It’s rather like being on the roller coaster of our salvation story: the joyous wine of the banquet mixed with the bitterness of betrayal; the shame and agony of crucifixion answered with the unbelievable promise of life beyond the grave.
Jesus chose to give in a world that takes.
Jesus chose to love in a world that hates.
Jesus chose to heal in a world that injures.
Jesus chose peace in a world at war.
Jesus chose to give life in a world that kills.
Jesus offered mercy when others sought vengeance, forgiveness when others condemned, and compassion when others were indifferent.
At the deepest level our Nazareths are about our understanding of God. We just can’t see how anything good can come out of Nazareth. We cannot believe that God can be present, active, and revealed in Nazareth, whether it be another person, a relationship, a situation, or our own life.
Christmas this year has been isolating for many. Maybe it was for you.
But the Good News of God in Christ is that the Word has become flesh and dwells among us. The Word isn’t just present in the big fancy church services, or the wonderful family dinners, or the Christmas parties.
God is not just with us on the days when our calendars or homes or hearts are full.
God is with us in the everyday, mundane, isolated moments. God is with us in the joy and the sorrow. God is with us in the dark and the light. God is with us in death and in life.
How many times must we choose to forgive? Tell me this. How many times have you been hurt and suffered by the actions or words of another? How many times has anger or fear controlled you? How many times has the thought of revenge filled you? How many times have you shuddered at the sight, the name, or the memory of another? How many times have you replayed in your head the argument with another?
That’s how many times you choose.
“Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,” he says.
Let your heart love like Jesus.
Let your mind be filled with the same concerns as Jesus. Let your feet walk in step Jesus.
Let your hands touch the world like Jesus.
Let your eyes see the world like Jesus sees the world. Live a life yoked with Jesus Christ, living and moving and breathing as one, and you will find rest for your soul.
Loving Jesus first doesn’t mean only loving Jesus. We still love our friends, our families, our communities, and ourselves. But when we love those things first, before or without Jesus at the center, that’s idolatry.
When our first love is Jesus, we can love our families best. Even and perhaps especially - when that means calling out and working to heal the sin and brokenness we see in our families.
When our first love is Jesus, we can love our country and community best. Even - and perhaps especially - when that means calling out and working to heal the sin and brokenness we see in our country and community.
When our first love is Jesus, we can love ourselves best. Even - and perhaps especially - when that means calling out and working to heal the sin and brokenness we see in ourselves.
We’re in different homes, different cities, different places, with our own gifts and abilities. But we’re together, even when we’re apart. (Preached from my back yard for the good folks of Holy Trinity, Clemson)
We can hear all about him, we can read the stories, we can sing the songs, and we know something about Jesus. But, like the beach, like our favorite bands, like the Holy Land, just learning about it doesn’t suffice.
You have to encounter it in real life to truly begin to grasp what is.
When we truly encounter Jesus Christ, it changes everything.
We all want to be remembered. It means that we matter, we belong, we exist.
When we are remembered, someone else bears witness to all those things.
When we are remembered it is as if our life is being put back together, because it is. That is exactly what is happening. We are being made whole.
When our temples fall, we discover that God has always been with us – in the changes, chances, and chaos of life; in the pain, loss, and disappointment.
Stone by stone, God rebuilds our lives. Stone by stone, God restores the original beauty of our life and world. Stone by stone, a new temple arises from the rubble.
As I was riding in the back of Ismael’s truck, with my family safe and on the way to meet friends, I texted my mom and sisters. I joked that we hopped in some guys truck to hitch a ride, and my sister replied back saying “You’re not supposed to take rides from strangers :-)”
Here’s what I told her: “Nobody is a stranger in Houston right now. These folks can’t get to their house, but they have a truck so they are helping others.”
That is kingdom hospitality. That is the kingdom of God.
Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then he said. "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
"Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."
We Have Seen the Risen Christ (A Sermon for for the Feast of the Resurrection - 2019)
All Saints Episcopal Church (Beech Island, SC)
April 21, 2019
We are called to go from this place and tell the world that pain and sorrow and death and despair will never...can never...have the final say.
So go out and share your story. Go out and share the story.
These may seem like abstractions, like pie-in-the-sky theology that will never, ever, in a million years become a reality. And yet, as followers of Jesus Christ, we live each day with the expectation that heaven on earth will come to fruition.
And in so doing, we make it more real. We live our heavenly citizenship. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. We pray this daily because we are people of hope.
he clearest definition I’ve ever heard for the mission of God is this: Crossing boundaries for love.
Bishop Holly did that his whole life. He was a priest and a bishop and a missionary that crossed boundaries, literally and figuratively. That’s why we remember him today.
Philip did that, when he listened to the Spirit’s call to to cross a boundary and engage in conversation with the Ethiopian.
Lent...and this journey to Good Friday and Easter...is a reminder that Jesus crossed crossed the ultimate boundary...between heaven and earth...for love.
So, I ask you? Where do you see boundaries in your community? In your church? In your own life?
And what boundaries are you willing to cross for love?
“Who Is My Neighbor ?” is a four-part Lenten Series beginning Sunday, March 10 at 4:00 p.m. sponsored by St. John’s Episcopal Church, 301 W. Liberty St., Winnsboro, SC. Speakers from the Episcopal, Jewish, Muslim and Greek Orthodox faiths will offer insights and observations about their faith and how love is the starting point for interfaith dialogue.
Click here for my initial manuscript (which is never fully what I end up saying...)
Jesus is asking his friends to open their eyes, to see God at work in the world around them, and to look for those ways they might participate in God’s mission.
Right here. Right now. Today.
In a very real way, the Spirit was upon Jesus. And that same Spirit abides in you, and me, and all of us.
Right here. Right now. Today.
And by emphasizing the word “today,” Jesus transformed Isaiah's words, Isaiah's prophecy, into a powerful invitation for the whole community to act on behalf of God's dream of justice.
Right here. Right now. Today.
To me, this section of Mark isn’t rocket science. It is about how we are supposed to live. About how we are supposed to love. I don’t know if y’all are in your stewardship season or not, but it’s also about how we’re supposed to give.
But above all, it is about how we are supposed to respond to God and relate to one another.
Jesus is talking about a relationship all right, but perhaps he is using marriage as a metaphor for something bigger. Jesus is talking about brokenness in our lives, and in our relationships...but he is talking about the source of that brokenness. Hard hearts. Unlistening hearts.
As is the case with any successful institution, the church as we know it today was built with the best social and religious engineering available: as a robust and hardy structure to last. A lot of time, energy, sweat, and money has been invested. Generations of investment. And it served as a bridge for many to move from birth to death. It spanned the river.
And that all worked very well when the river was in the right place.
We stood with one another when we faced a storm 10 months ago. And we are called every day to stand with each other in all the other storms we face in our lives. But that’s the easy part.
We’re also called to stand with those that aren’t in this room right now. Jesus and his disciples were going to the other side of the lake when all this happened. They were going to the people that weren’t part of their tribe. They were going to the people on the margins.
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
In First John, and throughout the Gospel of John, eternal life doesn’t just mean life beyond the grave. Eternal life isn’t just talking about what happens after we die, but instead it is about how we live now - before we die - once we put our faith in Christ.
Eternal life is full life, everlasting life, changed life, now and in the world to come.
This is the faith that overcomes the world: God’s love brings healing out of brokenness. God’s love brings light out of darkness. God’s love brings day out of night. God’s love brings life out of death.
We live in a world that is broken, there’s no doubt about that. But that same world is precious to God, is loved by God, and is filled with a great many people called to live out God’s love.
Because love is from God.
And there is plenty of work for love to do.
You are God’s own beloved child. Become what you already are. Live into your new identity.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!
Now, act like it!
You can’t stay here, because nobody ever gets to stay.
So go out and share your story, share THE story. Shout it into the darkness. Cry out into the emptiness.
Tell the world that you have experienced the risen Lord…
and he is alive and he has transformed your life…
and he is still making all things new.
Nobody ever gets to stay.
Sabbath is taking time for God. It's more than not going to work, not working at home, not sitting at the computer, not working around the house—it's reminding ourselves of God's central place in our lives and being grateful. It’s also reminding ourselves that we aren’t the center of the universe and that work can go on without us.
The way of Christ, self-denial, reminds us that our life is not our own. It belongs to God. It reminds us that we are not in control, God is. Our life is not about us. It is about God There is great freedom in knowing these things. We are free to be fully alive. Through self denial our falling down becomes rising up. Losing is saving. Death is resurrection.
Casting and mending are realities of life. They are also the circumstances in which Jesus comes to us, the context in which we hear the call to new life, and the place where we are changed and the ordinary is transformed.
Take a moment to remember the last baptism you witnessed. Perhaps you can recall the proud parents and godparents, dressed in their Sunday best, standing around the baptismal font. In their arms they hold their young, freshly-bathed child, hoping that she won’t create a fuss. Before them stands the minister or priest, neatly dressed in suit and tie, or robe, or colorful vestments. The font stands ready. The congregation looks on with curiosity and pleasure, wondering how the child will respond to what is about to happen. The atmosphere is peaceful and serene. It is a family occasion, a beautiful moment that will long be remembered.
Matthew begins with a genealogy linking Jesus back to Abraham. Luke begins with a short address about his research methodology. John begins with a mysterious poem about creation. But Mark just hits the ground running and never looks back.
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
So why should we read Leviticus? I believe that underneath all the rules about sacrifice and purity, all the strange regulations about food and clothes, there is a vision of holiness and harmony with God that is life-giving and has the potential to speak a healing word to our fractured and alienated condition.
God’s motive was freedom from bondage and a new opportunity to rebuild the community. Cyrus’ motive was expanding his territory by military might and increasing the kingdom over which he reigned. How could God rely on someone like that to further God’s intention?
We all know somebody who never earned nor deserved what they got, right? They didn’t really deserve that job, promotion, raise, recognition, happiness, or success. We worked longer or tried harder, but that didn’t make any difference.
More often than not, we view the world, ourselves, and others through the lens of fairness rather than grace. We view ourselves in comparison to others.
That’s the exact opposite of how God views the world.
Forgiveness, for Jesus, is not a quantifiable event. It is a quality; a way of being, a way of living, a way of loving, a way of relating, a way of thinking and seeing. It is nothing less than the way of Christ.
“Is it real?” That’s one of my boys’ favorite questions. When they encounter something new or different that is what they want to know. Reality for them is something that can be seen, tasted, touched, smelled, and heard. Reality was determined by, and limited to, the five physical senses.