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


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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