Sunday, June 17, 2018

What is the Kingdom of God Like, Here and Now?

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 6 (Year B)
Mark 4.26-34
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Today in our Gospel reading, we hear Jesus give two parables that are designed to answer a simple question – “What is the kingdom of God like?” Piece of cake. Jesus seeks to explain the kingdom of God using agricultural imagery. Imagery that would have been well-known to the people of his day. The first is the parable of the growing seed and the second is the parable of the mustard seed.

As an aside, it should be noted that neither of these short images are really parables. Parables are simple stories, with some sort of developed plot, that are designed to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. They are designed to challenge us to think about our lives, spiritual or otherwise, in new and transformative ways. Neither of today’s images really fit the bill. There is no plot. Neither address a moral or spiritual lesson. Neither seek to challenge us to new ways of living, at least on the surface. Rather, today’s images are actually similitudes – streamlined similes describing a key truth with no developed plot. They are meant to convey an image to help us understand a truth about our life in God. There is no challenge involved, except possibly the challenge of translating and understanding what is being conveyed. It may be splitting hairs, but, you know me – once and engineer, always an engineer. And we engineers want to make sure things are put in the right box.

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Is Blood Really Thicker Than Water?

Third Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 5 (Year B)
Mark 3.20-35
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

There’s an old saying. “Blood is thicker than water.” The idea that relationships and loyalties within a family are stronger and more important than all others. But listening to today’s Gospel reading, one might get the idea that Jesus would not have agreed with this idea.

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Voice of the Lord

Trinity Sunday (Year B)
Isaiah 6.1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8.12-17; John 3.1-17
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

For a number of years now, in the week between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, as I attempt to come up with a sermon on the Trinity, I watch a YouTube video that is part of the Lutheran Satire series. The video is called “St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies.” 

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

"Pentecost is God in Us"

Day of Pentecost (Year B)
Acts 2.1-21; Romans 8.22-27
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

If you could pick one Biblical event to personally witness, what would it be?

Of course, there’s no right answer. There are so many to choose from. As a Christian, I would have to narrow my choice to the New Testament. But even then, there are just so many significant events.

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

So, Let's Get On With It

Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year B)
Acts 1.15-17, 21-26; John 17.6-19
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Just one week before Pentecost, as we near the end of Eastertide, our Gospel selection loops back around to the last few hours of Jesus’ earthly life. The events of today’s Gospel reading actually take place on Maundy Thursday, mere hours before Jesus is arrested and eventually put to death by crucifixion. Why on earth, in the season celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection and our life post-Resurrection, would our lectionary seek to revisit the time before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion? We’ve been there and done that. So has Jesus. We’ve all moved on, haven’t we?

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Sunday, May 06, 2018

Abiding in the Gifts of Joy and Friendship

Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B)
1 John 5.1-6; John 15.9-17
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Last week, we talked about the symbolism of Jesus as the vine and us as the branches. We focused on the themes of abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit, and how these are demonstrated by and accomplished through our commitment to live more fully into his commandment: “love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13.34; Jn 15.12). Both today’s Gospel reading from John and the Epistle reading from the First Letter of John are continuations of their corresponding readings from last week. They further elaborate on the themes of abiding in Jesus, what it means to bear fruit, and the commandment to love one another. So what more can or needs to be said?

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Abiding and Bearing Fruit

Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B)
Acts 8.26-40; 1 John 4.7-21; John 15.1-8
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

I have a confession to make. Today’s Gospel reading always makes me feel a little inadequate. But not for the reason you might think.

You see, I come from a long line of “green thumbs.” All my grandparent had wonderful gardens. They all had beautiful beds of flowers and lush green plants in front of their homes. And in the summer, they always had vegetable gardens with delicious tomatoes and other assorted veggies. My mother inherited their abilities. She has roses in her back yard, flowers in the front yard, and lots of potted plants throughout her house. She likes plants so much that for years I have sent her some sort of plant for Mother’s Day. A number of years ago I sent her a Ficus benjamina, no more than six inches tall. Now, years later, that ficus is taller than I am and fills a corner in Mom’s family room. Such is her gift with plants. And my sister is the same. Every summer she plants all sorts of vegetables in her back yard and has fresh herbs pretty much all year round.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Called to be Good Shepherds

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year B)
Acts 4.5-12; 1 John 3.16-24; John 10.11-18
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Here at the mid-point of Eastertide, we shift our attention, although not our primary focus. In the first half of the Easter season, we heard accounts of several of Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances. We examined what these direct experiences of the Risen Lord meant for the disciples, and what they continue to mean for us as Easter people. Now we are done with those accounts. For the remainder of this season we look at various well-known images that Jesus uses to describe himself. Images that he offered prior to his death. Images in which he attempted to give the disciples, and us, a foretaste of how we are to live in light of what was to – or for us, has already – come. Images that provide more depth to what it means to live the resurrected life than can be gleaned from the post-Resurrection appearances themselves. Images that, in hindsight, we see are lessons for our lives of faith.

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Seeking to be in Relationship

Third Sunday of Easter (Year B)
Luke 24.36b-48
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

On Easter, we celebrate the glorious mystery that is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Throughout the remainder of Eastertide – the great 50 days of Easter – we, along with the disciples, struggle with sorting out exactly what this means for those of us who follow the Risen Lord. For the first couple of weeks of Eastertide, we take a look at various post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in an attempt to answer this question. The disciples struggle with determining how their relationship with Jesus has changed in light of the Resurrection. And with them, we seek to discern how we faithfully live into the resurrected life that we have inherited.

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Sunday, April 08, 2018

Moving Forward in Faith

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

During the Great 50 Days of Easter, our scripture readings focus on the meaning of the Resurrection that we witnessed on Easter Day. They focus on what it means to live into new relationship with the resurrected Lord. They focus on what it means for us to live into the resurrected life as followers of Jesus Christ. So what does it mean, then, that on this second Sunday of Easter, the icon for our relationship with and life in the Resurrected Lord is none other than Doubting Thomas?

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