Time….. deep thoughts when your watch breaks

This past Sunday my watch broke.

I found myself carrying my phone around and checking it for the time (isn’t that a statement of our times!?)… I found myself curious about where we were in time, how much longer.

And yes, that was on All Saints’ Sunday.

As people of faith, we mark time.

We live in a liturgical year. Seasons are marked by liturgical events. Some correspond with Calendar dates, some correspond with the Lunar Calendar (Ah, Easter/Passover). Biblically time is marked  by 40’s (days for Jesus in the wilderness and Noah on the ark, and 40 years in the wilderness for Moses). We can think of the  7 days of creation and even the number 12. We mark the  three days after Good Friday, the 50 days after Easter, the four weeks of advent, the 12 days of Christmas. 

We are constantly marking time. Last week in particular my time was marked as a bible study that started the first week we closed the church completed a 31 chapter book. One week at a time, we marked our weeks with a small gathering to talk about the message of hope even in trying times.

We are marking time differently in these pandemic days, perhaps no one other than Dr Fauci knew we were going to be counting time like this for so long.

With hope and lament we realize the differences from now and March. 

We recognize with sadness that we cannot do everything that we might want to do and when we might want to do it.

Reflecting back in our bible study, we realized we have had some rough times. We have lost members of our community and we have also had new beginnings, births, weddings, baptisms. New little Joys that we savor and treasure. 

We know that we are never alone.

As we enter the month of November we journey towards an American holiday of Thanksgiving and our culture emphasizes gratitude.

We are also living in an election season. A time of waiting and process and potential dispute.

The Days are shorter and the nights longer here in the Northern hemisphere, it’s easy to only see the darkness.

In the christian faith tradition, we light candles as we prepare for Christmas. Our Jewish brothers and sisters light candles for Chanukah, celebrating triumph in trying times. In the season of Advent we hear a lot about light shining in the darkness, reminding us we are never alone we are never without help. 

In this season, remember to reach out.
You are never alone.
We are here for each day each other.

Update on my watch: My watch needed to be turned off and rebooted and re-sync-ed with my phone. I had to manually shut it down and then wait while it reacquainted itself with my Phone. It took time, patience and letting go- the re-syncing takes time to do it right.

Where can you see the seasons right now? 

Where can you see the need for light in our anxiety?

Where can you re-sync yourself? Re-Boot? Re-connect?

You are not alone, you are enough, you are connected.
Remember to take time to let that “sync” in.

Broken Jesus and Wanting More: The Transformative Power of Love, the Holy Spirit, and a little bit of Super Glue

Trinity Church in the City of Boston
Sixth Sunday after Easter
Year A 2023

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ya’ll I have a confession to make.

Yes, I know this is the Eastertide.
You will notice that during the great 50days of Easter we light the paschal candle,

wear white stoles, we say Alleluia a lot,

AND we omit the confession in our liturgy.

All of this being said, I still have a confession to make.

I broke Jesus.

Let me explain.

In my former parish, we had a nativity scene that had all the figures.

Angels, Shepherds, donkeys, sheep, Mary, Joseph and Wisemen.

The tradition in this parish for each week of Advent to put a new figure into the nativity. While awaiting their turn in procession, the figures reside in a que in a cabinet in the sacristy where the altar guild could keep an eye on the holy family and keep them neat and tidy as they awaited their turn to arrive.

One day, I was coming in RIGHT ON TIME (maybe a little late and flustered is a more accurate description) for a funeral that was happening in our chapel. In my surveilling the chapel, I realized we needed a book that was stored in the same cabinet as the nativity figures.

In my haste to grab the book and also have more time to polish my homily,

I secured the book and also managed to knock sweet baby Jesus off his shelf out of his manger.

Yep, our lord and savior on the floor.

And dear sweet baby Jesus did not bounce.

Instead, he broke in two places-

I had just knocked his head and knees clear off.

Mortified, ashamed, needing more time, and clearly more love of Jesus in my heart, I looked at sweet baby Jesus lying on the floor, said I was sorry and put him on the counter and Scurried off to get vested and greet the family.

The sacrament of anointing and healing was going to have to wait for baby Jesus.

My needing more time and inadvertently causing harm.

When we are blinded by our need for more how often do we miss what is right in front of us?

More and More…

We always seem to want more.

We want more time to perfect the paper, the sermon, the relationship.

We want more connections

We want more THINGS

We want more clarity on what to do next, who to spend time with, how to get ahead, how to change.

The staff, this week took a tour with one of our docents.(I highly recommend this, no matter how long that you have been or not been a member here!) Our tour went well over our allotted time because we wanted to know more and more about why is this space is designed the way that it is..

How, to the glory of God, this space was designed to invite more and more people into the pews and balconies to lift their eyes to the heavens, to tell the story of scripture in windows, paintings, and inviting your story into this space, whatever your story might be….

Inviting you and your own flaws and brokenness into this space to be accepted fully for who you are and right where you are.

To let you find your home here, more and more.

The disciples in our gospel this week want more.

And they continued to be invited into relationship by Jesus, just where they are, as they are, to know more.

Last week you heard Morgan speak about the questioning that Jesus receives at the dinner table. After 3 long years and so many talks, so many intimate explanations, the disciples want more and more. More answers, more time.

They have just broken bread with Jesus.

They will soon be a part of the breaking of his body on the cross.

Today, Jesus says to his disciples, “here is the thing…. I am going to be with you more and more.”

I will be with you forever in the form of the Holy Comforter, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.

More and more as you understand bit by bit.

More and more than you will understand.

Know this, I will not leave you abandoned, orphaned,

you are family, you are beloved, you are with me as I am in you.

Jesus says, this concept is more than you can imagine now.

Have faith, take your time to listen,

to see and to not just know more,

to be more of the beloved child of God that you were created to be.

Keep walking in faith, together….

In the Episcopal tradition at Confirmation, the liturgy where the promises made at baptism are confirmed by the individual in the presence of a Bishop, the prayer said with the laying on of hands is the following, “Defend, O Lord, your servant N. with your heavenly grace, that he may continue yours for ever, and daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more, until he comes to your everlasting kingdom.  Amen.”

Echoing both the disciples’ desire and Jesus’ promise, we live in a world where we want more. Our prayers and liturgies reflect our desire for more and deeper understanding met by Jesus’ even more deep love for each of us and invitation to know more.

Jesus is asking more of our hearts, more of our lives, inviting us to be transformed by prayer, by reading scripture, by fellowship and the breaking of bread.

To listen more and let our feet and hands be guided more by our faith than by the world.

Things will be broken. Things will fracture.

We will get hurt,

Acting in love, we will break

In this brokenness, you will see how god’s love can heal and bring about a new thing.

Making haste does not bring salvation.

Love, time, and walking together with one other brings salve to our souls and brings us together to be transformed, building up a stronger community and bolder kingdom.

Now, you may be wondering the rest of the story about Sweet Baby Jesus….

Never underestimate these two things: Jesus saves and the Altar Guild does too! Turns out before I could get back to the sacristy, the altar guild had already restored baby Jesus’s body to one piece and he was lying in the manger bound together with a little bit of Super Glue and a whole lot of grace and forgiveness to their priest.

Restored Jesus, never underestimate the power of Super Glue.

This past year when that same little figure was processed forward on Christmas Eve, my sweet goddaughter dropped sweet baby Jesus on the way up to the creche scene.  She was mortified and immediately began to cry. Her mother, who has heard my story before, leaned in and said, “it’s okay, Jesus still loves you and this too can be fixed, I have seen this sort of healing happen before. You are not alone.”

We are not alone in our brokenness, the Holy Spirit restores us more and more each day.

All in God’s Time.

Alleluia, Alleluia. Amen.

“Walk with me”

Trinity Church in the City of Boston
April 23, 2023

Year A, Easter 2

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Triune God,
you call us into relationship
but you never told us how hard it could be.
Guide us to be connectors in our fractured communities.
Provide us with the words to tell our stories
and the patience to listen to the stories of others.
Prepare the way for bridges to be built, as we graft together,
Help us to let the little things go,
as we focus on loving, forgiving, inviting and accepting.
Walk with us Lord Jesus. Amen. [i]

My favorite seminary professor had a habit of always being on the move. A literal walking encyclopedia of information he was always enroute to something. If you needed a conversation with him, he was famous for saying – “Sure, Come walk with me.”  And then get ready, his speed was not a walking and wondering pace, rather you jumped onto the treadmill already in a fast speedy pace, moving quickly, getting to the heart of your conversation and halfway to his destination at the same time. You were along for the ride and while moving, accomplishing a small cardio workout alongside of seeking your answer to whatever matter needed theological or practical advice.

No matter who you were, his answer was, “Come walk with me.”

Our gospel reading today is one of my favorite stories for several reasons, first- there is food involved. I am always hungry for a good feeding story and secondly, this story reminds me that in the midst of our mess, God is faithful amidst our wonder and our own blindness.

Today’s gospel is the “rest of the story” of Easter Day and it is a story of movement.

Much like our own second Sunday after Easter, where we might find ourselves remembering the flowers, the music of easter, we are wondering what to do with all that we have experienced. How will Easter Sunday not fade like the flowers, how with the holiness of walking Holy Week stick with us, transform us? We find ourselves much like the disciples on the way of Emmaus. Recalling the events of Holy Week and wondering about all of the questions unresolved, the events that took place, the empty tomb and now—now what? Life has resumed.

Cleopas and his friend, with and without words, are working out the events they have just experienced. A person comes up beside them and asks them about their story and they say, “Come walk with us.”

And they share their story. Their perspective, their joy and their shock. Their hopes and what they had hoped. Openly they pour their hearts out in the aftermath of this unexpected death in their lives.

And the stranger listens, receives, embraces them where they are.
The stranger walks alongside of Cleopas and his friend, invited in fully.

And then they listen to the person they invited into their walk. Listened to this stranger who reminded them of the bigger story, the teachings they knew by heart and could not remember because of their pain, shock, their grief.

Without judgement, the stranger reminds them of the familiar, the endurance, the transformation that has been constant throughout all of creation and the reminder that in each of those moments, God interrupted the expected and transformed expectations.

Cleopas and his companion receive the stranger’s story with wonder. They listen with their hearts, fully receiving this alternate view of their despair and they want more. They want their walk to continue and recognizing a desire to also stop to eat and rest for the night, they invite this stranger in for a meal together.

After a long day of confusion, walking and wondering, they also crave to sit, share a meal- the most common and intimate of things- together. To listen and be with each other a little bit longer, to know more.

And it is there that these two disciples/followers of Jesus “get it.” They literally see the face of Christ in the stranger because that is exactly who he is in his resurrected form. Right there, on their walk, at their table, reminding them of that last time they were gathered around a table together before. And now After.

After being reminded of what they already knew.
After receiving their story and their grief
After listening
After receiving

Acknowledgement and Transformation.

Come walk with me and be transformed. It’s a walk that will leave you changed. Remember Jacob? Wrestling with the Angel? After his experience he not only got a new name, his walk was never the same.

Cleopas and his friend, would never walk that road the same way again, I wonder if they wondered if they would run into Jesus again on their walks that would take them near and far?

And the answer is yes.

On each walk we take we encounter the risen Christ, in the most unsuspecting ways. We might not realize it until we have spilled our guts and flooded out all of our emotions and paused to listen to the other, not realizing our misunderstanding, our misinterpretation, our blindness.

Each day we, too, have the opportunity to listen to the stories around us. Be transformed and strive towards understanding one another more fully to be drawn more fully to the fuller understanding of who God is and what God’s beloved community looks like.

Last weekend, I lived in the midst of the aura of the Boston Marathon. Running in college, I had classmates who qualified for Boston and made it here to run the race… they filled me with awe and accomplishment. There was awe and wonder.

Living here amongst the building up of the weekend was an experience in and of itself and seeing friends who came to town for the race was also exciting. On Saturday, I cheered a friend on in the 5K and saw some of you as you ran alongside, too… if you were near the Four Seasons Hotel, you could hear my cowbells….. and after the 5k my friend invited me to join her for the rest of her afternoon.

Come and walk with me. And we ducked into speaker events and running events, listening to story, walking alongside of each other and sharing our own stories, catching up on life. It’s amazing how the running world and the church worlds echo each other. They both have rivalries, competition, invitation and both worlds stem from a deep hunger to be understood and to belong.

In both the church and running, it is clear that invitation does not always mean welcome.

The Boston Marathon has a long, interesting history and has a lot of work to do to continue to celebrate each runner fully and equally. From the exclusion of women and people of color to the discrimination with cheering fans at this past week’s race.[ii]

We live in a world where action is our first impulse rather than listening more deeply.
Fear overwhelms us amidst the stranger. Where is the anonymous trust that Cleopas and his companions had for each other? [iii]

Where is the world where we invite the stranger to “Come walk with us” and where we listen deeply to each other? Where is it that desire to understand and come alongside of one another?

I think that world begins with each of us. We each have the opportunity to invite someone to walk or have coffee, to break bread together, to share a cuppa coffee together, to better know each other, to listen without interruption and to be transformed by those conversations- recognizing the belovedness of God in each person that we encounter.

Lord, be known to us in the breaking of bread, open our eyes to see you in all that we do. Help us to transform this world one step at a time. Feed our hearts with your bread of hope and life rather than fear and anxiety.


[i] Page 272 What Were You Arguing About Along the Way?: Gospel Reflections for Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter by Pat Bennett (Author), Padraig O Tuama

[ii] https://www.bostonglobe.com/2023/04/19/metro/boston-marathon-running-diversity/

[iii] https://the.ink/p/kaylin-ralph-and-the-death-of-anonymous?utm_source=direct&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&fbclid=IwAR2EzGxz-wezEZkTT7l6ilLyId3g-fnermEVATyBUUI75jrwoEz_czk3uW4

Misunderstandings Unwrapped

Trinity Church in the City of Boston

Lent 5 Year A

March 26, 2023

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

God of all time, we ask, we weep, we wait, we die, we hope, we live

We carry on, we pick ourselves up, we try to understand,

We misunderstand, we learn, we ask again,

We wait for an understanding.

In all of these may prayer be a companion, not a torment.

May we find in prayer the consolation

That sustains us through all things,

Knowing that some things change,

And some things remain the same.


 (Prayer by Padraig O’Tuama: What Were You Arguing About On The Way p.126)

“You just don’t understand.”

When was the last time you said this phrase?

When was the last time you said this phrase, yourself?

From the cry of the child whose parent clearly does not understand their need for those red shoes and not the sensible boots for the snow

To the teenager who is in the midst of all of the new and exciting options of friendships, academics, extra curriculars and immediate needs and will not get in the car in a timely manner.

You don’t understand mom, dad, grandad, grandma.


It can hurt to hear these words.

They are pointed and sharp edges.

They say that some one seems irrational and obtuse.

When these words are spoken, they indicate a potential break down of relationship.

A division of YOU and Me.

One person doesn’t seem to get the WHY of what is going on,

It is perceived that they cannot see what the other is seeing.

A wall can go up.

Irreparable damage can occur.

At the same time, these words CAN be the invitation to dig deeper into the relationship.

The reply, “You are right, I don’t understand” speaks a truth aloud in the midst of tension, of division, of misunderstanding.

With these same words, a new pathway can be found.

In the Peace Corps, each volunteer attends a 3month long orientation session. These sessions invite each peace corps member to respect the culture around them and to listen and learn. Orientation attempts to teach you the big cultural norms and then you learn the rest of the norms through living life in community. You are transformed by those around you.

As a dedicated and eager volunteer I, too, tried to learn from those around me. In our orientation, we traveled as a group to learn how to do the trainings we would in turn lead on our own later in in our service. By this time in our training, we all had attempted to blend a bit with our clothing. I attended this gathering with a beautiful new traditional skirt called a payne. I was delighted to see the same fabric on my counterpart and that I might blend a wee bit (despite my blinding white skin and red hair.- not common in my region) and as we gathered in the rural community, immediately I realized something was not quite right. Murmuring ensued and some giggling. A few people pointing and many stares.

And then.

Like a magnet drawn to another, the entire village of women circled around me and took care of the problem.

My beautiful skirt was made of the correct material BUT there was a major misunderstanding. What I did not understand was that HOW one wrapped the skirt mattered. If the skirt was wrapped to the right, it indicated that you were an upstanding respectable woman. If wrapped to the left, well, it was the indication that you were -how shall we say- available. Rather than let me remain in this fashion, these women circled around me and solved my misunderstanding quickly. They, otherwise known as orgami professionals, rewrapped my skirt before I realized what was happening. Out of hospitality and pastoral care they quickly transformed my outward appearance and wrapped my pale white legs into a suitable presentable attire so that our training could continue.

I did not understand.

These women enfolded me and said, “You do not understand. Here is the way.”
We will show you the way.

I don’t understand, help me to understand.

The gospel of John reminds us constantly how confused the people are when they see and hear Jesus speaking, teaching, healing.

Remember the first miracle in Cana?

Jesus turns water into wine when he ready and then asks for silence about this extraordinary act.

Remember the parables that Jesus told and the Disciples say “I don’t understand.”

Remember Nick at Night, Nicodemus not understanding what this being born again means?

Remember the Woman at the well not understanding the living water that Jesus offers?

Remember Peter understanding and saying “You are the Messiah” and then misunderstanding what that meant and saying in the next breath “stop talking about this death and suffering stuff”

Jesus says, “You don’t understand.”

AND “let me show you the way.”

Let me help you wrap your head around this bigger meaning.

Today we encounter Mary and Martha, Jesus and then Lazarus.

Jesus, while with his disciples, hears that Lazarus is sick.

His disciples know how close that Jesus is to Lazarus and say, “Let’s go now, we want you to have this time with Lazarus.”

Jesus says, “this illness does not lead to death, rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

By now the disciples are pretty use to Jesus’ curious and sometimes confusing statements.

They think they understand.

Perhaps Jesus is taking his time because life is dangerous right now, perhaps, the disciples think, there is something else to be done.

Perhaps, if Lazarus is just sleeping, perhaps he is just getting rest and did not die.


Jesus stops them in their tracks.

And sets the record straight, “Lazarus has died.”

Jesus tells them, “We are going there, through the danger of those who want me dead too, we are going to be there, you will see.”

Mary and Martha meet Jesus on the road.

Community gathered around and they too tell Jesus personally that Lazarus has died.

Jesus asks them, do you believe that I am the resurrection and the life?

Do you believe, do you put your trust in me?

Jesus is saying, let me re-wrap your understanding of what being resurrection and life means, let my love and grace embrace you and open this new path of understanding.

This is a new understanding where when only death was seen before,

life can actually be transformed.

Let me show you a new way.

Mary, the prayerful one, says “I believe.”

Martha, the practical one- “it’s gonna smell pretty bad, but I put my trust in what you say.”

The disciples are also doubtful and curious.

Lazarus seems to be the only one who understands.

Jesus says, YOU don’t understand what it means to be the way, the truth, the life.

AND Jesus continues.

Rather than leaving this as a stand off of emotions and “you just don’t get me,” Jesus surrounds them and calls Lazarus out to be unbound.


And like the blind man who can now see, the woman at the well who has experienced living water, the crowd begins to understand more fully the deeper invitation to listen and be present with Jesus.

They believed, or trusted in, this man- more so than before.

The story of Lazarus is an invitation to a deeper understanding. An invitation to those who gathered around, and to us, to unwrap what we think we understand about death and instead be transformed by the love that surrounds us and invites us into a deeper understanding of the depth of love that God has for god’s people.

Jesus, fount of wisdom, patience, knowledge and mercy,

reminds Mary and Martha and those around him that in death

there is sorrow, there is gnashing of teeth, there is anger

and also… there is hope.


because in death there is transformation,

there is the reminder that we are not in control.

We have hope because we are not alone.

The God we believe in and put our trust in is:

A God who understands our deep pain when we feel like no one understands us. (Jesus Wept.)

A God who sits with us in our own misunderstandings. (Jesus redirected Peter and loved him.)

A god who invites us to see these moments of death as moments of new beginnings where grace and mercy transform and rebuild.

After all, this God of ours created us and knows our innermost beings and loves every part of us.

Perhaps we should let go of the divisive part of our misunderstandings and lean more into this Holy time we are livingin  and be bound up in God’s love and mystery rather than being wrapped in our misgivings.

Be Opened to hear more fully the deep understanding of each other and God in our midst.


Simon Says, Nicodemus, and a manner of Life

Trinity Church in the City of Boston
Lent 2 Year A

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Do you remember the children’s game, “Simon Says?”

The game where one person tells you exactly what to do.

The game is designed around listening to instruction and who has told you what to do.

How many of you were tricked after commands of “Simon Says touch your nose, Simon Says Jump Up and down, Simon says sit down, Stand up” and you stood up.

We got into the habit of following command after command and then….

We forget how specifically we are to do what we are doing!

As a camp counselor, I will admit, this exercise was often used to fill time, spend some energy, and to see who was listening.

Sometimes the wrong thing was done because the camper just wanted to move on.

In this exercise, though, you are always given the way forward to progress.

By listening and obeying.

It’s also very clear about what the direction is.

This game did not promote strategy

nor deliberation.

There were no questions or dialogue permitted

The game is simple, Simon says it or Simon did not.

While the game has several purposes (as I have mentioned),

it is very concrete, black and white. Easy to do.

Follow in this way (End POINT) or you are out.

The game is straightforward until we have questions,

Who was Simon?

Why does Simon get to be the authority?

Why do we all willingly play this game?
What sort of community are we building if the game is all about our own success and not building each other’s listening capabilities?

Did you know that the first time the game Simon Says was mentioned in print was in 1842 in the Boston Morning Post? April 25th to be exact! The paper mentions:
Simon is a great talker; sometimes he says “up,” sometimes he says “down,” and sometimes he says “wiggle waggle.” It is always cheapest to do as Simon says.[i]

Chasing this rabbit trail a little further, other sources say the game goes back to Roman times to Circero (1st century BC). “Statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero said to do something, you did it.”[ii]

Curious, right?!

Well, we are no longer subjects of Cicero and we don’t wiggle waggle much any more… and yet we play along and follow this Simon and what he says.

In this spirit of questioning, we find in our Gospel reading today, a fellow seeker of the “why” of all things, Nicodemus.

Nicodemus, as a pharisee and faithful Jew, has been following the teachings of the Torah all of his life. He has followed and obeyed.
In short, he has been faithful.

Unlike the disciples, we do not know who Nicodemus’ people were or what they did.
We do not know when Nicodemus first heard Jesus speak.

Curiously, Nicodemus also only appears in the Gospel of John.

Today’s reference is the first of his two appearances.

The fact that he is named in this Gospel means that he was known in the community.

Nicodemus comes to visit at night.

I have a friend that says, “Nothing good happens after 9pm” – which is often true in this day and age. So, it is easy for us to think that Nicodemus was visiting with a not so genuine intent.
In Jesus’ time, though, to arrive at night allowed for conversation, deep listening and teaching. The sort of teaching where you had time to hear the familiar stories shared in a new way.

The tv channel, Nickelodeon, called their nighttime programming Nick at Night- the time when the classics came out.

Today, our “Nick (Nicodemus) at Night” comes to discover more about the why is “Jesus saying these things and doing these things” and unpack these teachings.

Nicodemus comes to Jesus and asks “What do you mean” by this being born again?

Nicodemus engages Jesus with respect as a fellow teacher. He engages in the Jewish banter of rabbis asking questions to learn more and to dig deeper, to discover, to find the way forward.

What should he, Nicodemus, do next?

In what manner should his life be shaped?

Has all that he has learned in his life up to this point meant nothing?

Nicodemus comes with wonder, curiosity, and tenacity.

Unlike Cicero or Simon, Jesus speaks in the gray.

Now don’t get me wrong, throughout the Gospel, Jesus speaks directly about how to love each other, giving direction concretely to his disciples.

To Nicodemus, Jesus knows that this is a moment to breathe in and invite this wise and learned teacher into a new space.

Into a new way.

Instead of mapping out the path to salvation with a series of decisions, Jesus invites Nicodemus to think beyond the brain’s knowledge
and to be transformed in heart and soul by water and the Holy Spirit.
To be born again, to remember again, being one with God.
To reconnect with the one who loved you from the beginning, even as the breath of God hovered over the water, even as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness grumbling and doubting.

To reconnect with the God who is present here in our midst- just as much as we know the wind exists because it is felt within the rustle of the trees and seen in the bending of limbs.

The way to go forward, Jesus says, is to let go and be loved in the manner that God is showing the world through Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection.

In this manner, God loved the world, that ALL might come within god’s embrace.

And what manner is that?

A life of love.

A life that met the curious like Nicodemus at night and answered his questions,

A love that met the socially excluded like the Samaritan woman that we will hear about next week,

A love that met the antagonistic scribes with grace and humor,

and those who were threatened by Jesus (even Pilate and Herod) a manner of life that includes rather than excludes.

A manner of life that invites rather than casts out.
A manner of life that hears the brokenness in the midst of angry words and looks beyond those angry words to seek new beginnings and transformation rather than destroying community.

A way of life that engages not just our minds but our hearts and hands.

In this manner, Nicodemus, God loves us and we are to live.

In this manner God has loved God’s people into community, from wandering in the wilderness to the heart of the city of Boston.

Each day inviting us to find a way to re-imagine how to love in the manner that God has first loved us into who we are.

“What is the way?” Thomas will ask this later in the Gospel of John. Again, Jesus says- my life here shows you the way, the how, the root of each day.


This manner of love is a different way, different from simply taking a job and getting promoted, achieving success in society’s eyes.

This manner of love invites you at the end of the day to sit with Jesus and look at the loving embrace that God has given both to you and to those around you.

You, too, are invited into conversation in the midst of the stillness and quiet of the night to ask your deepest questions of “why” and “for how long” and “what do you mean?”

Jesus says to you, as he said to Nicodemus, “You already know.”

In the wind, in the air, in the midst- you have seen my love for you present and deeply WITH you.

God loved the world so much that God is always in the process of restoring us in relationship, All of us, in the most imaginative and sometimes invisible way.

Nicodemus appears for a second time in the gospel of John, at the time of Jesus’ death. Nicodemus is one of the men who, in John’s Gospel, prepares the body of Jesus for burial- bringing the spices to care for the dead, as one would for a beloved family member. Nicodemus wasn’t told to do this action. Rather, out of love, he came to care for this teacher who met him where he was and in turn Nicodemus acted in love for this beloved companion.

As we continue in our journey of Lent, how will you, too, live in this manner of love? Inviting others to walk with you?

Inviting others to know the embrace of Jesus’ loving arms?

Caring hearts and hands with arms outstretched?

[i] https://alexaanswers.amazon.com/question/6S9V7cXYW0g0Z5nyb6y3uq#:~:text=this%20game%20is%20centuries%2Dold,do%20something%2C%20you%20did%20it.

[ii] https://alexaanswers.amazon.com/question/6S9V7cXYW0g0Z5nyb6y3uq#:~:text=this%20game%20is%20centuries%2Dold,do%20something%2C%20you%20did%20it.

YOU are the LIGHT of the WORLD

Trinity Church in the City of Boston
Epiphany 5, Year A, 2023

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

You are the Salt of the Earth.

You are the light of the World.

For some of you, when you hear these words…..immediately the tune begins within you.

It’s inescapable.

Stephen Schwarz’s melody begins to rise within you and your toes start tapping to the tune that 1971 off Broadway musical “Godspell” sings to you.


You immediately remember the red record album with this Leonardo da Vinci-esque head of Jesus on the front cover: black, white and red.

You can recite this entire piece of gospel because it was sung to you with conviction, determination, and instruction.

YOU are the salt of the Earth- BUT….

YOU are the Light of the world AND…..

Even now, when one of my days seems to be going completely wrong- it is the chorus to Godspell’s “all for the best” comes into my head.

More specifically, I don’t remember that the title/chorus was “you guessed it’s all for the best,” instead, I remember the litany that is sung out in that same song, offered up. The humanity and brokenness of relationships and to top it all off the song says “AND my olive tree is dying.”

Growing up, music was always a part of our household, singing a song to clean up things, singing in choir, to singing to cassette tapes in the car.

I remember the Godspell record playing loudly, while my mother ironed shirts.

Music with words of hope and humanity amidst the ordinary- the ironing and child raising.

She sang along and, after a while, I sang along too… sometimes with the correct words, sometimes filling the gaps with my own…… the tune and the words stuck with me.

The melodies found me in the midst of my need for comfort, wisdom, inspiration.

In many ways, these tunes have lit my path of faith.

Music, sung to or by us, carries the message with humanity, emotion, invitation.
Invitation in this “new” way to hear the Gospel, the good news amidst our own ordinary.

We are invited to hear this message of Hope that Jesus gives us,

YOU are the salt,

YOU are the Light.

Now, I don’t know about you but when you bake, you need to measure the amount of salt in your baking otherwise it will not turn out well. And Confusing salt with Sugar is just a horrible mistake.

AND I am now at that age where the flashlight on my phone has made reading a dinner menu so much easier. Light means so much to our lives.

The Gospel of Matthew is written as in instruction manual to the early church.

The nacent gathering of followers of this new way of living wanted to know how then to BE church, to be a gathering, to be with each other. After Matthew has told us who Jesus is, Matthew settles into instructing us how then we are to live.

For those who are type A’s, Jesus is giving you a manual on how to live. Like a great recipe, Matthew is saying do exactly this and you will be a community. Follow these directions.

Isn’t that amazing? You can highlight it in pink highlighter, if you want to- it’s easy- do this, don’t do that.

For those of you who are not Type A’s—take a breath- the gospel of course is not that easy…… like humidty in baking bread, there are uncontrollable factors that make things complicated. Life in community is complex and try as we make it, life doesn’t always follow a formula. You know that already and you, too, can rejoice in this gospel and gospel writer.

Like the rich young ruler who will come to Jesus in Matthew’s Chapter 19, living out our faith is not just do’s and don’ts, faith-filled living is not just keeping commandments…..it’s involving our hearts and being the light- in mind, body, and spirit.

We have been  given lights upon our path and we are to be the light.

From the words of proverbs (and the praise song)- Thy word is a light unto our path.

Simeon, the faithful priest, who speaks to those gathered when Jesus (not a groundhog) is presented 40 days after his birth and speaks about Jesus’ being a light to enlighten the nations.

You are the Light of the world.

To today, YOU (not the person beside you) YOU are the light of the world.

Jesus is talking to you.

And this message from Jesus is


A New Way

Light in the darkness

Guiding us

Turning our world upside down

And yet calling,

Calling us by name

YOU, yes YOU, are the light, too.

In January, I was given the incredible opportunity to travel with The Very Rev. Dr. Battle to Capetown, South Africa. As a part of the Tutu Travel seminar, we listened to the stories of those who were personally involved with the anti-apartheid movement. We listened to the stories of faith leaders and laity who shared the light of love for each and every child of God, regardless of if they were brown, black or white. With the institutional abolishment of apartheid in 1994, their country’s story of freedom is still a young one and yet the light of hope, the shine of joy, the gift of deep grounded hope shown on each face as they shared their part of the story AND where the journey has led them now.

As a group of 12 curious individuals in a minivan (none of us fisherpeople, but very much following along asking, like the disciples, a GAZILLION questions) we were nourished not only with the abundance of the earth but the overflowing love shared with us, grounded in faith and hope that god’s beloved community could come together, make change and endure.

One person who shone exceptionally with joy, was a woman named Renee August. She exuded joy. Remember the scripture about Moses encountering God and when he came down from the mountain, how his face was sooooo shiny and full of God’s light that he had to wear a veil? Renee’s face reminded me of what that sort of joy might look like on a person. She radiated gladness, giddiness, and choosing to hear love beyond adversity. She spent several years with Arch Bishop Tutu as a part of his staff and as a family friend.

She shared with us the story of Arch Bishop’s leadership and also her experience of the ArchBishop as a mentor, friend, and pastor. She invited us into her story, to walk alongside of her in deep moments of frustration, struggle and also joy. She invited us to be a companion with her despite our differences.

Renee spoke of ArchBishop Tutu’s testament to loving each person and calling others to do so likewise. Despite differences, ArchBishop Tutu called you to the light, right where you were. If you have seen ArchBishop Tutu in videos, you saw this same delight and light. That deep joy was not ignoring the pain of life in your midst, it wasn’t an act for show. Rather, the deep joy ArchBishop Tutu reminded us of is that deep hope that god’s kingdom is at work in the most mysterious of ways and will continue to unfold within and with each of us.

The light of love carries us forward, with hope, with endurance, with desire for change—the light of love calls us to share that light with others. Always quick to love and remind you that the light of love is the candle with which we are called to carry and light the path for others.

Like the childhood song sings, This little light of mine, I am going to let it shine.

Shine so that our faces too, radiate the close encounters of the divine. The close encounters with those who experience and delight in God’s love for us and for all of creation.

Shine so that light is where love is so desperately needed.

The tune in our heart, mind, and soul should be the repeating chorus that the love of God is one that lights our path, is a lantern of sorts, clarifying the smallest of print to keep us moving forward even when we might not know how to take the next step forward.

Jesus’ words of comfort console, embrace all of our humanity and answers our litany of grievances and why we can’t possibly do the next thing with an invitation, the word AND enters into our vocabulary, our capability to respond and show compassion.


Let that light shine.

The light of love, the light of hope, the light of change in this world.


* For more on Renee August: https://www.theworkofthepeople.com/person/rene-august

At the Intersection of Light and Darkness, We Belong and are Becoming

Second Sunday of Epiphany
15 January 2023 in Hermanus, South Africa

Good Morning!

What a gift it is to be here today with you, to listen to the word of God, to share just a little bit of who we are and to share a meal together in this space.

My name is Abi Moon and on most Sundays, you can find me and my friends in Boston, Massachusetts at Trinity Church. 

Thank you for your warm welcome and sharing your space with us.

We arrived last Tuesday and we will head back to our various families on this Thursday.

I wonder, have you ever had the chance to watch the sunrise or sunset?

In Boston, we are at that time of year where the sun rises at about 7:30am, our days are still short. I will admit, it has taken some effort for me to see the sunrise here…with your days so full of sunshine!

If you have watched a sunrise you know that the sun comes up over the horizon slowly and it is not instantaneous…..rather bit by bit the effects of the sun are felt, seen and the entire experience transforms the landscape.

What was once impossible to see becomes illuminated and continues to be transformed as the rays of the sun peek over the horizon….and then if you are lucky, the clouds continue to transform….bit by bit, pinks, yellows, amber, if you have the time, you can see all sorts of different things……. if you are watching.

As my friends and I have walked and ridden around Cape Town and Hermanus, we have been given the gift of being still and listening to the light of God’s story unfolding in your lives, in the struggles of South Africa, the living stones that each of you are shedding light to those you encounter, showing a space where hope and struggle exist.

Today’s gospel reading reminds us of two things.

Belonging and becoming.

John baptizes Jesus.

Jesus invites his first disciples to follow him.

In Jesus’ baptism, Jesus is publicly showing he and all of us belong as family together.

We are family through baptism, through the love and grace and forgiveness that only God can give.

We rejoice with each baptized child of God at their baptism and walk along side of them as they discover God for the first time.

And much like a sunrise, that one moment is not the conclusion, rather it is just a part of the beautiful unfolding of sunlight, of god’s love.

Because the next thing that Jesus does is say these words “ Don’t just sit there—–Come and see” “Walk with me, listen to the story unfold. BE a part of the story.”

Each of you ‘came to see’ today by coming to church.

You were curious,

you might have needed the strength and joy of this community,

you came to see…..


You know that in community, we see love in action.

We see strength in companionship,

We see hope in even the most complex situations because we are reminded that we are not alone.

We too, are called by name to belong to this community, to listen to each other’s story, to be with each other.

And to be transformed.

In listening on this pilgrimage my friends and I have seen landscapes transform from pages in books to human faces and story.

We have been invited to pray and learn.

Like the sunrise, each moment seems to transform with new imagery and illuminations along the way.

And that is what John the Baptist and Jesus are all about today.

They are:

Inviting each of us to know that we belong.


We belong with all of our failures.

We belong with all of our joys

We belong right here, right now

AND we are to continue on this path of faith together….

Come and see

Keep walking

Keep being transformed by the unexpected

Keep looking up to see the landscape being transformed by God’s love and light and invitation.

This is the season of Epiphany, the time of the church year where we are reminded that The wisemen who visited the baby Jesus went home by a different way… transformed by their experience of God.

Each of us, too, will leave this space and no matter how far we go in the next part of our travels home, my hope is that your path is transformed knowing that you, too, are called by name.

You, too, are invited to come and see.

You, too, are invited see where God’s love and light intersect on your path.

With each and every sunrise, know the light of God’s love in your life and the invitation to be transformed.

No Matter What Road You Take, God is there.

Trinity Church in the City of Boston

First Sunday after Christmas
Year A

January 1, 2023

Isaiah 63:7-9

Ps 148

Matthew 2:13-23

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among others, To make music in the heart.

  • Howard Thurman

Happy New Year Trinity Church!

I pray your holidays were good ones!

Every year, the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s day has this mysterious timeslessness to it?  Doesn’t it?

During this week, we take time to eat all of the foods, open all of the presents, play with (and potentially break) all of the presents, and in the midst of all of the swirling travels (planned, unplanned, and changed) we find ourselves looking backward and forward at the same time.

I love to look back and marvel at things that happened in the past year, moves, new adventures, things that stayed the same and things that changed that no one could have imagined.

We pausing to take note and listen to where the rhythm of joys, sorrows, deep learnings existed in the midst of all 365 days of last year.

And it takes community to remember.

There are things we have completely forgot that that happened this past year or remember differently than others!

I also love to look ahead and wonder.

Wonder what will change in the new year.

Wonder what adventures might lie ahead (planned and unplanned)

Now, in wondering, We am not planning, instead-

We sit with curiosity- where will God guide us this year?

How can I make myself open to the path that is made clear, chosen or unchosen by me….

Pausing to listen, to absorb and make space for more than the daily routine and to do list.

Our reading from Isaiah today is a beautiful reminder of looking backward. Listen those words again, “I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord….

Because of all that the Lord has done for us.. (note not to us)

According to his mercy,

According to his steadfast love.

This recalling is no small statement, we should not sweep it away as platitudes or kindness. Rather, Isaiah ????, is reminding God’s people that despite the challenges,

God HAS been there in their midst-

“Look back and see God has provided a path through the challenges, the means to endure, the love with which to not only survive but to thrive.” It may not have been the path you planned or hoped for, but still the path was there.

Recalling and retelling allows for the light to shine through even in the darkest times.

Just like that Christmas morning when the light shown in the heavens, the shepherds arrived and followed, the angels sang and later, even the kings arrived by light.

Guidance interrupting in the midst of their routine and ordinary lives.

Steadfast love and mercy appears in the unplanned adventure called the Holy Family in Bethlehem. A baby called Emmanuel. God with us.

Which brings us to today.

8 days after Christmas Day.

As the words of Howard Thurman ring out-

“After the stars have faded, the shepherds have left, (and just before our gospel reading today) the magi have visited and departed, the holy family have settled into home life, the ordinary, the mundane.

Now the work begins.

And another angel appeared.

An angel appears to Joseph.

In Matthew’s Gospel account, Joseph is to whom all the angels appear. We hear nothing of Mary’s personal encounter with Gabriel- that is Luke. You will remember two weeks ago we heard of the first appearance of an angel to Joseph in a dream.

The Angel appears and allays Joseph’s fears. In Matthew’s gospel we do not even hear of shepherds or angels in the fields with their Glory to God choruses. No, in Matthew’s gospel, Joseph receives word from an angel that Mary is pregnant, he is to still marry her and to name that baby Emmanuel. God with us.

Can you imagine Joseph looking back at that year and saying, “Well, I never could have planned that any of this would happen.”

Yet, Joseph is obedient, he is kind, he follows his instructions, Jesus is born, they travel home, the Magi arrive visiting with gifts.

Perhaps after the visit of the Magi, Joseph and Mary took surprises in stride, nothing could shock them anymore.

Because then, a second Angel of the Lord appears to Joseph.

Appears and commands again.

Go, Joseph, go to Egypt for safety.

Go and take your wife and child and find safety there until I visit again.

And the family went and they stayed.

Mary and Joseph and sweet baby Jesus went to a country where their people had once been enslaved, a space with history that they never wanted to go back to, a place that Moses had led them from to freedom and yet at this moment that very space was a harbor of safety for this young family.

Into the unknown, into the in between,

Mary and Joseph went into the land of Egypt waiting and surviving.

I wonder how they felt having escaped the senseless violence that King Herod ineffectively used in an attempt to squash the threat of this newborn king.

Were they afraid of being found out?
How their hearts must have broken for those children who died

How they must have wondered to themselves, “how long will we be here, what is next?”

And yet the steadfast love of God endured.

According to god’s mercy.

And a third Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told them to return to their homeland.  And Mary and Joseph went and settled into Nazareth.

Listening and seeing the divine in their midst.

They, like the Magi, home by a new route to survive, to thrive, to live in hope and to see this baby grow into the man that will rebuild the nations, bring peace and music to the heart in such a unique way.

The next appearance of the divine affirming the path of God …is our gospel next week, as Jesus is baptized, the dove will descend, voices will be heard by all who are present and Jesus will begin his ministry. But that is for next week.

Listening to the call of God in our lives takes a certain willingness to listen and to respond.

Joseph and Mary did not let reflecting back on their path inhibit them from moving forward on God’s path for them.

They listened, they trusted, had faith and took one step at a time.
From going to Bethlehem to Nazareth to Egypt to Nazareth again.

They received the strangers with gifts

and were received as strangers without any gifts to give in return.

They wondered and wandered but never strayed from the knowledge that God was there with them on this topsy turvy path that was a gift to the world.

I wonder how often Mary said, “Joseph go take a nap- perhaps tonight is the night the angel will appear and we can go home already.”

I wonder if Joseph was afraid or found comfort in those dreams when the angel of the Lord gave him direction?

The work of the Holy Family is at work today, they let the music of the blessed birth of Jesus carry their hearts into and beyond the challenges.

They used each day to respond whole heartedly to the call.

Just as we, too are called to do.

Where might you find yourself in this story?

Joseph with dreams?

Mary who also responded with love and care?

Magi, from afar encountering a new beginning in a new way?

Arriving like the holy family in a new space with no plan, needing hospitality and care?

Welcoming, like the Egyptians, a new family in their need?

Wherever you might be on your spiritual journey, let the words of Isaiah ring through- know the abundance of God’s steadfast love and keep listening to those angels who appear on the path to guide you along.


A Blessing for Epiphany

If you could see the journey whole,
you might never undertake it,
might never dare the first step
that propels you from the place
you have known toward the place you know not.

Call it one of the mercies of the road:
that we see it only by stages
as it opens before us,
as it comes into our keeping,
step by single step.

There is nothing for it but to go,
and by our going take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to the next step;
to rely on more than the map;
to heed the signposts of intuition and dream;
to follow the star that only you will recognize;

to keep an open eye for the wonders that attend the path;
to press on beyond distractions,
beyond fatigue, beyond what would
tempt you from the way.

There are vows that only you will know:
the secret promises for your particular path
and the new ones you will need to make
when the road is revealed by turns
you could not have foreseen.

Keep them, break them, make them again;
each promise becomes part of the path,
each choice creates the road
that will take you to the place
where at last you will kneel

to offer the gift most needed—
the gift that only you can give—
before turning to go home by another way.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

What are You Waiting For? (An Advent Sermon)

Trinity Church in the City of Boston
Advent 1, 2022

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I will light Candles this Christmas; 
Candles of joy despite all sadness, 
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch, 
Candles of courage for fears ever present,

Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, 
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens, 
Candles of love to inspire all my living, 
Candles that will burn all the year long.[i]


It’s a question I received a lot growing up.

Why aren’t you in the car? Why aren’t you ready? What are you waiting for????

And the reasonings got very creative:

Are you waiting on a written invitation?

Are you waiting for the stars to align?

Are you waiting for the right group of people to sign up first?

Are you waiting for your name to be called?

Are you waiting for ticketmaster to let you in out of the waiting room? (Too soon, Taylor Swift fans?)

Let’s be honest,

We do a lot of waiting.

We wait in traffic,

We wait in lines,

We wait for the turkey to be done,

We wait for our teams to win, sometimes in double overtime, too!

And in our digital world, we have managed to avoid a lot of waiting….

We can now order online in advance, we can pay for it to be shipped directly to us rather than picking it up in person, We can pay for it to be ready— so we can do something else in the in-between time.

And I wonder….

What should we be doing in our waiting?

Some of the digital options allow us to multi-task, I am in no way condemning this concept.

What are we multi-tasking with though?

I am just wondering are we just filling the time we receive with other non- important busy things?

What might we be avoiding?

What might we be burying deep down and “hiding from” in the fullness of our worlds?

When we wait for results….
Are we filling our time and hiding our anxiety and fear of death?

When we “are waiting” for sadness to pass,
are we ignoring the need for our own hearts to grieve and be broken open?

They say “Iceburgs you only see 10% of what is going on… 90% is below the surface.”[ii]

Just like the ways we fill out time,

We show what we want to show, don’t we?

We dress in certain ways, we share joys and selected sorrows on Social Media.

Think about it, we can even blur our backgrounds on zoom meetings.

Where might we take the time to unblur the things that our hearts might need us to be still to hear?

Where might we need to wait and know that we are not alone.

Where might we need to be still and know that we are enough?

Where are you taking a moment to plunging deeper?

To share your story?

Where have you found that you have been Waiting and Growing at the same time?

Our Gospel reading today is from the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus is speaking about what is to come and how then we, as disciples, should wait. He reminds the disciples that waiting and change is nothing new in their story.
Neither is change that comes with suffering.

Jesus reminds them of how then we should wait.
He invites the disciples, and in turn us, to use our time of waiting to be productive.
Be ready for the divine to interrupt you.
Be waiting and also digging deep to be ready for the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day and also the second coming, when we know not the time nor place.

We wait with hope and expectation.

Trinity Church in the City of Boston is an amazing mass of a building.

And yet, it represents something much greater than what you can see…..

It’s roots go deeper, story runs deeper, it’s identity is (DO I SAY IT out loud?) more than this building.

We gather here each week to worship God, See each other, AND to go deeper in our faith.

In our waiting we gather, seizing each moment to seek a God who loves us and invites us to know that love more deeply.

Each week, we are invited to share a bit of our story, in all its unseemliness, it’s messiness, it’s incarnation (word made flesh)…. And in our waiting, go deeper.

After services on Sunday, we give you the invitation to come downstairs, to gather underneath to go deeper. Sometimes, this invitation is through coffee and conversation. Sometimes, with a lecture. This week we invite you to go downstairs and create. Down below, you will find all the ‘fixins’ to create the traditional Advent wreath that marks time as we wait and prepare for Christmas.

The tradition of Advent Wreaths come from Germany. The story goes that “in 1839, Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808-81), a pastor in Germany, built a wreath out of an old cartwheel to help the children in his mission school count the days until Christmas. He added small candles to be lit every weekday and Saturday during Advent, and on Sundays, a large white candle was lit. Although it wasn’t widely popular until the 19th century, German immigrants then brought the tradition with them to America in the 20th century.”[iii]

We continue to light these candles in the darkest time of our year in the northeastern corner of the northern hemisphere, when there is less and less physical light- our desire as Christians to see the great light in this world IS even more desperate.

We light candles to remind us that even on the darkest night, there is hope in our world.

We light candles to remind us that our loved ones are still with us even if they are no longer at the table this year, that their presence is still very near in our hearts.

We light candles amidst violence and senseless destruction, to remind us that we can be different, we can make change in this world and those lost will not be forgotten.

We light candles as we wait, together, for something more, a love deeper for us that we have yet to fully understand.

The miracle birth in Bethlehem which brought light into the world in the simplest of ways, a baby who threatened Kings and all of the political systems. Hope given to a world in need of healing.

The truth of the matter is, when you dig down deep, we are always waiting.

We are waiting for our name to be called, we are waiting to be fed, we are waiting because we simply aren’t “there” yet.

We are waiting for this world to know and experience the deep love of God that transcends the outer packaging, the social media shininess, the uncertainty and the brokenness.

And as we wait in lines, with grace and impatience alike, we are not meant to be passive.

Rather, in each moment of waiting we have the opportunity to discover and delight in God’s creation, delve into relationships that challenge us and are different.

Waiting is an adventure and while we might fail at doing this with love every moment of the day, the invitation is still there to delve below, to dig deeper and see the Divine….. as we try, try, try again to love God, Love our neighbors, and love ourselves.

What are we waiting for? Our journey continues today, let’s wait with hope and expectation and dare I say it- joy. Knowing that we have work to do.

O Come O Come Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the depths of our lives, give light in this world and help us to wait with grace and patience.


[i] Howard Thurman, Mood of Christmas

[ii] https://www.lpi.usra.edu/education/explore/ice/activities/ice_action/iceberg/#:~:text=Icebergs%20float%20on%20the%20ocean,is%20concealed%20beneath%20the%20waves.

[iii] https://www.thepeoplesfriend.co.uk/2018/12/12/the-story-of-the-advent-wreath/#:~:text=Like%20many%20beloved%20Advent%20traditions,count%20the%20days%20until%20Christmas.

Here’s A Story….of a Lovely Lady….well, how about a Pharisee and Tax Collector instead?

Proper 25 Year C

Trinity Church in the City of Boston

October 23, 2022

Joel 2:23-32
Psalm 65
2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tell me a story.

We hear this plea hear from children.

It’s why we crack open a new book of the NYT bestseller list.

It’s what we ask of movie theaters (or Netflix these days).
Tell me a story: a beautiful, wonderful story.

A story with a message that gives us hope.

A story that teaches.

A story that surprises us, has twists and turns, engages us.

What was your most beloved story growing up?

What is the story you have memorized from repetitive reading to your own children?

What was the first story you read, all by yourself?

I remember reading my first Nancy Drew mystery book

and my mother reading Anne of Green Gables to me.

Then came The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings

Each of these stories, even re-read now, speak volumes to our desire for hope, belonging, resolution, instruction in the midst of struggle, and a bit of escape from reality.

As Christians, we have plenty of stories in our scriptures.

And while they might not be as concise as Dr Seuss or amusing as David Sedaris, they do offer hope, they give guidance, they remind us that we are not uniquely new in this journey of questions and searching for meaning.

Today we hear a parable, a story, from Jesus.

This is nothing new in the disciples’ time with Jesus.

Jesus is constantly teaching – engaging in dialogue or telling stories.
Stories to give direction, hope, guidance through the struggle of every day faithful life.

Today’s parable follows directly after last week’s gospel of the persistent widow and the unjust judge.

And much like any children’s story there appears to be a dichotomy.


Wrong and Right.

The bible is full of these:

A baby born to threaten a seated King (Think: Moses and Jesus)

In Luke we hear of polarity over and over again, outcasts at the table with Jesus, Lepers receiving healing, parables that juxtapose a widow and a judge, one without social standing and power with the powerful.

Banqueting tables that invite all to participate.

Today- a pharisee and a tax collector.

Polar opposites in the vocational field and popularity.

One esteemed in the faithful community and one who was detested.

It is easy to quickly come to the decision that one is better than the other.

Just like the pharisee.

“At least I am not like”……

Jesus sets this dichotomy up to draw our attention to both the individuals and their understanding of the other.

The Pharisee and his understanding that he has fulfilled his duty.

All that he does reflects this faithful action.

The Tax collector and his understanding that he stands there in need of mercy,

so unworthy to even look up.

I think we can easily look to the two and decide where we fall at this moment. We can judge the other, too. If we are being honest we have been both of these characters at some point. Puffed up with accomplishments or depleted by guilt and shame.

If we rest our souls there, I think we might have missed the point.

The bigger storyline has been lost.

In this parable story we have two individuals who have both come to the faith community.

Both are in need of love and mercy

and both are seeking God– using language that they feel allows them to be heard.

The first believes that he is worthy by duty and doing.

The second by being.

What is left out is any sense of connection or community of the two people who are in the same physical space.

What is absent and missed is that God loved them first, before they did anything.

God was there and invited them to be in community.

The Pharisee, eyes cast upward, was not going to sit anywhere near the tax collector.

The Tax collector was attempting to fade into the corner, eyes downcast.

A chasm existed between the two.

I wonder where the common ground was for these two socially diverse people and how the story of their identity became so disconnected.

The common ground of this story is that they both faithfully came to pray, to receive, in a space of divine.

The tax collector is celebrated by Jesus because he was open to receiving while the Pharisee was stuck in duty instead of delight AND the devotion of the tax collector.

When we reside in competition or “better than” mode of life we lose the opportunity to receive, to collaborate and see that without each other we are actually less than being the full family of God.

In hearing of someone else’s pain or misfortune our response should be from the compassionate heart, not the heady space of comparative lack of fortune.

If we pray that we might be one with gladness and singleness of heart, our hearts should hurt when we hear of the misfortune other members of the family, regardless of how proximate or distant they might be.

In our eucharistic service we hold up the one bread and break it into pieces and give it out evenly to all those who receive the body and blood of Christ.

Shoulder to shoulder we gather around the altar rail or you receive in the pew right where you are.

Your educational status does not matter, the accolades you received are not itemized nor do they prioritize our distribution.

What matters is your open hands to receive, your open heart to be embraced.

There is no “At least” in the Kingdom of God, absolutely no competition.

There is instead, absolutely an invitation to each of you to be loved, receive mercy, receive hope, guidance, gladness, and unification despite division.

Each of us is given a chance to reframe the story, to be part of the narrative where repetition and engagement are essential and give life.

I love reading the Bible because there is always a story that fits our situation. Each time I re-read the scripture I hear something new and am given a fresh take on an old familiar and a new way emerges, a way where God is manifested in our midst.

In listening to scripture, we are given space to hear dichotomy and also invitation in the midst our lives, an invitation to find the middle way– the way of deepest relationship.

A way where God is center to each of our encounters.

The Pharisee looked at the tax collector and did not see him as his brother or companion, he saw him as less than. He saw his status only and not his relationship as a brother in faith.

Where can we take a moment to pause and remember our relationship with one another?

How can we make space to listen to the pain of this world in the midst of duty.

How can we, with holy curiosity, delight in the misadventures and mistakes that we did not plan yet found God there in our midst?

Where can we find gladness of heart even in the darkest moments of our lives without resorting to starting a sentence with “at least”…..

Jesus invites us to reshape the easy story of I am right and you are wrong into “let’s get this right together.”

We have to come together, be in relationship, be with one another and delight with compassion for one another.

Even in the midst of this parable, there is the story of hope and engagement that the Bible holds for us. Jesus continued to teach and live that life for us- full of twists and turns for his disciples and in turn, us.

We receive an open invitation to meet in the middle and join our hearts together to love like the God who created us and delights in us so much that his sacrificial love reaches to us in the midst of our duty or our deprecation.

This is the story of which we are all a part.

Tell me a story, share your own story and realize we are all in this together.

Thanks be to God.

“Backpacks and Baptisms: You are Marvelously Made for This New Year”

Proper 18 Year C 2022

Trinity Church Boston

Jeremiah 18:1-11
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
Luke 14:25-33

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

O God of New Beginnings

May we be curious and compassionate

Fill our hearts with the joy of new friends

and our minds with wonder of learning new things.

And the knowledge that you are in each of our moments: joyful and sorrowful.


It is the most wonderful time of the year.

Back to School.

We love it for so many reasons.

For the shopping of crayons, markers, the exact sort of paper, that crisp snap of the binders, ready to receive the new year’s knowledge.

We return to a routine, sports, schedules, expectations.

Even, loud boiling test tubes, as our closing hymn sings.

The return of school zones and traffic.

It’s exciting.

Pencils have been bought, school lists completed, first day of school photos taken on doorsteps with new and clean lunch boxes, smiles are big on children’s faces and parents’ too.

Backpacks have been filled with blank sheets of paper, permissions slips signed for the year, excited and anxious children delivered by excited and anxious parents.

A week of excitement, joy and let’s be honest anxiety.

Regardless of if it is your first day of kindergarten or grad school, or teaching as a first-year teacher or veteran.

Everything is new.

Like the pencils that are too big because they have yet to be used and molded by our grip, the first day of school holds so many unknowns and we aren’t quite sure of the space where we fit in.

We hold our breath, parents, teachers, students alike, as we plunge right in- taking that brave first step into the new year, new school, new community.

And we are all in, armed with who we are, a backpack of supplies and a lunch box, the new year begins.

Even if you do not have your own children, you remember those days yourself, don’t you?

The joy of seeing friends after the summer.

The anxiety of where will I sit for lunch and with whom?

The curiosity of do I have the teacher I wanted?

The question of what have we gotten ourselves into?

I imagine Jeremiah today, while called by God as a prophet, might be wondering the same thing.

God said to Jeremiah, “Go to the Potter’s house, I am going to teach you something.”

18 chapters into our time with Jeremiah, this is not the first day of school.
Jeremiah has been listening to and sharing God’s message to the people of Israel in exile for quite some time. By now, Jeremiah’s backpack is full of notes, assignments, and projects.

No, today in our reading we are into the first months of school, this is a first field trip of sorts.

And here, at the Potter’s shed, God reminds Jeremiah of the very visual work of the potter shaping the clay. The potter uses clay that is already there.

Taking the clay and re-forming it.

Re-creating, molding it into something new.

External pressure shaping what otherwise would sit there as a lump.

God is reminding Jeremiah that, in the midst of where they are, God is shaping the people of Israel. All that is given to them will mold them, educate them and form them. All that is given to them will transform them, like the potter on the wheel shaping the clay. This is a new day for that clay, a new beginning, a new shape. This message of transformation is what Jeremiah is to share with the people.

This time here will shape you.
Like clay amidst the potter’s hands, you will be transformed into something new.

There is a plan, you will be shaped, there will be change.

Ya’ll, shaping clay is not a gentle process, it messy, uncomfortable, not asked for by the clay, and forceful. God is reminding Jeremiah that this transformation will be much like a potter’s work with clay- with great strong guidance and will create something so marvelous that you cannot even imagine the end product.

In our Gospel today, Jesus, too, is speaking to his disciples, his closest followers and they are being taught a new thing. Continuing as a disciple, a follower, a student of Jesus means that there will be messy times, there will be times where the community that the disciples will find themselves will be re-formed. There will be times where all else will push against you.

Life will be hard.

You will have to say NO to some things because of your yes to God.

Both Jeremiah and the disciples are being invited into taking that one marvelous brave step into being fully into the new community that is being formed by God.

Leaving all else behind.

Being shaped by our creator.

Being wholly (holy?) loved for who they are and willing to risk everything else for the knowledge of this love.

You are marvelously and wonderfully made, our psalmist says to us.

(In a short while) We will re-affirm this understanding of our own personhood in our baptisms today.

As a congregation, re-affirming our baptismal covenant with parents and godparents, we begin again with excitement and maybe a little bit of anxiety about starting fresh in the eyes of God’s grace and love.

Each of our baptizand parents are acutely aware of that anxiety and excitement in each of moment of their child’s journey right now. Armed with diaper bags and bottles, they lean into each new day of learning.

In baptism, we leave all else and re-commit our faithfulness to God.

With these promises, we are all in, with our heart and mind and soul. Today’s baptismal moment is also our own new beginning and willingness to start fresh, pencils sharpened, for this new chapter in our own journey of faith.

We know that God knows all of our ins and outs and is on this journey with us and LOVES US.

With Jeremiah, God accompanies the prophet in each of the messages given, the call to transformation and the belief in each person’s ability to be formed anew.

With the disciples, Jesus reminds them that while the journey is not going to be easy, their response to God’s call in their lives and listening to this call (and our call) should guide all of our footsteps.

To all of these calls, we, as disciples, say “I will with God’s help”- just like our baptizands and their parents and godparents starting for the first time on these promises together, we say them together with gladness and singleness of heart, knowing we too will be formed and reformed in this messy and wonderful life of the world to come.

The truth is, those backpacks and diaper bags, while essential tools for our journey, are security blankets like the character Linus carries in the Charles Schultz’ cartoon Peanuts.

What we really need for this journey is right within us, the deep love and beloved-ness of being a child of God. This is what Jesus is asking of his disciples, that is what God is asking of Jeremiah and the Israelites.

To let go of everything else and be shaped by this love.

Friends, you have what you need.
Have no fear, take heart and jump in with the deep gladness of this new day to start fresh.


[i] Adapted from Kayla Craig’s “A Prayer for the First Day of School” found in her book, To Light Their Way: A  Collection of Prayers and Liturgies for Parents