Sunday, March 11, 2018

For God Soooo Loved the World

Fourth Sunday in Lent (Year B)
Numbers 21.4-9; John 3.14-21
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

As we draw closer to Holy Week, our readings seek to prepare us for what will happen in Jerusalem – Christ’s Passion. Today’s reading from the Gospel according to John is part of a meeting Jesus has with Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who comes to Jesus under cover of night to discuss some of Jesus’ intriguing teachings. In the course of their discussion about “being born from above” and other spiritual matters, Jesus gives his first prediction regarding his Passion – “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (Jn 3.14). Jesus then talks about what it means for the Son of Man – his term for himself – to be lifted up. What he reveals is not just about the predicted event, but what it will mean for all humanity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3.16).

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Sunday, March 04, 2018

Clearing Away What Distracts Us from Our Relationship with God

Third Sunday in Lent (Year B)
Exodus 20.1-17; John 2.13-22
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Thus far during this Lenten season, the lectionary has incorporated scripture readings that focus on our covenant with God. Readings that focus on providing parameters for relationship with God. That makes sense as Lent is a time when we intentionally focus on our relationship with God.

Our Old Testament reading is one of the major covenants between God and his people – the giving of the Ten Commandments. The laws that would be foundational to the Jewish religion, the nation of Israel, and indeed, would come to be considered a bedrock of western society. Comprising a mere 10 of the 613 laws God actually gave to his people, these are considered the “biggies.” They are significant in terms of the scope and magnitude of the issues covered, but also in terms of how they are presented.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Radical Faith in God's Promises

Second Sunday in Lent (Year B)
Genesis 17.1-7, 15-16; Romans 4.13-25; Mark 8.31-38
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

During the season of Lent, we make promises to ourselves – and to God – that we are going to do certain things as Lenten devotions. That we are going to pray more. That we are going to give some additional money, maybe even some of our time, to a worthwhile cause. That we might even fast on occasion. Or we promise that we are not going to do certain things. Maybe we’re not going to eat meat. Or maybe we’re not going to drink alcohol or caffeine. Or maybe we’re not going to eat chocolate (heresy!). Or maybe we’re not going to engage in social media. Those acts we take on, those things that we are determined to give up, are promises to God. They are meant to be signs of our devotion to God. But what about God’s promises to us? Even as we are making promises to God, does God make promises to us in return? And if so, how do we respond to those promises?

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Doing Ash Wednesday and Lent as Acts of Love

Ash Wednesday
Matthew 6.1-6, 16-21
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

What are we to make of the fact that this year, Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day? Two holidays that are, in many ways, complete opposites. Ash Wednesday, a sacred and holy day; and Valentine’s Day, while based on commemoration of the life of a saint (or maybe multiple saints), is in our time a decidedly secular celebration. Ash Wednesday, emphasizing sin and death; and Valentine’s Day, emphasizing love and life. Ash Wednesday, emphasizing fasting and penance; and Valentine’s Day, emphasizing feasting and merriment. To be sure, there is no connection between the two. Occurring on the same day is purely coincidence. Valentine’s Day is a fixed date – February 14th. Ash Wednesday, on the other hand, is determined based on a formula involving phases of the moon. Easter is determined as being the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the Vernal Equinox. The beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday, is then determined by backing up 46 days – 40 days not counting Sundays (which incidentally are not part of Lent). So the fact that these two days occur today is merely a chance convergence of our solar calendar and the ancient Jewish lunar calendar. Something that last occurred 73 years ago, and will occur again in a mere six years.

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Sunday, February 04, 2018

Liberated to Serve

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (Year B)
Isaiah 40.21-31; Psalm 147.1-12, 21c; 1 Corinthians 9.16-23; Mark 1.29-39
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Our icon for this fifth Sunday after the Epiphany is a nameless woman who is the subject of a mere two verses in Mark’s Gospel. “Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told [Jesus] about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them” (Mk 1.30-31).

Whenever I hear this passage, I can’t help but feel sorry for Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. Sure, she is healed of what is presumably some life-threatening illness. But no sooner is she healed than she is up on her feet, cooking meals and serving guests. For Christ’s sake, give the poor woman a break! Let her get a little more rest before having to return to the household chores. And shame on you Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James, John, and whoever else is in the house, for letting her jump out of bed and getting right back to her household duties. For maybe even expecting her to play the dutiful hostess. Men! But maybe that’s what mom’s do. Simon’s mother-in-law reminds me of those very few times during my childhood when my mother was sick. As soon as she was well – sometimes even before she was well – she was back doing the mom thing. Cooking, cleaning, taking care of the family.

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

God's Authority Conferred

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (Year B)
Deuteronomy 18.15-20; 1 Corinthians 8.1-13; Mark 1.21-28
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

The primary question we ask in the season after the Epiphany is: how God is revealed to us? How is God revealed to us specifically in the person of Jesus Christ? But thanks to the wisdom of the framers of our lectionary, we also gain insight into how God is revealed in a broader sense. How does God, throughout time, reveal himself? How does God – how will God – reveal himself to us?

Today, all of our readings look at a particular aspect of God’s revelation throughout time and to us. Specifically, how God reveals – and confers – God’s authority.

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Being Called . . . Down Through the Ages

Third Sunday after the Epiphany (Year B)
Jonah 3.1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7.29-31; Mark 1.14-20
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Okay. So let’s get this straight. Jesus is in Galilee, proclaiming the Good News. The gist of his message is “the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” As he’s walking along the Sea of Galilee, he comes across two brothers – Simon Peter and Andrew. They’re hard at work, fishing. By all indications, these men have never met. Jesus doesn’t know them from Adam. (And if anyone would know Adam, it would be Jesus.) And out of the blue, he calls out to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people” (Mk 1.17). Not even knowing who this is, these brothers immediately drop what they are doing and follow him. And then it happens a second time. Jesus comes across another set of brothers – James and John. Again, no indication that they knew each other or had ever met. Jesus does the same thing. He calls out to them to follow him. And again, these brothers leave their nets, their boat, and their father, to follow Jesus.

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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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