sense of life, it seems quite appropriate that today – the first Sunday in the new year – we are presented with scripture readings that all deal with new life.

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Monday, December 25, 2017

The Other Half of the Christmas Story

Christmas Day
John 1.1-14
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Last night, on Christmas Eve, we heard what is considered the iconic story of the Incarnation. The story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Of a young woman nine months pregnant and her husband traveling to Bethlehem for the purpose of enrolling in a mandated census. Upon arriving in Bethlehem, it comes time for her to deliver her child. But there are so many people in town for the census that there is no room in any of the inns for them to have a proper place to stay. All that is available is a stable filled with animals. She needs some place to give birth, so this would have to do. So there she gives birth to her baby – the One foretold by the prophets. An event that is announced to shepherds in the field outside of town by an angel proclaiming, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” A birth heralded by choirs of the heavenly hosts singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Upon hearing the glorious news, the shepherds rush to the manger in Bethlehem to witness this wondrous event. As they look on the baby with adoring eyes, they see the truth for themselves, and excitedly tell of the angelic visitation and the message of joy and hope the angels proclaimed.

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Why We Need Christmas

Christmas Eve
Luke 2.1-20
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Every year, on this holy night, we hear the words of Luke, recounting the iconic story of Christmas. A story that in memories of Christmases past and even now in our hearing, conjures warm and fuzzy images and feelings. Jesus, the Son of God, the savior of the world, the one foretold by the prophets of old as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. A birth in a manger, aglow with the love of his mother Mary, the love of his heavenly Father, under the watchful eye of his human father Joseph. A birth announced to a band of shepherds lovingly caring for their flocks. To whom the angels bid, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” A birth heralded by choirs of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Shepherds who rush to the manger in Bethlehem to witness this glorious event. Who look on with adoring eyes at the miracle before them. Who excitedly tell of the angelic visitation. All these images, memorialized in the hymns and carols we sing in this most holy of seasons.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Building Our Highway in the Wilderness

Second Sunday of Advent (Year B)
Isaiah 40.1-11; Mark 1.1-8
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  
                                                                    (Is 40.3-5)

We hear these words, or variations thereof, twice in today’s readings for the Second Sunday of Advent. First in their original context as written by the Prophet Isaiah and then again in summary form in Mark’s Gospel. Having them repeated throughout our lectionary readings would indicate that these words are to be paid attention to. That there is a message we are meant to hear. For indeed these words are at the very heart of Advent. They are what the entire season of Advent is about.

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Sunday, December 03, 2017

"Keep Awake"

First Sunday of Advent (Year B)
Isaiah 64.1-9; 1 Corinthians 1.3-9; Mark 13.24-37
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

As we begin this season of Advent, it is worth a little refresher as to just what Advent is about. After all, it’s been a whole year since we last did this. The word “advent” simply means “coming.” And of course, in the Christian context, Advent is about the coming of Christ. Occurring post-Thanksgiving, in the run-up to Christmas, when we (and pretty much everyone else around us) are anxiously anticipating and frantically preparing for Christmas, we naturally equate Advent with the coming of Christ at Christmas. Well, half right. Actually, only about a quarter right. Advent is certainly a season of expectant anticipation and preparation for the coming of our Lord into the world. But Advent is not just about preparing for the birth of the Christ child.

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Serving Christ the King

Last Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 29 (Year A)
Christ the King
Ezekiel 34.11-16, 20-24; Ephesians 1.15-23; Matthew 25.31-46
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. We are certainly familiar with the language of kingship as related to Christ. We have just come through Year A of the lectionary, the year centered on Matthew’s Gospel. Throughout his Gospel, Matthew uses the imagery of kingship to describe Jesus. We first see this with the coming of the Wise Men following Jesus’ birth when they come to Herod in search of “the child who has been born king of the Jews” (Mt 2.2). Then throughout the first Gospel, Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, continually seeks to build the case that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the King that was foretold by the prophets. And all of this imagery of Jesus as King is brought to a conclusion at the end of his life. While on trial before Pontius Pilate, Pilate asks Jesus “are you the King of the Jews?” (Mt 27.11). Following the trial, before his crucifixion, the Roman soldiers mock Jesus, saying “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Mt 27.29). And then as he hangs upon the cross, the unlikely throne for this king, the soldiers place a sign over his head that reads “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Mt 27.37). And lastly, following his resurrection, when the risen Christ comes to his disciples “and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’” (Mt 28.18), whereupon he gives them the Great Commission. The final confirmation that he is indeed the King. Not just king of the Jews, but King of all.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Keeping the Lamp Lit

23rd Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 27 (Year A)
Joshua 24.1-3a, 14-25; 1 Thess. 4.13-18; Matthew 25.1-13
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

The readings appointed for the Sundays in November deal with “endings” – as we move toward the conclusion of the liturgical year and prepare for the season of Advent in just a few weeks.

The Old Testament reading from Book of Joshua is part of Joshua’s farewell address to the people of Israel. Moses has led the Israelites through the wilderness to the Promise Land. He was not, however, the one to lead them into the Promised Land. That job fell to Joshua, who actually brought the people into Canaan. It was Joshua who oversaw their efforts to take control of the land, as promised by God. Now someone else needs to lead them as they settle in and establish a new life for themselves. As he prepares for his own death, Joshua addresses the people, reminding them of what God has done for them over the last 40 plus years. Reminding them of their covenant with God. Reminding them that they need to keep going. Reminding them that in order to do that, they must continually obey God.

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Sunday, November 05, 2017

All Saints - Past, Present, and Future

All Saints Sunday (Year A)
Revelation 7.9-17; 1 John 3.1-3; Matthew 5.1-12
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

This past week we observed a three-day period dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs, and all faithful departed believers. The first was Halloween. While having pagan roots as evidenced in our current secular customs, this holiday also has a Christian background. Halloween being a shortening of the proper Christian name for the day, All Hallows’ Eve. The eve of All Hallows’ Day, or what we now call All Saints’ Day, in keeping with the Christian tradition of beginning the celebration of major feast days the evening before.

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Focusing on the Essentials

21st Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 25 (Year A)
1 Thessalonians 2.1-8; Matthew 22.34-46
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

In today’s Gospel reading, we see the temple authorities spinning out of control, yet again. Last week we heard the Pharisees try to trap Jesus over the issue if one should pay taxes to the empire. Jesus managed to side-step that issue in a way that showed that such secular responsibilities are not antithetical to one’s faith.

Then, in a passage that was not included in the lectionary this year, the Sadducees try to trap Jesus in a discussion regarding resurrection. It is alluded to at the beginning of today’s Gospel, and I think it’s worth taking a brief look at, since it is part of a larger pattern in this part of Matthew’s Gospel.

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