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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.

Visions, Change, and God’s Unchanging Love

Easter 5 YEAR C 2022

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

“If it is not about Love, it is not about God.”

Our presiding bishop is famous for these words. Bishop Michael Curry always brings every single sermon back to we are called and formed by the love of God to do the work of God.

And here is the thing. The love of God meets you right where you are and reminds you that you are marvelously and wonderfully made. Right there in Psalm 139 you hear those affirming words. YOU are marvelously and wonderfully made. FULL STOP.

By the love of God, for the love of God, you are enough.

And since you are enough, beloved, treasured, with that assurance and knowledge. SMILE.

AND share that joy with those you encounter.

Accept and Invite.

Welcome and Connect.

Mission and Ministry.

In our readings today the church is being called to a new thing.

Peter has a vision.

You know things are going to get interesting in the church when someone gets a vision.

When Angels show up in scripture- watch out. You might get invited to exotic locations like a manger or you might end up pregnant…. Peter… Peter gets to eat bacon!

I don’t know about you, but I am all in about those kind of visions.
Unfortunately, our cardiologists speak to the contrary, don’t they?
Clearly Peter did not have cholesterol issues, remember they walked everywhere and had one of those blue zone diets…aka olive oil and pita bread. But I digress.

Peter’s vision invited change, a new and different thing beginning with inclusion of that which had been excluded. His vision meant a cheeseburger in paradise was in his near future…..oh it must have been a bit of nirvana… and what a joy to be able to share this news.

To run out and share this affirmation to those who had never kept kosher, who never knew that were supposed to keep such traditions and to receive the news that God loved and included them right where they were too!

You know that feeling when joining a new community the “how do I belong?” “How do I fit in” “What are the rules?” (Sometimes it’s as simple as “Where am I in the bulletin?”)- Here Peter’s vision is saying- you are enough and you already fit, just as you are. God and this community has a space for you, come and let your heart lean in and follow Jesus.

Peter’s vision invited the believers in Jesus to think in a new way, to have a new vision, to do a new thing. To invite all into the new understanding of who God was. Can you imagine Peter sharing this with the other 11 disciples and the committee on worship protocols? OOOOH, bless his heart.

“We just can’t – Moses would roll over in his grave”
“That is NOT who we are”
“ It’s NEVER been done that way before”
and the pragmatist “We are going to have to change the bulletins”

Actually, bless theirs- as those disciples’ hearts too were broken open to something new, something different, something that allowed them to breathe differently, to say yes in a different way. An invitation to come and see, be who you are and continue to become who God has called to you to be.

Peter is always inviting a new understanding of God’s love and mercy. Peter who denied Jesus three times was invited to then to be the leader of the sheep, to invite others to fall madly in love with this God who loves Peter unconditionally and is the God of second chances and abundant grace.

And with each invitation comes the opportunity to reflect that invitation back into the community, back into the greater gift.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus leans into his disciples in that last meal together and reminds them all that not only will things change soon, they will change drastically.

And to this Jesus says, I will be with you, but in a new way.
Through each moment that love and care is given to each other
Through each moment that there is suffering
Through each moment when there is loss and disappointment
Through each moment of new birth, new beginning, and deep joy

I will be there in that moment with you.

The love you have seen through me will give you strength and courage
The Love you have experienced bringing unique group of 12 together will inspire you to invite others like and unlike you to the community.

Gathering will look different.
Mission and Ministry may be packaged differently and will still grounded in the same sacrificial restorative love.

The love of God is the same and expressing that love of God to our neighbors (while it might take a new shape) will be rooted in the same God.

There will be tension, our Lord knew there would be, there will be uncomfortable and heart-breaking moments… BE disciples who listen in love and respond in love.

Oh, change is afoot here at St. John’s and the Diocese of Florida isn’t it?

Yesterday we elected a Bishop Coadjutor of Florida. Your delegates along with 142 laity and 124 Clergy elected Charlie Holt to be the Bishop Coadjutor and serve with Bishop Howard until Bishop Howard’s resignation (we don’t call them retirements) in Fall of 2023. Mark your date, that consecration will be in October of this year at St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville. There will be change coming.

My tenure as Interim Rector will conclude on June 19th, my call to help St. John’s breathe and midwife through these interim times will end. It has been indeed a privilege and honor to serve in this capacity as we walked in faith together and supported the Rector Search Process.

OH the love, the change, the delight that this church is… and there will be a new rector and a new vision. God is calling you into a new space, a new way and yet rest assured this vision is grounded in the same deep love known to us in the breaking of the bread, in scripture, in gathering and scattering that you have always known.

Change allows for new beginnings and an opportunity like Peter and the disciples at the Last Supper to continue on a faith journey seeking as Jesus says, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another- by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In these Holy In Between times,
I invite you to bask in the love of God,
continue to breathe in the love of God
and breathe out the vision that God invites you into a new beginning,
a new chapter grounded in love.

For if it is not about love, it is not about God.

What new vision might God be breathing into you, are you ready to breathe out into God’s embrace?

What anchors you and what allows you to leap? (or- We are Fatigued, Forgiven, Fed, and sent to then Feed others)

Easter 3 Year C 2022

Acts 9:1-20

John 21:1-19

O god, whose blessed son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes 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

Be still and know

Be still and

Be still

Be

What grounds you? Where do you find your anchor in the swirling storm of uncertainty?

For some it is coming within these walls, the predictability of our liturgy, a space where you can be embraced, held, be who you are and fall apart.

You know where you are and it’s a space where you can get your feet back under you.

For the disciples, the thing that grounded them was fishing.

In the midst of their uncertainty, they claimed their family training their family vocation, where they felt most at home, they knew they could be who they were.

On the water, in a boat, with each other.

Remember how many encounters occur with the divine on water?

Creation began with the waters and the land being separated.

Noah was saved from water in his ark

Moses floated down the same river that his people were later given safe passage through

Jacob met his future wife at a well

Jesus was baptized in the Jordan and it is at the banks of the Galilee that the disciples were called into this new family.

It is with water that Jesus heals the blind, commands others to go and wash, and today, he even uses water to make wine.

This day, the 7 disciples get into the boat, they go back to the familiar, their old habits.

And while comfort might have been granted, peace may have been given,

their labors for fish are in vain.

Their night spent.

Their nets are empty.

Much like Holy Saturday, the waters are still.
A new dawn changes things.

On the new dawn, Jesus appears to them.

Sends them fishing on the other side… (Mathew and Luke have this happening earlier in their gospels…. In the midst of Jesus’ teaching. John is doing something different here.)

With this new endeavor, their nets burst with fish, burst with fruits of their labor.

The familiar in a new way.

They are invited again for a meal

Gathering around a fire once again and a spark of life igniting, rekindled.

Recognition of the divine, the miraculous, their savior…….

The old ways transformed through a simple invitation.

Jesus feeds them.

Much like he did before, sitting around and eating fish at the early hour, Jesus is with them once again at table.

Gathering a fire that provides nourishment and affirmation, replacing confusion and denial.

The disciples are ready to listen, to be fed both spiritually and physically again.

In the midst of their confusion and attempts to figure out the past week of Jesus life and death, they hear the familiar voice, the gift of the peace that passes all understanding, the knowledge that they were both beloved and not alone.

Jesus finds them, feeds them, and forgives them for their confusion, their doubts and Peter’s denials.

When a child does something wrong, we correct the action and invite them to try again in a new way. Much like a child, Jesus invites Peter, with love and affirmation, to try again in a new way.

Rather than a profession of faith, Jesus calls Peter into a new action… feeding.

In three years, the disciples have seen the Lord in action

Seen the lord in pain and sorrow,

Seen the lord, now, in resurrected glory.

Now he sends Peter out to feed god’s sheep.

Once famished and fatigued, Peter is now fed, forgiven and commanded to go and feed god’s people.

Return to the water, but in a new way

Return to fishing but fish for people

Return to the familiar to be reminded that we are called to live in a new way, to be family and to bear fruit in new ways, anchored in hope.

Each of us have our own call.

While we may not have been called from fishing as our vocation, we all return to the water. Each time we come into this space we pass by the baptismal font, where we are reminded of the waters of our baptism, the joy of those baptisms we have experienced since, and our own promises that we have confirmed or our parents and godparents made on our behalf.

And we return, we come back to the familiar.

We return to the table, just like the disciples did.

Return to the table to be reminded that we are part of a family.

We arrive fatigued and famished.

We arrive in need of forgiveness

We arrive broken and unconvinced of our own worthiness.

And around this table we are reminded that we are both forgiven and fed.

Around the table we are accepted just as we are.
AND with that restoration we are in turn to go out into the world and live that faith in action, feed others.

Perhaps, for you, this is in serving at the Kearney Center

Perhaps that is in praying with our Pastoral Care Shepherds

Perhaps that is in baking cookies for an upcoming event

Perhaps that is in serving in liturgy as a Eucharistic Minister or acolyte

Perhaps that is in smiling at a stranger and wishing them a good day in the midst of your day.

Know this, You have received God’s love, forgiveness, and can be transformed.

Today, our first graders will gather around the railing for Festal Eucharist. All year they have been reflecting on God’s story of love in scripture. They have also talked about their own understanding of God and baptisms. Each time they gathered they opened in prayer and closed with snack….

Much like the disciples, doing the familiar and remembering not only who they are but whose they are.

We gather here in the familiar to be held, to find peace, to be forgiven and to know that God is present.

Jesus accepts us exactly as we are, just as he did with Peter, and invites us to be transformed by God.

We, too, are redefined by a grace and mercy that changes our whole perspective and compels us to go and do, to remember and share that God’s only son came so that he might take our brokenness, bless it and return us restored so that in turn we might do the same.

How might you, too, fish from a different side of the boat?

How might you, too, feed God’s sheep?

What is it you plan to do, in the words of Mary Oliver, with your one wild and precious life?[i]

Will you like peter, jump out of the boat and respond with wild abandonment?


[i] https://www.loc.gov/programs/poetry-and-literature/poet-laureate/poet-laureate-projects/poetry-180/all-poems/item/poetry-180-133/the-summer-day/

What are we running from and who do we run towards? An Easter Sermon.

Easter Sunday YEAR C 2022

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

John 20:1-18


Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

O resurrected Risen King, we praise you on this Easter morning with glad and grateful hearts, eager to shout your glory! The Tomb could not hold you. Fill our family with a love that is shared between us and freely given to everyone we meet.

HAPPY EASTER!

It is soooo good to see you, here in this space, surrounded with Lilies and smiles on your faces. I pray your day today be filled with deep gladness and joy. Thank you for coming and being present, to see the flowers, hear the story, and be present with loved ones or by yourself. Wherever you are on your faith journey, we welcome you into the story, the song, the joy of this space.

If we are being honest, we have all needed Easter tremendously in the past two years.

Easter is the celebration of God’s love for the world, God’s sacrifice of love to redeem the world, to remind us all that regardless of what happens, no one is beyond his embrace. Each of us are all invited into a new chapter, a new beginning once we too, lean in and accept this love.

And while the story of Easter begins even before the birth of Jesus at Christmas, today we find our selves listening to the story of a new dawn and with a bit of a relay and foot race. Everyone is running to and fro.

Running means urgency, compelling, speed is needed.

Running can be grace filled and it can be undignified, it’s pressing, a turn of events that changes all of the next steps. We run when we need help, we run when we are afraid, we run to share good and bad news. In seminary, I was told “never run in your vestments….it makes people anxious. ”

Today, we are invited into the wee hours of the morning and we arrive with Mary Magdalene who most likely walked slowly to the tomb.

Mary expects to find Jesus in the tomb as one should, she should have found the tomb with a large stone in front of it and everything quiet and still. Birds waking up and starting their songs. The space quiet save the noises that occur at dawn.

And she finds the unexpected.

The stone rolled away, the tomb is empty.

You can imagine her fear that someone has stolen the body.

You can imagine her thinking “is this the right space” and retracing her steps to find the right markings for the tomb.

You can imagine her anger at this absence and change in the routine. Expecting the expected and receiving instead the unknown.

And she runs.

She runs so fast that she is out of breath.

She doesn’t run to hide, she runs to friends, to Peter and John.

She relays the information to those who might assist, help her to understand.

Waking them up and shaking them, she uses all of her remaining breath to tell them all that she knows. “They have taken the Master. We don’t know where they have put him.”

They have taken him.

We don’t know.

And the two run.

They run as fast as they can.

John arrives first but allows Peter to go inside first.

Was this deferential? Was this out of fear?

Using all that they have, they go, go as fast as they can to see for themselves.

And they saw the linens folded and left behind.

And they believed.

Believed that something new was happening.

Believed that what Jesus had told them was indeed reality.

Believed that the grave could not hold God.

Believed that there was hope.

Perhaps they walked home… or ran, or talked, or were speechless- in awe and wonder. One thing is for sure the path they took home, while it was most likely the same rocky path they ran to get there, it was different, changed by the fact that the end of their long week ended very differently than they had expected.

Somehow God became a little bit closer in this empty tomb.

And Mary.

Well, Mary lingers at the tomb.

Mary lets her emotions, her tears fall.

Tears of exhaustion from a week of intimate dinner, betrayal, conviction, crucifixion, and now an empty tomb.

She empties herself out with tears right there as close as she can get to where Jesus last was.

In her emptiness, she is met by two angels.

Angels who are curious and comforting to her.

She doesn’t hide her thoughts from them but is open to her sadness.

Jesus meets her where she is, right there with ugly tears streaming all over her face, Jesus invites her to share her pain and her sorrow.

Jesus transforms that sorrow by calling her by name.

Mary.

Mary, which means “Beloved”

Beloved, here I am.

Mary who lingers wants to linger longer. She is comforted and welcomes the transformed Jesus in her presence and she wants to hold on and have all the answers, sit at his feet again, one more moment, one more answer.

Jesus says to her, “Do not cling to me. Go and share, go and tell that you have seen me.”

And Mary does, she goes, she runs and shares (and her sermon is much shorter than mine today) with four short words she preaches the first sermon, “I have seen the lord.”

I wonder where you find yourself in this story today.

What have you felt has been taken away from you, like Mary who in seeing the empty tomb assumes someone has stolen the one she loves. How do we resolve the unknown?

Your plans have not gone according to what you thought.

Open doors were transformed by diagnosis, expectations were dashed, exhaustion has set in and all you have are tears left.

Are you like John who is in the midst and yet not quite ready to go in, be first?

Are you like Peter, ready to be first, to respond and find out for yourself?

Do you run head long into the mess and see for yourself in order to move forward?

Are you rushed in all you do?

Thinking that if you get in there, you can fix it all?

Or until you see it for yourself, the truth isn’t true?

Belief comes with personal experience.

Beloved ones, the Easter message is that in each of our needs belief is given.

Exactly in the form that we need.

Peter and John needed to see the empty to tomb to believe that Jesus had risen.

Mary needed to see the Angels and hear Jesus call her name to understand more clearly.

Each received the affirmation for them to move forward, to still wonder and also be encouraged, to share an inexplicable smile revealing the knowledge that even in death life is transformed and God’s love triumphs over death.

God’s seeking us out and meeting us where we are comes in the most unlikeliest of ways.

We find God in foot races to see for ourselves

We find God in the midst of our ugly crying and sorrow.

We find God in the midst of our desire to cling to what was before.

God says to each of us, “Beloved.”

Jesus calls our name, meets our foot race foot by foot and calls us to see the new chapter, the new opportunity. The new beginning.

The love of God in turn, transforms our path. The same love that brought us here takes us home with eyes that see the world transformed with hope. Transformed with the assurance that God has not left us but has transformed all that can bind us, that can hinder us, that can limit us.

Brene Brown says “only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the power of our light.”

Mary, John and Peter come to the tomb in the darkness and find light and a new chapter.

As we are sent out of this space “to go in peace to love and serve the lord” with whatever pace you might have, set your feet to take one step at a time.. knowing that you, too, are not alone and that your path is transformed with the love and hope of a God who has lit the path with a love that transforms the world, including you and your path.

And to that we say “Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia.”

Let us pray:

As we throw off the sin and the shame of yesterday, let us dance in the promise of the new morning of today and tomorrow and ever more. Amen

Parades to Passion. How do we live in the tension of the in between? (Palm Sunday)

Palm Sunday Year C 2022

Almighty and ever living God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lord, prepare our hearts,

To remember that these branches we hold, the ones we cut down, will be made into ashes. Remind us that a life in you is a life that holds rhythms of jubilant celebration an also sorrow and suffering.

Enter our hearts and home, enter our family and our very lives.

O Lord, even as we praise you, we know we are capable of the unimaginable and we sit in the tension of what is to come. AMEN [i]

We live in a world of contrasts and tension.

We just heard the beauty of music proclaim the story of Jesus entering into the city of Jerusalem with crowds surrounding him and at the end of our gospel there are only a scattered few and there is stillness, silence.

We are in the midst.

The story is not finished and neither are we.

Our choir members sang striking notes of beauty proclaiming both the trial, the sentencing to death, the harshness of the final days of Jesus’ life on earth and also the beauty of the moments of hope and salvation given to the least likely of people.

Palm Sunday plunges us into the tension.

A parade and shouts of Hosanna are the pleas of the people, of our hearts, “Save us.”

Save us from those who persecute us,

Save us from injustice,

Save us from the pain of this world.

Our hearts and our minds cry out, then and today.

And what does Jesus do after such a parade, a wonderful festive gathering?

He sits down for a meal, he takes the ordinary bread and wine, steeped in salvation tradition, gives thanks, and then he breaks it and shares it with his closest friends tangibly reminding them of God’s saving nature.

Jesus invites them to hear the words in a new way, in this tension, in this hopeful moment for change, to know that in the upcoming week there will be despair and at the same time hope.

Gather,

take what has been given to you,

give thanks,

be broken open and

share this message with those who will gather with you.

His message is that all will be well.

Being well in God’s eyes will not look like we might expect.

Be ready for that vision to be different.

As different as a savior riding in on a donkey rather than a noble white steed.

As different as a savior who is convicted to death and dies for humanity rather than killing or even harming another person.

As different as a king who is mocked and scourged and yet lives beyond the power of earthly kings.

As different as a king whose love convinces the centurion of his authority when every else have wandered away, abandoned their friend.

A king who chose to be with us in the most human and intimate of ways that makes us uncomfortable, requires us to take what we have been given and to model our lives after his.

To care unashamedly, to listen and speak love to those we might not want to love.

St Paul in his letter to the Philippians recognizes the divisions and opinions of his little fledgling church and he reminds them, “let us be of the same mind, the mind of Jesus.”

A mind of love, for the greater good.

A love that does not abandon, that sacrifices on behalf of the world, and reaches out to embrace each and every one of us.

A mind that lives in the midst of suffering and endures.

A mind that is reminded each time it is gathered around the table that we are a people of faith who gather in the tension, in the difficulty to take the ordinary and give thanks, be broken open to the unimaginable and realizing the hope that is given to us that we are in turn to share that with those around us.

This week, I invite you to lean into the sadness, the anger, the despair, the tension. I invite you to pray your way through this week, we offer services all week long and even an in person vigil on Thursday night where you can be here and pray. If it is your first time to attend these services or perhaps your 99th, I invite you to come, gather.

Be broken open as we gather.

Know the most difficult times are often the most intimate times for the opening of our hearts

It is in those moments we are able to, in the words of the centurion, declare “truly this man is the son of God”  with our hearts, minds, and souls.

Amen.


[i] Liturgies for Parents page 151

2 Sons and the Abundant Love of the Father

Rembrandt’s “The Prodigal Son”: https://www.overstockart.com/painting/rembrandt-return-of-the-prodigal-son

Lent 4 Year C

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

“That’s just not fair”

“You will get what is coming to you.”

How often do we justify our own position with a desire for someone else to experience delayed repercussions? Somehow, we want to assuage our own desire for affirmation, for accomplishment, with the desire of they will have suffer the consequences of their immediate actions later.

God has other plans.

God turns our human desires upside down, our expectations of revenge, retribution and resistance into grace, mercy and love.

The Gospel of Luke Luke tells us stories of mercy, love, and redemption.

Stories of people, named and unnamed. Stories of grace and audacious love.

People who come to Jesus in need of healing, in need of acceptance, in need of miracles.

Much like Matthew, Mark and John, these stories are similar and yet Luke tells some of his own unique stories. They are longer, these stories are more involved, when we read them on Sunday mornings we settle in for the whole story. Luke’s stories are familiar and also always inviting to hear God’s love in a new way.

Today is quintessential Luke. Settle in. Jesus is teaching.

At the beginning of our Gospel today we hear that those gathered around are the Pharisees and Scribes. Jesus has been up to his typical things: eating and drinking with those who are around. Healing, teaching, being present with the people in the market place.

And the Pharisees and scribes are up to their typical thing: Grumbling. Judging and quibbling.

Jesus keeps teaching. He doesn’t tell the Scribes and Pharisees (here at least) you will get what you deserve. Nor does he argue with them about what is fair. Instead, we hear Jesus tell a story.

The parable we have today skips over two parables that precede it, the parable of the Lost Sheep and the parable of the lost coin. The parable we hear today of the prodigal son is the culmination of Jesus’ message to the pharisees and scribes.

We are familiar with the story.

A man with two sons.

One asks for his inheritance early and leaves the house.

The second son, the older son, the first born, stays home. The older son tends the fire, manages the farm, lives with the family.

The younger son squanders his money. He ends up taking a job tending pigs. As a Jew this is would be an unclean occupation and also reflects that the son was willing to submit to supporting the Roman Empire (who else is eating pork?!)… and he realizes, it would better working at his father’s farm.


Let’s be clear, the younger son does not have a contrite heart. He is not repentant. He does not admit that he is sorry, that he has changed, that he regrets what he asked for or even his actions. Instead, the son once again asks for what is not deserved nor earned- this time a job from his father. He rehearses his speech and begins the journey home.

We know what the father does. When the father sees his son, he runs to his son, before his son can even finish his rehearsed speech, his father has already started making plans, re-establishing the son into the family as a full member.

And if the story ended there, well it would be much like leaving the hallmark movie with 15 minutes to go. We would be left wondering “what about” the other brother.

The older son has his huffy and puffy moment.

His father goes to meet him also. The older son essentially says, “where are the consequences to his actions” and “Where are the rewards of my faithfulness?” “This is unfair to me.”

The father embraces his son exactly where he is and says to him, “Son you are exactly what you needed to be, you are exactly the son I need and you, too, are home. Come and rejoice in my joy for both of you.”

Come and rejoice.

I wonder where might you see yourself in this story?
Have you been the father faced with hard choices, faced with demands that are altruistic, that you do out of love even though you know the difficulties they might lead to? Forgiving when you were not required to, even when it might cost you?

Have you been the father who has been able to give thanks for the faithful who have always been with you and those who have recently returned? Those who have never left your side, quietly, constantly, present, enduring with you?

Can you see yourself as the son who asked for more than they deserved and have squandered much? As the child who received more grace than you deserve? Making wrong decisions over and over again and feeling entitled, lost, and that you can figure it all out on your own, if you only had enough money, success or “fill in the blank.”

Can you see yourself as the older son? The one who is in the shadows, present and faithful, filling in the gaps and feeling unappreciated?

Each son needed to come home, to feel the embrace of the Father.

One son needed to come home geographically, to find that financial stability and safety that was provided within the boundaries of his father’s land and understand that love is more than financial stability or success in material ways.

One son needed to come home in his heart, to more deeply understand that his father’s love for him was not diminished by the different outpouring of love for his brother.

Each needed the embrace of grace, mercy, and love.

More than they deserved.

“Unfairly” lavished upon both.

Our hearts are hungry to be heard, to be embraced, to be given the love that we crave. If we are honest, that is what we, too, are looking for, approval, acceptance, affirmation.

In grade school we seek approval in getting the right answer, spelling all of the words right, perfect attendance.

In high school it is getting into the next school.

In college it is the right next step be it a job or graduate school.

Each of these next steps emphasize personal achievement.

If we are not careful, we become like the brothers, seeking more only for self-satisfaction and we miss that we are called to come together rather than see each other as competition.

If we are not careful, we become like the Pharisees and Scribes, we forget the joy that each person brings to the table, the joy that God has meeting us like the father, right where we are and wherever we might find ourselves. The joy we, too, fully realize when all are fully receiving God’s love, realized and embraced for who we are.

Joy/Love that runs across the field to meet us, yes YOU.

Joy that levels the playing field with love, transforming us and our whole demeanor because joy begets joy.

Even in this season of Lent we are called to be and see this type of Joy.

In this war-torn world where innocents are being killed , sons and fathers left behind to fight an ungodly war, we are to seek the space to protect those in harm’s way and seek community, promote peace not inequity of power.

In this space where we are polarized with parties, we are to seek the dignity of every human being as they are seen by God. Beloved.

We are to seek and be the Joy that puts aside the personal gain first and runs to welcome each person and welcome them to the table.

We are to seek community over competition.

This is Jesus’ message to the Pharisees and Scribes grumbling and it is the same message to us…..

How will we receive this challenging message of love and walk in love this week?

Let us pray:

God beyond rivalry,

Our desire to have more, to be more to achieve more than others can lead us badly astray.

In Christ you walked among us showing a different way, a way not dominated and directed by rivalry.

May the way of the father guide us, to support the weak, to encourage the fearful, to welcome the estranged. In the name of he who is the way, the truth, and the life. Amen[i]


[i] What were you arguing about along the way? 2021 Edited by Pat Bennett. Prayer by Trevor Williams Page 180

You are Treasure, use this time wisely.

Ash Wednesday  YEAR C 2022

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

God of Reconciliation,

You demand much of us

inviting us to tell truths

by turning towards each other.

May we leave our trinkets where they belong

and find our treasure

by turning towards each other,

Because you needed this.

Because we all need this.

Amen.

Padraig O’ Tuama (Daily Prayer)

We find ourselves here, again, today.

Today, a Holy Day, 7 weeks before Easter Sunday.

We stop today, we pause, we are somber, we reflect on our mortality:


Not because we are to assume guilt, more guilt in our journey.

Not because we are to seek out blame and punishment for sin.

Not because we are more pious than someone else.

Instead, we stop today:

to be encouraged,

to set our pilgrimage towards Easter with the mindset of how then can we live lives turned towards God

and to join in those around us in seeking to reconcile this world with God’s Love.

I wonder how then can we carve out time in our busy world to seek the treasure of being reconciled,

or being connected to God and one another,

and to know the beloved-ness of a God who has sacrificed the deepest love for us.

Our readings today remind us that the God we believe in:

Is full of compassion

Slow to anger

Full of mercy

The God we believe in is like a parent who cares for all of us children.

How often do we recognize that in the midst of our strife, this love and care and compassion is the example of God that we follow?

How often do we instead think of God as judge and executioner only and not as a bridge and community builder?

Now is the time to make space to reflect on the attributes of God.

These 40 days allow us to stop.

To Reflect

and be reminded.

Now is the time to make space to experience God’s faithfulness, beloved-ness and worthiness.

We are reminded in our reading today that the faith we are a part of has endured

THROUGH afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.

This faith of ours is nourished by- purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness, genuine love, truthful speech.

The love of God turns our busy world upside down.

When we give all that we have, we succeed.

Where do you give your all?

When we collaborate, we see that together we can do more than we can even imagine.

Where have you seen these effects of collaboration build bridges?

When we look to those faithful people who have gone before us, we see that the success of this world is not the same success defined by God.

Treasure is being known by and knowing God.

Each of you ARE treasure and bring treasure to the community. Each of your stories and walking in faith

Our greatest value is in seeing and sharing the light of God.

YOU each are a beloved treasure.

You each have spiritual treasure to share.

When was the last time you sat and reflected on the treasure you hold and are able to share with the larger community?

Made space to listen and develop that treasure for God?

Our gospel today reminds us that in Prayer, Fasting and Giving we can live in a practice of the love that God has given us.

These 40 days, how will you make space for your heart to grow, your lives to expand and the treasure of WHO you are grow in the knowledge of WHOSE you are.

God of Reconciliation,

You demand much of us

inviting us to tell truths

by turning towards each other.

May we leave our trinkets where they belong

and find our treasure

by turning towards each other,

Because you needed this.

Because we all need this.

Amen.

Letting Go and Holding On

Last Epiphany Year C 2022

O God, who before the passion of your only ­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

God of timelessness,

From chaos and disorder

you brought forth the beauty of creation;

From the chaos of war and violence

Bring forth the beauty of peace.

God of compassion

You saw the humanity of the outcast and the stranger;

Help us to see the evils of our hatreds and suspicions

and to turn them into the embrace of your Beloved Community.

God of peace,

Through your love on the cross

You overcame the power of violence and death;

Turn us away from the love of power

That we may transform a warring world

through the power of your love. Amen.

Letting Go and Holding on.

We live in a world where we seem to be holding on by a thread sometimes and at the same time we have to continuously be letting go.

In the past 2 years we have let go of plans, of expectations and even desires. We have had to learn to hold onto different traditions. Rather than graduations in person we have had to refocus on the significance of the act of graduation, the hard work and perseverance through an epidemic, the appreciation of the accomplishment rather than holding onto the pomp and circumstance as the meaningful event.

We have had to let go of quite a bit and yet we hold on.

We have found the footholds for each day, where we can hold on and what is indeed worth holding onto.

We live in a world steeped in tradition.

Think for a moment- what things are you holding onto that make your heart sing? What things are you holding onto that give you deep gladness?

What things are you holding onto that give you comfort but not assuredness?

What things are you holding onto so tightly that you cannot see the abundance that exists around you?

Moses today goes up the mountain and speaks with God.

In the midst of the madness of wandering in the wilderness (not building homes, no stability, no beautiful adornments),

In the midst of the constant uncertainty (will that manna really show up tomorrow?),

In the midst of vulnerability (the grief, the anger, the isolation yet community),

In the midst of change and dreams deferred (what year will we get there? Not this year? When?),

In the midst of all of these questions, Moses lets go of his flock.

He left his brother Aaron in charge, and he held onto what he knew would not abandon him.

He held onto the one who called him.

He held onto the faith in the fact that God would be present with him and he took one step at a time and went up the mountain.

When Moses returned his face was shining, fully shining with the presence of God.

IN letting go, he held onto the one sure thing, the constancy of God, the love of God, the assurance that God would be right there with him in the midst of all of the things that had to be let go of, God was not going to let go of Moses and his people.

Jesus, today is also inviting his disciples to step away, to let go of the community, to go up to the mountain and pray.

Go up and be present. Go up and listen deeply.

Peter, James, and John go up and in letting go of the community,

they are weighed down by sleep.

In letting go, they can truly, deeply feel the exhaustion of holding onto the worry, the weight of compassion, the fatigue of walking with Jesus.

Sleep weighs them down, perhaps, because they feel like they can finally let go.

And yet, Jesus wants more from them.
He invites them away to refresh their souls not through sleep but through experience.

Jesus, too, is transfigured.

Jesus, too, shines up on that mountain top. Elijah and Moses are there with him, speaking to him and Peter, James and John might have thought in their exhaustion that they were hallucinating or perhaps not thinking correctly.

Giving up their hopes and expectations of what that hike up the mountain was intended for, they are able to hold onto the unimaginable, the dose of divine, the newest version of God’s surprising nature to astound.

Peter, with a burst of boundless energy has shaken off the mantle of exhaustion and now wants to hold onto the moment, to clutch the space and not leave. To hallow the ground, create a shrine, place a plaque, and memorialize the experience.

Let’s think about this theme….. it’s not a horrible one.
Peter’s heart is in the right space. It’s tradition…..

All through the Old Testament, naming a space and remembering the encounter with the divine is what people did. Jacob named places for the divine encounters in his life. Abraham did also. You remembered the space.

And here Jesus says, let go of that notion.

I am with you wherever you go and NOW we are to keep going.

Hold onto me in your heart and let’s keep walking. We are needed down the mountain at a time like this.

Peter, tradition is changing.

Peter, our time is short, we have work to do.

Peter, let go of that notion of memorializing this here and now in that old way.

Jesus is constantly redefining what we are to hold onto and let go of.

Think of the hemorrhagic woman who holds onto his prayer shawl, he says let go…let go of all that ails you.

Think of Mary at the Tomb, when she realizes it is Jesus, she wants to hold onto him and stay in that space.

And Jesus over and over again is saying, you have to let go of the way things were done and we are here together to do a new thing, to be a new people, to let go and hold onto the new understanding of the divine within each of you in this space, now.

Jesus denies Peter’s desire to stay in one space, he compels him to realize that the divine is wherever they are. The divine compels one to keep moving and to fully be present to those around them. Giving hope, giving something deeper and more meaningful to hold onto.

And these words ring out “This is my only Son.”

Words we heard when Abraham hiked up the mountain with Isaac. My only son.

Words we heard from the clouds at Jesus’ baptism.

Words we heard again from the clouds today up on the mountain.

Words we hear from the man in the crowd, at the bottom of the mountain shouting. “My only son.”

Words of pleading, words of affirmation, words desiring healing.

Words spoken with hope.

Words spoken deep to the core of our being.
Words clinging, holding onto the hope that God can change the outcome.

And Jesus shows the disciples- your faith- holding onto God’s love, transforms.

Your face, too, shall shine.

Your image, too, transfigured.

Holding onto the love certainty of God’s love in uncertainty lets you let go of the superficial band-aids we place upon the hurts of this world, and gives each of the strength and courage to not be defeated in a world where the madness of the wilderness, of dreams deferred, of division and violence seem to persist and even appear to prevail.

Moses never entered the promise land AND he also never gave up leading or hope.

He kept on, he never let go of the dream rooted in God’s Call.

Jesus invited the disciples to transfigure their own dreams, to shine with mobility and reconcile the “only”s with a healing that only God can create.

We were holding our breath last week holding onto hope that …… you fill in the blank. That your child got into the right school, that Doak would or would not get the funding it desired, that Russia would not invade the Ukraine, that bills would pass or not pass……

That each beloved child of God might experience the beloved fullness of God’s love.

And this week, we, as we always do, hold fast the knowledge that in each moment where there is pain and division we are to strive to rebuild the kingdom of God.

We are not to grow weary.

We can’t cling to “back when,” INSTEAD we are invited into the messiness each day and are assured that even when exhaustion weighs us down, that God is inviting us to hold on and keep being healers.

Each person’s only child requires this love from us.

And in so doing, the love of God will shine in each of us, giving hope, and changing one little moment from glory into glory… a little bit of that divine to stop us in our tracks and invite us in the messiness, in community, into the work at hand.

Letting Go AND Holding on is the story of God’s people.

Peter, James, John, YOU— let’s let go of our illusions of God’s kingdom and listen more deeply to certainty of the power of the divine interrupting into our midst creating healing even in the midst of deeeeeeep division.

God’s love has the power to transform each of our deepest divisions and in the darkest of times to bring about the deep peace of God’s kingdom here on earth. We, like Peter, James and John are called into that work daily.

Aon Wednesday we will begin the Holy Season of Lent- I invite you this year: Let go of your fear, exhaustion, anxiety.

Hold onto Jesus’ hand and let’s keep working in this messy world.

Love Sweet Love is Hard Work

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost Year C 2022

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
(Jackie Shananan performed, Burt Bacharach music, Hal David composed) 1955

It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some, but for everyone

Lord, we don’t need another mountain
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross
Enough to last ’til the end of time[i]

It’s amazing what can happen on a train ride. Hal David wrote these lyrics while riding the train from Roslyn NY to Manhattan in 1955. The chorus came easily enough in that train ride……the verses though, took time.

Months of time… time with the assistance of Burt Bacharach who wrote the music.[ii]

Think about 1955: a world 10 years after World War II’s conclusion where 75-80 million people died, we were 5 years into the Korean War, The Bus Boycott of Montgomery, AL began in 1955- and lasted for 381days. [iii]

The world was a world of anger and division, a world of pain and also seeking purpose beyond one’s self. Families were divided and the world needed a little more love for everyone.

AND If we only talk about these factors of anxiety of the time period, we are seeing only the scarcity…. The division, the confusion of the times.

And yet, in 1955, the polio vaccine was created, DisneyLAND opened, the microwave was invented along with the TV remote. People needed wellness and a little bit of comfort and happiness, too.

Many of you were alive in 1955, many of you know the history from books.

The world needed coming together, and Hal David saw it in love, sweet love, needed for everyone.

After Valentine’s Day this past Monday, it is hard to not pause for a moment to talk about love, sweet love this week with all of our readings, too.

From Joseph and his brothers to Jesus speaking to his disciples.

We hear deep conversations about what love, sweet love looks like to each of us.

It is easy to say that Joseph’s brothers did not love him.

Remember the story? Joseph is the youngest of the 11 (Benjamin the 12th comes later), Joseph is the highly favored son of Jacob.

Joseph is a dreamer. He is given dreams that in turn he interprets for those he is around. These dreams are hard to hear.

All of his brothers are told that they will bow down to him in the future. This dream coupled with the fact that Jacob gives Joseph, the baby, the beautiful (as Andrew Llyod weber says) technicolor jacket and that action pushes his brothers over the edge.

His brothers react. They are so upset that they sell their brother off to be enslaved for the rest of his life and they tell their father Joseph is dead.

Just normal loving family dynamics, right?

And yet, Joseph is not dead. His adventure is not over. He finds himself interpreting dreams wherever he lands. Eventually he becomes the Pharoah’s right hand advisor because of this ability and it is here that we encounter Joseph and his brothers.

A reunion. Joseph says to them, God has sent me here ahead of you to preserve you. And later we hear in chapter 50, What you have meant for ill, God has used for good.

A divided world, with haves and have nots and God provides what is needed.
The right person in the right place at the right time.

Joseph does not turn his back on his brothers, despite their actions.

Joseph provides with what he has in their time of need.

Love your enemies

Do Good to those who hate you

Bless those who curse you

Pray for those who abuse you

Turn the other cheek

 Give to everyone

Do to others as you have them do to you (lend expecting nothing in return)

Jesus has called his disciples and continues to show them a new way, Jesus shows them how to live a life a transformed by love. This segment falls directly after Jesus’ sermon on the plain we heard last week, (Luke’s version of the beatitudes we find in Matthew.)

Jesus grounds all of our actions in love.

And he lives this out as an example within his days in Galilee.

Jesus loves all those encountered him, from the pharisees who set out to trap him to the centurions and thieves in his final moments of life.

He heals the sick and loves those who revile him. And, Jesus in the next moment of great need met those who come to him with their needs. Gentile, Pharisee, or Jew.

Jesus never wished anyone harm, spoke always of invitation and welcome.

He said prayers throughout his ministry, in solitude and on behalf of those who needed to hear our prayers.

Jesus taught his disciples and  us the Lord’s Prayer and how then to pray for our own enemies.

In his death, Jesus turned the other cheek, receiving ridicule and deception, betrayal and misunderstanding.

And gave all of his own self up for the love of the world.

Love sweet love.

So much love that we are still talking about this love each and every day that we read scripture.

A love story that outlasted the flowers and chocolates of Valentine’s Day and all the temporary forms we see and experience in our culture. A love that is exactly what the world is in need of, right now. Each and every one of us. Deep, healing, reconciling love. Love that sacrifices all else for the other, for the greater good, for the good of creation.

While there wasn’t an Olympics in 1955, we are still living in a world with escalations and polarity. We waited this week for what was going to happen with Russia and the Ukraine, we are still holding our breath about COVID and what the next steps are, we in the holy in between on so many things and understandably our anxiety is high.

Hal David saw his world and let his lyrics sing his heart’s desire.

Joseph saw his brothers and brought them out of harm’s way rather than seeking punishment and revenge.

Jesus, never sought to alienate or punish, with his loving arms he always stood ready to embrace the world as it came at him, seeking to help the other find the love that is needed to heal the brokenness.

Jesus’ love offered much more than temporary relief, Jesus’ love offers deeper answers that give us endurance to build bridges, repair the hurt and be brought together.

What if you are the right person at the right time, to transform what could be a moment of revenge to a moment of reconciliation.

What if you believe that the love you have been given and the gifts that you have been given can transform someone else’s life? Just like Jonas Salk who in the midst of a war-torn world worked to create a vaccine to change the health of the community?

What if you were to realize that is “the fullness of life” that Jesus is inviting his disciples and us into? What if we truly believe that we live in a world of abundance and possibility and that being in the right place at the right time we, too, can, with God’s help, transform this world.

Lord knows we don’t need another mountain to climb, but we will climb it if we need to because this love of God empowers us to boldy speak in love and truth.


[i] https://www.google.com/search?q=what+the+world+needs+more+is+love+sweet+love+lyrics&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS977US977&sxsrf=APq-WBv-aKjQgXfu7BKnM_WTfjitaJ0S9A%3A1645024692073&ei=tBUNYra1AurKkPIPw-ytIA&ved=0ahUKEwi236nDwoT2AhVqJUQIHUN2CwQQ4dUDCA4&uact=5&oq=what+the+world+needs+more+is+love+sweet+love+lyrics&gs_lcp=Cgdnd3Mtd2l6EAMyCAghEBYQHRAeMggIIRAWEB0QHjIICCEQFhAdEB46BwgAEEcQsAM6BggAEBYQHjoICAAQhgMQiwNKBAhBGABKBAhGGABQ2wFYsgxg3A1oAXABeAGAAYQCiAGHB5IBBTEuNS4xmAEAoAEByAEIuAECwAEB&sclient=gws-wiz

[ii] https://americansongwriter.com/chicken-soup-for-the-soul-behind-the-song-what-the-world-needs-now-is-love/

[iii] https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/history/info-2018/civil-rights-events-fd.html#:~:text=1%2C%201955%2C%20the%20Rev.,walk%20or%20get%20rides%20instead.

God’s Love is a Whale of a Tale: One worth Believing in!

Epiphany 5 2022 Year C- Also, St. John’s ANNUAL MEETING DAY

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.

Florida is the sunshine state with water surrounding most of it.

We know fish, don’t we?

Fishing competitions, fishing boats, swimming with manatees, dolphins, fish.

We have also heard our share of fishing stories, too, haven’t we?

The honest ones- we didn’t catch much

The nearly honest ones- the fish were plentiful and we caught our limit (not telling you the size of the fish)

And the whale of a fish story, “That fish was on the line for hours, my bicep tore, and yet it got away.”

I did not grow up fishing, but we lived in Seattle, Washington when I was little and my father took us fishing once. All four of us had poles. My father was outnumbered by small people with long sticks with sharp objects at the end (he deserved combat pay for this) and after we put bait on the hooks we were allowed to sling our pole towards the water.

And of course, disaster struck.

My pole hooked by brother’s sweater. My brother dropped his pole, someone was crying and I am pretty sure my father asked himself, “Lord why me?!”  We were all exhausted at the end and caught absolutely nothing (My brother’s sweater did not count.)

This was the day I learned about the true meaning of “a whale of a story” and the whale of a story that we sold to my mother was that the store bought fish from Albertson’s were caught by us that morning. (She was not fooled) The point, though (I think?!) was that we tried a new thing, we spent time together, and learned a lot even if we didn’t have nets breaking with fish.

Fishing takes time, practice, and stillness.

The sea of Galilee (also known as the Lake of Gennesaret), nestled into the hillside of the present day Israel, is not really a large sea. It’s more of a lake. Measuring 13miles long and 8 miles wide, it’s a sea that has the Jordan river running through it, keeping the sea stocked with fresh fish. The sea is small enough that you would see your neighbor’s boat, and find your own favorite spot too.

The sea was both commercial and personal economics at work. Your livelihood and your own nutrition were dependent upon your daily catch. It’s a space where weather could blow up (think of the storms we hear about later in the gospels) and also be still and calm.

The lake sits as a dividing line also, dividing the Jewish communities and the gentiles. The northern and eastern shores hosting those who were not Jewish.

As one might expect, towns have settled around it’s shores fostering commerce, living spaces and thriving economies (both now and in Jesus’ day). Nazareth was inland, west of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus started his ministry with his baptism in the river Jordan, he then wandered east towards the desert for 40 days and then back to the western shore of galilee to teach and preach and travel from town to fishing town.

It’s no wonder he encountered fishermen as some of the first people he encountered while teaching.

In Luke’s Gospel, Luke takes his time to introduce us to the extraordinariness of Jesus. From Angels appearing to Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Jesus presented at the temple, Jesus the boy left at the temple, the arrival of John the Baptist, the baptism and temptation of Jesus, Nazareth rejecting Jesus, and then all before he calls his disciples, in Luke , Jesus teaches, heals and preaches. In the Gospel of Luke, those who will be called have already seen and potentially heard of Jesus’s words and works.

And the first called are fishermen.

Today we hear Jesus on the edge. He is on the shore and it’s the end of the day for those who spent the night fishing. The fishermen are doing their daily maintenance of nets and ready to finish their night shift and rest.

This day is different though, at the end of their workday they hear a new message and they see big crowds.

Jesus gets into Simon’s boat and continues to teach.

Jesus asks Simon to put the boat out a bit so he can have some space to teach.

After teaching Jesus says, “Why don’t we go out deeper and fish a bit in a new space”

After this third request Simon finally says politely ,but I would expect a bit firmly, “We worked all night, we are tired. But if you ask us to, we will.” (I think Simon was trying to get Jesus to say “well never mind”)

Jesus doesn’t back down. (He never does, does he?!)

And fishing in those deep waters, those nets cast on a different side–

The fishing is overwhelming. Nets so full they almost sank the boat.

It’s a whale of a story!

Fish too many to count, nets nearly breaking.

Others came to help.

Listening and receiving abundance.

How does Peter react to all of this? Peter is ashamed. He is ashamed that he didn’t believe despite his exhaustion.

And Jesus says, “Don’t fret, come with me- there is more to see. I am here with you, in the boat and on the dry land.” (Like the coach Ted Lasso, he points to the word believe, trust in me, I trust in you)

The Good News we carry with us is a whale of a story. It sounds too good to be true.

A God who loves us so deeply that he created his only son to become one of us, live amongst us and be killed by us for our own salvation.

The thought is exhausting.

The faith journey can be tiring and yet Jesus calls us in the midst of our own “I am tired, I have done enough, it’s a pandemic” excuses to do a new thing.

Today is our annual meeting, a time where we look at the year past and also to the goals and joys of 2022. I give such thanks for each of you in this past year. Your faithfulness, here in the pews, in the meetings, online and beyond.

When easily you could have said, “I am too tired,” you have each said the words in Isaiah, “Here I am Lord.”

From patiently preparing to serve with Kearney center or Riley Elementary Mentoring, you have been willing and ready to be present, listen, teach and serve in the midst of uncertainty.

We have been able to continue our in-person worship services in the morning and adding back our mid-week Healing service and our Sunday evening 5:30pm services with parishioners sharing their own moments of grace and love, all the while continuing our online opportunities for folks to continue to participate.

Our music program continues to excel with an amazing choir, evensongs, guest instrumentalists, all under the leadership of our team of Betsy Calhoun, Elizabeth LaJeunesse and Mike Norris.

Sunday school for all ages has resumed in creative ways to bring all ages into the digging deeper in their own spiritual journey. The Front Porch has taken off with offerings that appeal to those who have a spiritual foundation and those who have never encountered a formalized church experience before.

We have gathered again in familiar ways with the St. John’s Market and small groups, bible studies and the café.

Our committees have been hard at work with finishing the 5 year Capital Campaign and the upkeep of the buildings and property of this campus and our cemetery.

And we too, in the midst of the longevity of these pandemic times, are fishing in a new way- we started and continue to have a Pastoral Care Shepherd program that seeks to extend the pastoral care of the clergy team to all those in our parish who need pastoral care and connection.

We are visioning the St. John’s Choir school as an offering to all children for learning.

We are continuing the conversation about Becoming Beloved Community and how we too can speak honestly about our own history as a church and live in relationship with our larger community.

We are dynamic part of the Capital Area Justice ministry here in Tallahassee as they research and work towards justice work with an action on affordable housing and gun violence.

All of these new programs come from within our strategic plan, each involves all of us to say, “Here I am” even in the midst of fatigue.

As I, too, read through the St. John’s parish profile in December, I thought to myself- that must be a whale of a tale…. It’s too good to be true. ….

And here is the thing, the love of God is present here.

The love of God is present here and CALLING each of us to keep on fishing.

The fishing might be messy, there might be tears, but Jesus is in the boat with us and that deeper water is worth going to, to catch those fish, to be called into ministry together.

For this work I say, Come join our Whale of a tale- it is too good to be true…and you are worthy of that goodness. Because the good news of God’s Love here at St. John’s is true and there is a space for you to belong here and now.

Amen.

Love and Fog, Finding our way in the difficult times.

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Epiphany 4, Year C 2022

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

“We don’t see things clearly. We’re squinting in the fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as god sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us.” (1 Corinthians 13:12- The Message)

Sewanee, Tennessee is KNOWN for its fog. Seriously, it’s a thing. I am not talking about a college stupor, I am talking about literal fog. My husband, Rob, even has a t-shirt, “Sewanee FOG.” The fog gets so thick in Sewanee that buildings literally disappear. Cars can’t be seen. Downhills surprise you. As a cross country runner in college, I actually enjoyed running in the fog because you could not see the incline in front of you, you just felt the incline in your bones with each step as you decreased in speed no matter how much effort you put forth.

In Sewanee, I learned that using your high beams are ineffective in fog. Rather, to navigate the fog, you simply have to slow down, take your time and watch carefully for dogs, people, and other cars on the street.

When the fog settles in and long-distance vision is dimmed, we often find that we can’t see things clearly…….. and we have to wait.

AND, due to the winds and the elevation, the same reasons the fog forms, the fog lifts. Having seen the blue skies before, we know that the blue skies will return and vision will be clear again, IF we have patience and take our time.

St. Paul, in all of his letters to the church in Corinth, is writing words of encouragement, words of hope, words of now might not make sense but be intentional, slow down, and have patience.

Vision might be limited right now and yet we know that the abundant vision is coming. Paul reminds us that our waiting is in love. His words of encouragement invite the listener to listen deeply to what love looks like, love is so much more than an emotion.

In words that we have heard at many a wedding, Paul speaks to a community that has just been reminded that each person is important to the family. Each voice is vital to the discussion, and we all have been given gifts. In this portion of his letter, Paul is speaking bluntly that love accepts all, loves all, and the love he is talking about looks to abundance not the scarcity.

Where might you need to see more of this sort of love in your lives?

Where might the fog be too thick to see the way, where you might not know how to love or even to be loved in a community?

In The Message translation of the bible this portion of scripture is read this way:

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head.

Doesn’t force itself on others

Isn’t always me first

Doesn’t fly off the handle

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth

Put up with ANYTHING

Trusts god always

Always looks for the best

Never looks back but keeps going to the end.

I wonder if you were to finish this sentence, how would you do it?

Love is________________

For me, Love looks up.

Love sees the other.

Love is being reminded of the abundance that God has created even when we can only seem to grasp scarcity.

Think about it. When Abraham is wondering about the “where” and the “when” of God’s promise. God says, “Look up, see the stars!” See the abundance that awaits you.

When Hagar feels abandoned and isolated and cast out, God says look up, here I am, you and your son are still beloved. I hear you, I am here with you. Look up, see me.

When the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness, God says look up to the heavens for manna, I will provide you what you need daily. Look up to see the cloud of smoke during the day and pillar of fire by night, I will lead you.

Look up and be encouraged, while you might be only able to see a little bit now, looking up puts our trust in God, looks for the best, and never looks back, keeping going to the end.

This past week, I had a moment to pause and look up. I was invited to say the invocation at the county commission meeting. After a brief introduction, I said my prayer and then sat amongst the meeting to listen to the proclamations.

To listen to those who looked up.

The first proclamation was for an individual who rushed to rescue a man who had just had a car accident. Looking up and seeing the distress, this individual ran to assist the stranger risking his own life and in turn saving another.

The second proclamation recognized the directors of Honor Flight, the program that honors veterans and takes them to Washington DC for the day, showing them the national monuments, built in honor of their service. A program recognizing a part of veterans’ stories that not many understand, a pain and a challenge that no one should have to go through and these monuments draw your eyes upward, to the heavens for hope and strength to not repeat our mistakes, to prevent war and NEVER AGAIN.

The third proclamation was in celebration of the FSU Women’s Soccer team. The entire team was there to be recognized for their achievement this past year, through challenges of covid, of a summer defeat, they kept looking up and won the championship in December. This remarkable team of women stood shoulder to shoulder as their accolades of not just sportsmanship but academic prowess were shared. And they too spoke of the gift of their own heroes and who they looked up to in order to succeed.

Each proclamation showed a community of love, of acceptance, of those who might be overlooked who see the light of love shared and are an example for others.

The final words in Paul’s writing today says, “trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.”

This extravagant love is the love that Jesus has shared with us. In Nazareth, Jesus shared the good news of who he was and he was rejected for such radical words. Not only rejected but they wanted to kill him.

Talk about foggy and dark days! And yet in the midst of the fog of Nazareth, Jesus looks up and beyond. He walks through the crowd and continues to teach, he continues his mission. Jesus loves extravagantly and trusts steadily in God, never abandoning the love he has for all of God’s people. He takes his time, intentionally, and continues forward.

The fog lifts. The path becomes clear to him, to those who followed him. A path that walked through the fog of rejection, of pain, of betrayal. And through all of these there is love. A love that only God can share through becoming fully human. An extravagant, ridiculous love uneconomically inefficient, lavish love for you and for me. Real and true love.

Love is All around us. (to quote the movie Love Actually)

I wonder when you look up where the manifestation of God’s love makes itself real to you.

I wonder how you might proclaim that love even in the midst of your own fog of depression, isolation, disappointment, or fear.

I wonder if God might be calling you to look up and hope unswervingly.

Rest assured, the fog will lift, it always does.

And God is there with you until it does.

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Amen.