Sermon: The Holy Name of Jesus

The podcast is available here.

The Christogram, “IHS”, is the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, ΙΗΣΟΥΣ.

There is a single word, that every time I hear it, a joke pops into my head: unique. The joke: Q: How do you catch a unique rabbit? A: You-neek up on him. Apparently my last name has the same effect on people, for after being introduced, someone will inevitably say, “For whom the bell tolls.” Then they laugh as though they were the first ones to ever say it. They’re not.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. The name “Jesus” is from the Hebrew Joshua, or Yehoshuah, meaning, “Yahweh is salvation” or “Yahweh will save.” It was the name given to him by his Father. As we read in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

The name Jesus is an interesting name and has wildly varying effects on people. It can cause some to give thanks and others to rage. It is a name that has the ability to bring peace and ravaging wars. It is truly the name above all names, but why so much division. Why so much discord when it is spoken? There are many different answers, but one thing is for certain, we can either contribute to the rancor or help bring about a greater peace, for in the same way that people recall the name of an Ernest Hemingway novel when they hear my last name, they will or will not recall the name of Jesus when they hear yours. Consider a Stradivarius violin.

Stradivarius is the name associated with the finest violins in the world. This is true because Antonius Stradivarius insisted that no instrument constructed in his shop be sold until it was as near perfection as human care and skill could make it. Stradivarius observed, “God needs violins to send His music into the world, and if any violins are defective God’s music will be spoiled.” His philosophy was summed up in one sentence: “Other men will make other violins, but no man shall make a better one.”

Each violin was unique in itself, but each was the finest instrument of its kind. If not, Stradivarius would not attach his name to it. If he had, then the instruments he attached his name to would not have been considered of such great value, and in turn, his name would have been smeared and his influence forgotten.

In a similar manner, as the Christian people, the name of Jesus is attached to us and if we are not viewed as the holy instruments of our God, then we tarnish the name of Jesus and in the process we drive people away from the Truth and in many cases, make them enemies of God.

You bear the greatest name in history: Jesus. When people speak your name, may the name they also recall in their minds be that name: Jesus, because through you, they have experienced him.

Sermon: Christmas Eve RCL C

The podcast is available here.


A Sunday school teacher was endeavoring to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. “Why do people believe that I’m a Christian?” the man asked.  The boys squirmed, but no one answered, so he asked again, “Why do people believe that I’m a Christian?”  Finally, Little Johnny raised his hand.  “Yes, Johnny.  Why do people think I’m a Christian.”  Johnny answered,“Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.”

You don’t see it as much anymore, but several years back there was a rather popular message on outdoor church signs: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  Would there be any physical evidence, more than just wearing a crucifix or a WWJD bracelet, would there be visible works?  Would there be witnesses who would come forward and testify to your life as a Christian?  Would your own testimony be enough to convict you?  Would there be changed lives in the wake of your passing due to your Christian witness?  Or would it be like that Sunday school teacher, once folks got to know you…?  To this, all I can say is, “Please don’t put me on the stand!”  

Yes, I can pull it off on occasion and I even dress the part, but if you really get to know me… Fr. Klukas was my Liturgics professor in seminary.  When you asked him if he would like a cup of coffee, he would always respond, “Yes, please.  Black, like my heart.”  I take my coffee the same way.  So we say with St. Paul, “I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.… Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  You see, we don’t come to God because we are saints.  We come to God because we are those in need of a loving and merciful God, who, in spite of our “coffee” like hearts, desires to draw us to Himself.  In return, he asks that we extend to others, both friend and stranger (and even enemy), as much of this same love and mercy as we are able.  And we’ll do so in the occasional great works, but most often it will be witnessed in the everyday moments of our lives.

A taxi driver recorded the following event during a day at work: I arrived at the address and signaled. After waiting a few minutes, I beep again. Since this was supposed to be my last passenger, I thought about leaving, but instead I parked the car, went to the door and knocked … “Just a minute,” said a fragile, elderly woman’s voice. I heard something being dragged along the floor. 

After a long pause, the door opened. A little woman of about 90 was standing in front of me. She was wearing a plain dress and a hat with a veil, as if from 1940s films. Next to her was a small suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for many years. All furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no trinkets or dishes on the shelves. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photographs and glassware. 

“Would you help me carry the bag to the car?” She asked. I took the suitcase to the car and then came back to help the woman. She took my hand and we slowly walked toward the car.

She continued to thank me for my kindness. “It’s nothing,” I told her, “I just try to treat my passengers the way I want them to treat my mother.” 

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got into the car, she gave me the address and then asked: “Could you go through the center of the city?” 

“This is not the shortest route.  It’ll be much more expensive,” I replied. 

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. – “I’m not in a hurry.”

I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes sparkled. “My family left a long time ago,” she continued in a low voice, “The doctor says that I have not very long to go.” 

I calmly extended my hand and turned off the meter. 

“What route would you like to go?” I asked.

For the next two hours we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the area where she and her husband lived when they were newlyweds. She showed me a furniture warehouse, which was once a dance hall, where she worked as a little girl. 

Sometimes she asked me to slow down in front of a specific building or alley and sat staring into the darkness, saying nothing. Then she suddenly said: “I am tired, perhaps we will go now.” 

We rode in silence at the address she gave me. It was a low building, something like a small sanatorium, with a driveway along the portico.  It was a hospice unit.

Two nurses approached the car as soon as we arrived. They gently helped her out. Must have been waiting for her. I opened the trunk and carried a small suitcase at the door. The woman was already sitting in a wheelchair. 

“How much do I owe you?” She asked, reaching for her purse. 

“Nothing at all,” I said. 

“You have to make a living,” she replied. 

“There are other passengers,” I replied. 

Almost without thinking, I leaned over and hugged her. She hugged me tightly in response. 

“You gave the old lady some happiness,” she said. “Thank you.” 

I squeezed her hand and then left. The door closed behind my back, it was the sound of closing another book of life.

The taxi driver asked himself: What if this woman got an angry driver, or one who could not wait to finish his shift? What if I refused to fulfill her request, or, having honked a couple of times, left? What if…

He writes, “In the end, I would like to say that I have not done anything more important in my life.”

Our hearts may be black like coffee, but each day, we try to let a little of the light of God’s love and mercy out into the world.

It is Christmas Eve and you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with the Christ child in the manger.

As I pondered this season of Christmas, I came to the conclusion that Bethlehem is no longer confined to the borders of a small middle-eastern country.  Instead, the world is Bethlehem, and the manger… the manger is wherever Christ is born.  For the lady on the way to hospice, the manger was a taxi cab, and the Christ child was revealed to her in the person of a cab driver. The world is Bethlehem and perhaps there was no room at the inn, so that you… you… could choose the location of the manger, the place where the Christ child could be born and revealed to the world or to just one person in need of God’s love and mercy.

May we become those who are easily convicted of being God’s people.  May the Christ child be born in us each.  May we be the bearers of God’s love and mercy into all those we encounter.

Let us pray: 
God of love, Father of all, 
the darkness that covered the earth 
has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh. 
Make us a people of this light. 
Make us faithful to your Word, 
that we may bring your life to the waiting world. 
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Sermon: Ember Days

The podcast is available here.

Back Camera

Today, in the liturgical calendar, can be celebrated in one of two ways.  The first is a feria, which means “day of rest” or even “holiday.”  It is not the feast day of a Saint or a prescribed fast day, and is seen as an extension of the previous Sunday, so the readings for today could be the same as we had for the Third Sunday of Advent.  

The second way to celebrate today is that of an Ember Day.  Ember Days occur four times a year and are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of a week.  They fall after the First Sunday of Lent, the Day of Pentecost, Holy Cross Day, and the Feast of St. Lucy, which just so happens to have been last Thursday.  How did these Ember Days come about?

From the Acts of the Apostles, you’ll recall that Paul and Silas went to Athens on a missionary journey.  While there, they saw all the various gods that the Greeks worshiped, which greatly distressed them.  Given the opportunity to speak, Paul did what he did best.  He proclaimed the Gospel message.  “Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.  For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, To an unknown god.’”  He then said, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”  The Athenians did not have in mind the One True God when they built that altar, but Paul, instead of instructing them to destroy it, appropriated it for the Kingdom of God.  Christianity quite often does this.  Takes something that is important to unbelieving cultures and attaches Christian significance to it.  The same is true of Ember Days.

Before the faith had spread, the unbelievers throughout Rome worshipped various gods and at certain times of the year would hold festivals to these gods, which were generally based on the lunar cycle.  The Church, instead of denouncing the festivities, simply redefined them in Christian terms and they now have become days of fasting and prayer, something of a mini Lent.  As they were originally associated with the harvest, they have also now taken on special significance for the harvest of souls and the call to ordained ministry.  You can see how that theme of harvest was evident in our Gospel reading: “I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.  The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.”

What does all this mean for us today?  We can set these days aside for fasting and prayer, but we can also focus our prayers on the calling of new persons to ordained ministry.  There is a constant need for clergy and if someone came along today and said they wanted to be a priest, with all the discernment and study that goes with the process, it would be at least five years before they could be ordained.  As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Ask the Lord to raise up new clergy to meet the future needs of the church.  

Let us pray: God, the source of creation and love, You invite each of us to serve you through the life which is your gift.  May your grace encourage men and women to heights of holiness through service to the church as priests, deacons, sisters, brothers, and lay ministers.  Make us instruments to encourage others to give of themselves and challenge us each to do the same.  Amen.

Sermon: Advent 2 RCL C – “Being Wrong”

The podcast is available here.


I was watching a TED Talk the other day by Kathryn Schulz: On Being Wrong.  Shulz is also the author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, which also reminded me of the time Snoopy was writing a book and Charlie Brown says that he hopes he has a good title, to which Snoopy replies, “I have the perfect title: ‘Has It Ever Occurred to You That You Might Be Wrong?’” — rabbit trail — back to the TED Talk.

At the beginning of the talk, Shulz asked the audience, “How does it feel to be wrong?”  As she pointed out, and as we are all very much aware, it doesn’t ever really feel good at all, but she notes, in our own minds, feeling/being wrong, can sometimes also feel right, because we don’t realize we are erring.  The example she uses is that classic cartoon, Roadrunner.  There is the scene where Wile E. Coyote is chasing the roadrunner, the roadrunner ducks off the path, and coyote just keeps running, eventually running off the edge of a cliff.  He was wrong, but in that moment, he still believed he was right.  

The next question Shulz asked the audience was, “How does it feel to realize you are wrong?”  You might be wrong, but unaware?  How does it feel when you become aware?  The answer for coyote arrives when he looks down.  He is running across the thin air, then he looks down, and realizes he is wrong.  He was wrong, he realizes is wrong, and he falls.  What happens in the next episode?  The exact same thing.

Today in our Gospel reading, John the Baptist comes on the scene, “Proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  Why?  Because the Israelites have once again run off the cliff.  They believed they were right, even though they were wrong.  It was only when John called out to them to repent, that some of them realized they were wrong.

One interesting point about John’s message, is that many, if not most, of the Old Testament prophets called all the people, the entire nation of Israel to repentance, but John had a tendency to speak to the individual, it’s how he got himself into trouble when he called out Herod for his marriage to his brother’s ex-wife.  When the crowds came to be baptized by him, they asked, “What should we do?”  The same with the tax collectors and the soldiers, each group, realizing they were wrong, wanted to know how they were to live rightly.  The fact that John would baptize them after they repented points to the seriousness of their transgressions.  

We often believe that baptism is strictly a Christian practice, but the Jewish people used this practice of spiritual washing as well.  One reason for them to be baptized was for touching something that was dead.  There were several steps to becoming clean from such an act, but full immersion baptism was part of it.  In addition, the new convert to Judaism had to be baptized, in a sense, making them like a new born child.  Perhaps John, through the baptism of repentance, was saying to the people: you are like someone who has touched death, or you are like someone who is outside the Covenant that God made with His people; therefore, repent of your sin and be baptized, for the Lord your God is coming.

The Israelites had forgotten how God had called them out of Egypt to be for him a holy people, so now John was calling them to repentance, one more time, because now God was coming, and He was coming to make a personal invitation to that life of holiness.

So… How does it feel for you to be wrong?  How does it feel for you to realize you’re wrong?  What is it like to suddenly realize you’ve run off the side of the cliff?  Why did you run off in the first place?  

Nine-year-old Braun lived in a little village not far from London. Braun’s parents were agnostics, but they felt that at least once in his life, he ought to go to church. So they dressed him up in his little black suit and black bow tie and asked the governess to take him.

That Sunday, the parson preached about the crucifixion of a Man. He described the nails driven through the Man’s hands, the crown of thorns jammed upon His head, the blood that ran down His face, and the spear that ripped into His side. He described the agony in His eyes and the sorrow in His voice when He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Halfway through the sermon, little Braun was crying. Wouldn’t somebody do something? Wouldn’t the congregation rise up together and take the Man down from the cross? But as he looked around in astonished surprise, he saw that the people were complacent. “What’s the matter with these people, Nanny?” he asked. “Why doesn’t somebody do something about that Man on the cross?”

Patting Braun on the shoulder, his nanny nervously whispered in reply, “Braun, Braun, be quiet. It’s just a story. Don’t let it trouble you. Just listen quietly. You’ll soon forget about this old story when we go home.”

What is it like to realize that your wrong, that you’ve just run off the side of the cliff?  Why did we do it in the first place?  We do it because we have forgotten about that old story.  We forgot about how God saved us, so we became like someone who has touched death, or like someone who is outside the New Covenant that God made with His people.  We forgot that God called us to a life of righteousness.

It is tough being wrong and like the Israelites, we sometimes need someone to point out the error or our ways, so imagine standing out in the wilderness with the Israelites.  John has been calling out everyone, but so far, you’ve managed to dodge his wrath.  You begin to think that maybe you are one of the few that hasn’t been wrong.  You look around at the crowd and say to yourself, “I sure am glad I’m not like the rest of these poor schmucks!”  But then you look back up and John is staring directly at you.  He points at you and he begins to speak.  What does he say?  What does he call you out on?

The Apostle John writes, “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  The Psalmist writes, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent, and as we said last week, “advent” means coming, and “coming” implies waiting.  During this time of waiting, repent of your sins and be forgiven, cleansed, washed, be made whiter than snow in the sight of our God, so that on the day he returns, you will be made to stand with him and all the other sons and daughters of our God.

Let us pray: Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sermon: Francis Xavier

The podcast is available here.

Saint_Francis_XavierWhen we begin to ask, who was the greatest missionary ever, the answer for all is St. Paul.  When asked who is second, for most, the answer is the Patron Saint of our neighbors across the street: St. Francis Xavier (d.1552).  He is known as the “Apostle of the Indies” and the “Apostle of Japan.”  As he is the Patron of neighbors across the street, I thought it important we know a little about him.

Francis grew up in the Basque region of Spain, the son of a wealthy aristocrat.  He intended to go off to school and make a name for himself as an academic, but while at school, he had Peter Faber as a roommate and Peter had a friend, Íñigo López, that was introduced to Francis.  Francis cared little for López, but eventually was convinced by Peter to take part in a set of Spiritual Exercises that had been developed by López.  Once completed, Francis’ life would never be the same.  From there, St. Francis Xavier, Peter Faber (now St. Peter Faber), and Íñigo López (now St. Ignatius of Loyola) would go on to form the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.

Following a thirteen month sea voyage from Portugal to western India, Francis began the great work. He did so by first learning the language and gaining the people’s trust by serving as a nurse in a local hospital.  Then, dressed as one of the poor of the community, he would walk the streets of the city, ringing a small bell.  The children and people would be interested in what he was doing, so they would follow him around until he had a large enough crowd and would stop.  Then, in their own language, he would proclaim the Gospel message to them.  He and his little bell took Christianity all across southern India and then to Japan.  He died on a beach in China, while attempting to take the Gospel there.

We often think we need great education, schemes and plans to proclaim the Gospel message, but Francis Xavier proves to us that all that is really needed is relationship and the willingness to bear witness to the hope that is within us.  Go.  Go find a few friends, ring a little bell, and see what a great Apostle you can be.

St. Francis Xavier wrote a beautiful hymn, My God, I Love You. A translation of his words prove to be just as beautiful prayer as they are a hymn. Let us pray:

My God, I love You; not because I hope for heaven,
Nor because those who do not love You are lost eternally.

You, my Jesus, You embraced me upon the cross;
For me You bore the nails, and spear, and manifold disgrace,
And griefs and torments numberless, and sweat of agony;
Yes, death itself; and all for me who was Your enemy.

Then why, Blessed Jesus Christ, should I not love You well?

Not for the sake of winning heaven, nor of escaping hell;
Not from the hope of gaining anything, not seeking a reward;
But as You have loved me, O ever-loving Lord.

So would I love You, dearest Lord, and in Your praise will sing;
Solely because You are my God, and my most loving King. Amen.

Sermon: Advent 1 RCL C – “Re-Created”

The podcast is available here.


A man dialed a wrong number and got the following recording: “I am not available right now, but I thank you for caring enough to call. I am making some changes in my life. Please leave a message after the beep. If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes.”

As I have shared with you, we are studying St. John’s Revelation during hour Sunday school time.  Early on, we noted some of the differences between John’s Revelation, his apocalypse, and the apocalyptic writings of others of the time.  One of the more interesting differences is that in other writings, the decision on a person’s final destination, heaven or hell, has already been determined and there is no more opportunity for change.  However, John’s Revelation is a strong cry for conversion.  Yes, these great and terrible things — stars crashing down, the moon turning to blood, the coming of the beast — these things are going to happen, but John is not revealing these events to us to tell us that we are doomed, he is revealing them to us so that we may have the opportunity to change.  Revelation is the final apocalypse, but the primary goal isn’t to scare the daylights out of us, but to call us to conversion, to change.  As Jesus was the one who revealed the Revelation to John, then we can also apply that message of conversion to Jesus’ own words regarding the last days, such as we read today.  Yes, he says, there will be signs, great and terrible events taking place in the heavens and on earth, therefore, “Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Be alert at all times, praying that you may be changed, transformed into his likeness, so that on the day of judgment you may stand with him.  It is this idea of change that has caught my attention for a few weeks now, and it started with an article I read.

The author began with Michelangelo and how Michelangelo viewed a piece of marble that he was about to sculpt.  “Michelangelo understood his role as sculptor as that of a discoverer and liberator.  The statue, he believed, is hidden in the rock from the beginning, and his role is merely to discover it—and to chisel away every piece of rock that is not part of the discovered statue; thereby liberating it.  Hence, he didn’t perceive himself to be making something, but rather bringing forth what was there.”

Michelangelo viewed this as the roll of the sculptor and this concept is quite prevalent in how we view ourselves and the basis for most self-help guidance.  If we can chisel away the bad habits and rough edges, then we will reveal the beauty contained within.  So, we grab hold of those motivational quotes and charge forward.  Zig Ziglar: “Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.”  “Reaching for the highest that is in us”… it presumes that all we need is already within.  Gandhi: “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”  “Our greatness lies… in being able to remake ourselves.”  In what I can do.  It is very self-centered view of our growth as human beings.  When one self-help guru doesn’t work, then we go on to the next fad.  I remember when Franklin Planners came out.  They were all the rage and if you followed their plan to success, then you would be on top.  Now there’s a ten step guide to making a million, becoming a thinner you, or inner peace coming out every week, each one rising and falling of the best sellers list as they fail to produce the promised results.

The pendulum swing of searching for the perfection within is revealed very well into a popular song from a few years ago, “I was born this way.”  In other words, what you see is my perfection.  I don’t have to search within to find myself in order to change myself, I am who I am.  Yet, when asked what was wrong with the world today, G.K. Chesterton responded, “I am.”  I am who I am, and therein lies the problem.

So, we can go looking for ourselves within, chiseling away all that is wrong, or we can thumb our noses at the world and say, “Here I am, if you don’t like it (in the words of my Uncle Terry), rain on ya.”  However, as a Christian people, we do not see our change, our transformation coming from within or from without, but from above.  We do not seek to remake ourselves or simply ignore the faults, we choose to surrender to God and allow Him to enter our lives and remake us.  The author of the article stated, “this surrender [to God] requires walking to the precipice at the end of ‘I am in control’ [I can change myself] and taking a step of faith.”  In taking this step, “We are becoming what have not yet been.  We are being made.”  As St. Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”  We are set free by letting go of what we think we have and surrendering our lives to God.

Billy Graham tells the story about a little child who was playing with a very valuable vase. He put his hand into it and could not withdraw it.

His father too, tried his best to get it out, to no avail.

They were thinking of breaking the vase when the father said, “Now my son, make one more try. Open your hand and hold your fingers out straight as you see me doing, and then pull.”

To his astonishment his son said, “O no, dad, I couldn’t put my fingers out like that because if I did I would drop my dime.”

There is a place for self-improvement and bettering ourselves, and there is a place for being at peace with who you are—running around being depressed over the fact that I’m not exactly a babe magnet (I would at least need a bit of hair for that) isn’t going to change anything, but we can get to a place where we believe our final state is accomplished by our own actions, when in fact, it is only through God that we can be changed, transformed into the glory he first conceived us.  Let go of the dimes worth of life and experience this freedom that comes through Christ alone.

Today we begin the Season of Advent.  Advent means coming, but “coming” implies waiting.  During this time of waiting, take that step of faith out of “I am in control” and surrender yourself into the loving hands of the Creator of us all, and allow the One True God, to change you… to remake you into what He intended from first day.

Let us pray: Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Church: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

Sermon: Proper 28 RCL B – “Occupied Time”

The podcast is available here.


Thibodeaux was riding past Boudreaux’s place and saw him out in his cow pasture.  Thibodeaux pulled in and found him still standing in the same spot not moving.  Thibodeaux asks: Boudreaux, what you doing there?  Boudreaux says: I’m tryin’ to win the Nobel Peace Prize my fren!  Thibodeaux: How you gon’ do dat?  Boudreaux: They say all you gotta do is be out standing in your field!

It may work for good ol’ Bou, but for you and I, it turns out we don’t really like standing around doing nothing.  Case in point: the Houston airport.

The New York Times reported that the Houston airport had an overwhelming number of complaints about the long wait at baggage claim.  They did many corrections, including hiring more employees.  Eventually they got the wait time for bags down to an industry low of eight minutes, but the complaints did not cease.  In all their studies, they learned that the airport was very well designed so, on average, it only took travelers one minute to walk from their gate to the baggage claim, leaving seven minutes of standing and staring at a motionless baggage claim carousel.  Those seven minutes were the source of all the complaints (the fact that we get testy after waiting for seven minutes is a sermon for another day).  What did the Houston airport do?  They moved the arrival gates further out so that the walk to baggage claim was longer and the complaints dropped considerably.

The Times reporter found Richard Larson at MIT.  Larson is an expert on the psychology of waiting in lines.  He said, “‘Often the psychology of queuing is more important than the statistics of the wait itself,’ says Larson.  Essentially, we tolerate ‘occupied time’ (for example, walking to baggage claim) far better than ‘unoccupied time’ (such as standing at the baggage carousel). Give us something to do while we wait, and the wait becomes endurable.” (source)  

“Jesus, tell us when you will return.”  “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”

Wars, earthquakes, famines.  We have had all these things, time and time again, but still we’re like ol’ Boudreaux, standing out in a field waiting for the harvest to come.  We’ve been studying the Book of Revelation and from the looks of things, those four horsemen have been running amuck for centuries, but still nothing.  For some, this wait is like staring at a baggage claim carousel that does not move, leading to impatience and frustration.  But, perhaps for us, this time of waiting is not to be “unoccupied time,” but “occupied time.”  Perhaps this impatience and frustration we experience is not a result of the Lord’s delay, but our own inactivity when we should be performing the work of the Kingdom.

I think of that first Passover, on the night before the tenth plague came upon the Egyptians, and how the Lord explained to Moses how the Passover lamb was to be eaten: “This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord.”  You are not to lounge around and eat this meal slowly.  You are prepared, standing, eating hurriedly, because you are a people of action.  You are embarking on this great journey of salvation and redemption, and we are to do the same.

And notice, I said that in this “occupied time,” we are to be “performing the work of the Kingdom.”  We can find all sorts of occupations and entertainments that fill our time, but if that is all they are – if there is no Kingdom work – then we have simply traded the pearl of great worth for cheap costume jewelry.  We bounce from one entertainment to the next, never revealing Christ to the world or allowing him to transform us into his perfect image.  Therefore, as St. Paul taught us in our second lesson: “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

We live in the time of the silence, between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder.  So, in the words of Paul to the Galatians, “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”

My friend St. Josemaría Escrivá said, “‘I read a proverb which is very popular in some countries: “God owns the world, but he rents it out to the brave’, and it made me think. —What are you waiting for?” (The Furrow, #99)

Let us pray:
Gracious and Holy Father,
Please give us:
intellect to understand you,
reason to discern you,
diligence to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
a spirit to know you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
ears to hear you,
eyes to to see you,
a tongue to proclaim you,
a way of life pleasing to you,
patience to wait for you
and perseverance to look for you.

Grant us a perfect end,
your holy presence,
a blessed resurrection
and life everlasting.

Sermon: Proper 27 RCL B – “All In”

The podcast is available here.


At the vestry meeting, the congregation’s wealthiest member decided to share a portion of his faith story.

“I’m a millionaire,” he said, “and I attribute it all to the rich blessings of God in my life. I can still remember the turning point in my faith, like it was yesterday: I had just earned my first dollar and I went to a youth meeting that night. The speaker was a missionary who told about his work. I knew that I only had a dollar bill and had to either give it all to God’s work or nothing at all. So at that moment I decided to give everything that I had to God. I believe that God blessed that decision, and that is why I am a rich man today.”

When he finished and sat down, the chair of the stewardship committee leaned over and said: “Wonderful story! I dare you to do it again!”

So, when there is absolutely nothing on the stupid box, you can always tune in to ESPN 8 (or the equivalent) and watch the World Series of Poker.  Now, I have confessed in the past that, given the opportunity, I will put a few dollars on a pony and I have played poker before, but that was only for pennies.  I think the most I’ve lost recently while gambling was a couple of dollars to Joan while playing “Ships” for nickels; however, these folks on the World Series of Poker are in it for big money, and there is always that moment when someone, with a large stack of chips in front of them says, “All in,” and then proceeds to shove all their chips into the pot.  In that little story, the chair of the stewardship committee dared the rich man to do just that, to go “all in.”  

When God calls to each of us and says, “Follow me,” he is asking us to do the same.  To go “all in” in our relationship with him.  There is, however, one significant difference between going all in while playing poker and going all in with God: with God, it is not a gamble.  There may be trials and suffering along the way, but in the end, the victory belongs to the Lord.  In thinking through Holy Scripture, we see one incident after another where individuals don’t ask God to meet them half way, but where they, through faith, go all in.

When God commanded it, Abraham took his only son Isaac up on the mountain and was prepared to sacrifice him.  He was prepared to give God all he had, but as the knife was poised to plunge, the Lord called out to Abraham to stop.  In return for his obedience, the Lord made the covenant with Abraham.

Moses went up on the mountain to see the burning bush, took off his shoes and stepped onto the Holy Ground.  He hesitated out of fear in doing what God called him to, but he eventually obeyed and brought the Israelites into freedom.

Saul, the King of Israel, doubted David’s ability to conquer the giant Goliath.  David, after all, was just a scrawny kid.  But David said to Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  David placed all his faith in the Lord and the Lord delivered the Israelites from their enemies when David defeated that giant.

The widow of Zarephath, that we read about today, trusted the words of the prophet Elijah and made for him something to eat, and while the rest of the country starved due to the famine, she had more than enough to eat.

The Lord came to the young girl and made His request, and the young girl said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  And Christ Jesus was born into the world.

The Son of God prayed in the garden on the night before he was crucified, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”  And through his obedience, salvation came to us all.

Jesus “sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury.  Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.  Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.  For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’”  What did she receive in return?  Did she go home and find a pot of gold sitting in the middle of the living room?  Did she marry some wealthy man that cared for her until the day she died?  Did she die in some rundown alley, uncared for by anyone?  Unlike the stories of Abraham, Moses, Mary, the widow of Zarephath, this story is open ended, it does not say, therefore, the story is not only about the widow and her two copper coins, but it can also be about us and our two copper coins.  

She placed everything she had in the treasury and in a very real sense, she buried herself in God’s treasury, because in giving God everything, she gave God her life.  What she received in return is irrelevant, because her giving wasn’t about winning something for herself or getting something in return.  Her giving was about obedience and about faith.  Faith in knowing, regardless of the outcome, God’s perfect will would be accomplished.

This is truly a sign of discipleship.  Consider Jesus’ words to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers [that is, become my disciples] let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”  Those who take their two copper coins, all that they have, and place it in God’s treasury, will find their life in God and become his disciple.

For many, they see this as the equivalent to the gamble of going all in on the World Series of Poker, but with God, it is not a gamble and with God, the outcome is irrelevant.  With God, it is obedience and faith, it is discipleship and that discipleship is rewarded with the perfect will and love of God.

You all know that I’m not a fan of Martin Luther, but Dietrich Bonhoeffer quoted him in The Cost of Discipleship, so I figure the passage is sound.  Luther is writing from the perspective of Christ, much like how Thomas à Kempis writes in The Imitation of Christ:

“Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend—it must transcend all comprehension.  Plunge into the deep waters beyond your comprehension, and I will help you to comprehend even as I do.  Bewilderment is the true comprehension.  Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge.  My comprehension transcends yours…. Behold, that is the way of the cross.  You cannot find it yourself, so you must let me lead you as though you were a blind man.  Wherefore it is not you, no man, no living creature, but I myself, who instruct you by my Word and Spirit in the way you should go.  Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is clean contrary to all you choose or contrive or desire—that is the road you must take.  To that I call you and in that you must be my disciple.” (The Cost of Discipleship, 93)

Obedience, faith, discipleship: these things have uncertain outcomes, are difficult to understand, and can be truly scary,  but “Plunge into the deep waters beyond your comprehension, and I will help you to comprehend…”  Plunge into the deep waters and go all in with God.  Plunge into the deep waters and place your two copper coins in the treasury of God’s love and follow him as a disciple.

Let us pray: We offer You, Lord, our thoughts: to be fixed on You; our words: to have You for their theme; our actions: to reflect our love for You; our sufferings: to be endured for Your greater glory.  We want to do what You ask of us: in the way You ask, for as long as You ask, because You ask it.  Amen.

Sermon: Willibrord of Utrecht

The podcast is available here.


In the first Vatican Council held from 1869-1870 (and you thought our meetings were long) the dogma of Papal infallibility was established.  The doctrine being that the Pope, in the context of ex cathedra teachings (that is, speaking with the highest authority) is without error.  There have been only two such teaching: one is the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the other is the bodily Assumption of Mary, much like Jesus at his Ascension; both of which are very high Marian theology.  However, regardless of the proclamation, there are many who have disagreed with the idea of Papal infallibility – your’s truly – along with a good many others, including some Catholics who broke with Rome and are now known as the Old Catholic Church (found chiefly in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria and Czechia) and who are, in fact, in Communion with the Church of England.  The Patron Saint of the Old Catholic Church is our Saint for today: Willibrord of Utrecht. 

He was born in 668 and placed in the monastery in Ripon in northern Yorkshire at a very early age.  When he was thirty, he was ordained a priest and the following year received permission to go on a mission in Utrecht, what is now in central Netherlands.  He quickly made friends with the Christian duke and receiving papal permission went about the work of a missionary with great success.  Six years after arriving, he was ordained the archbishop and would later be joined by Saint Boniface, also from England, who would later take over the work in the region.  Both Willibrord and Boniface and so many of the other saints we study were originally Saints of the Roman Catholic Church and so we also recognize them; however, I very much appreciate what John Julian wrote at the close of his article on Willibrord: “most of the Christianizing of the pagan tribes across Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire was due to the work of missionaries like Willibrord and Boniface, virtually all of whom came from the Church in Britain.”  So the RCs can claim them, but they’re really ours.

Jesus said to the seventy that he sent out before him: “Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”  Willibrord, Boniface, and all the others continued in this great work established by Christ and we are called to do the same.  How?

At our convention this past weekend, Bishop Van Kovering said that Episcopalians are very fond of quoting those words that some claim St. Francis spoke, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.”  That is a very comfortable place for Episcopalians because we can declare that we are preaching the Gospel by being “nice” people, but as the Bishop pointed out, you must also tell them why you do the things you do.  We can’t use Francis’ words as an out.  As Jesus said to the seventy, do the works that I’ve been doing, but then, “Say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you.”  Say to them…. as Jesus, the disciples, the seventy, Willibrord and all the other Saints, say to those you encounter in your missionary work, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.”  And preach the Gospel with both your works and your words.