Sermon: For Richard Roark

I don’t normally post the sermons I write for funerals, but I’ve decided that I would like to start because it is my way of remembering these individuals, so I suppose these types of posts will be more for me…

Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.”

During our online Morning Prayer services, when someone makes a comment, I see what they are saying. And almost without fail, there would a “Good morning” from Richard. That was always nice, but it was in the Zoom Rosary service that I could actually see him and for the last twenty months or so, almost every Tuesday at noon, Richard and I would meet and pray the Rosary together. We would occasionally have others join us, but most of the time it was just the two of us. We would visit for a few minutes about life and he would always ask if I thought anyone else would join us (he never quite understood why no one else did), and then we would get down to the work at hand. Sometimes we would pray a Rosary with special intentions, but mostly… we just got together and prayed those ancient words, meditating together on the life of our Savior.

We can read and hear about Richard’s life, which will tell us something about him, but it was this faithfulness in prayer that tells me all I really need to know. The Psalmist says,

You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”
Your face, LORD, will I seek.

And that was Richard. Doesn’t make him perfect, but in his life of prayer, he sought the face of the Lord, which tells me that he did the same in his life. Seeking the face of the Lord in the faces of those he encountered.

Job said,

I know that my Redeemer lives
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.
After my awaking, he will raise me up;
and in my body I shall see God.
I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him
who is my friend and not a stranger.

Richard sought the face of the Lord and now his eyes do behold the face of his Redeemer, who receives him as a friend and a beloved child. The inheritance and reward of his faithfulness, an inheritance and reward that awaits all who call on the name of the Lord. This is our joy and our hope and the fulfillment of God’s promise to us all.

The Salve Regina or Hail, Holy Queen is the final prayer of the Rosary. I prayed it with Richard a few hours before he died: “Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile show us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

“… and after this our exile show us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” And on this day, for Richard, she has. I am thankful to know that when I pray a Rosary down here, Richard will pray with me from his new home in the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Sermon: Holy Saturday

A man’s daughter had asked the local pastor to come and pray with her father. When the pastor arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The priest assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me,” he said. “No, who are you?” “I’m the new associate at your local church,” the pastor replied. “When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up.” “Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?” Puzzled, the pastor shut the door. Continue reading “Sermon: Holy Saturday”

Sermon: Good Friday

Image credits.

A man dreamed of walking through a vast desolate area. In the distant, near the horizon, he saw a cross and immediately altered his course to go see this site. The closer he got, the more detail came into focus and soon he realized that Christ was on the Cross. He knew that these horrible events had happened two millennia before, but the closer he came the more he understood that it was also happening today. A line from the poem, The Dream of the Rude, came to mind:

I saw the God of hosts stretched grimly out.
Darkness covered the ruler’s corpse with clouds,
His shining beauty; shadows passed across,
Black in the darkness. All creation wept,
Bewailed the king’s death; Christ was on the cross. Continue reading “Sermon: Good Friday”

Sermon: Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration at St. Stephen’s AME Church

Brown Chapel AME Church is located in Selma, Alabama and was the starting point for the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, a distance of about 54 miles, which were attempting to bring attention to the disparities in voting rights.

The first of those marches ended on March 7, 1965, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, only six blocks from the Brown Chapel, when the organizers and participants were attacked by police and bystanders. That day became known as Bloody Sunday, but it did not stop the marches. A second attempt, with Dr. King and 2,000 others was attempted on March 9, but a federal restraining order had been issued prohibiting the march, so Dr. King and the others stopped at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, once again met by police, knelt and prayed, then returned to Brown Chapel in order to prevent another bloody attack on those marching. Continue reading “Sermon: Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration at St. Stephen’s AME Church”

Sermon: RCL A / The Epiphany – “Example of the Magi”

A traveling salesman reports: In a small Southern town there was a nativity scene that indicated great skill and talent in its creation. One small feature bothered me though. The three wise men were wearing firemen’s helmets. Totally unable to come up with a reason or explanation, I left. At a “Quik Stop” on the edge of town, I asked the lady behind the counter about the helmets. She exploded into a rage, yelling at me, “You darn Yankees never do read the Bible!” I assured her that I did, but simply couldn’t recall anything about firemen in the Bible. She jerked her Bible from behind the counter and ruffled through some pages, and finally jabbed her finger at a particular passage. Sticking it in my face she said, Continue reading “Sermon: RCL A / The Epiphany – “Example of the Magi””

Sermon: Christmas Day RCL A – “Light”

Bilbo Baggins, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, was stuck in the cave with Gollum and they began their riddling contest. After a few, Gollum put the following riddle to Bilbo:

“It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt,
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills,
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.”

Any guesses, My Preciouses? Continue reading “Sermon: Christmas Day RCL A – “Light””

Sermon: Christmas Eve RCL A – “Hiding”

A telemarketer called a home one day and Little Johnny answered. In a small voice Johnny whispered, “Hello?” The telemarketer said, “Hello! What’s your name?” Still whispering, the voice said, “Johnny.” “How old are you, Johnny?” “I’m four.” “Good. Is your mother home?” “Yes, but she’s busy.” “Okay, is your daddy home?” “He’s busy too.” “I see, who else is there?” “The police.” “The police? May I speak with one of them?” “They’re busy.” “Any other grown-ups there?” “The firemen.” “May I speak with a fireman, please?” “They’re all busy.” “Johnny, all those people in your house, and I can’t talk with any of them? What are they doing?” With a little snicker and a bit too gleefully Johnny whispered, “Looking for me.” Continue reading “Sermon: Christmas Eve RCL A – “Hiding””

Sermon: St. Andrew and the Blessing of the Columbarium

Many a rednecks last words can be summed up in the simple phrase, “Dude, hold my beer.” Others’ last words range from the humorous to the sad to the profound.

Murderer James W. Rodgers was put in front of a firing squad in Utah and asked if he had a last request. He replied, “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.”

Humphrey Bogart said, “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”

At the deathbed of Joan Crawford, a housekeeper began to pray. Joan snapped, “Dammit… Don’t you dare ask God to help me.”

Recognizing that he would die before being able to reverse the official state endorsement of Christianity, Emperor Julian proclaimed, “You have won, O Galilean.”

Voltaire, when asked by a priest to renounce Satan is reported to have said, “Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.” Continue reading “Sermon: St. Andrew and the Blessing of the Columbarium”

Sermon: “Go!”

This sermon was preached at St. Stephen’s AME Church.

A man enters the Confessional box.  He notices on one side a fully equipped bar with Guinness on tap.  On the other wall is a dazzling array of the finest Cuban cigars. Then the priest comes in.  “Father, forgive me, for it’s been a very long time since I’ve been to Confession, but I must first admit that the Confessional box is much more inviting these days.”  The priest replies, “Get out! You’re on my side.”

It is quite interesting being a priest. You see the world from a different angle, because so often folks want you to see their “good side.” It’s not often that when you are all dressed up in a clerical collar that you can meet someone for the first time and come away actually knowing much about them. There are those rare occasions when someone begins talking and it seems they’ve lost the “Off” switch, but for the most part it comes down to respectful pleasantries.

You also get various reactions from people as you walk along. There’s always some who give you a hearty, “Hello, Father,” but there are others that avert their eyes. They don’t want to be seen by a priest or they have a certain disdain for clergy to the point that they won’t even recognize you as a person.

Some priests don’t think that it is necessary to walk around looking like a priest, but I do, whether the world accepts it or not. It is a way of constantly reminding folks that there is another way.

Of all the looks you get along the way, the oddest ones come from folks who have never really seen a priest up close. I was at the grocery store just a few weeks ago and the you man bagging my groceries asked, “Are you a pastor or something?” It was all because of the dog collar. Some will give you more than the once over and particularly stare at the dog collar. I mention this because I got this certain look while around several youth in their early teens. A girl – maybe fourteen – looked at me and my collar, then noticed the crucifix that I wear. Her eyes lit up a bit as she leaned in for a closer look. “Nice necklace,” she said, “it has a man on it.” “It has a man on it.” Now, it is one thing to not really know much about priest, but this girl – this fourteen year old girl – did not know that this man on my necklace was Jesus. She didn’t know the story or anything about Him. Her friend sitting next to her looked up and said, “Oh, that’s God” and I was thankful for her input, because at the time I was a bit too flummoxed to say anything.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” His name will be Jesus. He will be great. Son of the Most High. David’s ancestor. He will reign forever. He will be… a man on a necklace.

As long as Jesus is seen only as a good moral teacher, then there is no access to eternal life. As long as he is viewed simply as the epitome of enlightened humankind, then there is no sustaining Truth. As long as Jesus is only a man on a necklace, there is no salvation. As long as we, His disciples, do nothing, then we are not fulfilling his final commands: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?  And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?

So, what are we to do?

One of my favorite stories of the Desert Fathers – those men who lived in the deserts of North Africa during the 300s and dedicated their lives to God – tells of the time Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’ Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame.’

The founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaría Escrivá, writes in his first saying in the book The Way, “Don’t let you life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.”

The Episcopal Church has been around since 1789. Since then we have had 27 Presiding Bishops – the ecclesiastical head of our denomination. In 2015 we elected the 27th, The Right Reverend Michael Curry. He is the first African American to hold that position. If you were to ask him what is the most important aspect of the church, Bishop Curry would answer it in one word without hesitation: Jesus. He is passionate about this and believes the church is called to be the Jesus Movement in this world.

He spoke to us recently via an online video and began by recalling the words of the angel at the empty tomb of Jesus, “This Jesus of Nazareth whom you seek, he is not here, he has been raised as he said he would be and he has now gone ahead of you to Galilee.  There you will see him.  It is in Galilee that the Risen Lord will be found and seen for he has gone ahead of us.”

Bishop Curry goes on to say,

Galilee.  Which is a way of talking about the world.


In the streets of the city.


In our rural communities.

Galilee in our hospitals.

Galilee in our office places.

Galilee where God’s children live and dwell there.

In Galilee you will meet the living Christ for He has already gone ahead of you.

The church can no longer wait for its congregation to come to it, the church must go where the congregation is.

Now is our time to go.  To go into the world to share the good news of God and Jesus Christ.  To go into the world and help to be agents and instruments of God’s reconciliation.  To go into the world, let the world know that there is a God who loves us, a God who will not let us go, and that that love can set us all free.

Bishop Curry concludes, “This is the Jesus Movement, and we are The Episcopal Church, the Episcopal branch of Jesus’ movement in this world.”  Today I say to you, “We are the Jesus Movement. We are the Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church branches of the Jesus Movement in Enid, Oklahoma. Go. Light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart. Go. Make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Go. Teach them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded us. Go. And remember, He – the Great I Am – is with us always, to the very end of the age. Amen.

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