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.

https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/most-beautiful-colleges-in-america

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.

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/a-walk-into-fog-derik-smith.html

Amen.

Coming together: from Weddings to Social Justice, we need to come together in love.

Second Sunday after Epiphany Year C 2022

To listen to this sermon, click this LINK

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Unclench your fists, hold our your hands, take mine.

Let us hold each other.

Thus is God’s Glory Manifest. Amen. – Madeline L’Engle

I don’t know about you but 2022 is off and running at top speed.

Even if you haven’t resumed all of your activities of 2019, the opportunities seem to abound this year. While not all in person, many by zoom, things that were postponed are back, and some things still not quite back to full force.

Legislative Session is in Session, Today is Martin Luther King, Jr’ Day, our Omicron numbers are not peaking yet…….so many things straining for our attention.

In the life of the church, we are celebrating people having babies, couples getting married, beloved friends dying. Our lives are full. There is deep thankfulness for these moments of new beginnings, new chapters and the moments we have had when we let go of a loved one as their chapter here on earth ends.

We raise our glasses, we pause, we give thanks, we reflect.

And the reality is that we need each and every one of you in this story.  Each of your quirky selves with strengths and flaws help make this story to move forward together. If anyone one has told you otherwise, they were wrong.

Together, holding each other, we manifest, or make evident, God’s glory (in the words of Madeline L’Engle)

This message of unity of individuality is the message that Paul has today for the Corinthians. Corinth was a booming town with lots of conflicting messages. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were letters to help them where they were on their spiritual journey and go deeper. Today he is reminding them about the importance of each person within the community and this message continues in this same chapter, later. We are all different and that is something to celebrate, embrace, and welcome- each vital to the community’s identity.

In the fullness of our days, have we resumed the things we have always done in the way we used to or have we realized where we might need to stretch and to grow in love, in understanding, in relationships?


Have we let go of the time when the world stood still and we all realized how busy we were and we didn’t like it?

What fills our day?

Is it activity?

Is it anxiety?

Is it joy?

Is it sorrow?

Does it depend on the minute, hour, day?

I don’t believe there is a wrong thing to fill our day, I do believe what we do with that emotion and activity matters. Each moment is a moment for transformation.

In our Gospel reading today we have moved from the baptism of Jesus in the water of the River Jordan, to the water being transformed into wine at the wedding in Cana. (Rumor has it that once every three years when this reading read, there is free wine in Cana in thanksgiving. I have not had this confirmed, though.) At the wedding, the wine has run out. While this would happen regardless, the timing was not what the host had planned.

Mary, like any good southern woman, wanted to save the host the disgrace of lack of hospitality. Mary came to the rescue with a plan to fix the problem. She believed her son could and should resolve the predicament. She believed in him and told him so. After discussion and time, Jesus acts and the new wine he has created is better than the wine they toasted with at the beginning of the celebration.

Let’s look at this first sign of Jesus’s power as imagery for God and creation and the message for our own lives. The sign has very little to do with alcohol at all.

God created this world perfect, marvelous, abundant with resources. All was in perfect relationship with God and with one another. (The beginning of the wedding reception when all that was needed was available)

Temptation and sin distanced us from God, our own flawed divisions take over. We see shortage rather than abundance. (What was needed at the wedding ran out)

We are promised, in scripture, a new creation a reunification with God in heaven, a New Heaven and Earth, better than we can imagine. The good wine that Jesus creates at the wedding is imagery of the heavenly banqueting table, being reunited with abundance, divisions ceasing, and only joy and connection exists.

I wonder where you find yourself in the story.

Do see yourself in the wine at the beginning of the wedding, the abundance? The space in the story where all is going well, relationships, and you are coping with the stress of the world going around you?

Do you see yourself in the space where the wine has run out, where your energy is gone, your frustrations are high, perhaps you are at the end of a bitter divorce, you live in fear of your own safety, the safety of others, you have lost a loved one, anger at injustice, you cannot seem to get well, your anxiety inhibits you from finding joy?

If you resonate with this part of the story, hear this, just like in the wedding in Cana, there is the promise of even better wine. There is a promise that God is there with you and the time of “running out” will end.

Some days we are the ones running out and we need a Mary to reach out and assist.

Sometimes we are the Mary for our friends who are running out and invite them to hold on. Reminding them that Jesus is here too and there is possibility.

St Paul liked to give instructions through letter form, we hear that today. His reminder to come together as community, to strive together for unity. Dr. King gave to those who followed him 10 commandments to non-violence that governed their work. They are worthy of reflection and refocusing our lives even so today.

Similar to St Paul, Dr King reminded people:

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  2. Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
  3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

Each of us, uniquely, has the opportunity to come together and to be with one another. This takes work, stretching and growing beyond what has always been done. Stretching beyond ahat is comfortable.

Jesus was and is with us in the ordinary and transforming small moments of running out into moments of new beginnings and celebrations.

We each are a part of this conversation. Our Common humanity depends on it. Each of our unique gifts and talents can be listened deeply to and be engaged.

St Paul wrote to encourage his flock, John wrote to show us in beautiful imagery the hope we have through Jesus’ actions, and Dr. Martin Luther King also spoke to the vision that has yet to come. Dr King believed we were capable of change and those words still invite us today to keep working together.

So, Unclench your fists, hold our your hands, take mine.

Let us hold each other.

Thus is God’s Glory Manifest. Amen.

Polar Bears, Harry Potter and the River Jordan: are you ready for the Plunge and transformation of Baptism?!

First Sunday after the Epiphany: Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ Year C 2021

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Do you have unique ways to bring in the New Year?

The right food- black eyed peas, cornbread, greens?

Do you make an intentional way to reflect on the past year and look forward to this new year?

Did you read the article about the people who take a plunge in the Atlantic Ocean as an annual polar bear plunge- to plunge into the new year? I know there was also a group down St. Teresa, Dog Island way who did the same this year.

Polar Bear plunges are unique, exhilarating, and total immersion.

In high school, much to my parents and the school nurses’ chagrin we would do our polar plunge every Wednesday morning, once the outside temperature reached a certain level of briskness and we would continue weekly until the outside temperature rose above that same designated mark.

This did mean sometimes it was just cold and sometimes this meant you had to break ice in order to do our polar bear jump/plunge.

In the weekly polar plunge, you could jump off the T-deck (dock) or you could lower yourself in one step at a time off the ladder, or if you desired (and had the will power) you could walk into the water, and submerge yourself that way. We were encouraged to give a barbaric YAWP as we plunged into the water.

I do believe the sales of fluffy bathrobes increased along with the alertness of students on Wednesday morning classes. And also the noise at breakfast.

Regardless of how we did our plunge for the day, our day was transformed. The jarring disruption from the comfort of our warm bed to the crispness of the air and water heightened all of our senses for the day. The sharpness of the temperature of the water brought every sensation alive in our body, we were awake, alert and ready for the rest of the day. Transformed.

Today, we find ourselves jarred from the scene of sweet adoration, just over 2 weeks ago, of the celebration of Christmas with Baby Jesus in a manger, to this past Thursday when we celebrated the magi showing up with gifts for the child Jesus, to today- where Jesus is an adult being baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist.  We don’t know what happened in between- where were those awkward teenage years?

Today, Jesus, too, is being plunged into the water, submerged and transformed. The scripture does not say that Jesus gives a barbaric yawp when he emerged, instead we hear of a different sound.

Something quite unique happens in this baptism- a voice from the heavens saying for all to hear, “You are my son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Our gospel writer, Luke, tells the story in his own way. He clarifies John’s identity and Jesus’ in these 5 short verses and from here the Gospel continues to transform the rest of our understanding of who Jesus is. This opening of the heavens heightens everyone’s senses and awareness of the uniqueness of this Jesus, his identity (in case you didn’t hear about the angels, shepherds, magi and star)- a new thing is happening and in the midst of this ordinary Jordan river, transformation of understanding occurs and continues to be revealed.

God’s love for god’s creation continues to be unveiled and revealed and continues to become apparent to those around Jesus and us today.

In baptism, regardless of if we are plunged under and submerged under the water in our childhood or adulthood, or if we had water poured over our heads at a font in a sanctuary as a baby, our identity too is transformed.

We too are claimed as God’s child and reminded that we are beloved, loved by God and called to love because of God. The water is the outward and visible sign of the grace bestowed on us. The act of baptism is both a r-i-t-e and also a covenant between you and God. A promise of Love. Love bestowed and love to be shared with those we encounter because in the words of John, “you first loved us.”

You are beloved.

You are enough.

You have received a love that is more faithful than any human love that you have ever received and in fact any love you have received is a glimmer of the love that God has for each of you.

Over the holidays there are often opportunities to watch some of your favorite movies in their entirety, each part of the series. Harry Potter is one of those Christmas/New year’s series. One year, I remember every time I turned on the television there was Harry in some phase of his career at Hogwarts. (For those of you who read the books, I know, I know the movies are not as good- but they tried and they did get many of the major themes to carry through.) Two of the themes are first the power of sacrificial love and second, we always have the choice to act in love.

With Harry Potter, it is the sacrificial love of his mother that shields him from death. This love is given to him unrequested, and he is reminded of this love by the mark on his forehead, left as a reminder of her death and his survival. “The boy who lived.”

Each time Harry is faced with self-promotion or leaving someone behind so that he might win/succeed/be the best, Harry always chooses to assist the other person—often putting competition aside and instead promoting collaboration and togetherness. One of my favorite examples of this is when Harry plunges into the water in the third movie and completes his designated task and also completes the task of another who has dropped from the competition. Harry can’t leave the other behind knowing their fate and his abilities could change that fate.

Don’t get me wrong, Harry doesn’t always think altruistically as his first inclination, as he grows older it becomes more and more challenging for him to not give into anger, pain, and revenge. Yet, in each decision he makes, Harry inevitably shows the love that he received and realizes is the motivation that he should choose for each action is because of the love that he has known and continues to understand from that initial action of self-sacrificing love of his mother.

We, too, receive marks on our foreheads, while they are not scars in the shape of a thunderbolt like Harry’s, we too are marked by sacrificial love at baptism with a cross made with Chrism oil. We remember the love of God that has saved God’s people time and time again from captivity in Egypt, to Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and life that we are given through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s son, God’s beloved. We too are plunged into the waters and brought up out, awoken to a new life, a new day, a daily opportunity to be transformed.

During these covid times we have not had a baptism within our Sunday morning liturgy, but we continue to reaffirm our baptismal covenant together, our promises to God and this community gathered to continue to see uncovering of God’s love in our lives, god’s love transforming our lives and while we too might still struggle with what shall I do—we always have this community to support us in discerning the acts of love that we too can commit to, building up community rather than promoting self, seeking to serve and live in this world.

In this new year, shall we together commit to refreshing our covenant, taking the plunge and immersing ourselves in (as father bill said last week) putting others first, loving with our whole heart. Remembering that we are sons and daughters of God, and beloved, treasured?!

Angels, Shepherds, Mangers, O MY!

Christmas Day Homily Year C 2021

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

God of fear, God of the night, God of the Expectation,

You visited the angels in the night with songs and sights of joy.

In all of our nights, turn us towards hope, because hope might just keep us alive. Amen[i]

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

We have lived through the night and here we are on this Christmas morning.

We began with the hymn, Oh Come All ye Faithful!

And truly ye faithful are here, a smaller crowd than last night and yet no less faithful, indeed.

Oh come let us adore him, oh come let us adore him. Christ the Lord.

It’s a wonderous and mysterious thing we celebrate each year, this mighty king born in a manger with the most unique visitors showing up to be amazed and in awe and wonder.

A wonderous pregnancy, no room in the inn, and a band of angels singing messages to the community tending sheep.

And the Angel said, “Do not be afraid, for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.” In the middle of the night, angels, shepherds, mangers, good news.

Do not be afraid is the most commonly used greeting by Angels….. the phrase is used over 365 times. To me, this means there was a lot to be afraid of in those times.

Fear of death, fear of punishment, shame, the government, illness.

We live in similar times of fear, fear of death, illness, economics, daily life and choices.

And yet in the midst of this darkest of nights, the Angels appear and say to the shepherds- do not be afraid. These same words Gabriel said to Mary and to Joseph. “Do not be afraid….” This birth is indeed good news for all the world.

In the midst of these fears there is joy.

God is with us. Emmanuel.

God did not immediately rid the world of fear.

Rather, God transformed that fear to showing the world how one can live in the midst and not give in to fear. God bore God’s love for the world in this tiny baby we celebrate each year as that baby grew into a man, grew into a movement, grew into the call to each of us to live in the same way that God was born to us, each year- starting small and transforming one heart at a time.

God, in the midst of a manger, born amongst us, changed the world through love.

Born in the midst of the messiness of life on earth, these anxious times, God came near and dwelt amongst us.

God is with us and that gives joy and hope.

God with us makes Angels sing, shepherds hustle their flocks to the manger, and a couple who were bewildered by their first born, be amazed at those who arrived as their child was more than their child, their child was a gift of love for the whole world.

I wonder what the shepherds said as they left the manger, as they tried to retell the story of their evening to those who were not there.

I wonder how their faces might have shone with the deep joy of being invited to “Oh come all ye faithful” after so many times of not being invited or otherwise occupied with duties.

I wonder the joy the angels felt in being part of the story that night of being able to sing and share such exciting news and show the way to the manger, the beams of light shining from their fingers and toes.

Oh come all ye faithful, come and adore him, Christ the lord.

The Christmas Carol itself is a beautiful collaboration of many translators and theologians. Rather than being written in one sitting by one composer. The latin words and music were date back to 1743 written by John Francis Wade, but he is not the only composer. So inspired by this work, the Fredrerick Oakley added three verses, and the Frenchman Abbé Etienne Jean François Borderies  added 2 more verses. The lyrics place you in the role of shepherds who rushed to see the christ child and remind us of all the faithful ahead of us who have come to adore the newborn in the manger.

The fifth verse: Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
Fain we embrace thee, with awe and love: Who would not love thee,
loving us so dearly?[ii]
Reminds us of the love and embrace God has given us on this holy day.

Wherever you might see yourself in the story, the one who needs the reminder to not be afraid, the one who needs to be invited, the one who is reminded that God is right here with us, know that on this Christmas morning- new beginnings still occur and even in the darkest nights, we are turned towards hope, because hope will keep us alive. Amen

Angels, Shepherds, Mangers, Oh MY!


[i] Daily Prayer by Padraig O Tuima Canterbury Press 2017, page 9

[ii] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-o-come-all-ye-faithful-1

“George, John, Paul and….not Ringo- who is in your brood of vipers?”

Advent 3 Year C 2021

Image from https://pixels.com/shop/fleece+blankets/music

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

We love to tell stories, don’t we?

Stories of loved ones, of their challenges, of their triumphs.

People who have gone before us bear witness to faithfulness, to bearing fruit.

Today I will tell stories of George, John, and Paul, …. But not Ringo (for those of you who are Beatles, fans, so sorry for the pun)

First, I want to tell you a story of a boy named George he was born in Germany in 1685. His father wanted him to be a successful and economically stable lawyer, his mother saw his talent for music, encouraged him to pursue his musical gifts.

While George attempted to humor his father with studies in law, he only did so for a short time and quickly escaped those studies to be a musician. Excelling in playing the violin and the harpsichord, George was not only an accomplished musician, he was also a successful composer. With the rise of operas, he moved to Italy, composed many an opera and was very successful. Moving to London, he continued to compose. As time passed, the operatic style faded in popularity and so did George’s success.

In 1741 George was on the brink of going to debtor’s prison, being unable to pay his bills, and the Irish Duke of Devonshire financed George’s composition to Charles Jenans’ libretto (or text). George was so inspired by the text that in a mere 24 days he composed 259 pages of music for the text.

On April 13, 1742, the world heard for the first time, what we will hear potions of this evening, known as George Fredric Handel’s Messiah.[i]

Set to music, the story of God’s love and hope for God’s people is told from the prophecy of Isaiah to the passion and acclamation of Jesus as the Messiah. Each movement of music telling the story that scripture has told us each year of the hope in this dark world of a new beginning, redemption, and restoration of joy. We are wrapped up in the somber and jubilant music hearing of the promise of prophets and the joy of the coming of the Savior.

Over 250 years later we still sing the story, we will hear it this evening, right in this space.

A little boy who defied his father and used his gifts and talents to tell a story.

And then there is John. John, a child born late in life to parents who have given up the hope of having a child. John, who dedicated his life to prayer and fasting. He was a bit of a zealot. With a father who was a priest, the prayerful life was modeled for him daily.

John, as an only child, also took his call to prayer seriously. He didn’t care about his hair, his clothes, he lived on the edge of town, and he ate honey and locust. He was known for his sharp truth and for his reminding people that they needed to change.

He was not his kind and gentle cousin, Jesus.

Older by 6 months, John went ahead of Jesus in age and in ministry, making straight the path. John the Baptist called people out and at the same time he gave forthright direction.

People from all regions came to hear him speak these words. Gentiles, Jews, Roman Soldiers, tax collectors. These were not the typical assortment of people that you brought home to your mother to gather around the dinner table.

John did not discriminate; his words were for all. Today we hear him speak directly to the community gathered, of gentiles, soldiers, and tax collectors. Those who wanted to know more, who weren’t often in like company with each other.

“Bear fruit with your lives”

“Be fair with one another”

“Do not threaten each other and abuse your power.”

Sounds like great advice, right?

These words were sound advice that was also counter cultural, outward facing, and had a strong impact to those listening.

To not overtax meant less money in the tax collector’s pocket.

As a soldier fear and intimidation were common practice.

Each of these directions were challenges to the status quo.

John spoke with passion, compassion, and compelling all those who came together to grow.

John said to them change your ways, give from your heart, give fully, give to realize we must work together and bear fruit. The spirit is moving among us, calling us to this new thing together.

Finally, we have a lad named Saul who was also passionate about his faith. He grew up in Hebrew school, he learned his lessons, he excelled in leadership as a young man. He was faithful. So faithful that he sent people to jail if they broke church laws.

Then on his way to do his job one day in Damascus, he was struck blind.

In his blindness, he heard a voice. A voice crying out in the wilderness “Why do you persecute me.” Blinded for three days, Saul is taken in and given food and shelter by a man whom he would have persecuted. With this loving care Saul is transformed.

The voice heard on the wilderness road changes his story, he converts not just his name from Saul to Paul, he converts his cause. No longer punishing those who disagreed with him, rather engaging those whom he encountered and exhorting those he met. Paul writes letters, not music, to those whom he loves. He reminds his friends in Philippi to find the deep joy in their lives, to hear the resonating notes of the long-told story, the story of Jesus who lived among them and loved them. To hold onto this love and to not lose hope, just as he is joyful.

Using what he has, Paul’s heart’s delight is to care for those who are distressed, to give them hope, to share with them not fear, but peace.

Each of these men are a part of our own story, giving hope, giving strength, moments of comfort, moments of joy. Each used their gifts and talents to bear fruit, to change the path for those who followed after them and create a space for peace to take root and blossom.

The first performance of the Messiah took place in Dublin. The composition was performed by the combined choirs of St. Patrick’s and Christ Church (a whole 16 men and 16 boys) along with 2 female soloists and an orchestra of strings, 2 trumpets, and timpani. The audience was so large in attendance that women were told to leave their hoops at home. No Hoop skits were allowed that night for all to fit in the space to hear the offering.[ii]

Handel’s messiah first performance was a benefit concert. The proceeds went to three charities in Dublin- a debtors prison relief and two hospitals. This marvelous piece of work provided for others within the community, those on the outskirts of society, those who were overlooked.[iii]

George, John, and Paul, each in their own time and place, invited those who would listen to hear the story, sing the story even, of hope to a world that needs joy.

This season of Advent, we lean into the darkness and remember the story of hope given to us in our holy scriptures. The same story that is sung to us in tradition and still offers the same hope that transformed the lives of those who gathered by the river with John, those who received the letters from Paul and those who heard the music of George.

Jesus, cousin of John,

Like your cousin, you envisioned communities made up with all kinds of people.

And with that imagination, you gathered all kinds of people around you…. Even us.

Call us towards the kinds of communities That will shape and change us

Towards a greater diversity, a greater justice, a wiser distribution of power.

Because this is the Jordan where we will find you and people like you. Amen.[iv]


[i] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-glorious-history-of-handels-messiah-148168540/

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah_(Handel)

[iii] https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2017/12/ten-odd-facts-handels-messiah-terez-rose.html

[iv] “what were you arguing about along the way?” Edited by Pat Bennett, Introduced by Padraig O Tuama p.79

Toddlers and Tiaras: Entitlement verses Empowerment- What does it mean to be King?

Christ the King Sunday Year B 2021

Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thy Kingdom Come.

Each week we say those words in the Lord’s Prayer. If we are not careful, we can say them quickly and miss spending time reflecting on them.

What do we mean by thy Kingdom here on earth as it is on heaven?

What on earth is a kingdom and I mean that literally- here on earth we have kingdoms, the closest geographically of which is England. Kingdoms are ruled by a monarch, a king or queen. Queen Elizabeth, at age 95, has ruled now for 69 years (70 in February!)- her reign has evolved over the years as she has aged, as the country has changed, as England has gone from wartime to more peaceful times. She, as queen, is head of both Church and State. The defender of the faith and also has a “focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognizes success and excellence; and supports the ideal of voluntary service.”

Queen Elizabeth is an example of a faithful, enduring leader- who has had her own challenges in leadership through the years and yet endured. She is queen due to the family she was born into, though it’s her actions that have earned the respect of her country.

Today is Christ the King Sunday. This Sunday is the final Sunday of the Church year. Next week we begin the church’s new year with the season of Advent. As we conclude this year’s cycle of readings we conclude with a reminder of who Jesus is. Jesus is human and divine, he is the Christ, the King. As we turn the corner and prepare for the birth of Jesus, we pause to reflect on what that birth means for the kingdom of God.

In scripture, we have heard of Kings well before Jesus. There are two whole books in the Old Testament to tell us their stories. The people of Israel had prophets and they wanted a king. They wanted an earthly king. Their craving was for something more than heavenly God as king. The people wanted a king on earth, the kingdom of God brought near. God is and was their King and they wanted more, they wanted an earthly king. Despite God’s warnings about Kings, and the limitations of their reign, God gave the people Saul, David and Solomon.

Kings continued to rule over the Jews, some faithfully, some less faithfully. We come to Jesus, and we all know about the king at the time of his birth King Herod, the King of the Jews. We know that King Herod’s rule had less to do with the safety and well-being of the Jews and more to do with exploitation of wealth and preservation of power.

Today we hear about Jesus’ audience in front of Pilate.

Jesus, on earth, is accused of being King.

Jesus, as King.

He is not the warrior king like David- leading the people into physical battle.

Jesus is not poet and lavish king that Solomon was creating the temple.

Jesus bore witness to being king in being present and seeing others for who they are.

He redirected people from abstract questions to kingdom living in the here and now.

So then, how does one live in God’s kingdom?

All you have to do is look at Jesus’ life.

Jesus saw each person he encountered.

Jesus stopped and listened.

Jesus equipped people with knowledge and skills and sent the disciples out.

Jesus listened, taught, explained, AND repeated this pattern over and over again.

Jesus loved with his whole heart, you saw his tears when his friend Lazarus died, his joy in each person’s life whose life was amended.

Jesus redirected those who thought they were completed with their work here on earth and focused them on the heavenly kingdom.

Because, really in the word Kingdom, the emphasis is not only on KING but on KIN.

Jesus, here on earth, reminded us that we are all children of God.

Each person worthy of respect, dignity and mercy.

God came near in the person of Jesus to show us the way, to show us how to love, care, have compassion and what kinship looks like.

Christ, as King, has created a rule of relationship and invitation.

Collaboration and community rather than competition.

Empowerment rather than entitlement by birth.

Seeking to have each person and be faithful to the end.

Jesus lives that example for us, his entire life bearing witness to such love and compassion that even standing before Pilate he is calm and centered. Jesus lets his life bear witness to what a king should look like.

Kingship, for God, is willing to suffer for the greater good.

 Jesus shows his might through his humble birth and death, glorifying God to the end.

Kinship means that we each recognize the citizenship that we have, is as children of God. Every one of us.

In praying thy kingdom come, we recognize that we are all striving towards God’s kingdom of justice and compassion.

Kinship means that Jesus as God came near to us, to be with us, to show us the way to love and to care for one another and to give us the ultimate example of how a king should lead.

Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven focuses our eyes on the eternal and not the temporary struggles. We learn to not lose hope with injustice but to keep striving for change.

God brought heaven to earth through the life, death and resurrection of his son.

God came near to us, embraced us and continues to reach out to us in this world of earthly kingships, entitlement and exploitation of power and wealth.

Here at St. John’s we just concluded our St. John’s Market and talk about kingdom of God here on earth. So many people, so many treasures, so many voices, talents, joy. So much work and also energy. Your faces, laughter, and conversation along with those we have never met before, those who came to seek, discover and felt welcomed through the doors.

The Kingdom of God come together for a greater purpose, beyond just self, welcoming people in…… exhausting and yet exhilarating.

So much gratitude. It’s been 2 years since we have been able to gather in this way and the gift of being able to resume such an endeavor of the community.

What I love about St. John’s Market is that not only can you find the perfect gift for your unique uncle, you can also be fed with cakes and great conversation. The market not only raises money for great causes, it also donates to the International Rescue Committee for those refugees resettling in our community who are in need of simple household items as they begin anew right here in Tallahassee.

Our friends from Temple Israel join us every year right as we are closing down to help reset Alfriend Hall for parish ministry. (look for the sign ups to assist with the Jewish Food Festival in the spring!) Coming together from all different directions, assisting one another and building up the kingdom.

We are going into Thanksgiving week. We will see family, some for the first time in 2 years. The table we will gather around will be different because we all are different from the last time we gathered for Thanksgiving. Take a moment and realize that together.

These past 18 months have been hard. We have endured a pandemic, an election during a pandemic, a country that is in need of racial healing from years of systemic injustice, and uncertainty still abounds.

And yet as we conclude this church liturgical year, we are reminded of the example of kingly leadership that continues to invite each person to the table, love through the difficult conversations, and continue to be the ultimate example of gratitude and thanksgiving. We are reminded of Christ the King’s love that endures more than 70 years, more than 70×70 years, a love that embodied through Jesus gives us common ground to stand upon and be family together.

This week, pause and see the kingdom, the KINdom of God come near and the blessings that are in our midst as we strive to follow the example of Christ our King, one day at a time, one prayer at a time, one loving action at a time.

Wonder Woman, Hannah, and Birthing Pains- Moments where Hope triumphs!

Proper 28 Year B 2021

1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith, whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lath, be there at our labors and give us we pray, your strength in our hearts, Lord at the noon of the day.

Think of your favorite Super Hero.

Who comes to mind?

Nothing?

Superman?

Spiderman?

A loved one?

Someone who was strong, courageous, convicted, weathered all time?

Someone who loved you and sheltered you or others?

Many of you might already know that I love Super Hero movies. I was not a comic book fan, but I am a sucker for a big action movie on the big screen (Covid has been hard!)- I love the retelling of the iconic super heroes and learning about new heroes that those who love comic books have always known about.

Recently we had Wonder Woman reinvented and re-visioned. (Though, Linda Carter, you stole our hearts in the 70’s) In this new legend story, Wonder woman struggled with her own identity and claiming her own powers. She also struggles to understand mere mortals and she had to be convinced that even while there is much brokenness in this world, hope wins out.

In the final battle of the 2017 Wonder woman movie, with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman triumphs in the end because of her deep hope for humanity and this transformation gives her the strength the push the super evil villian back. She has a moment when she comes to the brink and is almost consumed by despair but in a surge of strength she realizes that even one little ounce of hope is bigger and more powerful than all of the evil in the world. It’s quite a movie ending which, in turn, is a new beginning for humanity.

Perhaps our desire and glamorization of super heroes is that they embody hope when we can only see despair, they show us the way, the light, the path when everyone else is saying “it’s too much, just give up.”

Instead, those superheroes are all in for those who are the weakest, those who aren’t even their people. Super heroes are ALL in emptying themselves out for saving the world.

Today’s Old Testament reading speaks about some of my favorite super heroes of the bible. Yes, we hear of David and his slingshot defying Goliath,

Yes we hear of Moses and dividing the red sea…. But ya’ll……

Remember Shiphrah and Puah? These midwives kept delivering the Israelites babies when the Pharoah said to kill them all.

Remember Esther, who risked her life for the protection of the lives her people?

Remember Hannah?

Today we hear Hannah’s song, but before that passage in 1 Samuel, we hear of her prayerfulness, her devotion to God. In her pain and isolation of not being able to have a child,  rather than growing distanced from God, Hannah grew closer to God. (She is a bit like Job in his trials.)

Hannah, like Job, refuses to abandon her hope in who God is and neither does she desert God in her own pain. The message here is not that if you pray hard enough your loneliness, isolation, barrenness will depart. The message from Hannah’s life is that in your prayers, your pain is heard, your hope is renewed , God will not abandon you and you will bear fruit. 

Hannah’s hope wins out, her hope in a God who always draws near, who always leans into the pain with us, is there with her.

Emptying herself out in prayer and faithfulness gave her the song we receive today.

Hannah’s expression of hope is the one that ripples through scripture, of a God who sees triumph and victory in wholeheartedness, in drawing close and transforming each of us to see that the very now is not the forever after.

This sort of hope continues through Scripture- when you hear of Elizabeth in the Gospel of Luke. Elizabeth’s story is similar to Hannah’s and so is her song.

Then of course, with Mary, the mother of Jesus, we hear of one more song. A song filled with her own sense of hope and God’s faithfulness, god’s nearness and god’s power to change the world of brokenness through the unexpected.

As we follow Mary, we find ourselves walking with Jesus. We walk the roads of Galilee, the highways to Jericho and Jerusalem, we sit for a while under the trees and see healings, we hear new teachings that refresh and change our understanding of the old laws of the Old Testament and we hear Jesus giving hope in the world of the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire, of the culture wars between Samaritans and Jews, of the inclusion of all women and men who have ears to hear.

Here we find ourselves with today’s Gospel- words that taken out of context sound NOT very hopeful. “when you hear of wars, of nations rising against nations, of kingdoms against kingdoms, of earthquakes and famines- this is just the beginning of the birth pangs”

When these things are occurring, Jesus says, birthing pains are occurring.

Birth Pangs, commonly known these days as contractions, signal that new life is coming, not ending.

If you have ever seen a child being born or merely watched Call the Midwife – that birthing pain means things are about to change drastically- a new beginning is on the way- there is hope.

No kingdom, famine, war, earthquake can destroy that hope you see in a new child. No, at the moment of birth, you see pure love, hope, and joy. This love can bring your through the challenges.

Jesus was speaking to the disciples to remind those around him and US, that even in our darkest moments, God is doing something new. Drawing near and new beginnings are occurring.

The civil rights lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson says, “Hope is our superpower”- it truly is. We do not need a fancy uniform or a spider to bite us to give us some crazy superhuman power.

Think back to your super heroes and why they stand out to you. It comes back to a crazy, unquenchable, hope, doesn’t it?

This past week we remembered our Veterans on November 11th, we remembered them not to glorify war and celebrate victories, rather we remember those whom we sent on our behalf to fight- who were young, who were trusting, who can often not speak of their experience. These same people whose isolation and despair at actions often haunt(ed) them the rest of their lives.

We remember our veterans because we offer to God all of their experiences and our hope is to live in a world where such wars and death will never have to happen again.

Hope is our super power.

Hope is what Jesus is reminding the disciples of in this passage, that Jesus would draw close and offer his whole self for the world, emptying himself out on behalf of others, FOR others- all in.

We too, should be all in.

We will have moments where the earthquakes in our life will shake our faith, the isolation, despair and division will seem to be winning….and yet we have hope.

We see, through our own heroes, examples of faithfulness through adversity.

We are reminded of our biblical and earthly mothers and fathers who endured, drew close and fanned the faith of hope grounded on the love of a God who drew close to us and gave us all that God had.

All our hope on God is indeed founded. Amen.

What do you leave behind in answering a call?

Proper 25 Year B 2021

Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10:46-52

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.

What must I do to get eternal life?

Can you arrange it so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory?

I want to see

The past three weeks’ gospels have centered around individuals asking Jesus questions.

Asking questions is what you would do with a Rabbi. Ask so that you might learn.

The first man, unnamed, comes up to Jesus in the street.

The second question comes from James and John as the disciples are walking along with Jesus.

The third question comes today, from Bartimaeus, the man who is blind, sitting on the side of the road and surviving only by the generosity of others.

The first questions seeks the life to come and what must I do to possess such a thing.

The second also seeks eternal life and prestige alongside of that desire.

The third asks for the now, the immediate, the nearness of God in his life.

All three reflect our curiosity, our own desire, our hearts.

All three reflect Jesus’ love for each person who encounters him and in each case Jesus looks at the individual(s) who ask the question of him and loves them, right where they are.

All three questions are answered directly, truthfully, honestly, with transforming love.

The young man goes home saddened and at the same time understanding that he too must be engaged in the work. Life as a disciple is much more than rule following, life as a follower of Jesus is following with the heart, mind and soul.

James and John are perplexed misunderstanding relationship status and mistaking status with the ease of suffering. They misunderstand the connection of following Jesus. Rather than letting you skate through and be relieved of suffering, following Jesus, the cup that he shares with you WILL give you strength and courage FOR the suffering and adversity that will occur.

Following means that you will never be alone in this life.

Bartimaeus, reaches towards Jesus and engages with Jesus. His question leaves his life transformed with Jesus. His question declares Jesus is the messiah publicly and unabashedly. He drops his cloak and runs to engage Jesus.

While Bartimaeus asks something of Jesus, his question is different than the disciples and the young man two stories before because Bartimaeus leaves everything behind to engage with Jesus. Bartimaeus’ joy is in encountering Jesus and he has an openness to receive right there, right then.

He leaves his cloak behind.

Unlike the young man who arrives with a multitude of possessions, Bartimaeus has only a cloak on which he would have both kept warm at night and also collected alms from those who passed by. He left this sole possession behind in his haste and desire to encounter Jesus.

I love to think about where else has clothing been important or cast off?

Remember Adam and Eve? They took on clothing to cover themselves from the God who created them and their innermost parts.

Rahab is known for her red clothing and gives shelter to Joshua’s spies, her red cord in the window saves her household.

Remember all the well-dressed Pharisees in fine robes whom Jesus talks so disparagingly about?

Remember John the Baptist and his lack of décor, his wild hair and sporting hair shirts of camel’s hair.

We will hear, later in the gospel, of the disciple who runs into the night from the Garden of Gethsemane leaving his clothing behind, leaving all behind in his fear.

Of the soldiers casting lots for the final garment that Jesus will wear on the cross

And remember the linens in the tomb, cast aside. Left behind.

Clothing has covered our shame and, also when left behind, sets us free.

Now, I am not advocating a nudist colony.

I am left wondering what we hold close that covers our fears, our shame, our hidden insecurities.

What things we too might need to jump up from and leave behind unabashedly.

Like the young man, is it the things we own?

Like James and John, are we clinging to what is beyond us rather than living in the now?

How can we live with trust and respond to nvitation like Bartimaeus.

What are the things that should jump up from and let go of?

What do we leave behind as we are transformed by the call and discipleship that Jesus invites us into.

How in your own life have you seen things creep back in as the world has picked up pace?

Is your plate overflowing again?
How are you making space to leave the cloak of anxiety, stress and angst behind and spend time with God?

Where might you be able to hear God meeting you right where you are and loving you right there?

What might you need to let go of?

This interim time at St. John’s is not just a waiting time for the next rector, this time is time for us as a parish to breath in deeply and keep growing, giving, being the faithful disciples who respond to God and say “Jesus, you are the Messiah”- we, too, should ask the questions of fear and also with curiosity in each ministry that we are actively participating.

What should we leave behind and what should we choose to clothe ourselves in?

In the book of Colossians there is a passage (one of my favorites for weddings) “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” What does it look like if our actions show these attributes, how does that form us to care for each other and our relationship with God?

And then there is Paul’s writing about the armor of God in Ephesians. Paul spoke strongly about the baptismal identity of being a follower of Jesus. We are to be in community together and keep connecting, stand firm in the knowledge that each is loved for who they are.

And each day we put on our clothes, one sock and shoe at a time.

It should be the same with our prayers, one moment at a time.

And with our actions, each with love and compassion at a time.

We should always be stretching towards God and growing towards being with each other and acknowledging God in our midst.

Bartimaeus’s restoration of sight is the last story before Jesus arrives in Jerusalem.

Mark’s gospel continues with Jesus’s arriving on a donkey and processing to the cheers of Hosanna, the story of Bartimaeus invites us to summarize all of the beginning of Mark’s gospel – and to see clearly that Jesus’ life was lived to call us into relationship with him. Restored fully to wholeness and to the community.

How do we hear and respond to the call of Jesus?

What do we leave behind, how do we engage, and how, too, will we be transformed?

Bartimeaus responds without hesitation and his life is transformed.

What cloak are you willing to leave behind in your own faith journey?

Bonnie Raitt, Pharisees, Divorce and Let’s give them something to talk about: LOVE.

Proper 22 Year B 2021

Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Do you remember the song “let’s give them something to talk about?!”

It was Bonnie Raitt’s hit in 1991. While Bonnie Raitt was performing since the 70’s, this song made her a household name.

The chorus is quite catchy, “let’s give them something to talk about,….. And what is it they are to talk about?

LOVE.

The song is all about small time gossip and, well, by the end the singer resolves, why don’t we give them something to talk about! Have them talk about Love.

Let’s give them something to talk about.

By chapter 10 of the gospel of Mark, people have been talking about Jesus.

Talking about how he has been healing people, about how he has been teaching, about how he has been speaking, about WHO he has been calling to be disciples.

The small time gossips are working over time about all the things he has been doing and here come the Pharisees today.

Let’s give them something to talk about.

The Pharisees come to test Jesus. They ask, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce a man’s wife?” They are not there because one of them is in need of marital advice. They are not there because their family is struggling in a marriage.

The Pharisees are asking the question this day to have something to talk about.

To talk about how this rabbi from Galilee might speak about King Herod. Remember, King Herod is married to his brother’s wife. His brother who divorced his wife and that same wife has married the King. Remember John the Baptist spoke against this and was jailed and eventually beheaded for speaking in opposition to this marriage. The Pharisees come ready to find out from Jesus where exactly he stands in his political relationship with the King.

And Jesus says to the Pharisees, who knew their law, “What did Moses command you?

And the Pharisees do not reply with what Moses commanded but what Moses allowed.

They quote Deuteronomy.

And Jesus reminds them of Genesis.

The Pharisees remind Jesus of the ten commandments.

Jesus reminds them of the Garden of Eden and God’s perfect creation.

Jesus meets them exactly where they are and invites them to reach toward the divine while being perfectly imperfect humans.

Jesus’ answer to the inquiring Pharisees is to talk about love.

Jesus speaks of the love that we should always be striving for. In creation God created us to be in relationship. We are to be in relationship with God, with creation, with one another.

We fall short.

And Jesus gives them something to talk about in continuing, reaching out and reconciling rather than dismissing and diminishing.

Love to Jesus is much more than Gossip, it is relationship that believes in transformation, in new beginnings, in opportunity to begin again.

The Pharisees were not talking about love and not even marriage and divorce.

They tested Jesus to see which side of the political divide he would take.

And Jesus says to them “let’s talk about love.”

This love that Jesus speaks of invites the adulterer into the circle of the community.

Invites the woman at the well, married 5 times, to become an evangelist in her community to talk about living water and love that is more than humanity can even grasp.

Jesus in his love for humanity invites Matthew, the tax collector to be a part of the twelve closest friends with Jesus.

The love Jesus lives and breathes invites, initiates and sees opportunity where humanity sees the terminus of a journey. And each of us is invited to join in. Jesus says, let’s give them something to talk about. “See this child- this is what it looks like to enter the kingdom of God” Love is embodied in each person, the smallest, the weakest, love is in each individual with eyes and arms and hearts wide open.

Let’s give them something to talk about- Talk about Love.

Love that stopped in his tracts to talk those who asked a question

Love that met the person who needed healing or sought healing on behalf of another.

Love that wept at the loss of a friend.

Love that prayed, cried, ate, and was with the people for 33 years.

Love that ultimately opened its arms for us on the cross, willing to embrace us all and let go of own self for our own selves.

This past week I was able to attend the Alumni Lectures for the school of theology, up at my alma mater, Sewanee. We heard from Bishop Jennifer Baskerville Burrows, Bishop Phoebe Roaf, and Bishop Eugene Sutton (the bishops of Indianapolis, West Tennessee, and Maryland)- each spoke to those gathered about what love looks like in the work of Racial Reconciliation in the Episcopal Church. How each of their dioceses have leaned into love to listen to each other, to be in relationship with each other, to be curious, and interrogate reality.

I found myself talking to my classmates about the things going on here from our work with Capital Area Justice Ministry which has commited to these three principles  of listening/curiosity/and interrogation to sharing the weekly offerings that we have Sundays through Saturdays. From the Faith at 5:30 service, the delicious meals of the lively café, the offerings of the new “Front Porch” to our pastoral care shepherds.

There is plenty to talk about here at St. John’s and it all begins and ends with Love.

Today we will commission our rector search committee, who have already been hard at work, as you know. Continue to keep them in your prayers. Their job is to tell the story of St. John’s and the love of Jesus that resides within and outside of our walls as we search for a New Rector.

And we have so much to talk about and to do.

Talk about love, love, love.

At a wedding service, we begin with the words, “Dearly Beloved we are gathered here together today”- Each time we do this, I am reminded that we are gathered because we are loved and because we love the ones who are gathered together. We commit to praying for all those gathered there, much like we do each time we gathered here.

And we are reminded in each service that we are to be listening and (talking) responding in love, just as Jesus set the example for us in his life and death here among us.

We are humans, perfectly imperfect.

AND

We are to always be striving for the divine, even as we fall short.

Because, as Jesus says today- God has created us for relationship with one another- grounded in love, always grounded in love, and always ready to be transformed by love.

Amen.