Sunday, July 5, 2015

Hometowns


Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. Mark 6:1-13

I have always considered Cape May Point, New Jersey to be my hometown. My parents owned a house there since before I was born and family gatherings always happened there. Being a clergy kid, we lived in the manse, or rectory, but we knew it wasn't ours. Cape May Point is home. Yesterday, for the first time in 45 plus years the local bicycle parade did not end at our house for kool-aid and cookies. The fire department has taken it on, along with the town, and yesterday they remembered my mother (and dad) who so faithfully and joyfully welcomed all to our front lawn. I have been there for many of the 45 plus years and often preached at St. Peter's by the Sea the following Sunday with this passage from Mark about honor and hometowns. I am so blessed to come from a place where people are honored, loved and respected. Many thanks to my hometown for the love and appreciation.

Jesus comes home and they know him so well, they do not see how things have changed. Nor do they see how the little boy who grew up a carpenter's son and then an apprentice at his father's side, could take the pulpit, read with understanding and be capable of such miracles and love. It is sometimes hard for us to see the full capacity of our former playmates. We are invited to go forth, trusting that God will find us welcome in places other than our hometowns, God will pave away forward, even when we nostalgically ache for an old sense of ourselves. We are always being urged on, as Jesus was, to heal and get beyond our old understandings, our old hometown comforts. We are invited to love beyond our understanding and comfort.

Today I thank God for the blessings and love of my hometown. May we honor the places of our origins by going forward in love, seeking to serve God in all people. May we make welcome those who are on a journey, those who are homeless and those who have no place to come from - today.




 God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Historic and Anxious Times




As they led Jesus away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us'; and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" Luke 23:26-31 


Today is the last day of an historic General Convention. Many people are reveling in the gains we have made - electing the first African American Presiding Bishop - among many steps forward. It is easy for some to gloat and be righteous, when they feel liked they have won. But as we know, life is much more complicated and good feeling can turn to hurt and anger quite quickly. For.my family, the 4th of July was always a grand celebration. My parents had hosted a bicycle parade for more than forty five years. Long after my father passed, my mother joyfully kept the tradition going. Since my mother passed during Holy Week this year, the parade will continue but it will no longer be a celebration for our family. Life changes, our perspectives change, and wins can turn into losses. Only our faith in God and love for each other can get us through in times of great change and tumult..
Jesus, beloved and heralded, was being led to the cross. The tides of hate and fear had risen quite quickly. These were days of sudden change and great tumult. Love can shake greed and selfish motives to their core. We humans can turn on each other ever so quickly. The good news we live with today and always, is that God's love is supreme, despite all the envy, cruelty and selfishness, God's love will resurrect the dead, heal the broken, and restore right relations in this world and the next.
Today, as General Convention of the Episcopal Church comes to a close, I pray for a spirit of kindness and gentleness to continue. I ask that God protect us from our baser selves. May we be humbled as we go from this place with such hope, knowing our future is firmly in the hands of God.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

What Evil Has He Done?

Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished. Luke 23:13-25 

I truly love being at General Convention with the gathered Episcopal Church. These are dramatic and  historic times, with many positive things are going on here. It's exhausting but often terribly encouraging. And sadly, sometimes we are very human in our behavior, one minute lauding our leaders and the next minute ready to crucify them. Too many are in a grab for power or control that they would destroy the living church we have fought so hard for.  Some would limit the power of our new Presiding Bishop and cripple his ability to lead.
In our Gospel we stand in the middle of dramatic and historic times. Days earlier the crowds had welcomed Jesus and now they are shouting to have him killed. New pacts of political allies are being made. The worst of humanity is showing its teeth. The good news of our Gospel story is that there is more. Those who would grab for power and control, or give into the crowd's frenzy, will be defeated. Evil will not prevail. God's love and blessing will conquer even death. We have to cling to that promise that there is more than our cruelest and basest behaviors at work. God is still working.
Today, I ask God to help me be a instrument of hope when overwhelmed by politics and humanity. May we all raise our prayers and humble ourselves so as to not be swept up in the now. May we prepare our hearts for the rest of the story. God's love and truth shining through.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Stirring Up the People

Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, "We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king." Then Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" He answered, "You say so." Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no basis for an accusation against this man." But they were insistent and said, "He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place." When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies. Luke 23:1-12 

Stirring Up the People
There are but a few of us
former outcasts, refugees, slaves
we have walked the trail of tears
and fought to keep family alive.

There a but a few of us
but we will stir up the people
to never give up hope
to see God's power in our midst.

The church may not know it's need of us
we may be exhausted by the struggle
and yet there is Jesus dwelling with us
stirring up the people for justice and freedom.

There may be but a few of us
but we carry our burden with joy
remembering the voiceless ancestors 
the one's abandoned and shunned.

There may be a few of us
but we will continue to stir up the people
we will join together so that all may be free
to live and lead and serve our precious Lord.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Heaping Insults



Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, "Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?" They kept heaping many other insults on him. When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, "If you are the Messiah, tell us." He replied, "If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." All of them asked, "Are you, then, the Son of God?" He said to them, "You say that I am." Then they said, "What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!" Luke 22:63-71 

There are part of General Convention I love and parts I do not. When we deliberate issues, and there is a minority opinion, people can often be unnecessarily unkind. There is a victorious righteousness that can creep in, and move people for thoughtful Christians to cruel beasts. Gloating and the like have no place in prayerful deliberations. I often sit and pray while we are debating, that God will find a way to touch our hearts with compassion, rather than bravado, which seems so evident.
The soldiers are having a field day with Jesus. They have been given permission to abuse him and they are reveling in their short term authority. It is human nature for the smallness of our hearts to come out when given permission. We either strike out in fear or run away. The soldiers were safe in their mocking as they had the upper hand for a moment. Jesus went to the cross for them as well. He went for the petty as well as the kind and faithful. We have an invitation to be more than our base humanity today.
Today I ask God to help me hold those I disagree with, those who would harm me and those who find themselves in the minority in prayer. May we understand our baser urges and faithfully invite Christ into every one of our moments. May we have compassion on those who are broken by life and lend a hadn to lift them up.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Feed My Sheep


When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me." John 21:15-19

Feed My Sheep

They are always in need of a shepherd
always getting lost, always stumbling
climbing the mesa sharp ridge
we must risk it all to bring them home.

They will always be in need of direction
on the dusty roads linking small towns
on the reeking inner city streets and croners
we must offer all we have to bring them home.

They will always be in need of a shepherd
when we are locked away under house arrest
others will have to lead them out to pasture
others will have to lead them to God's love.

We will always need shepherds to guide the faint
always need apostles and witnesses to God's love
always needing missionaries to go into the darkness
bringing the lost and misguided back to God's arms.


 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Healing Touch

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." He went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, `Who touched me?'" He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. Mark 5:21-43

Yesterday was a day of tremendous healing for our church. I had the rare privilege of participating in the election of our next presiding Bishop. Michael Curry was elected on the first ballot by overwhelming numbers. It was not what some of us expected but our joy was uncontrollable. A church which has had a history of saying one thing and doing another, yesterday made a bold statement. The church, which has often sided with the wealthy, privileged and white, is now choosing to be lead by an African American, a man of God, a true faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Miracles are breaking out all over.

Jesus was aware of the pain and hurt around him. He stopped to heal a woman in the crowd and reassure her of her faith. He went with the father, who was terrified for his child, and even in the face of death pressed on. We are invited by Jesus today to see God's grace as always around us, always moving towards us, always pressing on. We might be disappointed in the timing, but we are not to lose hope. God is pressing on, through the crowds of life and the obstacles and naysayers in the way. The arc of God's justice and love is steady, sure and always moving.

Today I am just so grateful to have lived this far. There are not many words to process what we have experienced. So, let us take time to be thankful for God's love and justice made visible in our midst. May we be agents of God's healing and love in the days to come.

 

 

 

Collect

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.