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God’s Peace and blessings to you all!  Here is my sermon from the Vigil of Pentecost service we had a few weeks prior.  In this sermon I talk about why we have vigils, and why we have confirmations.  To put it succinctly, as I said in my sermon, “For those what would ask why we have confirmations when we already have baptism, I would point out that it’s the same reason we have Pentecost when we’ve already had Easter.”  This is why we’re a sacramental Church!

God’s Peace and blessings to you all!  Hopefully appropriate for this time of Holy Week, here is a sermon I preached this morning on the text of 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Hannah’s Hymn.  You can find the text HERE.  With all that we see in the news right now, it begs the question, for those who are oppressed: how do we respond as God is calling us to?

#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”)

 

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

Here is my sermon preaching on the transferred Feast of Martin Luther, which much to my surprise, is actually on the Episcopal Kalendar.  As you will hear, for me as a monk, this was no easy sermon.  The lectionary was for today was from Isaiah 63:15-64:9 1 John 2:12-17.

Is this really what community looks like?

God’s Peace, everyone.  Here are my sermons for the two services this past Sunday for the third week of Epiphany.

You can find the lectionary readings for the day HERE.  In the first sermon, we discuss the difference between division in community from contention versus division from complacency (and there might be another jab at Ayn Rand in there, too 🙂 ).  In this age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other virtual relationships, what does real community, let alone Christian community, look like?  In the second sermon, we discuss following Jesus at his command, and going out to find him where the darkness has already been broken by Light.

As you listen in, I invite you to consider how you will embody real Christian community, and then where can you go to find the Light of Christ that is already shining?  God’s Peace!

Sermon for Epiphany 3, 8:45 service – “Is Christ Divided?”

Sermon for Epiphany 3, 10:45 service – “Finding the Light in the Darkness”

Eucharistic Prayer D with Byzantine Notation

Eucharistic Prayer D with Byzantine Notation

This is part of an ongoing liturgics project that I’m working on to correct the Mozarabic notation for Eucharistic Prayer D that is found in our Episcopal Altar Book.  What we have right now is the general shape of the Mozarabic tone forced into Plainchant.  Mozarabic chant, also called Visigothic chant, is peculiar to the Iderian peninsula and it’s development spans over 600 years.  It’s difficult to say what early Visigothic chant sounded like exactly, as we don’t have documentation from that time period.  However, we do have some surviving manuscripts from the late Visigothic chant that goes into the 15th century.  Further, this type of chant has been preserved in Toledo, Spain, and can still be heard today.  What most people pick up on when they hear actual Mozarabic chant is a Muslim influence on the intonation and shape of the chant.  In actuality, this more ornate vocalization goes back to ancient Christian Near Eastern chant.  You can still hear example of this influence in Syrian Orthodox chant, Palestinian chant, and even some aspects of the Greek Orthodox chant.  You won’t find nearly as much of a similarity with Russian Orthodox chant, as the Russian chant was heavily influenced by the West.
To begin the process of recovering what the Mozarabic Prayer D should actually sound like, I transcribed what is in the Altar Book into Byzantine notation that is truer to the Eastern Orthodox roots of the Mozarabic chant.  Byzantine chant uses the older form of neumes for its notations, as opposed to staff notation that shows exact pitch.  Neumes, instead, indicate the interval of pitches and the general shape of the chant.  Truth be told, Byzantine notation is a lot more complicated for most Westerners to read, but allows for a far greater expression of vocalization and nuance.  So, with the chant then transcribed into neumatics, I can then see where the turns and flutters should be, insert those, then transcribe back into Western notation.  Most likely I’ll have to rely on grace notes as one would find in bagpipe music.
All that being said, when I first wrote out what we have in Byzantine notation, I thought it would look nice as a formal calligraphy piece, which evolved into a full illuminated manuscript.  So, this is the Byzantine notation (minus key signature) for what we have in the Altar Book, plus the Byzantine notation for the Mozarabic Sanctus found in the 1982 Hymnal (S-123).  Special thanks to my Liturgical Music teacher Brad Hughley for pointing me towards the Sanctus, Fr. Tripp Norris for singing this at Candler, and His Grace, Bishop Keith Whitmore for putting up with my geeky liturgics.

 

Within the past several years, both parishes and the national Church have been experiencing significant financial shortfalls.  This hardship is obviously not unique to us.  Churches and religious institutions across the board are experiencing the same austerity that families across the world are having to cope with due to the waves of national recessions.

That being said, the subsequent budget cuts that have come from this are of no great surprise.  What has truly disturbed me, though, both at General Convention and Diocesan Conventions, is that one of the first items to get axed is funding for college and young adult ministry.  The arguments have ranged from the national level saying it’s the responsibility of the local level, to local dioceses saying that since these young adults are not the major tithers, that’s not where they should be focusing their limited resources.  Granted, this is very pragmatic from a business standpoint: only invest in the areas where you get the biggest immediate return.  The problem is, the Church is not meant to be strictly business.  Then of course, there’s the question of why a local diocese should spend so much on college chaplaincy when the students are from (and will most likely return to) outside the diocese when their collegiate careers are completed.  What really floors me in all of this, is that within the same Conventions in which the young adult ministries are being cut, delegates are distressing and discussing at great length what is to be done about the drop in numbers in our Church.

So, with that in mind, I’d like to offer my own two cents for what that’s worth.  Since I’ve been on a parables kick for the past few weeks, I thought this might best illustrate the point.  I invite any and all college chaplains, youth, young adults, and leaders thereof to share this and pass it around.

There once was a man who inherited a farm from his dearly departed father.  His father, you see, had been a farmer in his later years and had built up quite a great track of land.  Like any good farmer, he had staggered his planting to be sure that plants would grow and ripen over a gradual period of time instead of all at once.  Well, the farmer had passed in the middle of the growing season, so his son inherited a farm with plants in all various stages, from seeds just planted to plants bearing fruit that were just about ripe.

When this young man turned new farmer moved out to the farm, he was very excited about all the fresh produce that he was about to pick and be able to eat!  Unfortunately, he had never learned much from his father, and didn’t know all there was to farming, let alone the great amount of work and long hours that are required.  The only thing he really knew was that you needed to water the plants to get them to grow.

Not realizing that his father used to get up before dawn to begin work, the son slept in well past sunrise before he would get up to water his new charge.  Since he had to pump water to each area of crops in order to water them, he quickly found out that he just didn’t have enough time during his day to water everything.  So, concentrating on the plants that were about to ripen and would thus guarantee some fresh produce for him, he watered the mature adult plants only.  Every day he tended to them, watering and weeding around them.  And sure enough, as time went on, the fruits and vegetables on these plants ripened, and he was able to enjoy such wonderful fresh produce!

But then, as you’d expect, theses plants passed their growing season and started to die off.  Wanting to keep the tasty produce coming, the son turned to the next patch in the field where a later stage of crops was growing.  Unfortunately, he found a lot of these crops had withered.  Some had even perished from the lack of water and the weeds that had grown up around them.  Desperate to keep this patch going so he could get produce, he focused all his time and efforts on watering and weeding these remaining plants.  With time, he was able to salvage what had survived, and eventually got fresh produce from it, but it was nothing compared to the amount that he had gotten from the first patch.

Well, just as before, this patch reached the end of its growing season, so he turned to the next patch that had been planted after.  This was the patch that was just seeds in the ground when his father had died.  Well, what do you think he found there in the patch of seeds that he hadn’t watered and never took the time to weed?

It wasn’t long thereafter that the other farmers in the area saw a perplexing and pitiful sight: a young man driving out of town in his packed up car, complaining loudly out the window that his farm just wouldn’t produce!

 

Silentio Coram Deo,

Br. Kenneth

Many centuries ago, there was an Abbot who was head of a monastery in Northern Ireland.  He was renowned for his compassion, insight, and great inner silence.  As Abbot, his charge was to lead the monks of his monastery and teach them the spiritual life that had been passed down through the monastic communities.  He was a teacher, and this is one lesson he taught.

One day, a young and headstrong novice came up to the Abbot, and pointedly told him, “Father Abbot, you should know about all the terrible ideas that some of the Brother and Sisters here believe and are teaching!  I’ve made sure to correct them as often as I can, because they are teaching terrible and contradictory things about God!  I wanted to tell you myself so you know just how dangerous their questions and behaviors are towards God.”

Taken aback, the Abbot asked, “What exactly are they saying?  What exactly are they doing?”

Glad to see the Abbot’s concern, the zealous novice explained, “One Brother said that God was in everyone, not just those who believe correctly!  I made sure to correct him on that since God would not want such accusations said about Him.  One Sister said that God would accept everyone into heaven, and I know God wouldn’t want that, so I corrected her right away.  And then!” he continued, “one Brother went so far as to smile and even laugh under his breath in the middle of prayers!  I know how much this must disturb God, so I made sure to correct him right there on the spot!”

“You are indeed filled with such a great responsibility, my Brother,” the Abbot responded.  “Because of your great zeal and purpose, I have a very important task for you.”

The novice puffed up his chest at this, glad that the Abbot understood how important his efforts were.

“I need you to go out along the road towards the lake,” the Abbot instructed, “and along the way, you will find a very large stone in the middle of the path.  It is quiet massive, so I know you won’t miss it.  It has been there for a very, very long time, and it’s important that it’s there for many years to come.  So, I need you to guard and protect that stone. Brothers and Sisters have been walking over it as they go down the path instead of going around it, and their feet may hurt it.  Also, the wind and rain could hurt it, so I need you to be sure to protect it from that as well.  I’m sure you understand how important this is!”

“Absolutely, Father Abbot!  I’ll be sure nothing happens to the rock!”  And with that, he ran out the door to take on this very important commission.

When he came to the rock in the road that led down to the lake, he took up his post in the middle of the path, certain that he would protect the rock.

It was not long before a Brother came down the path on his way to the lake to catch fish for their evening meal.  As he approached the rock to climb over, the novice jumped in his way, pushing him to the side, and insisting that he go around.

Annoyed, but not wanting to argue, the Brother went around the rock and met up with the path on the other side.  Proud of what he had done, the young novice took up his post again in the middle of the path, ready to protect the rock.

Later in the afternoon, a group of Sisters came down the path to fetch water from the lake.  Quickly, the novice jumped in front of them, and insisted that they go around.  One he was able to push to the side, but the others ignored him, skirting around him, and started climbing the rock.  Leaving the first Sister that he had corralled away, he leapt up on the rock to push the others away.  He managed to shove on Sister off, who stumbled and fell, but the others still managed to get around him and walk down to the path on the other side.  The Sisters, regrouped on the path, continued on down to the lake, glancing back with disapproving glares at the headstrong novice.

Though he had gotten some of the Sisters off the rock, he was discouraged that some still got by him.  He was even more discouraged that he had to walk on the rock himself to try and corral them away!  Determined to do a better job, he planted himself back in the middle of the path, ready to guard the rock from the next onslaught.

As the afternoon wore on, the sky began to grow dark with clouds and brought with them a strong easterly wind.  Remembering his Abbot’s admonition to guard the rock, he placed his body squarely between the rock and wind and spread his arms to intercept the wind.  He quickly realized that his body wasn’t big enough to ward off the wind, but before he could solve this problem he felt a drop of rain on his bare cheek.  Within moments, a torrential rain was drenching him through his habit.  He frantically tried to protect the rock from the drops of rain, covering it with his body, then darting around waving his arms in the hopes of catching all the drops with his hands.

It was not long before he was completely exhausted and slumped down in front of the rock, resting his back against it.  As he sat there panting for breath, he fell from frustration into despair.  He had failed his important task!  The more he thought about it, however, the more he became upset with the Abbot for giving him what was surely an impossible and even useless task!

Leaving the rock to fend for itself in the middle of the road, he trudged off in sodden sandals to find the Abbot.  He found him soon enough, warm and dry in his cell.

“Father Abbot!  Why did you assign to me such an impossible and useless task?  Surely you knew that there was no way I could protect the rock from all the Brothers and Sisters, and surely not from the wind and rain!  And why protect a rock that has withstood such an onslaught for so long already?”

The Abbot held up a hand to calm the novice and simply replied, “If you see that protecting the rock is impossible and that it in fact does not even need you to protect it, then why do you spend the same amount of time and energy protecting God Almighty?”

In that moment, the novice saw how he had diminished God and even separated himself from his Brothers in Sisters.  It is said that thereafter, he gained a remarkable reputation for listening to others’ diverse thoughts on the Divine and whispering, as though to himself, “That and so much more.”

Many centuries ago, there was an Abbot who was head of a monastery in Northern Ireland.  He was renowned for his compassion, insight, and great inner silence.  As Abbot, his charge was to lead the monks of his monastery and teach them the spiritual life that had been passed down through the monastic communities.  He was a teacher, and this is one lesson he taught.

One of his monks, a young novice with great energy and strong opinions, came to him complaining about the lack of uniformity in the way that the brothers and sisters of the monastery prayed on their own.  Some would pray the rosary, another would pray the Prayer of the Heart, and still others would pray the Divine Office in their cells with prayers that varying according to each monk’s individual preference.

“Father Abbot,” said the young novice, “how can we all be brothers and sisters in this monastery if we are all praying to God differently on our own?  You should make everyone pray the same way so that we are ‘all one’ as Jesus commanded.”

Knowing the novice’s heart, the Abbot led the young man down to the spring out in the abbey grounds the flowed out of one of the grassy hills.  So as to refresh themselves during the day and make drinking the water easier, the monks had fashioned a stone basin under the spring that would collect the water and allow multiple monks to drink at one time.

As the Abbot walked through the kitchens, he beckoned to the monk who was working the ovens, and invited him to come and drink water from the spring with them, for he saw that the monk was hot and tired from preparing and cooking the food.  On the way to the spring, the Abbot beckoned to one of the monks working in the garden and invited him to come and drink as well, for he saw that the monk was hot and tired from his labors in the field.

The Abbot stood back and let the three brothers drink.   The young novice, proud of himself for thinking ahead, used a cup that he had picked up from the kitchen to dip into the spring and drink.  The monk from the kitchen took a ladle that he had and dipped it into the water to drink.  The monk from the field simply cupped his hands to raise the cool water to his mouth.  The young novice drank in small, quiet sips, as he knew who befit a monk.  The monk from the kitchen, gulped  the water from the ladle to quench his thirst.  The monk from the gardens slurped loudly as he drank the water from his hands.

The novice was appalled by their lack of poise and the noise they made as they drank.  After another sip from his cup, he could stand it no more and dumped out his water in frustration.  Turning to the Abbot he said, “Father Abbot, it is impossible for me to drink from here with these two brothers drinking the water the way they are!  I cannot drink this water if they do not drink like me.”

Gently, the Abbot asked the novice, “Are they drinking all the water so that you cannot draw any with your cup?”

“Of course not, Father Abbot,” he replied.

“Are these two brothers preventing you from getting to the spring, then, so that you cannot dip your cup in the water?”

“Of course not, Father Abbot.  There is plenty of room here for us all to get water.”

“Then how is it,” continued the Abbot, “if there is plenty of water for all, and plenty of room for everyone to get to the water, that these two brothers are actually stopping you from drinking the water if you in fact really want to drink it?”

In that moment, the young novice saw that it was pride, a need for control, and judgment of others that comes from fear and personal insecurity which stopped him from drinking the water.  The other two monks had done nothing to stop him at all.  Freed of these sins, he dipped his cup into the basin, and drank deeply, enjoying the sweet water.

Thereafter, the Abbot was pleased to see that the novice prayed on his own, never again criticizing the prayers of other brothers and sisters, and even eventually was seen praying in new ways that he had observed from others.

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