Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost Baptisms

Today I did my first baptism – baptisms, actually. We had a triple header, with three babies being baptized at the 10:00 service. Susan and I split up the parts of the baptismal service, with her doing the Presentation of the Candidates and me doing the Baptismal Covenant and the Thanksgiving over the Water. Susan baptized one of the babies and I baptized the other two – Caitlin and Payton, nine-month old twins. Everything went pretty smoothly – none of the babies cried, which was probably a miracle. I did have to fight a little with Payton. Unlike her sister, she fidgeted in my arms and did not want to lay back against my arm for the actual baptism. She kept trying to sit up. But I finally got her to lay back long enough for the triple sprinkling with water on her head. We also had a little bit of a struggle during the chrismation. She just didn’t want to have me annoint her forehead with the chrism. But I prevailed, sort of. Instead of making the sign of the cross during the words “Payton, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever,” it was more like a downward stroke and then a bit of a smudge. But I trust the Holy Spirit was evoked anyway, making her the newest member of the Body of Christ – and a spirited one, at that.

With today’s baptisms, I have now done all the more common sacramental functions of a priest. I have yet to do the Rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent (confession), but that is not as common in The Episcopal Church these days.


Read more!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Eucharistic Theology from the Mouths of Babes – Part 2

Today’s 10:00 liturgy held another lesson in Eucharistic theology from one of our younger members. This time I was serving as a chalice bearer. There was a row of four children, all in the 6 to 8 year old range. Right after I served wine to Sam, the last of the four, he turned to the boy to his right, gave a thumbs up and said “That’s goooood!” Again, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the simple, yet wise statement of Eucharistic theology by one of the younger, more exuberant members of the Body of Christ.


Read more!

Into The Wild Blue Yonder

Seventh Sunday of Easter– Year C
(Ascension Day Propers)

2 Kings 2:1-15; Psalm 47; Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:49-53
Sunday, May 20, 2007 – St. Alban’s, Westwood

One of my most vivid and fondest memories of my elementary school days was a trip to the school library. I was in fourth grade in Denver. Periodically, our entire class would go to the school library. Seated at rows of tables in the back of the library, the school librarian would tell us about all sorts of fascinating books, undoubtedly in an attempt to peak our interest in the wonderful world of books, and entice us to read more. As part of her presentation, she would often read to us from books that she though might interest us. On this particular occasion, the librarian read to us from a biography about Amelia Earhart – the early 20th century aviatrix, writer, and feminist. For some reason, I was enthralled with the story of Amelia Earhart. At least part of it was the fact that she was from Kansas, which, at that time of my life, I considered to be my true home. But I was also fascinated by her spirit of adventure and daring.

As many of you will recall, Amelia Earhart was foremost remembered for being an adventuresome and accomplished aviatrix. In her short career in aviation, a field that had only existed for about 20 years when she had her first flying lesson, she accomplished many firsts. She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, and the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, the first woman to fly non-stop coast-to-coast across the United States, and the first person to fly solo across the Pacific between Honolulu and Oakland, to name but a few. Amelia went missing 70 years ago, on July 2, 1937, as she attempted the last portion of the flight that would have made her the first woman to fly around the world.

I guess you could say that Amelia Earhart has become something of a hero for me. She had a passion for flying, and turned it into her life’s mission to be the best aviator possible. In so doing, she had to face some pretty tough odds. She developed her skills and her passion under the guidance and leadership of other experts in the field. But to make it, she had to prove that, as a woman, she was at least as competent, if not more so, than her male counterparts. Her nickname of “Lady Lindy,” a take-off of Charles Lindbergh’s appellation of “Lucky Lindy” proved that in the hearts and minds of many, she was not only capable, but also among the best aviators of her time.

For me, today’s commemoration of Jesus’ ascension calls forth some of the same themes as does reflection on Amelia Earhart’s life – and not because she and Jesus both ascended into the wild blue yonder, or because they both (quote) disappeared inexplicably. In fact, the correlation between Amelia Earhart and the Ascension actually has little to do with Jesus, but more so with his disciples.

Both of today’s New Testament readings, as you might have noticed, deal with the subject of the Ascension. The Gospel lesson from Luke provides the account of the Ascension itself – the only such account provided in the four Gospels. And the reading from the Acts of the Apostles provides a very brief summary of the Gospel According to Luke, with emphasis on the final event of the Gospel, namely Jesus’ ascension. Rather than being viewed as two lessons from two separate sources, these readings are actually of a single piece. As indicated by the introduction to Acts, the Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were written by the same author and provide a continuous story. The Gospel tells the story of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Acts is the sequel, telling the story of Jesus’ disciples following his ascension. Like any good sequel, Acts begins with a brief summary of what went before, so as to set the stage for the subsequent story.

Ascension is one of the major events in the history of Christianity, to the point that in the Roman Catholic Church, it is one of the Holy Days of Obligation; and in the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts. But interestingly, the two readings on the Ascension provide very little description of the event itself. The Gospel tells us little more than the fact that while Jesus was blessing his disciples, he was “carried up into heaven.” Acts does say a little more, but not about the Ascension itself. What is particularly interesting to me is the fact that in this portion of Acts, more of the back-story is revealed than was recorded in Gospel lesson. In fact, the back-story is the bulk of the reading, with little more than passing reference to the Ascension. Jesus gave instructions through the Holy Spirit to his disciples; after his suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus appeared alive to his disciples and through many convincing proofs, spoke to them about the kingdom of God; he promised that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit – a lead-in to Pentecost, which we will celebrate next week; he engaged in theological discussion about the disciples query regarding the restoration of the kingdom of Israel; and by the way, then he was lifted up into the clouds. So, if Ascension is such an important event, why does Scripture not tell us more about it?

Because it’s not so much the Ascension itself that is of importance, but rather, what happened afterwards that is important. Don’t get me wrong. The Ascension is an incredibly important event in Christ’s incarnation and in our history as Christians. It is important because it is one of the hinge points in the story of who we are. It is one of those critical, pivotal moments that serve to define who we are as the Body of Christ. The Ascension “both closes the period of Jesus’ ministry and opens the period of the church’s mission” (Culpepper, 488). This is the pivotal moment that would forever define how we function as the Body of Christ in the world. As such, it was not so much the Ascension itself that became of great import, but rather how the disciples responded. How they chose to respond in that moment following Christ’s ascension would be critical.

Acts tells us that while Jesus was going, the disciples gazed up toward heaven. At that moment, one of several things could have happened. One option would have been for Peter, who had become the de facto leader of the disciples following Jesus’ crucifixion, to say something like “Well guys, it’s been great knowing you. We’ve had a wonderful three years together, but the boss has left us. There’s nothing more we can do without him. So, I’m going back to my old life – back to Capernaum, my wife, and my fishing business.” If that were the case, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here today. But that didn’t happen. At the end of his Gospel, Luke tells us that “they worshiped [Jesus], and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” This could have literally been the end of the story. For their second option was to keep what they had experienced to themselves – to continue on as a band of eleven followers of Jesus, keeping to themselves and spending the rest of their lives in private devotion, blessing God in the temple by day, and sitting around at night commiserating about the good old days they had spent with Jesus. But that didn’t happen, either.

The disciples chose the third option, the more adventurous, the more daring, the more dangerous option. They chose to continue the mission that their leader had started – even if they were a little uncertain on what that mission really was. As you recall, even up to the end, they seemed a little fuzzy about what the previous three years had been about, what their master’s mission had been about. Just before Jesus’ ascension, the disciples asked him “‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ [Jesus] replied, ‘it is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority’” (Acts 1:6-7). According to Robert Wall, Professor of Biblical Studies at Seattle Pacific University, this brief discourse, in light of Jesus’ subsequent departure “frames the religious crisis it occasions: Will the new age of God’s promised salvation, which dawned with the Messiah, continue to unfold in his absence?” (Wall, 37).

In his reply, “Jesus does not respond to speculations surrounding what is ‘not yet’ but insists that his disciples engage in a mission ‘right now’” . . . “The apostles are to wait for a different redemptive reality” (Wall, 42). Wall notes that “While Jesus thereby agrees with the theological subtext of the apostles’ query – [that] the Spirit’s outpouring does indeed signal the season of Israel’s restoration – he applies it to their vocation: God’s reign will be reestablished among God’s people not by some apocalypse from heaven but by a mission on earth” (Wall, 42). Jesus then assures them the promise of the Father, that they “will be baptized by the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” While the disciples may have not consciously or rationally understood what Jesus was telling them, they somehow knew on an inner level what was being said. As Wall posits, “Luke understands that all Jesus did as God’s Messiah is ‘through the Holy Spirit.’ The Holy Spirit is ‘the Spirit of prophesy’ who calls forth, empowers, and authorizes the Messiah’s prophetic ministry and will ensure the continuity in his absence” (Wall, 37). The Holy Sprit will provide the disciples with the skills, authority, and guidance they need to continue Jesus’ work.

We cannot know for certain when the disciples made the conscious decision to continue the work that Christ had begun, the beginnings of which they had witnessed first-hand during their three years with him. It may have been in those moments following Jesus’ ascension, as they gazed up into heaven, feeling alone, perhaps scared, uncertain about what they should do; and if they had any inkling of what to do, how they would go about it. But what is certain is that they knew they had to continue their Lord’s mission. They had witnessed first-hand some of the greatest events to have ever happened in human history. They had known and been taught by the greatest man to have ever lived. They had come face-to-face with God incarnate. This was too good to keep to themselves. It had to be shared with as many people as possible. Even if Christ was no longer physically present on earth, he continued to live through those whom he had touched. Their mission was to make Christ know to others so that they too might experience salvation that comes through him and the joy of living in him. I’m sure, at the time, and probably many times throughout their ministries, the disciples questioned whether they had what it took to carry Christ’s message to the entire world. After all, at that time, there were only eleven of them, charged with spreading the message and love of Christ to a world that did not know him or that had not even heard of him. But they knew that this was what they were called to do, and they knew that God, through the Holy Spirit, would provide them with the gifts and resources they would need to carry out their mission.

Two thousand years later, our mission is the same. We follow in the footsteps of those eleven bewildered men who watched as their Lord departed from them. We look around us today at our woefully broken world, wondering what we should do, what we can possibly do, to continue the work begun those many centuries ago. Just like the disciples, we have the Holy Spirit, sent by Christ following his ascension, to guide us along the way, to provide us with the skills and resources we need to continue this all-important mission to make Christ known to all the world, to be catalysts by which the world may experience Christ’s loving embrace.

We all have different skills, different talents, different concerns, different passions. But the foundation that under girds all of that is that we are all members of the Body of Christ, filled with the love of God and love for God made known to us through Jesus Christ. We are knit together by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the “invigorating source of the community’s witness to the world” (Wall, 41). It is through this same Spirit that we are called, individually and collectively, to use our talents and passions to address the concerns of our part of the world – to demonstrate to the world that even though Christ may have ascended, he is not gone – he lives on through us. And his mission to bring about the kingdom of God has not ended, but can be and will be accomplished through his continued presence in the world.

Amelia Earhart took off on her own, without any leader, forging her own path in the aviation industry and through history. She faced difficult conditions, but continued on, driven by her passion, her skill, and her mission. Following the ascension of Jesus, the disciples essentially did the same thing. They were left alone, without a physical leader. But they had a commission and a passion that they turned into their mission. And they were provided with the comfort, assurance, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, to energize them and guide them along the way. And likewise, we are called by a spirit of love for God, out of our own individual and collective concerns and passions, and invigorated by the Holy Spirit, to not just gaze up at heaven and wait for Christ’s return, but to do our part to help transform the world into the kingdom he envisioned.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Culpepper, R. Alan. “The Gospel of Luke: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflection.” In Vol. IX of The New Interpreter’s Bible. Edited by Leander E. Keck, et al. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995.

Wall, Robert W.. “The Acts of the Apostles: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflection.” In Vol. X of The New Interpreter’s Bible. Edited by Leander E. Keck, et al. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002.

Read more!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Unexpected Blessing

Late last October, I was enjoying my day off. Early in the evening, I was getting hungry, so walked down the street to Baja Fresh to get a burrito for dinner. I got my burrito to go and walked home. As I stopped at the mailbox to check my mail, I man came up to me and asked if I had anything to eat. I offered him my burrito, but he said he couldn’t take my dinner. We started talking and he laid out a tale of woe about having just lost his job, having no money, and having to face the prospect of going home to tell his wife that he was unemployed. Somehow, his story did not sound quite right. He smelled of alcohol for one thing. And the facts and timelines did not quite coincide. But for some reason, I continued to talk with him anyway. It turned out that Tim and his wife, Barbara, were homeless and staying at the Methodist Church down the street. They needed something to eat and were at the end of their rope. I decided to use some of my discretionary fund to buy him some food (the first use of my discretionary fund, actually). We went to the KFC nearby and I purchased dinner for him to take back for him and Barbara. I also gave him a few dollars for bus fare so he could get to a resource agency to get help. I also gave him my card in case he needed any help in the future.

The next day was Halloween. I had had a long day at work and had just gotten home. All I wanted to do was settle in for the night. After all, Halloween in West Hollywood is absolutely insane, and I wanted no part of it. Within a few minutes of plopping down in my chair to relax, there was a knock at my door. It was Tim, with his wife in tow. Like a fool, I let them in to talk. They had been thrown out of the Methodist Church and had no place to go. They wanted to know if they could spend just one night at my place. I said that was not an option. They said they would be willing to sleep on my balcony. The answer was still no. We talked for quite a while about options. Finally, Tim asked if I could give them money for a motel. By this time I was incredibly tired and just wanted to get rid of them so I could get some sleep. I agreed, but would not directly give them money. I did agree to take them to a motel and pay for it (out of my discretionary fund). We drove to several motels along Sunset Boulevard, but none of them had any vacancies. Finally, Tim said they had stayed at a cheap place a little south of here some time back. So, we drove there. I don’t recall exactly where it was, but I think it was down near Olympic or Pico, around Robertson. I paid the motel manager for one night and left.

That was the last I saw of Tim and Barbara. And I never heard from them. For the first few weeks, anytime my cell phone rang or the office phone rang, I feared it might be them, wanting more money. And every time I went home, I feared that I would find them at my front door. But after nearly six months of not hearing from them, I had pretty much figured they were long gone. I did think of them occasionally when I would happen to walk by the Methodist Church down the street from my apartment, but that was about it. Then, about a week ago, while I was at the Spring Clergy Conference in Long Beach, I went back to my room after the Monday evening reception and found a voice mail message on my cell phone. It was from Tim. He had called to say that he and Barbara were okay, that they have been off the streets ever since I helped them, and that they were very grateful for all I had done for them. He went on about how much they love me and what a blessing I was to them, and apologized for not having called me sooner. He left no return phone number, but said he would try to call me some other time. He also asked that I keep them in my prayers.

I was completely blown away by the voice mail. By now, I had not expected to ever hear from them. When I did happen to think about them, I would generally wonder if they were okay, but would also wondered if I had been conned. But then, to receive that message and to hear that they were off the streets was a real affirmation that I had done the right thing. They felt I had been a blessing to them. But that voice mail message was their blessing to me.


Read more!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Eucharistic Theology from the Mouths of Babes

This morning during the 10:00 service, Susan and I were distributing the bread during Eucharist. Near the center of the altar rail was a mother with a couple of boys, probably around 6 or 7 years old. I was waiting for the next batch of people to arrive at the rail when I saw Susan give hosts, first to one boy, then to the mother, and then to the other boy. The first boy just sort of looked at the host in his hand, not really sure what to do with it. The second boy looked at the first and said, “Eat it, Tristan. It’s good.” I couldn’t help but chuckle. That was probably one of the best statements of Eucharistic theology I have ever heard. Children understand theology far more than we give them credit.


Read more!

Losing One of the Flock

I’m so bummed! At dinner tonight, one of my students, Maggie, mentioned that she had decided to leave UCLA and return to Northwestern University. She had been at Northwestern last year (at the same time I was at Seabury, across the street), but had transferred to UCLA. She really missed her cello instructor, so wanted to return to Northwestern to finish her degree in music. While I understand her reasons for leaving, I still don’t like it. Since she started attending our Sunday services, she has become an integral part of our little community, accompanying our pianist on occasion, and even filling in with cello music when our pianist has not been able to be there. Not only does she bring great musical talent, she also has wonderful insights during our reflections on the scripture lessons and an incredibly dry and sarcastic sense of humor (which I love, and part of the reason we have really bonded). Maggie’s absence will be painfully felt in our small group.


Read more!

Chocoholic Squirrel

This afternoon I was working in my office, when all of a sudden I heard a racquet out on the patio. I opened my office door and stepped out into the patio and looked in the direction of the noise, near the chapel door. A squirrel had turned over a small waste basket and was admiring the contents. When it saw me, it acted like it was going to run away, but then stopped after only getting a couple of feet. I walked up to within about six or eight feet of it, and it just stood there looking at me. Then it turned to face me directly, took a defiant stance, and just stared at me. The staring contest lasted about a minute or two. When it seemed to have decided that I was no substantial threat, it turned and went back to the waste basket and pulled out a clear plastic container – the kind from the grocery store that the bakery department uses for cookies and cakes. I immediately recognized it as being from the coffee hour and saw that it contained about a third of a piece of chocolate cake. I then realized that the defiant stance was a warning not to get between the squirrel and the chocolate – a position I can readily appreciate.

The squirrel went to work on trying to open the container. It would bite at the edge of it, then pull the container up into its paws and try from a different angle. This went on for several minutes. Now, I know that I should have chased the squirrel away, but I was having such a grand time watching it furiously trying to get to the treasure that lay within. Finally, the squirrel managed to chew a small hole in the container. It poked its head in to get the chocolate cake, which was at the far side of the box. The squirrel had to crawl quite a way in through the small hole. I thought it might end up getting stuck, which would have been an even more funny sight. But it managed to reach the cake and back out with treasure in hand, or rather, in jaw. It took the cake about half way across the patio to a spot under one of the tables and began munching on this delectable chocolate feast (I had a piece during coffee hour and it was very good).

While the squirrel was feasting, I went over and cleaned up the trash and put it in the dumpster in the parking lot (which actually is another of the squirrel’s favorite hangouts – I have seen it there a number of times). I did find a piece of broccoli (undoubtedly left over from yesterday’s wedding reception). After the squirrel had finished eating the cake, I tried to throw the broccoli in the direction of the squirrel, but it would have nothing to do with it. Why eat vegetables when you can have chocolate? Last I saw of the squirrel, it was walking down the sidewalk heading toward Hillel (next door) which has a Coffee Bean franchise. The squirrel was probably wanting some coffee to go with the chocolate cake. Too bad for the squirrel that Coffee Bean is closed on Sundays.


Read more!

First Wedding

Yesterday, I officiated at my first wedding. What an awesome experience! I think I was probably at least as nervous as the couple, if not more so. I had worked with Erica and Martin doing premarital counseling for the past six months. During the process, I learned a lot about the whole process and about working with couples on relationship issues. And I think they learned a lot, too. The ceremony was a great culmination of all that we had been through. Everything went off without a (visible) hitch, and everyone commented on what a beautiful service it was.

After the ceremony, the couple said that I have a special place in their lives because of the entire premarital counseling process. They felt like I really helped them understand who they are as individuals and as a couple. It wasn’t me. I just facilitated. They did all the real work. I also got a lot of really good comments from various people about my homily (posted here). Several married couples (married anywhere from several years to about 40 years) said that it helped them remember their own wedding day and their wedding vows. One woman said that she and her husband had a fight on the way to the wedding and were not exactly speaking at the time of the ceremony. But my sermon helped them put things in perspective and smoothed over their disagreement. What a great compliment! And the best man was so moved by it that he asked me for a copy.

I feel really positive about how everything went. I felt like I really spoke to the couple, as well as to all those in attendance. The Gospel message was definitely proclaimed and was taken to heart by more than a few who heard it.


Read more!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Rollercoaster of Marriage

Marriage of Erica and Martin
Song of Solomon 2:10-13; 8:6-7; Colossians 3:12-17; Matthew 5:13-16
Saturday, May 5, 2007 – St. Alban’s, Westwood

I’ve always loved rollercoasters. When I was a kid and went to Disneyland or to Magic Mountain, the only rides I really wanted to go on were the rollercoasters. There was always the sense of anticipation as I waited in the lines for the rides – lines that seemed to go on forever, that never seemed to move fast enough. Eventually, after the long wait, came the moment when I could see the place where you rollercoaster ride started – where people joyfully got into the cars and took off on their ride. And a few minutes later, the cars would pull back into the station, and the people would get off, with looks of intense exhilaration on their faces. And finally came the moment when it would be my turn. I would get in the car of the rollercoaster, the attendant would strap me in and lower the bar over my lap. At that point, I could hardly contain myself. I was ready to go – I was more than ready. After what seemed like an eternity, while the attendants helped everyone else into their cars, strapped them in, and gave final instructions, we were off. The real thrill had begun, with the car taking off, increasing speed, making unexpected turns, slowly plodding up steep inclines, and then suddenly dropping on the other side, with the car increasing speed. All this resulted in non-stop breathtaking and heart pounding exhilaration.

Not having been married, I often imagine that being married can be like an exhilarating rollercoaster ride. There is the anticipation and seemingly endless and even agonizing period of time just getting to the wedding. And then the attendant, that would be me, prepares the couple and launches them on their way – on the way to a thrilling adventure together, filled with ups and downs, unexpected curves in the path, moments of slow plodding progress, and moments of fast-paced, breathtaking speeds. Like a rollercoaster ride, the journey as married couple will hopefully be great fun, punctuated by lots of laughter. But there may also be moments when the ride may seem a little terrifying or scary, punctuated by screaming. There may be moments when you think “what have I gotten myself into?” But then, God willing, at the end of an exhilarating lifetime together, the couple looks back and says “wow, that was an awesome ride!”

Today, we are launching Erica and Martin on that exhilarating adventure known as marriage. After the long wait to get to this point, the time of praying about whether this is what they are called to do, the time of discussing all the practicalities and all the logistics, the time of dreaming, the time of planning and anticipating, the moment is finally here.

I have had the great pleasure of walking with Erica and Martin during the last six months as they have prepared for marriage. During this six months, we have spent a lot of time in thoughtful and prayerful conversation – time spent exploring their relationship; examining and discerning what it means to be a couple, and what it will mean to be husband and wife; time evaluating the strengths that will serve them well as they journey together in holy matrimony; time struggling over the challenges that they face as two strong-willed, independent people seeking to join as one; time imagining how those challenges will be played out and worked through in the months and years ahead. While it has not always been easy, I think it is safe to say that this time together has been incredibly productive.

Those of you who know Martin and Erica know how driven and determined they both are. That is exhibited in the way they work hard and they play hard. And it is no less exhibited in their relationship together and in their commitment to each other and to their life together. Throughout our time working together on pre-marital counseling, we talked about and struggled with some critical issues of relationship. Erica and Martin fully entered into the process, determined to learn all they could about themselves, each other, and their relationship. I was constantly amazed that whenever we would discuss an issue, no matter how large or how small, they were willing to fully dive into the process of exploring what this might mean for them as a couple. And then they would instantly start to work on dealing with whatever challenges may have arisen. By our next session together, they would reported their insights, the steps being taken to deal with a particular issue, and progress made. And there was always progress made. They were obviously taking their relationship seriously and doing whatever they could to further improve it. This dedication and determination will be one of their greatest assets as they embark on their shared life.

This dedication and willingness to do whatever is necessary for the ultimate improvement of their relationship, to striving for perfection in their life together as husband and wife, is further demonstrated in their choices of material for today’s wedding service. You will hear this in the vows that they will make in just a few moments. And you heard this in their choice of scripture readings, particularly in the second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. This passage is part of a longer section in which Paul exhorts the Christian community at Colossae to holiness of life, specifically in terms of what it means to be a community of believers and how to live into that life – a life in union with Christ that is not static but which is seen in terms of growth leading to perfection or spiritual maturity. These words outline the virtues that promote harmony and unity in relationship. While written to a community 2,000 years ago, this passage provides words of wisdom as to how to live into a life in the bonds of holy matrimony. These words provide insight into what a man and a woman need to do in order to live together as one.

First off, Paul exhorts them to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” These are all important virtues to be exercised in any relationship, but particularly so in one as close as that of husband and wife. In compassion and kindness, one partner has sympathy for the situation and circumstances faced by the other. In addition, each partner takes as their focus the consideration of the needs and interests of the other. In humility, one partner considers his or her spouse as better than himself or herself. In meekness, one partner is willing to cede his or her rights to those of the other, rather than being concerned with personal gain – again, the needs and interests of the other partner are made top priority. And in patience, one partner is willing and able to make allowances, not excuses, but allowances, for any shortcomings of the other, and is thereby able to tolerate the ways in which those shortcomings may be manifest.

Paul goes on to exhort them to “bear with one another,” further lifting up the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. In addition, he is pointing out the realistic nature of relationship – that it is inevitable that there will be complaints and conflicts. And when one partner is not able to live up to these virtues and falls short, or is the subject of a complaint or the instigator of a conflict – and this will happen from time to time – Paul urges that they “forgive each other.” And the example to be followed is that of our Lord – “just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

“Above all,” Paul then writes, “clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” It is your love for one another that has brought you to this point in time. It is your love for one another that will bind you together in the many times of joy that you will share. And it is your love for one another that will give you the strength and the courage you need to work through any challenges you may face. It is that love that will guide you and enable the perfect harmony that you are called to. That will not always mean perfect agreement. But it will mean a sense of wholeness. Through your love for one another, with that love as your guiding principle, you will be able to establish a harmony in your relationship that will make you whole as a couple.

And finally, Paul provides the means by which you may accomplish that sense of wholeness that you seek in your partnership. It is something that you have already found through your shared faith in God and in Christ. Paul admonishes them to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . [to] let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Your love for one another is what binds you together, but it is the example of God’s perfect love made manifest through the gift of his son, Jesus Christ, that makes your love possible, that strengthens your love, and helps you to become whole. You have already experiences that in the journey that brought you together and in the journey that has brought you to this glorious day. Every day, give thanks to God for the gift of love and for the gift of each other. In your joy together, remember that God has made this possible and rejoice in what has been provided to you. And when you experience challenges, pray to God for strength and guidance, and that through those experiences, your love may be strengthened.

Erica and Martin, keep these words you have so rightly chosen always in your hearts and your minds, for they will provide you with what you need as you embark on this rollercoaster ride called marriage. They will serve you well in both times of joy and in times of challenge. If you let them, and with God’s help, they will not only guide your relationship, but they will also be the means by which your relationship continues to be strengthened and brought to wholeness, so that at the end of your life together, you will be able to look back and say “wow, that was an awesome ride!” And now, Erica and Martin, buckle up and enjoy the ride!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Read more!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Paschal Candle Lights the Way

[I prepared the following for my monthly article in the May 2007 issue of The Good News, St. Alban's monthly newsletter.]

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Here we are, nearly a month beyond Easter, and already nearly half-way to Pentecost. Has the joy of the Easter celebration worn off yet, or are you still basking in the glow of the new fire kindled at the Great Vigil, the radiance of the Paschal Candle? In our fast-paced world, something that happened nearly a month ago is old news, ancient history. What’s important is what’s happening right now, or what’s going to happen tomorrow. That’s where we need to focus our attention, not on some past event. Right? Wrong!

For us Christians, it’s important to remember Easter every day of our lives. After all, to quote Susan’s Easter Day sermon, “we are an Easter people living in a Good Friday world.” Ours is a religion that exists solely because of Christ’s resurrection. We are incorporated into this religion through baptism, the sacrament in which we are buried in the waters of baptism, as Christ was buried in a borrowed tomb; and we are raised to new life, as Christ was raised from the dead on Easter morning. In our baptism, we share in Christ’s resurrection, freed from the bonds of sin and death, which he broke through his resurrection. We share in a new life of hope, a new life in which we are forgiven by God, in which we are reconciled to God and to one another. We share in a new life that will not just last for the remainder of our natural, mortal lives, but for eternity. We share in an eternal life with God through Christ.

The Resurrection is not a one-time event. It is not the last word in salvation history. Rather, the Resurrection is the first word in the ongoing creation of the new life that is embodied in and through us, this community, the Body of Christ. Yes, we relive it every Easter Vigil. We relive it every time a new member of God’s family is added to the Body of Christ through the sacrament of baptism. And, by virtue of our baptism, we are called to relive it every moment of our lives, as we strive to live into God’s invitation to be fully alive to God in Christ Jesus. We are called to bear witness to our Good Friday world that the Paschal Candle still burns brightly in our midst. We are called to be the Paschal Candle, lighting the way for others to find their way home, to the new life that Christ has freely offered to all.

May you have a blessed Easter season, and a blessed Easter life.

Yours in Christ,

Read more!