God’s Peace and blessings to you all!  Here is my sermon from this past Sunday for the Fifth Sunday of Lent in which I address the pain of doubt and transition in the church, faith, and life; or as Jesus tells us, the death of the wheat seed.  You can find the lectionary readings for the day HERE.

Look familiar?

 

This week, in our daily lectionary, we covered the often abused and overused passage of John 3:16.  As it so happens, I was assigned to preach on this very text for my preaching class at Emory this week.  So, I figured I’d share, since this has historically been a very difficult passage for me, having grown up in the South’s Bible Belt where this little passage is used far more as a threat and means of coercion rather than an invitation.

The passage I was assigned picks up with the last two verses of Wednesday’s lectionary and goes through Thursday’s reading.  Context, after all, can be everything:

John 3:13-21

13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

So for anyone that’s been hurt, offended, or just tired of this little passage, here’s how I’m trying to come to grips with it after all these years.

God’s Peace and blessings to you all!  Here are my sermons from this past Sunday for the Transfiguration.  While I am preaching for my particular parish of Holy Spirit as it prepares for a capital campaign for a much needed expansion of our building, this is a story about the spiritual health of any parish as we move from prayer to generosity.  How will you make your parish community a “sepulcher of stories,” a “tabernacle of tales?”  For all the Elijahs we have in our parishes, we need to assure them that we will be with them until the end.  And for all our young Elishas, we need to keep encouraging them to chase after all the Elijahs we have and ask that most important question, “What is our story?”

You can find the lectionary readings for this Sunday HERE.

8:30 Service:

10:45 Service:

God’s Peace!

Samuel and Eli

God’s Peace and blessings to you all!  Here are my sermons from this past Sunday for the Second Sunday after Epiphany in which we explore what it means to be “called.”  You can find the lectionary readings for this Sunday HERE.

The big question I have for all of us to consider is this: If we are called, as individuals and a community, how can we respond to the very justified cynicism that we meet out in the world today that would ask, paraphrasing Nathanael in our Gospel reading, “Can anything good come out of the Church?”

Sermon for 8:30 Service

Sermon for 10:45 Service

#blacklivesmatter Demonstration at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology

In response to the further pain and grief  as a result of the Grand Jury’s decision this past week in NY, here are my sermons from this Sunday.  You can find the lectionary readings HERE.

How do we know when there is systemic abuse?  When those that would “make attempts at accountability are accused of being aggressive or arrogant” by those who are in positions of authority.  Systemic abuse is not just a black and white issue, nor is it isolated in singular institutions.  What we are experiencing now is a symptom of a far bigger problem.  We find it in national government, local governments, and even within our own Church and dioceses.  It is a sad fact that, even in our own Church, for those that would speak out against abuse, they are further abused.

So we are left to wonder, for any example of systemic abuse, how can we as a baptized people respond?  How can we offer words of “comfort” like Isaiah without being hypocritical?   What would it be like to be that voice in the wilderness?  Or, more importantly, what would it be like to respond to that voice in the wilderness that is calling of us to be accountable? What follows are some of my thoughts on this matter.

8:30 Service

10:45 Service (in which I also explain the difference between the evangelical view of baptism and a sacramental one, that of “regeneration”)

Here are my sermons for Proper 27, from back on November 9.  You can find the Track 1 lectionary readings for this Sunday HERE.

8:30 Service, “The Twin Sisters of Compassion and Humility”

10:45 Service, “Turning Away from Insidious Idols”

Do you notice anything different about these two pictures?  Just take a moment and compare:

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 10.04.27 AMScreen Shot 2014-12-02 at 10.07.05 AMTo be sure we’re on the same page, the first photo has been doctored.  The second photo is the original.

The first photo is based on the hope that people stay the same.  The second photo is hoping that people can change.

But look even more closely:

The first photo is meant to prove a point.  The second photo is meant to prove a point.

The first photo is meant to elicit action.  The second photo is meant to elicit action.

The first photo is evidence of a deep-seated fear.  The second photo is evidence of a deep-seated fear.

The first photo, as you can see from the screen shot, came from Facebook.  It’s been circulating rather heavily on my newsfeed.  As you can see from the screenshot, people are all too happy to share it.  If you look it up and begin to scroll through the comments, you’ll find that only occasionally does someone point out that it’s a fake.  Sadly, the original poster goes so far as to disqualify even those few claims.

But, my friends, that first picture, doctored as it is, is the face of fear.  It is fear that hides behind “righteous anger,” even if that righteous cause has to be manufactured.  It’s still fear.  It’s the fear of people who have power and are afraid to loose it.  It’s the fear that things won’t always be the way they were.  It’s the fear that maybe something is fundamentally wrong, and maybe we share a part of that guilt.  In this instance, it’s a fear about race, but ultimately it’s a fear about the “other.”

Let me make this point perfectly clear: it’s a fear that each and every one of us shares as some point in our lives simply because we are human.  It is a fear of something or someone that is different from us.

What compounds this fear is the systemic abuse of power that has gone on for so long in this country, and the fear that maybe the “race issue” still hasn’t been solved.

But for this conversation to really move forward, for both sides to really start healing, we need to be talking about fear, not just race.  Racism, as prevalent as it still is today, is the symptom, not the illness.  Granted, as anyone who practices medicine would know, sometimes you have to treat the symptom in order to better treat the illness.  I’m not saying we should ignore the racism that is going on.  To do that would be to enable the denial that has allowed it to perpetuate thus far.  But what I’m talking about is the conversation and the healing that could happen beyond this.  The real healing that can happen among adults to make a better place for our children to grow up.

And that healing can start when we all admit this nasty little secret of ours.  That we are all afraid.  Some are afraid that they will be found out that they are in fact prejudiced and that they enjoy the power they hold over others.  This is the case for both sides, because even victims can victimize others. Some are afraid for their lives, or their children’s lives.  Some are afraid that they will loose the only world they’ve known.

But if there is to be healing, can we talk about the vulnerability of fear that we all share, not the anger that we’re using to hide it?

Here in Atlanta, what has been my home for my whole life, I know about the issues of prejudice that have made up this city.  As much as I love this city, the prejudice is there and it hurts.  It effects all of us.  But what frustrates me more than anything is when people try to address the prejudice that is so deep-seated here by claiming that it is only a black and white issue.  Again, it’s trying to focus on a single symptom, not the real illness underneath.  To focus on only one symptom, as prevalent as it may be, it allows the abuse of other prejudices to go unhindered.

For instance, here in Atlanta, many people want to highlight how African Americans have been victimized for so long.  This is true, and a sad fact it is.  In no way am I dismissing the generations worth of pain that Black Atlantans have had to endure.  My heart continues to break for the inhuman treatment they still have to endure.  Just take a walk through Peoplestown to see it.  But when we focus on only one group of people as victims, we do so at the cost of ignoring all the others.  Atlanta has a long history of prejudice that goes beyond the black/white issue.  If we’re going to focus just on the symptoms of prejudice, then let’s talk about the Jewish communities that have been persecuted in this city.  Or what about the anti-Catholic sentiments that run through our city’s history?  What about the recent exclusion of Muslims we see in the greater Metro area?  Or what of the prejudice and violence committed against the LGBTQ community, a violence committed by all races in this city?  What of the new ghettos we are forming in Atlanta to segregate the Latino populations, or the ever growing number of East Asian and Indian immigrants?  What about the African and African Caribbean immigrants that are not welcomed by the African American communities in our city?  What about the divides that have little to do with race, but more to do with class and economic distinctions?  What about the prejudice committed on the grounds of illness or disability?

This list of symptoms can go on and on and on….  It’s exhausting trying to address each and everyone one of them separately.

But maybe we don’t have to go after every individual head of this ugly hydra.  Maybe we can start addressing the illness, not just the symptoms.  Maybe we can talk about the underlying fear that we all share as human beings, rather than focusing only on the violence that has been a product of it.

I think we can do it.  I think we can have honest conversations about this ugly little secret that we all share.  I think we can each admit our own vulnerability, rather than pointing out someone else’s.  We can claim our own fear rather than letting others fear monger for the sake of their own publicity.  And then we can start the next step of the healing process: grief.  For some of us, we will have to grieve the shameful violence we’ve committed or allowed others to commit on our behalf.  For others, we can grieve the violence we’ve suffered at the hands of others.  For all of us, we can grieve the chances of a better future that we’ve lost so far.  But after we grieve, after we share these pains and tears, we can start to move on and make that better future a reality.  Doubtless it’s a future that most of us will never see.  But should we be so selfish as to ignore the hard work we can do now for the sake of others that will come after us?

 

 

 

God’s Peace and blessings to you all.

Moses is up on the mountain again, wanting to see God.  Paul’s bragging about the church in Thessalonica.  And Jesus is talking about taxes.  So what in God’s good name do all these have to do with Baptismal and Eucharistic theological identities?  Well, here are my sermons from this past Sunday for Proper 24 to answer that.  You can find the lectionary readings for track 1 HERE.

Since you can’t see the congregation in the audio, I’ll just let you know that when I asked all the cradle Episcopalians to raise their hands, we were the minority in the room.  That means, with overall numbers in the Church shrinking, and those coming into the Church later in life as the majority, then we are loosing at an even greater pace than the overall percentage those who are born into the Episcopal Church.  To rephrase that: we’re good at focusing on conversion later in life (maybe because the corporate model that the Church has adopted is only concerned about getting those new names on the roster to beef up apparent numbers), but we don’t know how to captivate our youth and young adults (or maybe because, following a corpora model of immediate return, the Church doesn’t want to invest time, energy, or resources into a population that can’t immediately tithe and give a return on the short-term investment).  This will certainly be a topic for a later post, but I leave it with you now to ponder with me why that might be…

Until then, here are my thoughts on the dual identities we find in our Church, starting back with William White and Samuel Seabury; identities of baptismal and eucharistic theologies, respectively.

8:30 Service

10:45 Service

God’s Peace and blessings to you all.  Here are my sermons from this morning’s services.  While I address different issues in the begin of each of these, we eventually land on issues of pastoral care for both.  You can find the lectionary readings for the day (track 1) HERE.

8:30 Service

10:45 Service

Here are my sermons from our Sunday morning services for the Proper 17, the  twelvth Sunday after Pentecost.  You can find the track 1 lectionary readings for the day HERE.

8:30 Service, in which we explore power, anger, and grief.

10:00 Service, which we explore the sacrament of Confirmation and rites of passage.

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