Sermon: Julian of Norwich


In the last two verses of our Psalm, we read:

Hearken to my voice, O Lord, when I call;
have mercy on me and answer me.
You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”
Your face, Lord, will I seek.

I love to read, but I’ll occasionally go through a phase when I don’t even want to pick up a book, so I’ll end up binge watching something on the TV for a few weeks. Then I’ll get tired of that and go back to a book. It’ll happen with other things as well, but… the Psalmist said, “You speak in my heart and say, ‘Seek my face.’ Your face, Lord, will I seek.” Have you ever gone through a phase when you just didn’t feel like seeking His face? I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand if you have, because that is not the kind of thing that good Christian folk like to confess, but do you occasionally find yourself a bit tired of seeking him, wondering about His will, and all that? As I said, I won’t ask you to confess, but if you said you’ve never experienced those types of feelings then I would say you need to go to confession for fibbing. It is something that we all experience at times and it is those times where our faith is truly demonstrated.

A mature Christian will continue on with their faith and their practices, knowing that these are times of wilderness, but not abandonment by God. However, others will begin to drift away and perhaps one of the first things to go is prayer. When it just seems like we’re filling the air with words that are unheard and accomplish nothing, then why bother, but it is the prayers in the wilderness that will see us through, because it is through them that we maintain the relationship with the Father.

Julian of Norwich, who we celebrate today, spoke about this in the second part of her fourteenth revelation that is contained in her Revelations of Divine Love. “Our Lord is very glad and happy that we should pray, and he expects it and wants it… for this is what [the Lord] says, ‘Pray earnestly even though you do not feel like praying, for it is helping you even if you do not feel it doing you any good, even if you see nothing, yes, even if you think you cannot pray; for in dryness and in barrenness, in sickness and weakness, then your prayers give me great pleasure, even if you feel that they are hardly pleasing to you at all. And it is so in my sight with all your trustful prayers.’” Julian says, “God accepts the good intentions and the effort of those who serve him, whatever we are feeling.” (p.100)

To us, it may seem fruitless, but in a time of barrenness, that feeling of the absence of God, to stop praying is to break off from the relationship, so regardless of how we feel, we must stay engaged, because it is through our faithfulness and this engagement that we will once again feel the presence of God.

If you say, “I just don’t feel like praying. I don’ t have anything to say,” then take that good advice of Archbishop Michael Ramsey, “Pray that you could pray,” but don’t stop praying.

Sermon: Easter 5 RCL B – “The Vineyard”


Photo by Daniel Salgado on Unsplash

Little Johnny was getting ready for his first day of school and was a little bit nervous. Of course his parents were nervous too – their little boy, all grown up.

Johnny’s mother and father both went to pick him up at school, eager to find out how his first day of school was.

“So Johnny, how was your first day of school?” his father asked. “What did you learn?”

Johnny responded. “Not enough. Because apparently I have to go back tomorrow!”

Let’s talk wine! As many of you know, I’ve started making my own wine. As some of you know… it ain’t all bad. Now, I don’t do the Lucille Ball thing of stomping out my own grape juice, that part is already prepared, but I do mix in the yeast, oak chips, and other vintner secret ingredients. It’s just fun to take the time putting it all together, watching it ferment and then waiting to see how things work out. There is a good bit of science behind the making of the wine, but there is also a good bit of science in growing the grape.

Here’s a bit of trivia for you (and it really depends on the region, type, etc. and who you ask), but how many average size grapes does it take to make a glass of wine? Answer: 75-100, which is about the number of grapes on each cluster of grapes on a vine. Given that each vine produces about 40 clusters means that a single vine can produce about 10 bottles of wine, which tells us that a lot goes into producing all the wine that is consumed worldwide on an annual basis. How much wine would that be? About 40 billion bottles a year. Given that there are only 7.8 billion people on the planet tells me that some of you are doing more than your fair share of consumption! It takes a lot of land, people and other resources in order to keep up with such demand, and a great deal of care must be given to the vine: acidity of soil, amount of moisture, sunlight, etc. Growing takes the longest amount of time, but second to that and perhaps the most labor intensive part is the pruning of the vine, which must be done each year for optimal production and flavorful grape.

There are many different parts of the actual vine, but it is only the branches that are one year old that produce grapes, so if not properly pruned, the vine just gets bigger, but produces little to no fruit. As it is a vine, it will continue to grow, but will become much more thin, fragile and susceptible to disease. At that point, all the energy is going into producing vine and little is left for producing grapes. And, if there are too many branches and too many leaves, then the sunlight can’t reach the grapes that do manage to mature, preventing them from ripening.

The bottom line is that there is a very fine balancing act that is taking place so that the vine is able to be the most productive. Left to its own, it becomes wild and unmanageable, producing little and what it does manage to produce is low quality. Pruned improperly, cutting off too much, and there is nothing that remains in order to grow the fruit. Done properly with expert skill, and it does seem counterintuitive, but the pruning—up to 90% of the vine—will actually produce a healthier more productive vine than when left to its own. Therefore, for his or her part, the vinegrower, the one who prunes, must know the plants very well. Where are they in their production? How and where were they pruned the previous year? What diseases are they susceptible to? What type of fertilizer is required? All this and so much more the vinegrower must know in order to properly care for the vines.

At this point, you may be thinking I’ve spent a great deal of time this morning talking about wine and winemaking, but the truth is, we haven’t really been talking about wine at all and you know that.

For the most part, during the time of Jesus, Israel was a very agrarian culture and grapes—wine—were a staple. It was safer to drink the wine than it was the water, so wine was livelihood and life. Therefore, Jesus speaking about vines and pruning would have made perfect sense to the disciples. When Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit,” the disciples would have clearly understood the imagery that Jesus was using. We just had to do a bit of homework in order for it to me made more clear for us.

It is through Jesus that we have life and it is through the care given by the vinegrower, the Father, that we are given those things and tended in such a way that allow for and cause fruitful lives. Jesus, as the vine, provides us with the nourishment we need through word and sacrament, and the Father oversees it all.

In this image, we are the branches that come from the vine and it is the branch that produces the fruit. So what is the fruit? Jesus actually tells us in the very next verses that were not included in this week’s Gospel lesson: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” And a few verses on, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” St. John reiterated this point in our Epistle lesson this morning: “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” The fruit that we are to produce begins with the relationships we have with God and with one another. Everything else is a product of those relationships, that love. As John states, it is not enough to say, “I love God,” because you must also be able to say, “I love my enemy.” Have you reached that level of perfection in your life?

There are many things that prevent us from progressing towards this, but at the heart of it all is our pride. Our need to be right or to get even or to simply hold a grudge. Before we can make progress in love, we must allow God to prune away the pride that holds us back, so that we make room for new and fruitful growth.

I’ve been reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. When an uncle found himself angry with his nephew for not following through in a job, the uncle found peace. Marquez writes, the uncle “allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” Jesus said, that we must be “born again… of water and spirit.” Perhaps Little Johnny said it the simplest when asked what he learned at school: “Not enough. Because apparently I have to go back tomorrow!”

If we have not learned to love God, our neighbor, and our enemies, then we apparently have to go back to school again tomorrow and be pruned a bit. Fortunately, I do not believe that the God who created us will completely prune us out of the vine as long as we are ever striving to fulfill his commandments, however, we must learn to allow God to prune out those parts that prevent us from producing good fruit. It is then that we can make progress in our relationship with God and with one another.

Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.

Catherine of Siena


Catherine of Siena was born in 1347, the twenty-fourth of her parents twenty-five children. At the age of seven, she vowed her life to Christ. At the age of fifteen, she cut her hair in disobedience to her parents who were fighting for her to be married. At the age of eighteen she became a part of the Dominicans. At the age of twenty-one she had a mystical experience where she became spiritually espoused to Christ. Those events alone are enough, but through her work and particularly her writings, she became a force in her community and elsewhere and even with Popes.

In her letters and her Dialogue, perhaps the greatest of her writings, she recounts a souls journey through the mystical experience of God. There is much we can discuss about her writings, so I’ll just focus on one idea: she writes out a prayer to Christ, speaking to him about his great love for God’s people and asking him what could drive the Creator of all to pursue his creation so recklessly.

“O priceless Love! You showed your flamed desire when you ran like a blind and drunk man to the opprobrium [the disgrace] of the cross. A blind man can’t see and neither can a drunk man when he is fast drunk. And thus he [Christ], almost like someone dead, blind and drunk, lost himself for our salvation.” Continuing this theme of drunkenness in her Dialogue, she says, “O mad lover! Why then are you so mad? Because you have fallen in love with what you have made! You are pleased and delighted over her within yourself, as if you were drunk for her salvation. She runs away from you and you go looking for her. She strays and you draw closer to her. You clothed yourself in our humanity, and nearer than that you could not have come.”

Continuing elsewhere, she writes, “O unutterable love, even though you saw all the evils that all your creatures would commit against your infinite goodness, you acted as if you did not see and set your eye only on the beauty of your creature, with whom you fell in love, like one drunk and crazy with love. And in love you drew us out of yourself giving us being.”

I am certain that we’ve all been in love before, or at least thought we were, and in that state I feel certain we have all done some pretty stupid things. I’m also fairly certain that most have overly partaken of some intoxicating beverage and done some rather stupid things then as well. If you have had the fortune (or misfortune) of being both in love and intoxicated, then the level of stupidity can reach even higher levels, but that is how Catherine says that Jesus loves us, as though he was drunk and in stupid love with us. That may sound crazy and, to some, irreverent if not blasphemous, but how would you describe a love that lays down his life for you? Logic can’t explain it. Duty doesn’t come close. I suppose we could just say he was crazy, but if we have faith, if we believe that it is the Father’s desire that all should be saved even if we are wicked, then we must at least consider that Catherine was onto something: a love that appears to be a drunken insanity, but which is in fact pure and true.

You don’t have to agree with Catherine’s images of God’s love for us, but take some time to think on that love. Jesus was not intoxicated on wine, but how would you describe and explain his actions? You might just discover that a crazy drunken lover is the best you can do.

Sermon: Easter 4 RCL B – “Shepherd King”


A group of Americans were on a tour of Israel and as they travelled through the countryside they passed a large herd of sheep. The shepherd was out front and the sheep were following. The guide explained to the tourists that the shepherd did not follow the sheep, pushing them along, but instead led them and they followed the sound of his voice. As Jesus said, “The sheep hear [the shepherd’s] voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

There were some in the tour group who doubted this and snickered and they believed their doubts were confirmed when a short time later they saw a man behind a herd of sheep pushing them along by poking and prodding them with a stick. One of the tourist called out to the guide, “I thought you said the shepherds here always lead the sheep. Why is that man walking behind and driving them forward?” The guide looked over to see what was taking place, then answered, “That man isn’t the shepherd. He’s the butcher.”

We know that the Judges, like Deborah and Gideon, ruled over Israel prior to the kings, and we know that one day the people came to the Prophet Samuel and said, “We want a king like everybody else.” It was then that Samuel said, “You don’t really want one, but if you insist…,” but before giving them the king, he warned them why it was a bad idea: the king will take your sons and daughters from you to serve him, he’ll take the best of everything you have and then some, he’ll send you off to die in wars, it’ll be a real mess, but the people persisted and God gave them what they asked for.

The first king was Saul. Saul was a bit on the crazy side and that didn’t work out so well. When Saul died, the people came to David—as in David and Goliath—and proposed to make him their king. They said to him, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh.  In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” You shall be shepherd / prince, you shall be king. This is the first time in scripture that the word shepherd was used as a way of referring to the king, but it is one that endured throughout.

David was better at the job than Saul, but he wasn’t without his faults. Following him were both good and bad kings, but ultimately, after roughly 500 years, it declined to such a state that God was infuriated, so he called on the Prophet Ezekiel to prophesy against the kings, against the shepherds: “Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?  You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.  The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.” Everything Samuel said the kings would do, they did. The people were lost and scattered and sent into exile. The kings were not the shepherds of the people, leading them along with their voice and their words. The kings were the butchers, poking and prodding the people and leading them to their deaths.

However, the Lord may punish the shepherds, but he had no plans to forsake his people, the sheep, for he also said through Ezekiel, “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out… I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel…. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.”

In those words, did you hear Psalm 23?

The Lord is my shepherd…
He makes me lie down in green pastures…
[He] guides me along right pathways…
[He spreads] a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me…

In those words, did you hear the feeding of the 5,000, when with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, Jesus fed the multitude?

In those words of Ezekiel, did you hear Jesus saying, I will “bind up the brokenhearted” and “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Today, in our Gospel, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Today, in our Gospel, Jesus said, “I am the good King. The King lays down his life for his people.” By his life and death, Jesus fulfilled Ezekiel’s prophecy and became the true shepherd and our King.

Today, we have many shepherd kings that surround us. Some are actual leaders in various capacities, but they also come in other forms. These may be our goals and ambitions, whether they be for our health or wealth or jobs, and still others might be for recognition or perfection in some area. They are people and aspects of our lives that seek to guide and, in some cases, control us. This does not make them bad, per se, but whatever they might be, we should examine them and ask ourselves, “In pursuing _, am I hearing and following the voice of the Good Shepherd King or am I being deceived and being poked and prodded along by the butcher?” Ask yourself that question and also see where it leads you. Through your involvement, are you experiencing the promises of God? Put into the words of our readings today: do you experience the green pastures and still waters or does it bring hardship and pain? Ask yourself those questions and put those parts of your life to the test. In doing so, you will either discover the Good Shepherd King leading you or the butcher that should be removed from your life.

The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my King. In all things, allow his leading voice to be what rules in your life.

Let us pray: Sovereign God, ruler of all creation, you sent Jesus to testify to the truth: that you alone are the Lord of life. Help us to listen always to his voice so that we may proclaim his realm of justice, peace, and endless love; through Christ, who reigns forever. Amen.

Sermon: Easter 3 RCL B – “Oneness”


Boudreaux was talking to his buddy, Thibodeaux, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently and based on many years of marriage, I’ve come to a remarkable conclusion.”

“This I want to hear already,” says Thib. “So tell me about your wonderful conclusion.”

“I’ve discovered,” says Boudreaux, “that if I only slightly upset Clotile, it’s almost certain that she will shout at me. Fair enough! But if I really upset her, she won’t shout louder but instead will give me the silent treatment.”

Thibodeaux almost immediately starts nodding his head and says, “I understand. To get a little peace, it’s sometimes worth putting in a little extra effort.”

Boudreaux would define peace as Clotile not yelling at him, but if we were to go around the room, I’m sure we would find a variety of answers. Peace is the lack of noise. Peace is sitting on a beach. Peace is being in the arms of one you love. All of these answers are correct, but they are really only highlighting a certain aspect of peace.

Webster’s defines peace as tranquility, quiet, freedom from civil disturbance, harmony, and so forth. The biblical understanding of peace takes these things into account, but it brings them all under an overarching idea that I can best describe as “oneness.”

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, and the Greek is eirene (ir-ray-nay). Eirene / peace is a noun, but the Greek word has at its root a verb: eiro. Eiro means “to join or bind together that which has been separated,” therefore, peace is not just the absence of Clotile yelling at Boudreaux or some other noise or trouble, but is instead a brining about of oneness that transcends the noise or trouble.

Jim Walton was a missionary and linguist in the jungles of Columbia and he took on the task of translating portions of the New Testament into the local language. In the process, he found that he lacked the native vocabulary to be able to translate the word peace.

At some point, Jim was scheduled to take a local chief to a village that was a three days walk or a twenty minute plane ride, however, because of an error, the chief missed the flight and he became very angry. Finding Jim, he launched off into angry rant and Jim noticed that the chief kept repeating the same phrase. He did not understand it at the time, but translating it later he discovered that when the chief was angry, he kept saying, “I don’t have one heart.” The chief did not have oneness in his heart, there was something broken—he didn’t have peace.

I know that I quite often come back to this passage of scripture, so bear with me… on the night before he was crucified, we hear the great priestly prayer of Jesus and what does he pray for? He prays that those who the Father has given him “may all be one.” He tells the Father, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” He is praying that we have one heart with each other and one heart with the Father and he is praying that through him that one heart might be attained.

Now, do you remember the two disciples that were on the Road to Emmaus and the stranger (a.k.a. Jesus) joined them and how they were talking about all the things that happened with Jesus and the crucifixion and that when evening had come Jesus sat with them and broke bread and their eyes were opened and they recognized him? Well, at that point, Jesus vanished from their sight and those two disciples hightailed it back to Jerusalem to tell the others. At this point, Scripture tells us, “As they were talking about these things…”…as they were in the upper room, talking with the other disciples about what had happened—and this is where our Gospel reading picks up today—“Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’”

In the times before Jesus, the Israelites had wandered in the desert, then they came to the land flowing with milk and honey, but before they crossed the Jordan River into this promised land, the Lord renewed the Covenant with them: “Choose you this day whom you will serve,” and the people chose God, so God promised that he would be with them if they kept his commandments, but just as they wandered in the desert, they wandered in their faith and went after other gods, breaking the One True God’s Laws and his Commandments; therefore, God did not break the Covenant with them—there would always be a remnant—but he did take from them the peace, the oneness, that had been established between them. Speaking through the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord said:

“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you to profit,
    who leads you in the way you should go.
Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
    Then your peace would have been like a river,
    and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;
your offspring would have been like the sand,
    and your descendants like its grains;
their name would never be cut off
    or destroyed from before me.”

All the things that could have been, but in their wickedness, they turned from God and they were left separated, broken from God and from one another as they were carried off into exile, and that brokenness remained until it was healed on the cross and proclaimed to the disciples and to us in the upper room when “Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’” St. Paul teaches us, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Through Christ Jesus, we again have oneness with God.

When you and I exchange The Peace, it is this hope, this oneness that we are extending to one another. That we might be of one heart with each other and with God, but it doesn’t end there. Jesus said, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” In saying “that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed,” Jesus is saying that peace—between God and man—is to be proclaimed and that we are the proclaimers, we are the witnesses of oneness with God, a oneness and peace that is made available to all.

He who is the Prince of Peace is sending us into the world to proclaim the restoration of our oneness with God. How do we do that? Perhaps St. Francis said it best in a prayer…

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

Sermon: Easter Sunday RCL B


The priest was working in his office one day when the church secretary came scurrying through the door, out of breath.

“Father, Father, I have news!” she said, trying to regain her composure.

“Well, what’s the news?” asked the perplexed priest.

“Jesus is coming. He is back and he’s coming here right now. What should we do?”

The priest suddenly became flustered and wringing his hands, turned back to his computer and answered, “Look busy.”

St. Peter said to Cornelius and the other gentiles, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” Jesus died and rose again on the third day. That is the Easter proclamation: the resurrection, but why? Why did Jesus die and rise again? Answer: so that we would look busy. We must be busy little Christians or we’re not really Christians at all. Right?

I was reading a devotional by Bishop Robert Barron (he’s Roman Catholic, so don’t tell our friends across the street that I quoted him) and Bishop Barron was reflecting on the calling of St. Matthew. He pointed out something that I hadn’t noticed before: what is the first thing that Jesus and Matthew did after Matthew was called? Multiple choice quiz: A) heal a leper, B) feed the 5,000, or C) have a party? Jesus “saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.” The answer is C). The first thing Jesus and Matthew did after the calling of Matthew: they had a party.

Skip ahead: the house of Mary and Martha. There is busy Martha scurrying about the house making all the preparations, while her sister Mary is sitting at Jesus feet enjoying his company. Busy Martha gets irritated with Lazy Mary and complains to Jesus: “Make her help me,” cries Busy Martha. Jesus says, Busy “‘Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

Returning to today’s reading again: what did Jesus and the disciples do following the resurrection? Peter said, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

Do you see a pattern? Party. Sitting at Jesus feet. Having a meal with friends.

In his reflection, Bishop Barron quoted from a book by a Trappist Monk, Fr. Simeon (I know, two Romans Catholics in one sermon, oy!). Fr. Simeon wrote, “The deepest meaning of Christian discipleship is not to work for Jesus but to be with Jesus.” I thought that was so simple, but brilliant, that I had to find the book and read more. Fr. Simeon, speaking to those whom Jesus calls, says, “Jesus is inviting those he chooses to forsake worldly concerns and busyness, a circular routine of habits and prejudices leading nowhere, in order to recline with him and his friends in the joy of breaking bread with the eternal Word…. All by itself, working for Jesus would be a call to a higher servility.” (Source: Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, Vol. 1 by Fr. Simeon, formerly Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis). We are chosen by Jesus, not to be busy Christians, but so that we might recline with him and break bread with him and his friends. Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that there is no work for us to do—there is more than enough and there always will be, but… Jesus did not die on a cross and rise on the third day so that we would be busy. He died and rose so that we might be with him and have fellowship with him and one another and break bread together.

Have you been doing it wrong?

For me, the answer is: most likely. Why? Well, as nice as it sounds to simply be with Jesus, it is a whole lot easier to work for him, to be busy for him. You see, fellowship with Jesus and his friends isn’t like, “Party at JC’s Place!” with the BeeGees playing Saturday Night Fever in the background—You should be dancing…. (you can tell I don’t get out much). Fellowship with Jesus isn’t like that. Do you remember your first love: how you ached for them and when you saw them, you wanted every part of them. You couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from them. You would lay awake at night thinking of them, anxiously waiting to be with them again… my goodness, I can still smell her perfume! Anyhow, that is fellowship with Jesus, the thing is, that’s not how we always feel about him, but it is how he always feels about us; and to be loved so intently will either consume you, scare you away, or cause you to put up barriers—like being busy; and we put up those barriers so that we can hold onto something of ourselves, afraid that all will be lost if we don’t, never realizing that we have everything to gain.

Today, if you have been scared away, I invite you to come back, for our God is faithful and just, and if you confess your sins he will forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness; but if you have put up a barrier of busyness or some other barrier, then I invite you to allow God to tear it down and then I invite you to be consumed by his love for you.

Jesus did not conquer death so that you could be busy for him. He conquered death so that you might be consumed by him and become one with him as he and the Father are one.

Let us pray:
Draw us forth, God of all creation.
Draw us forward and away from limited certainty
into the immense world of your love.
Give us the capacity to even for a moment
taste the richness of the feast you give us.
Give us the peace to live with uncertainty,
with questions,
with doubts.
Help us to experience the resurrection anew
with open wonder and an increasing ability
to see you in the people of Easter.
Amen.

Sermon: Great Vigil of Easter RCL B


Photo by Rinat Alshynbay on Unsplash

If you need 144 rolls of toilet paper for a month-long quarantine, you probably should’ve seen a doctor long before COVID-19.

What’s the difference between COVID-19 and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? One’s a coronavirus and the other is a Verona crisis.

The World Health Organization has announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19. Dogs previously held in quarantine can now be released. To be clear, WHO let the dogs out.

There’s a new COVID-19 vaccine delivered via an audio interface as music. It is hoped that this will lead to heard immunity.

Ran out of toilet paper during the COVID-19 pandemic and had use lettuce leaves. Today was just the tip of the iceberg, tomorrow romaines to be seen.

Why stupid COVID-19 jokes? In a few minutes—because I will keep it brief this evening—we will renew our Baptismal Vows. Following the confirmation of the Creed, we are asked five “Will you” questions: “Will you continue… Will you persevere… Will you proclaim… Will you seek and serve… Will you strive…” For the past year, our response has been, “I sure would like to, but… COVID-19.” “I could help with that, but… yeah, COVID-19.” “I’d really like to come to church, but… COVID-19.” It’s a bit like me and The Queen (That’s the cat. Her real name is Rain, but I’m only allowed to call her by her proper title, thus… The Queen.) I’m out shopping and come across something I think would look nice in the house and then I say to myself, “I have a cat”—meaning it’ll last until The Queen decides to knock in on the floor. It’s the answer to so many things, “I have a cat.” The same has been true with COVID-19, it is the answer to everything, including why we haven’t been able to fully live into our Baptismal Vows. So, I want you to keep this in mind—because we’re not quite there yet, but we are very close—I want you to keep in mind that, pretty soon, COVID-19 is only going to be an excuse, not a reason. We’ve been safe and playing by the necessary rules, but now we’re all getting vaccinated and this pandemic will be over, therefore, very soon, it will be time to reinvest ourselves into our faith, and our church, and the fulfillment of our vows.

I am so very thankful for all of you who have come out tonight and have begun to return to church. I am also so very thankful for everyone watching and not watching on the internet, but we are nearing the time when we must once again be the Church in the fullest meaning of that word, so tonight, as many around the world are preparing for and being baptized, let us stand together and recommit ourselves to our own vows, so that when the day arrives, we can, without delay, reconvene the work of God and His Church. (p.292 of the BCP)

Sermon: Holy Saturday RCL B

Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

At the death of Jesus, we are told of many unnatural occurrences in the natural world, for even the earth and heavens rebelled and reacted to the death of Jesus: the sun went dark, the earth shook in a violent earthquake, and the curtain of the Temple was torn into. A great upheaval… then the murmuring of the people returned. The crowd dispersing, What to do with the bodies, finding a tomb, something to anoint Jesus with, but then… the silence came over it all and all of creation held its collective breath as Jesus lay in the tomb.

N.T. Wright wrote a poem about this day and that silence (The Seventh Day):

On the seventh day God rested
in the darkness of the tomb;
Having finished on the sixth day
all his work of joy and doom.

Now the word had fallen silent,
and the water had run dry,
The bread had all been scattered,
and the light had left the sky.

The flock had lost its shepherd,
and the seed was sadly sown,
The courtiers had betrayed their king,
and nailed him to his throne.

O Sabbath rest by Calvary,
O calm of tomb below;
Where the grave-clothes and the spices
cradle him we did not know!

Rest you well, beloved Jesus,
Caesar’s Lord and Israel’s King,
In the brooding of the Spirit,
in the darkness of the spring.

Source: N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Easter, pp. 33-34.

Jesus rested and we wait.

Sermon: Good Friday RCL B


At the time of the crucifixion, standing near the Cross, was John, the beloved disciple and the three women: Mary “his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” I believe it is safe to say that they did not leave him until he was placed in the tomb, so they were also present at the Descent from the Cross or the Deposition of Christ, that is, when Joseph of Arimathea and the others removed Jesus’ body from the cross. The scene is not described for us in Holy Scripture, but the imagination of many artists has captured it and perhaps the most moving of these is when the body of our Lord is held in the arms of his mother, Mary, which is most often referred to as the pietá. The word pietá means pity or compassion and is meant to describe the face of Mary as she gazes upon her son. Of all the pietás created, the most famous is the one by Michelangelo.

The statue was originally commissioned by a French Cardinal who wanted it to adorn his tomb, but when the magnificence of the creation was revealed, it was ‘acquired’ by the Vatican.

At Christmas, we always hear that wonderful passage from Isaiah that begins:

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.

A few verses later:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given.

For us a child is born and for us a son is given. This great event is when God the Father gave his Son to the world and it will be later that the Son will give himself for us. He gave himself on the Cross, but he continues to give himself in the Eucharist, for we hear his words: “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

The Son of God: given to us for our salvation and the nourishment of our souls. The Son of God placed into our hands, just as he was placed into the hands of his mother when he was lowered from the Cross. In the receiving of the Bread of Heaven, the Body of Christ at the Eucharist, we become the Pietá. We become the ones who hold him in our hands and gaze upon his sacrifice. Not even Michelangelo could capture the beauty and love expressed to us by God in that moment.

We can not be indifferent when the bread is placed in our hands, for it is the Son… given for us.

Let us pray: O Holy Mother of God and Blessed Virgin, as you held the body of your Son, Our Lord, at his birth and at his death, may we be found worthy to draw near to you and hold him in our hands at the Eucharist. May the source of your sorrow, that pierced your soul like a sword, bring us a perfect end and life eternal. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.