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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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Whose Image Do You Bear?

20th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 24 (Year A)
1 Thessalonians 1.1-10; Matthew 22.15-22
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach


Fasten your seatbelts! Jesus is getting political!

To be completely transparent, the Bible is inherently political. Not political as we tend to think about it – as in the art and process of governing. But political in the sense of relating to views about social relationships that involve power or authority. From the Greek polítēs, meaning citizen. Because frankly, we humans are political beings. Whenever there is relationship between humans, at some point the issue of power and authority, in whatever form that takes, will arise. Your workplace relationships. There are differences in power and authority. Your friendships, maybe not so much. Except when disagreements arise and then one or the other attempts to exercise authority. Your family relationships. Parents have authority over the children. And I’m not even going to touch the issue of authority in spousal relationships.

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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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