Sunday, December 25, 2016

Word of Truth

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

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1.1, 14).

As much as I love the poetry of John’s Prologue to his gospel, I still, after all these years of hearing it as the gospel for Christmas Day, have a hard time making the shift from the birth narrative we hear on Christmas Eve to this more esoteric imagery. Why, only 12 hours ago we were focusing on the much-beloved imagery of a young woman giving birth to her child, the Son of God, in low and meager conditions, surrounded by cute and cuddly animals, under the adoring eyes of lowly shepherds and the heavenly host of angels alike.  After all, it is so much more heart-warming than the way John portrays it, with all his talk about the Word this and the Word that.  By comparison, John’s words are so cold.  They’re so . . . so theological.  But of course, we know that it’s all the same event, it’s all the same message, just framed in different language. That the two accounts are really two sides of the same coin.

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Vulnerability of God

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

Tonight we stand before the nativity scene. What do we see there before us? A tiny, newborn baby, wrapped in bands of cloth, lying in a cold manger. Mary, glowing with love for the child she has just brought into the world, full of hope for his future, for who he will grow to be. Full of hope for humanity. Joseph, beaming with pride for his newborn son – even if not his biological son – the “adopted” son he will raise as his own. The child he will raise into manhood, and help form who he will become. Shepherds, amazed at the prospect that this is the one whom angels have declared as their Savior, the Messiah. Numerous animals – oxen, cattle, sheep – while not capable of understanding who this is, still sensing the miracle present before them.

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Joseph in the Shadows

Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A)
Matthew 1.18-25
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

My sister is two years younger than I am. And one of the things that really bothered her, particularly when we were in high school, was that, at least in eyes of teachers and school administrators, she was not Lisa Fincher. She was Michael Fincher’s sister. Her identity was bound up in her relationship to her older brother.

I can’t help but think that Joseph, betrothed to Mary, experiences the same thing. Particularly the way things are presented in the Gospels. On this, the fourth Sunday of Advent we finally come to the point of dealing with the impending birth of Jesus, and with how his parents deal with this expectation. In two of the three years of our lectionary cycle, Joseph is treated as an afterthought, deriving his identity from his relationship to Mary.

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Expectations

Third Sunday of Advent (Year A)
Isaiah 35.1-10; Matthew 11.2-11
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

A week and half ago I had a conversation with a parishioner, who commented that there was a big difference between the Episcopal Church and the evangelical, charismatic, revivalist churches that he had grew up in. He observed that in the churches of his youth, there was always a sense of expectation that something amazing would happen in every worship service. That you would somehow be transformed by the worship experience. But the Episcopal Church, which is more staid in its liturgical style, does not always instill that sense of expectation. This got me to thinking about our worship and how we approach it, how we enter into it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not criticizing our more formal liturgy and our unique approach to worship. I wasn’t raised in the Episcopal Church, but it was the more formal liturgical style, among other things, that attracted me to Anglicanism. The liturgical style we enjoy spoke to my sensibilities as a planner and engineer.

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Sunday, December 04, 2016

"Called to Point the Way"

Second Sunday of Advent (Year A)
Isaiah 11.1-10; Matthew 3.1-12
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

On this the second Sunday of Advent, we continue with the themes of the season – expectation and preparation. Today, we are introduced to John the Baptist, who will guide us in a direction that the prophets of old were unable to. To be sure, John the Baptist is an Interesting, colorful character wearing camel hair clothing, eating locusts and wild honey, shouting “Repent!” to anyone who comes near. The kind of character most of us would probably cross to the other side of the street to avoid encountering. Yet, despite his eccentricities, John the Baptist is an important model for us – for where we are going and for who we are called to be. Not that we are called to wear such outlandish (and uncomfortable) clothing or to take up some strange paleo diet or to stand on the street corner and preach radical messages to passers-by.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Are You Ready?"

First Sunday of Advent (Year A)
Isaiah 2.1-5; Romans 13.11-14; Matthew 24.36-44
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Are you ready? When you hear those words this time of year, particularly in the period after Thanksgiving, with X shopping days until Christmas (by the way, there are only 27 more shopping days before Christmas) – most of us think, “are you ready for Christmas?” But no, I don’t mean “are you ready for Christmas?” I mean, “Are you ready for Advent?”

What’s the difference, you may ask. After all, Advent is the season before Christmas. The time to prepare for Christmas. Isn’t it? As my seminary New Testament professor would have responded, “it’s more complicated than that.”

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Revisiting Christ the King

Last Sunday of Pentecost – Christ the King (Year C)
Jeremiah 23.1-6; Colossians 1.11-20; Luke 23.33-43
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Now, admittedly, many of us today have a hard time with the concept of a king, for a variety of reasons. At one time, monarchial rule was certainly the norm, with virtually all nations being ruled by a king or equivalent. However, now there are only 26 monarchs in the world, ruling only about eight percent of the world’s population. So the notion of kingship has become the exception rather than the rule. And then there is the general perception of the nature of kingship. At one time, virtually all monarchs ruled with absolute authority. Again, that has changed. Today, most monarchs are mere figureheads with limited power. There are only five absolute monarchs in the world, ruling less than 0.2 percent of the world’s population. So again, this notion is definitely the exception. Given all of this, the concept of king, particularly an absolute, all-powerful monarch, is a thing of the past.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

"Living Through What is Temporary without Losing Sight of What is Eternal"

26th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 28 (Year C)
Isaiah 65.17-25; 2 Thessalonians 3.6-13; Luke 21.5-19
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

Despite being a Christian my entire life, despite being ordained for ten years, I never cease to be amazed how Scripture speaks to us right where we are in our own contemporary lives. Our Sunday readings are dictated by an established lectionary, with designated readings for each Sunday of the year, arranged in a three year cycle. And even in the fixed nature of the readings, there are times in our common life when the words that are appointed for a particular day seem to have been specifically selected to address the particular situation or circumstances in which we find ourselves – as individuals, as a worshiping community, as a society.

So it is today. Even in the contradictory images from our Scripture readings – in the very contradictions themselves – we find a word to us to help guide us through what many may consider difficult times. Just as these same words guided their original audiences – Isaiah speaking to the people as they prepare to return to Israel from exile in Babylon, and Luke’s gospel speaking to the newly formed church at the beginning of the Christian era – through the difficult times they faced in their common lives.

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Sunday, November 06, 2016

Journey of Saints

All Saints’ Sunday
Ephesians 1.11-23; Luke 6.20-31
St. Gregory’s, Long Beach

What comes to mind when you think of “saints”?

[pause for answers from congregation]

These are all good answers. Now, let’s bring it all together.

On the calendar, we actually have a three day period dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs, and all faithful departed believers. These are Halloween, All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). These three days are collectively known as Allhallowtide. While secular society focuses primarily on Halloween, the church primarily focuses on All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day. On All Saints’ Day, we remember those whom we typically think of as saints, those who have been canonized, or specifically declared a saints, by the Church. These include the likes of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Patrick, and the newest saint on the calendar, St. Teresa of Calcutta, also known as Mother Teresa. On All Souls Day (also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed), we remember all the “regular” folks who have died. We specifically remember our own loved ones who have entered into eternal life.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Lessons in Prayer and Trust

22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 18.1-8
St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

In times of transition, it is natural to look back over life’s journey and review the lessons learned to date. In the course of my journey, particularly the journey of faith that led me into the priesthood and through my first ten years as a priest, I have learned many things. Many of them have to do with what it means to be a servant of God in this particular calling of being a priest. Ways of being a priest and ways of carrying out that role in day-to-day parish life. And there have been some things I have learned about what not to do. While all of these are important and have been formative of who I am as a priest, perhaps the most significant are those things that are of a more foundational nature. Those things that go to the root of who I am, not just as a priest, but as a child of God.

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Sunday, October 02, 2016

Yoke of Discipleship

20th Sunday after Pentecost – St. Francis Sunday
Matthew 11.25-30
St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

As you might have guessed by the presence of our four-legged guests, today is St. Francis Sunday. Oh yeah, and the bulletin cover might give it away, as well. This is the Sunday we commemorate St. Francis of Assisi. In our own time, Francis is greatly loved and admired because of his love of animals. So we honor him by blessing the animals in our own lives, which we will do after the sermon and prayers of the people. But to be honest, Francis’ love of animals was not the most significant thing about him, of who he was. Although this is what endears him to us, his love of animals was not what made him a saint. In our eyes, maybe, but not in the eyes of the Church.

Francis was born in the late 12th century into an upper class family, the son of a prosperous silk merchant. Like the sons of the rich and powerful of his day, Francis enjoyed the carefree and high-spirited life that his family’s status afforded. But in his early 20s, he began a spiritual conversion, prompted by mystical visions. This caused him to lose his taste for the worldly life of the upper class. He began taking more of an interest in and seeking to help the poor and the marginalized. Which he did in the extreme. This infuriated his father, as Francis was giving away goods and money from the family business to help the poor. And then, on a pilgrimage to Rome, he joined the poor in begging at St. Peter’s Basilica – an experience that profoundly moved him. Upon returning to Assisi, he stepped up his practice of selling cloth from his father’s business to help the poor and to help local churches fund their ministries. This was the final straw for Francis’ father, who brought him up on charges before the Bishop of Assisi. Standing in the town square, in front of the Bishop and his father, surrounded by townsfolk, Francis renounced his father, his claim to the family inheritance, and all the worldly possessions received from his father. Including the clothes on his back, which he stripped off and laid at his father’s feet. From that moment, Francis embraced poverty, living as a beggar.

Francis also began preaching the Gospel, particularly the need for repentance. He was soon joined by others who were attracted to his message and to his devotion to “Lady Poverty.” Within a few years, the Franciscan Order, the Order of Friars Minor, was established by Francis and sanctioned by the Pope. Francis spent the rest of his short life dedicated to poverty and proclaiming the message of care for the poor, the sick, and the marginalized.

So where do the animals come into all this? Francis firmly believed in the inherent beauty and goodness of God’s creation. He preached to humans and animals alike the duty of all creatures to praise God. He also proclaimed the duty of humanity to protect nature as the stewards of God’s creation in recognition that we are creatures ourselves. He believed that nature itself was the mirror of God and called all creatures his “brothers” and “sisters.” One of the most famous scenes illustrating these beliefs occurred when Francis was traveling with some companions just outside Assisi. They came to a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Legend has it that Francis told his companions “wait for me while I go preach to my sisters the birds.” The birds gathered around him, intrigued by the power of his voice. This has become the iconic image of Francis and his love and care for animals.

Of course, as we have seen, the story of St. Francis is about so much more than his love for animals. What he was really about was absolute devotion to Christ. To carrying on the mission and ministry of Christ as fully as humanly possible. Without a doubt, no one else in history was as dedicated as Francis to imitating the life and carrying out the work of Christ – in the same way Christ did. His is really a story of discipleship. St. Francis is the epitome of discipleship.

The Gospel reading appointed for St. Francis Day speaks to this absolute devotion that Francis exhibited in his own life and ministry. This Gospel is about the life of discipleship. Our Gospel reading breaks down into two distinct parts. First is a preamble of what is needed to even consider discipleship, expressed in the form of a rather cryptic prayer. And the second is an invitation to discipleship, expressed in the form of paradoxical imagery.

Jesus opens our Gospel reading with a prayer. He cryptically thanks God for having hidden “things from the wise and the intelligent and [for revealing] them to infants” (Mt 11.25). These things hidden by the Father are the mysteries of how God operates in creation. Especially as related to issues of judgment and mercy. Of how God chooses to deal with the powerful and the marginalized, the strong and the weak. Of resignation to the ways of the world as opposed to the acceptance of God’s divine justice. While these mysteries have been hidden from some, Jesus prays about how God chooses to make these mysteries known to others. How God has chosen to share all of creation with Jesus, who in turn chooses to share it with those he refers to as infants. This is not a derogatory term, but rather a term of endearment. Those who, like children, are full of wonder and open to seeing creation as God sees it.

These infants are to those who are open to God’s message. Those who have faith and seek to follow Jesus. As one commentator notes, “It is the spiritual ‘infants’, the least theologically sophisticated people, those with the fewest illusions about their own powers of understanding, who know how to receive Jesus in humility and so gain access to the one he came to reveal” (Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 3, Homiletical Perspective, p. 217). Those who are open to seeing the truth of God’s purposes as exemplified in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Those who are open to following the example of Jesus Christ in their own lives and ministries. Francis saw himself as one of those infants to whom Jesus was referring in his prayer. We, too, are among those infants, called to the potential and possibility of a life of discipleship.

The second part of our Gospel reading is an explicit invitation to discipleship. And it is an image of what that life of discipleship means for those who accept it. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11.28-30).

As Jesus spoke of yoked oxen as imagery for the life of discipleship, he undoubtedly had in mind the burdens the people of his own day carried. A people burdened by laws imposed by the Pharisees – laws which conformed to and sought to reinforce their own personal interpretation of God’s will. He undoubtedly had in mind those who were burdened by the yoke of the Roman Empire, which imposed their own taxes and regulations on the people. Systems that disregarded the religious precepts of the Jewish people. But this imagery of yoked oxen carries equal meaning in any age. Of the people of God who are burdened by the ways of secular societies and governments, particularly when at odds with God’s commandments. Certainly, Francis found the yoke under which he was born difficult, the burden heavy. The oppression of wealth and power exercised against the poor and the marginalized. The fact that the poor and the marginalized could not thrive because of the social and political systems that worked against them.

What Jesus offers is a yoke that is counter to that of secular society. As a corrective to the yoke of society’s burdens, Jesus calls those who follow him to take on a different yoke. How we respond to the call to discipleship is demonstrated in the concrete ways we live out our faith. He calls us to be mindful that living a life of discipleship means living our lives in faithfulness to God’s laws in the sure and certain hope of what God offers – new life. Faithfulness to God’s vision of creation. That just as a yoke guides oxen along a particular path, Christ’s yoke guides us along God’s path.

When taking on this yoke, we need to consider what Jesus says about it.  He says “learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” For this we need to understand how a yoke truly works. It is not meant to be a device that burdens, but a device that is actually meant to lighten the burden. A yoke binds two or more animals together, where they work in partnership so that no single animal bears the full load, so that no single animal is unjustly burdened. When it comes to discipleship, the yoke is indeed an apt image, as we all have a part to play in carrying the load – working in partnership. And more importantly, Jesus is part of that partnership. When we walk in his ways, when we follow him, we are guided along the right and true path that leads to the fulfillment of the kingdom. Of the fulfillment of the mysteries Jesus prays about. Jesus’ bidding to take up his yoke is a powerful invitation to discipleship – integrating our faith into our daily lives through faithful stewardship of all that has been entrusted to us, working in partnership with him, deepening our relationship with him in the process.

As we transition from my pastorate to Cindy’s, this imagery is very important for our parish. Going from full-time to part-time clergy leadership means changes in how things are done. If the same things are going to be done around here, there will be more of a need for collaboration. There will need to be a shift in responsibilities. There will need to be a sharing of work. What that looks like will only develop with time, as you live into this new reality. The yoke of Christ is crucial to the continued success of St. Paul’s Emmanuel. Of this parish continuing to thrive. Of it being able to move forward into the future. You and Cindy are bound together, sharing the burden. Bound together, with Christ, that burden of shaping who this parish is, what you will become, and where you will go, is made lighter. Together. Working as disciples of the One who will guide you into a beautiful future together. The future God is gently beckoning you into. Together.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Returning Home

17th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 19 (Year C)
Exodus 32.7-14; Psalm 51.1-11; 1 Timothy 1.12-17; Luke 15.1-10
Sunday, September 11, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

It was a Tuesday. Tuesdays had a special rhythm all their own. On any other weekday, I would get up, get ready for work, eat breakfast, and then go to the office. But on Tuesdays, I would skip breakfast, and instead of going to work, I would drive right past my office and on to St. George’s Episcopal Church, where I was doing my internship prior to going to seminary. This particular Tuesday was different still. Normally while I’m getting ready for work I listen to the news on the radio. On the drive to work I also listen to the radio. This particular Tuesday, for some reason, I did not turn on the radio while I was getting ready for work. When I got into my car the radio was turned off. I did not turn it on. I enjoyed a quiet, peaceful drive to St. George’s. I got to the church and walked into Coleman House, which served as the parish offices and meeting space, where we had our Tuesday morning Eucharist, followed by breakfast.

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Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Steep (and Complicated) Cost of Discipleship

16th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 18 (Year C)
Deuteronomy 30.15-20; Psalm 1; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14.25-33
Sunday, September 4, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

Well, I guess we all might as well just go home. After all, Jesus begins today’s Gospel passage with “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” And he ends with “none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” I think it’s pretty safe to say that each of you have people in your life that you love. Your families and your friends. I know I love my mother. I love my sister – most of the time. And I love all of you. So we all fail on that count. And I’m guessing that most of us love being alive. Okay, there may be days when life may not be that great, but for the most part, I hope we all enjoy being alive. Again – fail. And then there are the possessions. We all have “stuff.” Since we are not sitting here buck naked, I can say with absolute certainty that none of us here is completely free of owning at least some possessions. It may not be a whole lot, but at least we have the necessities of life and maybe even some creature comforts. So again, we all fail. So how can we be followers of Jesus?

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Strength of Humility

15th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 17 (Year C)
Proverbs 25.6-7; Psalm 112; Hebrews 13.1-8, 15-16; Luke 14.1, 7-14
Sunday, August 28, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

What would Emily Post or Miss Manners say? Hosting a dinner party without a seating chart and place cards? It can only lead to chaos – people elbowing their way to the seats of greatest honor. Shameful!

With all due respect to our mavens of etiquette, that wasn’t how things were done back in Jesus’ day. At feasts and banquets, the male guests would recline on couches. And there was a hierarchy to the placement of the couches. The center couch – the equivalent of the head table – was the place of highest honor. The perceived level of honor decreased as you got farther away from the center couch. Being seated in a place of honor was based on wealth or power. And it was somewhat fluid. If a more prominent guest arrived (fashionably) late, someone of lower rank would be moved to a place of lesser honor to make room for the more prestigious guest.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sabbath Controversy

14th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 16 (Year C)
Isaiah 58.9b-14; Psalm 103.1-8; Hebrews 12.18-29; Luke 13.10-17
Sunday, August 21, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

To say that Jesus was controversial is an understatement. He had a reputation for saying and doing things that made the Jewish religious authorities nervous, if not downright angry. This was because Jesus’ words and actions challenged the status quo. In some cases, what he did or said even contradicted the Law. These incidents really got the religious authorities all hot and bothered. One category of Jesus’ actions was particularly troublesome for the authorities – what is collectively referred to as the “Sabbath Controversies.” Luke records four particular incidents of Jesus breaking not just any of the 613 commandments in the Torah but one of the Ten Commandments – one of the biggies. The one about keeping the Sabbath. “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work” (Ex 20.9-10).

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

What in Blazes is Going On?

13th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 15 (Year C)
Jeremiah 23.23-29; Psalm 82; Hebrews 11.29—12.2; Luke 12.49-56
Sunday, August 14, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

What is going on? What happened to the Jesus who just last week offered words of hope and comfort when he said “Do not be afraid, little flock”? Just moments after saying these words, he pops off with “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” To be followed by “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” And then he talks about how this division will even be between family members. This all just seems so contrary to the image we have of Jesus. This is not the Jesus we know. And how can we not be afraid with his talk of fire and division?

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Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Last Word

12th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 14 (Year C)
Genesis 15.1-6; Psalm 33.12-22; Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16; Luke 12.32-40
Sunday, August 7, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

I may be a glutton for punishment, particularly in this election cycle, but I enjoy watching political news. Although I’m by no means a political junkie like some of my friends. Being a progressive, I generally get my political news from MSNBC. I love “All in with Chris Hayes” and “The Rachel Maddow Show.” And occasionally, if there is nothing else on TV, or if I have not gotten sufficiently sated, or sufficiently disgusted, with politics, I watch “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.” The title comes from the fact that at the end of his show, Lawrence makes a point of giving the last word on the issue of the day to one of his guests. You never quite know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s a word of optimism. But sometimes it’s a word of warning. Or of dread. Or of fear.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Lord's Prayer - Model for Prayer, Model for Life

10th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 12 (Year C)
Genesis 18.20-32; Psalm 138; Colossians 2.6-15(16-19); Luke 11.1-13
Sunday, July 24, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

There are many things that various Christian denominations don’t agree on. Theological positions, liturgical practices, church polity, to name a few. But one of the thing we can all agree on is the centrality of the Lord’s Prayer. Nearly every worship service, regardless of denomination, includes the public recitation of this same prayer in some form. Now just to be clear, today’s Gospel contains a more scaled-down version than in Matthew’s Gospel, which is the version commonly used. Luke just gives us the basics, the most important parts. The parts he leaves out merely provide further explanation.

The first utterance of this prayer is by Jesus in response to his disciples’ request, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The prayer Jesus offers not only provides a model for how to pray, it also incorporates key defining points in our life of faith. For Christians, this prayer helps define who we are as followers of Jesus. It becomes an integral part of who we are.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Go and Do Likewise"

8th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 10 (Year C)
Deuteronomy 30.9-14; Psalm 25.1-10; Colossians 1.1-14; Luke 10.25-37
Sunday, July 10, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

This week we have witnessed a number of brutal acts of violence across our country. The killing of two homeless men and serious injury of two others in San Diego on Monday. The killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge on Tuesday. The killing of Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota on Wednesday; the killing of five police officers in Dallas on Thursday. And all of this just a few weeks after the killing of 49 people in Orlando. As I watched the news coverage of some of these events, with endless analysis and commentary, what invariably was cited as the root cause – usually by religious leaders, but also by some political leaders – was not so much race, or Black Lives Matter, or excessive use of force by police. What it ultimately boils down to is love of neighbor. Or lack thereof.

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Sunday, July 03, 2016

We are the Seventy

7th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 9 (Year C)
Isaiah 66.10-14; Psalm 66.1-8; Galatians 6.1-16; Luke 10.1-11, 16-20
Sunday, July 3, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

The season after Pentecost is all about growth, as evidenced by the color green. Growth of the Church and growth of those of us who follow Jesus. Today’s Gospel reading is a pivotal story about growth, particularly growth of the Church. Of course, throughout his public ministry, Jesus has been traveling through the countryside winning hearts and minds with his message of love and his acts of healing. Growing the Jesus Movement. A little earlier in Luke’s gospel, Jesus sends out the Twelve to expand that work. But in today’s reading, that takes a definite turn.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Call to Live the Fruit of Spirit

6th Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 8 (Year C)
1 Kings 19.15-16, 19-21; Psalm 16; Galatians 5.1, 13-25; Luke 9.51-26
Sunday, June 26, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

On the journey of faith, we frequently talk about being called to follow Christ, of being called to God’s service. In some circles, this notion of call is the exclusive domain of those who are ordained. While some are called into a particular form of ministry involving ordination, all of us who follow Jesus are called into life with him, into his service. All Christians are called by God to their own unique ministry.

All our scripture lessons for today deal with aspects of call. Our Old Testament and Gospel readings are call narratives – stories of individuals being called to God’s service or to follow Jesus. In 1 Kings we hear how Elisha is called to replace Elijah as God’s prophet. Elisha is working in a field when Elijah walks by him, throws his mantle – the symbol of his authority – over Elisha. No words are spoken, but Elisha knows what this means. He drops what he’s doing and follows after Elijah. In Luke’s Gospel, we hear three call narratives. In the first, someone apparently perceives a call to follow Jesus and expresses this desire to him. And to the other two, Jesus himself issues invitations to follow him.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Vatican Statement on Orlando Massacre

A statement released by the Holy See Press Office Director, Father Federico Lombardi SJ, on the Orlando massacre which has been described as the worst mass shooting in American history:

The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred. Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion. Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort. We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity.


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Sunday, June 05, 2016

A New Lease on Life

3rd Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 5 (Year C)
1 Kings 17.17-24; Psalm 30; Galatians 1.11-24; Luke 7.11-17
Sunday, June 5, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

There is an expression – “new lease on life.” Originally referring to recovery from illness, by the mid-19th century the expression came to be applied to any kind of fresh beginning. Particularly an opportunity to be successful or happy after experiencing a series of difficulties. While the phrase “new lease on life” was not in existence in the first century, today’s Gospel reading gives that expression a whole new meaning.

Jesus is traveling to the village of Nain, and comes across a funeral procession. A young man has died, leaving his widowed mother. Immediately, Jesus’ attention is drawn not to the dead man, but to his mother. She is obviously grieving. Any mother would at the loss of her child. But Jesus has compassion on her for other reasons, as well. Because of her vulnerability. We may not really pick up on this, as women in contemporary Western society do not face the same vulnerability as the woman in the Gospel.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Model of Profound Faith

2nd Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 4 (Year C)
1 Kings 8.22-23, 41-43; Psalm 96.1-9; Galatians 1.1-12; Luke 7.1-10
Sunday, May 29, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

With the passing of Pentecost two weeks ago and Trinity Sunday last week, we are now solidly in the season that the Church calls “ordinary time.” This term merely refers to the numbering scheme used – ordinal, or ordered, numbering. This is the second Sunday after Pentecost. Next week is the third Sunday after Pentecost. And so on. Essentially, this schema indicates that we have come through all the major liturgical events of the year: Advent and Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost and now settle in for six months of regular, ordinary life in the Church.

Just because this period is called “ordinary” shouldn’t suggest that it’s meaningless, boring, or uneventful. Whereas other liturgical seasons tended to focus on specific, defining events in the life of Jesus, during this time our gospel lessons primarily focus on Jesus’ earthly ministry of teachings, healing, and miracles. The ordinary times of Jesus’ life (to the extent that there was anything ordinary about his life). We look at Jesus’ day-to-day life and seek to learn lessons about how we are to live our day-to-day lives. Rather than being uneventful, ordinary time is essential to our lives of faith. After all, it’s in our ordinary lives that we’re called to live out our faith. It’s not just about being good Christians at Christmas, during Lent and Holy Week, and on Easter. Being a Christian is something we’re called to do every day of the year, even in the ordinary times. Especially in the ordinary times. This sense of living out our faith, of growing in our faith, is visually represented by the change to green paraments and vestments. Green, representing growth.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Trinity: The Lover, the Loved, and the Love

Trinity Sunday
Proverbs 8.1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5.1-5; John 16.12-15
Sunday, May 22, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

Who is God? This is the great question that we seek to explore every Sunday. But even more so on this day –Trinity Sunday.

Every Sunday of the liturgical year focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Even Pentecost, which we celebrated last Sunday, while focused on the coming of the Holy Spirit, recognizes that this was in response to a promise that Jesus made to his disciples. The coming of the Spirit is the continuation of Christ’s presence and ministry in the world.

But today is different. It is the only Sunday in the entire year that is dedicated not to the teachings or events in the life of Jesus Christ, but to a doctrine of the Church – the Trinity. This is because the Trinity is so central to our religion. Despite its centrality, it also happens to be one of the most difficult things to comprehend about Christianity.

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Coming of the Holy Spirit

Day of Pentecost – Year C
Acts 2.1-21; Psalm 104.25-35, 37; Romans 8.14-17; John 14.8-17 (25-27)
Sunday, May 15, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

How do we even begin to fathom the depths of what happened on the Pentecost event we heard about in the reading from the second chapter of Acts? Jesus’ followers, gathered together to celebrate one of the major Jewish holidays – Shavuot. A festival with double significance. First it was a celebration of the wheat harvest in Israel – important to the livelihood and wellbeing of the people. And second, it was a commemoration of God giving the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, which occurred on the fiftieth day of the Exodus. Fifty days after the Passover. Hence the Greek name we know it as – Pentecost, meaning fiftieth day.

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Sunday, May 08, 2016

Jesus Praying for Us

Seventh Sunday of Easter – Year C
Acts 16.16-34; Psalm 97; Revelation 22.12-14, 16-17, 20-21; John 17.20-26
Sunday, May 8, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

Generally speaking, we humans are a people of action. We tend to like forward momentum. We want to be doing something, anything, to keep things moving, to see some sign of progress. Particularly when we think something should be happening, we chomp at the bit. We just want to get on with it. We don’t do waiting very well.

Alas, as we begin the last week of the Easter season, we enter into a period of waiting. This is the time of waiting between the Ascension, which was this past Thursday, and Pentecost, which is next Sunday. Ascension marks the ending of Christ’s presence on earth – first physically and then in resurrected form following Easter. And Pentecost marks the coming of the Holy Spirit to be God’s continuing presence among us. Personally, I have always wondered why we had to wait a whole ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to be with us after his departure. Why the delay? Why not have it all happen on one day – have Jesus’ departure followed immediately by the coming of the Holy Spirit, all in one fell swoop?

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Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Peace That the World Cannot Give

Sixth Sunday of Easter – Year C
Acts 16.9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21.10, 22—22.5; John 14.23-29
Sunday, May 1, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

“Peace I leave with you. My own peace I give to you. The peace that the world cannot give, I give to you.”

Now, admittedly this is not exactly the way Jesus’ words are translated in today’s reading from John’s Gospel. Nor will you find his words rendered quite this way in any of the available English translations of the Bible. But this is the way I remember it – undoubtedly a paraphrase I heard years ago. And frankly, one that, for me, adds clarity to the seemingly awkward version in today’s Gospel. These words of Jesus, at least my remembering of them, providing his promise of peace to his disciples, is one of my favorite passages. It is one that gives me great comfort and cause for hope.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

A New Commandment

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year C
Acts 11.1-18; Psalm 148; Revelation 21.1-6; John 13.31-35
Sunday, April 24, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

The Easter season is about how we are inheritors of new life through Christ’s resurrection. In the first part of the season, we focused on Jesus’ resurrection appearances to his disciples and how these experiences shaped their lives and reframed their ministry in the time following Jesus’ departure. These were the ones who knew Christ’s message firsthand and who were charged with spreading the Gospel. Now, they would spread an even greater message – that something new is happening. And that new thing is nothing short of new life.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Voice of the Shepherd

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Year C
Acts 9.36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 9.9-17; John 10.22-30
Sunday, April 17, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

About 15 years ago, give or take, I was in a mall in Riverside a couple of weeks before Christmas. I had been so busy that I had to take a weekday off so I could do my Christmas shopping. This was before online shopping had become the favored means of commerce. I was in a women’s store looking for some things for my mother and my sister. There were obviously the store employees, as well as other shoppers in the store. As a result, there was the sounds of a number of voices. There was also the sound of Christmas music over the speakers, and a myriad of other sounds drifting in from other parts of the mall. All of this mixed together to create a sea of background noise with one single component almost indistinguishable from the rest. I was in the front corner of the store looking at some sweaters, trying to decide which ones to get for Mom and Lisa. All of a sudden, I noticed something vaguely familiar. At first it didn’t quite register, but there was something in that background noise that grabbed my attention. I whipped around in the general direction of the seemingly familiar sound. Sure enough, there in the back of the store, probably as far away as the doors of the narthex, I saw my mother talking to one of the clerks. My mother does not have a particularly loud voice. Yet, over all the other sounds and voices in the place, hers reached my ears and was recognized.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Relationship with the Risen Christ

Third Sunday of Easter – Year C
Acts 9.1-6 (7-20); Psalm 30; Revelation 5.11-14; John 21.1-19
Sunday, April 10, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

I want you to think about your relationship with Jesus. When did he come into your life? How did he come into your life? How did he change your life?

Some people can name the exact date, time, and place when they first encountered Jesus or when they felt that he had changed their life in some substantial way. This is generally due to having a significant conversion experience resulting in them choosing to follow him in an intentional way. In some Christian movements, this is referred to as being “born again,” indicating a definite demarcation between an old way of life before Jesus, and a new life of faith in Christ. For some, this is a dramatic change.

For others, development of their relationship with Christ is far is more subtle. Sometimes it’s as if Jesus just slipped into their lives while they weren’t looking. Or maybe he was just always present, particularly for those who grew up in Christian families, where church and matters of faith were just part of normal life. There is no real defining moment separating life before knowing Christ and life in relationship with him. And there may not be a dramatic change in their lives as a result, since they have been slowly formed in the teachings of new life in Christ.

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Sunday, April 03, 2016

Doubt About Belonging

Second Sunday of Easter – Year C
Acts 5.27-32; Psalm 118.14-27; Revelation 1.4-8; John 20.19-31
Sunday, April 3, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

Without a doubt, the Resurrection of Christ is the single most important event in all of history. What happened at Easter, what we heard and celebrated last week at the Great Vigil on Saturday night and at the Easter Day service last Sunday, is way too big to be encompassed in just one day or even one week. It requires more time to fully fathom the breadth and the depth of what has happened event, more time to explore and question, to comprehend the magnitude of this single event. For that reason, the Church has defined Easter as not just one day, but as a “week of weeks” spanning seven Sundays. And with each passing week, we continue to look at Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, to glimpse more and more of this great mystery. And even then, that will not be enough. For in reality, it will take a lifetime, and beyond, to fully grasp.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tearing Down Barriers

Easter Day
Acts 10.34-43; Psalm 118.1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15.19-26; John 20.1-18
Sunday, March 27, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

One quality of the human condition is that, for some reason, we feel a need for barriers. We humans are really good at erecting barriers. Physical barriers to mark out territory and to keep others out – or in. And ideological barriers to define our beliefs and to separate “us” from “them.” One of the great examples of such barriers was the Berlin Wall, erected in 1961. This was a physical barrier separating East and West Berlin. But it was also a tangible manifestation of the ideological barrier separating the political and economic ideals of communism from the perceived evils of democracy and capitalism.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Path to Something New

Great Vigil of Easter
Exodus 14.10—15.1; Ezekiel 37.1-14; Romans 6:3-11; Luke 24:1-12
Saturday, March 26, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

In the past few days, we have been on one hell of a journey. We joined in shouts of “Hosanna!” as Jesus made his triumphal entry to Jerusalem. The palm-strewn road into Jerusalem then took a deadly turn, leading to the palace of Pontius Pilate, where shouts of “Hosanna” were replaced with cries of “Crucify him!” And the crowds got their way, as the road lead from Pilate’s home down the Way of Sorrows, and ultimately to Golgotha, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. And the road now dead-ends at a sealed up tomb where Jesus’ body was placed. For the last two days, we have lived in the shadow of Jesus’ death. Buried in a tomb, his presence is gone from us. Leaving only a palpable sense of emptiness. At times it has felt that maybe this is the dead end. Literally. For death has had its say.

But tonight is not about dead ends. It is about new beginnings. Tonight is about new life!

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Redeeming the Cross

Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22:1-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18.1—19.42
Friday, March 25, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

We have just heard John’s account of the Passion Narrative. The horrifying and shocking story of the last few hours of the life of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. A man who is sinless and without guilt. How this righteous, sinless man was falsely arrested, subjected to a mock trial, found guilty in a miscarriage of justice, and sentenced to execution by crucifixion. By being nailed to a cross – not just a means of death, but a cruel instrument of torture. Said to be the most painful and horrific form of execution ever devised. As we witness these events, we undoubtedly, and rightly, feel such a mixture of emotions. Negative emotions. Shock, disgust, dismay. Now, as we stand at the foot of the cross looking at the innocent man hanging there, how can we not feel a sense of sorrow? And what else? How do you personally react, what are you feeling, as you stand here, looking up at the cross? And what of the cross itself? Particularly in light of what we have just witnessed?

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

A New Commandment

Maundy Thursday
Exodus 12.1-14; Psalm 116.1, 10-17; 1 Corinthians 11.23-26; John 13.1-17, 31b-35
Thursday, March 24, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

For a long time, I thought Maundy Thursday was all about the Last Supper. Perhaps it was because the church I attended during my later high school years only had one service during Holy Week. It was on Maundy Thursday and the highlight was a tableau of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The chancel was set-up with a backdrop that looked like the background of the famous painting. Men in the congregation would dress up in costumes, wigs, and makeup, and sit around a table, posed just as the figures in the painting. During my senior year, I had the opportunity to participate. I was Andrew. During the service, my father would read a narrative about Jesus’ Last Supper. At the appropriate time, the curtain would open to reveal the tableau, while we held our poses for something like five minutes. In the dimly lit sanctuary, we really did look like the original painting.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Reversals

Palm/Passion Sunday – Year C
Luke 19:29-40; Isaiah 50.4-9a; Psalm 31.9-16; Philippians 2.5-11; Luke 22.14—23.56
Sunday, March 20, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

In the short span from the beginning of the service until now, we have witnessed what is undoubtedly the most gut-wrenching, most disturbing, turn-around in Christian experience. We have journeyed with Jesus into his final days. In our acts of worship, we have participated in that rollercoaster experience.

We started our worship experience this morning with the celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Along with his followers, we welcomed him as King and Messiah, with shouts of “Hosanna!” and the waving of palm branches. But not everyone accepts the shouts of adulation, the acknowledgment that this man who rides into town on a colt is King of the Jews. Least of all the temple authorities and the Roman occupiers. Then began the downward spiral that would lead Jesus through a series of events not fit for any human being, especially for a king. A mock trial, being sentenced to death, and crucifixion, which was one of the most horrible means of execution ever devised. Events we collectively refer to as the Passion.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"Good Christians"

The relief of being accepted by God as a sinner can never be known by one who never thought himself unaccepted or sinful. And yet today one is always hearing of “good Christians.” There were no good Christians in the first church, only sinners. Peter never let himself or his hearers forget his betrayal in the hour of the cockcrow. James, stung by the memory of his years of stubborn resistance, warned the church members: “Confess your faults to one another.” Today the last place where one can be candid about one’s faults is in church. In a bar, yes; in a church, no. I know; I’ve tried both places.

—Jerome Ellison, Report to the Creator

 

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Blogging About Blogging

Recently, someone asked me about this blog. She asked such questions as “Who is it for?” “Why did I started it?” And the like.

I have to admit I was kind of taken aback. Not at the questions themselves. But at my lack of adequate responses. Actually, I thought they were excellent questions. Ones that I have been spending some time thinking about.

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Coming Attractions

Fifth Sunday in Lent – Year C
Isaiah 43.16-12; Psalm 126; Philippians 3.4b-14; John 12.1-8
Sunday, March 13, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

As we begin the fifth Sunday in Lent, the penultimate week of this season, there is a definite shift in the tone of our readings. Up until now, the primary themes of our scripture lessons have been on repentance. On identifying those areas where we may fall short in our relationship with God and then seeking to turn ourselves around. On turning back toward God. While generally conveyed through specific experiences and encounters in Jesus’ own life, his words and his actions are meant to get us thinking about who he is, who we are, and our relationship with him. And based on that, to realize that we need to make changes in ourselves to strengthen that relationship. But today, that all changes. In many ways, the Gospel becomes all about Jesus. About what is going on with him, and what is going to happen to him.

As we rapidly approach Holy Week just one week from today, what we see in the Gospel reading almost seems to be a scene of coming attractions. Kind of like when you go to a movie and sit through seemingly endless trailers for movies that will be released in the coming months.

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Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Parable of the Lost Elder Son

Fourth Sunday in Lent – Year C
Joshua 5.9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5.16-21; Luke 15.1-3, 11b-32
Sunday, March 6, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

Today’s Gospel lesson, commonly referred to as the parable of the Prodigal Son, is one of those stories that is so well known, so central to our life of faith, that it hardly needs any explanation. It is so foundational to our faith that many have referred to it as “the gospel within the gospel.” In many ways, it sums up what our faith is about. Our fundamental understanding about God and our relationship with him.

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Repentance

Third Sunday in Lent – Year C
Isaiah 55.1-9; Psalm 63.1-8; 1 Corinthians 10.1-13; Luke 13.1-9
Sunday, February 28, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

I grew up in a church that didn’t seem to place much emphasis on Lent. I’m sure it was probably mentioned in the run-up to Easter, but I certainly do not recall making a big deal about it. If there was much about Lent, I probably just tuned it out, since I didn’t particularly care for it. So, it wasn’t until I came to the Episcopal Church that I had a truly significant encounter with this thing called Lent. And to be honest, at first I hated Lent. It seemed so drab, so dreary. There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on confessing my sins, on how I have fallen short, on how I need to repent and turn back to God. Well, even in my sinfulness, I didn’t see that I had particularly turned away from God, thank you very much. So it was that Lent was just a dreary place between the joys of Christmas and Easter. Something to be endured until we got to the main event.

I no longer feel that way. Now, I actually like Lent. I even enjoy it. I’m not sure when my perspective changed. Perhaps it was a slow evolution. A conversion of sorts. Lent is undoubtedly a season of repentance. And somewhere along the line I repented of my mistaken image of what Lent is really about.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Hard Work of Being Christian

First Sunday in Lent – Year C
Deuteronomy 26.1-11; Psalm 91.1-2, 9-16; Romans 10.8b-13; Luke 4.1-13
Sunday, February 14, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

As we begin our journey through Lent, it is only appropriate that our Gospel lesson for this first Sunday in Lent is a story about a beginning. And about a journey. The Gospel for the first Sunday in Lent is always an account of the temptation of Christ. Immediately after his baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, Jesus goes into the wilderness for 40 days. While there, he undergoes a series of temptations by the devil.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday Homily

Ash Wednesday
Isaiah 58.1-12; Psalm 103.8-14; 2 Corinthians 5.20b—6.10; Matthew 6.1-6, 16-21
Wednesday, February 10, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

It’s relatively easy to talk about being a good Christian. Truly living as a good Christian is quite another. The fact of the matter is that it is downright difficult to be a Christian. And even more so to live it out in the world. All of our readings for today highlight this fundamental fact, this fundamental struggle of the life of faith.

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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Transfiguration - His, Theirs, Ours

Last Sunday after Epiphany – Transfiguration Sunday (Year C)
Exodus 34.29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3.12—4.2; Luke 9.28-36, [37-43a]
Sunday, February 7, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

Every year, on the last Sunday of the Epiphany season, the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent, the Gospel reading is that of the Transfiguration. The lectionary sets the Transfiguration as the climax of the time after the Epiphany, a final glorious manifestation of the mystery of Jesus Christ before the season of Lent. As we delve into this spectacular event, we see that it provides an appropriate transition from Epiphany to Lent.

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Called to Proclaim God's Love

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany (Year C)
Jeremiah 1.4-10; Psalm 71.1-6; 1 Corinthians 13.1-13; Luke 4.21-30
Sunday, January 31, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

During this season of Epiphany, we have been considering the various ways in which Jesus Christ is revealed as the Son of God. This is often done through specific acts performed on or by Jesus, such as his baptism, where God specifically declared that Jesus is his Son, the Beloved; or the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana. And in Jesus’ interactions with other people. Such as last week when we saw Jesus preaching in his hometown of Nazareth, when he implied in no uncertain terms that he is the Messiah, come to fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah. Now you would think the revelation of the Son of God in the midst of the people would be cause for great celebration. But that did not always prove to be the case. Sometimes what was revealed about Jesus was not particularly popular among those present. Such is the case in our Gospel reading for today, which is a continuation of Jesus’ experience in Nazareth.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Today This Scripture Has Been Fulfilled In Your Hearing . . . And In Your Doing

Third Sunday after Epiphany (Year C)
Nehemiah 8.1-3, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 12.12-31a; Luke 4.14-21
Sunday, January 24, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4.21). We are not told if there was any more to Jesus’ sermon on what he read from Isaiah. For immediately after these words, we are told (although not part of today’s designated reading), “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (Lk 4.22a). For all we know, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” may have been the extent of his sermon. Even if this was all he said, that is enough.

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Quantity and Quality

Second Sunday after Epiphany (Year C)
Isaiah 62.1-5; Psalm 36.5-10; 1 Corinthians 12.1-11; John 2.1-11
Sunday, January 17, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

Benjamin Franklin’s 1779 letter to AndrĂ© Morellet, a French economist and cleric, contained a brief commentary on today’s Gospel reading. He concluded this commentary by stating, wine “is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy” (source).

What Franklin calls “proof,” John in his Gospel, calls a “sign.” We are told, at the end of today’s reading, that this changing of water into wine was the first of Jesus’ signs. John records a total of seven signs performed by Jesus. Each of these signs are meant to convey something significant about who Jesus is. In John’s Gospel, such signs are revelations of God’s glory. More specifically, to reveal God’s visible manifestation to humans in the form of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

"You Are My Child, My Beloved; With You I Am Well Pleased"

First Sunday after Epiphany – Baptism of Our Lord (Year C)
(Baptism of Joseph Kehoe)
Isaiah 43.1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8.14-17; Luke 3.15-17, 21-22
Sunday, January 10, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

So, as of this past week Christmas is over. If you’re like me, the ending of the Christmas Season always seems to be a bit anti-climactic. That is, if you even recognize that there is a Christmas Season. According to the church calendar, Christmas is the twelve days beginning at sundown on December 24th, Christmas Eve, and extending to sundown on January 5th. Therefore, the church recognizes the following Sunday or two (depending on how the calendar falls) as being within the Christmas Season, with additional Gospel readings related to the birth and early life of our Messiah. Yet, we place so much emphasis on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that the following eleven days seem to be somewhat of a downhill slide.

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Sunday, January 03, 2016

The Other Christmas Story

Second Sunday after Christmas (Year C)
Jeremiah 31.7-14; Psalm 147.12-20; Ephesians 1.3-14; John 1.1-18
Sunday, January 3, 2016 – St. Paul’s Emmanuel, Santa Paula

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” (Jn 1:1-3a).

These words are the beginning of what is known as the Prologue to the Gospel According to John, and is one of the traditional readings during the Christmas season. In fact, it is so important that it is designated for reading twice during the Christmas season – on Christmas Day and on one of the following Sundays. While beautifully poetic, at first glance we may wonder how this could possibly be a Christmas story. It hardly compares with the dramatic, even romantic, imagery of the birth story recorded in Luke that we heard on Christmas Eve. There is no decree for an imperial census, resulting in Mary and Joseph leaving their home in Nazareth to make the long journey to Bethlehem. There is no mention of the town being so crowded that there was no room available in any inn, so that Mary and Joseph had to seek refuge for the night in a stable. There is certainly no description of the birth of the baby Jesus, who was wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a manger. There are no shepherds in the field, keeping watch over their sheep. There is no angelic visitor telling the shepherds “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk 2.10-11). There is no accompanying multitude of the heavenly host “praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’” (Lk 2.13-14). So where is Christmas in John’s words of “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”?

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