Luke 10:38-42 Sermon on living our faith versus being a Martha Martha.

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But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto you O Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, AMEN

Martha, Martha – poor frenetic, crazed Martha. Running all around the room as Jesus arrived. Instead of sitting and quietly listening to him as Mary and the others did, she had to be the perfect host. Focusing on silliness instead of the holy moment that was happening. And then she tries to pin the blame on poor Mary whose sitting there IN the moment. Does this scene sound familiar to anyone?

This is one of my favorite Gospel Readings because every time I read it, I can’t help but laugh ay myself and chide myself a bit over my earthly foolishness. We all know this story and I believe each of us here gathered this morning can relate to it. How many times have you caught yourself caught up on a frenetic journey to complete 20 things at once? To start the day with a ridiculously long list of to-do’s that only ends up frustrating you because its impossible to check them all off in a normal day. How often have you found yourself awake half the night unable to sleep because your thinking of the endless list of things you need to do the next day. Or when you “think” you’re in a moment of prayer, find yourself unable to stay focused, your mind thinking of every person you know and their struggles, wishing and hoping you’ve captured everyone of them, like that’s what God’s looking for from you; that you’ve checked everything on the list off in order and completed your task of prayer?

Well I’ve caught myself experiencing each and every one of these examples over the past week. I found myself sitting drilling through a list of things to do here, and at home, getting mad at myself for not working faster, smarter. I found myself awake one night tossing and turning, with an endless list of “stuff” rolling through my head. I found myself kneeling before this altar in prayer with my mind racing, unable to clear it and focus my prayer on thanksgiving, instead rehashing the list of people to pray for again and again, fretting about leaving someone or something out, then getting mad at myself after because I forgot to say thank you to God instead of simply asking him for a thousand requests.

And then, as I sat towards the end of the week to begin to write this sermon, and I saw the gospel lesson – and I had to yet again laugh at myself for even daring to believe that any of this is what God is expecting from me.

We, corporately as God’s created in this small world are yet again reeling from another senseless tragedy, situated again in France. 84 as of Friday dead, killed in another attack by a deranged person with some false sense of a foolish earthly mission in his head. This, followed by a political coup in Turkey which has left another 160 plus dead. And we find ourselves yet again wondering why, why does this stuff keep happening around us?

Luke’s gospel this morning, and in fact ALL the lessons when you look back at them and read them deeper, have a message for us. Just as last weeks gospel did, and all of Luke’s gospel as we’ve journeyed through it. A message that continually espouses us to not remained focused on the earthly, but focused on the holy, focused on God, and faith, and what is truly important. To not as Jesus cautioned Martha in this mornings lesson, be worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”

It’s too easy to be distracted by this world, the earthly with its list of endless things to do. We are inundated with societies demands to have all that we can get, that it’s never enough, there’s always the next generation of smartphone, there’s always the bigger house to buy, a newer TV to get. And we find ourselves on an endless treadmill, driving ourselves to work harder to pay the mounting bills that come after the mounting pile of material things appears. Our media inundates us with subliminal messages that we aren’t good enough, we aren’t successful enough if we don’t have the latest and the best. And instead of us focusing on relationships and faith, we find ourselves swallowed up in the earthly things. And then inevitably what happens, is that we find we have less space for the one thing, our faith and for God to be present in our lives.

We see it in our very existence as church today, as we sit here and look around and realize how many people are NOT here this morning to gather in faith. We experience it as a community when we realize there isn’t enough money to pay the monthly bills for the church, because our pledging isn’t enough to support our work here. And we witness it sadly, when our ministries, our very gospel call – to go and seek and serve others in the world is diminished, when we can’t find enough volunteers to sign up for feeding programs, for visiting our neighbors once a month, or for something as simple as coffee hour to encourage fellowship and relationship building. Have we grown over the past year? Most definitely. Have we accomplished many things? Absolutely. But are we living fully into our call as messengers of the Gospel? Perhaps not as fully as we should. The one thing, the call to us as Christians to gather together, to support and to do the work we’re called to do is being flooded by the earthly the many things.

This is the world, as Jesus reminded those gathered around him, that really only needs one thing. And the sad thing is we already have it; God’s endless and abiding love. Something we, and I mean the greater world, not just us here this morning, simply can’t for some reason seem to share with those around us.

We in this world, particularly as Christians today, MUST continue to live our lives as examples for others to witness if we are to affect any change in the world around us. We most certainly can’t let our media and our politicians be the example can we? And when we do this, we cannot get discouraged and left feeling that it is of no use. That all that we are seeking to do is of no avail and give up. The only way this world is going to change is when people begin to see how a life should be lived. That there is the promise of new life and a new way of living found in Christ and that his message is as important today as it was when he preached it.

And that message of hope, that example of living, that mission cannot be seen by others in the world around us if we do not seek to purposefully seek to be in relationship with others. That means we’re challenged with being more than the one-day Christian. It’s more than simply coming here on Sunday and then returning to the world as we were. It’s returning to the world changed from being here, committed and emboldened to actively engage the world. By seeing our call, our stewardship to be something we live daily, not simply once a week. And we do that by creating new relationships and deepening our existing ones. We change the world, one encounter at a time, one person at a time. We invite our friends, or family, our neighbors to come here to experience what we do when we gather. We invite them to share in our ministries outside these walls to help others. We offer the invitation to them to be carriers of God’s message of hope for the world, engaging in mission far away and invite them to be changed by it.

Our Collect this morning, and I encourage you to read it and re-read it, reminds us that God is there, patient and always present to guide and protect us. We don’t need to have the endless list of requests in our prayers, he knows them already. What he seeks is for us to grow closer to him and to invite him in, and then to go and share that love with everyone we encounter. Whether the happiest of neighbors, the grumpiest of store clerks or co-workers, or to bring that love where it is most needed, the hopelessness of the homeless – we are called to be there in all those places.

Moses, in our Old Testament reading experienced being human, being frail and being uncertain of his call when he asked “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.” And God responded. God never left his side, despite the many things that worried and distracted him.

It’s not easy, but it can be done. We may feel that we’re using a bucket to hold back an ocean. We’ll face endless days of feeling inadequate against the tremendous need of the world. But we are equipped to do the work, our very baptismal call, by our faith. God is with us always and eternally. And as Paul reminds, provided that we continue, securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that we’ve heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven we can say “I, fill in the blank, became a servant of this gospel.

Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle? Who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right

Whoever speaks the truth from their heart.

There is no guile upon their tongue;

They does no evil to their friend;

They do not heap contempt upon their neighbor.

In their sight the wicked is rejected, but they honor those who fear the Lord.

They has sworn to do no wrong.

Whoever does these things shall never be overthrown.

Don’t be another Martha. Don’t focus your living on the earthly. Get involved in your faith, and get involved in the world. Keep your focus on the one thing, and great things will happen.

And when we do so, when we begin to live out our faith deeper, this parish Trinity will be a voice of hope in the world for all to hear, a light to enlighten the world.

Amen.

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Sermon on Luke – Baptism and Life in our world

Luke 10:25-37 – Jacob Baptism

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

Our gospel lesson this morning – and there’s a reason we call them lessons, has Jesus exposing the hypocrisy of society then and now around racism. Of how people treat each other when the “other” is someone different than us and how we fail to be neighbor. Despite our gospel lessons being thousands of years old, it becomes quite clear when we look at the issues facing us to day that they still have something to teach us. That all these years later we still struggle with being neighbor to those different from us, whether it’s race, nationality, class or religion. We let our fear control our lives and the love we’re called to share.

Jesus tells us in story about three people witnessing an uncomfortable event. A man lies beaten, naked, and left for dead on the side of the road. Then a priest comes down the road. The expectation culturally in hearing this story is relief: “Surely help is on the way now.” Luke’s statement that the priest appeared “by chance” suggests a note of hope, that fortune has smiled on this poor wounded man. But the priest does not stop. Rather, he passes to the other side and keeps going. The priest gets as far away as possible from the wounded man as he passes by.

Then a Levite, another potential source of aid, then arrives on the scene. As a person who serves in the temple, he should surely have compassion and stop to render aid. But when he sees the man, he also crosses to the other side of the road and keeps on moving. So two men of similar Jewish background have failed to render aid. They have failed to be neighbors.

But then another traveler comes on the scene. In Greek the text highlights this man’s arrival by placing his ethnic identity, a Samaritan, at the front of the description. Those hearing Jesus tell this story must have thought, “There will be no help from this outsider, this half-breed.” But as often happens in Jesus’ parables, there’s a twist on cultural expectations shows the story’s main point: the despised person will be the model of neighborliness. Maybe “enemies” can love God and be examples.

Jesus focuses his language now. In as many words as he used to describe the activity of the two Jewish leaders, he details all the Samaritan does to save the man–six actions in all. He comes up to the man, binds his wounds, anoints him with oil to comfort him, loads him on his mule, takes him to an inn and cares for him, even paying for his whole stay. A there to the innkeeper he says, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’

This lesson offers us an example of how to live in the world. How to be the neighbor to others. Not shrinking from diversity and difference, but embracing it and loving it. Not looking at the other with eyes of critique and concern, but love and compassion. Not with our heads down in denial, but looking forward facing that needing change in the world. To, as our collect this morning reminds us, “know and understand what things we ought to do, and also have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them.”

If ever there was a time to have a lesson touch our hearts it’s this morning, as we come to grips with what has happened over these past days and as we soon stand together in support of young Jacob being presented to receive the sacrament of Baptism.

I stand here truthfully challenged this morning. Today we gather together to baptize a new member of the household of God. And yet, this morning’s celebration is layered on top of a weekend of tragedy on many fronts. We gather here five days after Alton Sterling was killed in Louisiana, four days after Philando Castile was killed in Minnesota, and thee short days after five police officers were killed in Dallas. How ironic that after all this happens, this morning’s lesson is another reminder about love. Love with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. A reminder of the call to love our neighbor as ourselves. Now perhaps more than ever is the call of Christ’s call of love so needed in our broken and violent world.

Many here this morning, have heard me preach frequently on a challenge we face as Christians living in this world today. That we stand on two feet, one planted in the earthly world and one in the Holy, just as Jesus did thousands of years ago. And that this straddling of two worlds can be incredibly complex and challenging. This is the life that young Jacob is called into, through his baptism, just as we… through our call as witnesses to this event, are reminded of our charge.

Straddling these two worlds is not easy, but it’s our call as Christians, and our call this morning to teach Jacob how to handle it also. Over the years, I’ve discovered that I not only deal with this challenge of dual living, as do we all, but I often feel split apart even further by the multiple worlds I’ve had to coexist in. I have to rest in an understanding that while I’m part of a group that over the years has been diminished, I come with a suitcase pack full of privilege as a white, successful male, with endless access to the best education, career advancement and a relatively easy life, well off compared to many around me. Opportunities that many will never see.

As a former police officer, I was part of group both hated and admired. Issues like these recent events force me to remember that past life and the complexities of having lived it. I grew up, perhaps like most of you, in a world where police were seen as the “good guys.” That they were here to protect and serve the public good. A perhaps somewhat simplistic understanding of an incredibly complex role. But I quickly grew to understand those realities, serving in a role that more often than not positioned me in a place of being the bad guy, even when attempting to help others. I quickly learned that it was a life of working in stressful and often dangerous situations, requiring that I make split second decisions to assess threat levels. I quickly saw that, despite the fact that the majority of my fellow officers were trying to do the right thing and follow their vocations to serve and help others, there were always the few bad apples that made the job even more difficult and more challenging. The ones who still today cast a dark shadow over an entire group of people.

And as a priest today, I find it incredibly difficult at times to exist in the earthly, knowing that my call, my vocation is to guide people and help them find a way to live into holy living. An incredibly challenging task in today’s world with its divisiveness, its corrosive media, and the non-stop attention seeking pull that distracts our attention from the work God seeks us to do.

I as all of us here this morning straddle these multiple worlds as we try to walk in this earthly world. And the challenge we face on a day-to-day basis is the decision-making moment. Do we continue on with our head down, plowing through life, or do we live it… and do we lift our eyes towards this earthly world with the vision of the Holy and seek to change the world. DO we lean with all our might and purpose on the foot that stands on Holy ground, Are we an example for others to see of the kingdom of God here in this world?

We don’t yet fully know what precipitated the events leading to the death of Alton Sterling. The media will certainly do a great job showing us two slanted sides of the story. We don’t know why Philando Castile who was stopped for something as minor a broken taillight was shot and killed in front of his girlfriend and seven-year old daughter who were watching beside him in the car. And sadly we know that the five officers in Dallas died doing their duty in Dallas. Protecting a group of protesters, protesting these recent deaths. We know that it was a peaceful protest, and that the officers there were from all accounts models of what a police department should look like. There were in fact countless selfie photos posted of protesters and officers standing together with smiles on their faces. These officers died, protecting those who were protesting police violence, but these officers were not violent. They died, doing their duty. Shot not the peaceful protesters on the streets but by snipers. What we do know this morning, is that seven more people are dead because of gun violence.

It’s in aftermath of events like this that we turn even more to God for answers and comfort. And it’s in prayer and in the stories of our faith, like those we hear this morning in our gospel where we find ways to cope and learn. We see and hear stories of people who like us have survived tragedy and overcome challenges. And more importantly… we find example after example of how we should be living as God’s created in the first place, in relationships of love and compassion, rather than violence and fear.

Jesus reminds us time and time again that violence begets violence; that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. And it’s in scripture where we are reminded to not be afraid. To not be controlled by fear, which only make things worse and creates division and blame. In our divided culture today, fed by the ongoing bias of our media, it’s easy for us to immediately try to find someone to blame. It’s easy to vilify a person or a whole group of people when we live in fear. We only have to look at the division that exist in this world around race, social class and sadly religion of all things to know that the world is broken. And we feel helpless and threatened. But Jesus knew better. As God incarnate, he knows the nature of mankind. He knows that we are all a mix of good and bad, that we all have our strengths and our weaknesses.  He knew that in our human frailty, fear makes it much easier to hate rather than love. That is why he tells us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. He has hope for us and endless confidence in us.

In a moment, we will soon recite our baptismal covenant together. We respond individually and corporately as a community to promise to do all in our power to support Jacob in his life in Christ and promise… as we have many times before to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves and to strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being. Not mere empty words to recite by heart, but words meant to guide and continually open our hearts. Words meant to remind us of our place as Christians in the world around us, and a reminder for us all to live a live well lived as an example for Jacob to follow. He will not succeed in this world without our support, our love and our commitment to guide him in his faith as he grows.

And to do this, we pray. We come to worship on Sundays. We seek to teach him in the years to come through Christian education. And most importantly, we ask God to receive the prayers of his people who call upon him, and as our Baptismal response reminds us, we lean into the holy knowing “with God’s help” we will succeed.

We turn to God to replace hate with love, to replace anger with peace, and we find the strength to stand with those who need us to stand with. It’s this model of living that we are all called to emulate for Jacob to see.

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” Jesus asked the lawyer. “The one who showed him mercy he replied.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

 

A reminder of our charge today, and the call to Jacob as he matures into adulthood. Go… Go and do likewise. Amen.

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Luke 7:1-10 Sermon post mission trip

Luke 7:1-10

In the chapters of Luke prior to this chapter and after we hear an ongoing set of teachings and miracles of Jesus, all leading to the answer of one question; What is faith? All of them have to do with the presence or absence of faith. How do we recognize it, how do we live into it, how do we express it? Faith involves humility, gratitude and service. Faith has no gender or racial bias. It denies or refuses no one. Jesus in his ministry shows that he comes for all people.

In this mornings reading, we hear the story of the centurion in Capernum. A man of power and of position, part of an empire of oppression. A man to be wary and fearful of.

He’s noted in Luke’s gospel as not being Roman, but as a gentile. A man who supports the synagogue of the town for the Jewish people, endearing himself to them to the point that when his favored slave falls ill, the elders of the town quickly respond to his request to go ask the healer he has heard about, Jesus, to come to his aid.

The centurion has heard about Jesus and his miracle-working power. So he sends Jewish elders on his behalf. The action is culturally sensitive: not knowing Jesus personally and recognizing that he is of Jewish heritage, the soldier sends representatives of Jesus’ own ethnic background to plead his case. This man had won the respect of people across ethnic and religious lines. There is no demand made, only a request. And they earnestly do so.

This story is fascinating in many respects. First, that the elders of a town under Roman occupation would find compassion for a soldier living in their midst. Secondly, that as Jesus approached the man’s house, he encounters a second group of people sent by the soldier. People, who say to Jesus don’t bother. Delivering the soldiers message of, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority.”

Words of humility gratitude and service, that shows Jesus this man’s deep faith in him.

When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” One of the rare gospel accounts where Jesus’ reaction is recorded, and even rarer, when someone receives a clear commendation from Jesus. When this happens, it is an occasion for reflection.

The powerful and poignant testimony of this gospel reading and of the centurion provides us an opportunity to reflect on our faith. An opportunity to show us that people in very different places and with very different backgrounds have heard Jesus’ message and appreciate it. That the example of Jesus in his life and ministry isn’t simply something for us as Christians to think we own, or have access to. That God’s actions in the world through his son are for all people to see. The emphasis in this mornings gospel makes this miracle different from the earlier miracle accounts in Luke. The miracle itself is not the focus, rather, the stress is on the attitude and faith of the person seeking the healing. Luke takes the attention from Jesus’ miraculous work and subtly shifts it to the centurion as a person and his response to the man’s actions.

Jesus’ statement, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” is like the dawn of a new light on the people gathered around him. Here is an eample of faith that should be emulated. Here is trust, confidence, and belief in the authority of God. The Jewish people have something to learn from this outsider. In an awareness and understanding that Jesus’ authority truly comes from God, the centurion has committed the well-being of his beloved slave into Jesus’ hands. In our gospel reading next week, this dawning of faith is affirmed again as Jesus visits yet another small village, Nain, raising from the dead the son of a widow in front of the villagers, fear seizing all of them because of their witnessing his power. And they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” When the crowd fears and recognizes Jesus as a great prophet, they aren’t wrong; their understanding of Jesus’ true nature is merely incomplete. With todays lesson and next weeks, Luke is steadily building his portrait of the true complex nature of Jesus. God is visiting his people. Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. He affirmed what John the Baptist foretold was going to happen. His ministry was filled with evidence of God’s presence.

It’s in this understanding of God’s never ending presence that I come back from a week of mission in the Dominican Republic, humbled and awed once again with what I experienced. Some of you have perhaps been on mission trips in the past going where you see the grinding poverty and the human misery others endure as part of their daily life. Like my experience, you may have experienced the irony of staying in a comfortable air conditioned western style hotel with a tasty breakfast buffet for the visitors from America, while a few miles away there is nothing but poverty, cement block shacks and hunger, wrapped in oppressive heat and humidity. We rode, like you may have you ridden, in an air-conditioned van, past and through miles of trash and deep poverty to arrive at our destination where we worked for what seemed for us a long day, but in reality only a taste of the life those we served lived. I prayed over what a complete game of chance it was that I was born where I was to be born, and not in one of the hot poor small homes we visited to see people who couldn’t leave their homes.

And yet on Sunday, we worshipped together in a simple cinder block church, our differences, our worlds one, bound in faith and love. God truly was there in every moment.

We didn’t perform any miracles, we certainly didn’t raise anyone from the dead, but we were there present. Acting as Christ’s hands and feet in a world vastly different from ours. Being present as active servants called to do what we could. From a one month old to a one hundred year old, we met people where they were and for a few moments nothing else mattered. We were there fully present and connected. Healing and nurturing through faith, much more than medicine and science.

One of the traps we have to quickly get past is the assumption that we are there to fix something. And that’s not what mission is about. Mission takes place in the everyday and ordinary. God’s mission happened in the silliest of moments, in places of laughter as well as moments of quiet and tears. Mission happened and happens everywhere. It is local and global – It involves our worship here at Trinity and the message we leave here with to share with others, as well as our outreach and love to neighbor both locally and abroad. It is what will grow our community as people see us living our faith out in the open in the world they live in. Not sheltered away in a building unseen. Mission is our giving witness to who Jesus is, not only through the proclamation of what we believe, but also in living it out in our daily actions; actions of loving God and loving others.

A missioner who’s name escapes me once wrote, “Part of what it means to live faithfully as God’s people is to live as someone sent out into the world, in ministry to the world. But mission is not something we do for God. It is not something we initiate and then invite God to participate in. Mission is what God is already actively in, and at work in, in our world. The mission of God is something that we participate in on a daily basis. As we go about our lives at home, at work, at play, on the weekend and in the community of God’s people; our witness together grounds us as witnesses in the story and the practice of God’s mission.”

By nature of our baptism and our faith, we are all missioners. One who is “sent on a mission.” Being witness, being actively present with and listening to other in their lives, in their context is what being Christian is about. Through our faith in God’s action in the world comes compassion and love of others. Its there at the intersection of it all that miracles happen; the miracle of relationship and love. And where we live into Christ’s command to love God, love others and love ourselves.

When Jesus asked his disciples to follow him, when he asked them to lay down their lives and then sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom he was asking them to give witness to himself. And if we here, called by God to spread his kingdom of hope to the world around us wish to grow and invite others to grow with us, we must take seriously the words of Jesus to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. We must begin the process of mapping out what mission is here at Trinity and what it means for our community and our faith. To have the opportunities present for people to come, to engage their faith and their call to help others in humility gratitude and service to God.

Mission touches the heart of our faith and the heart of God. What better example are we called to share with others as we model the ministry of Christ in the world that to do just that; walk in the word. Amen

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Baptism sermon – Pentecost 2016

Baptism

Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each…

Our first lesson from Acts, or the Acts of the Apostles as written by Luke, is considered the “fifth” book of the bible, written a generation after Jesus’ ministry. It’s written as a “continuation” of the story, taking up where the Gospel of Luke left off in the story of Christianity. Written as an attempt to answer a theological problem; namely how is it that Jesus, the Messiah of the Jews, came to have created an overwhelmingly non-Jewish church. It was not write in order to provide historical justification – in other words “did it happen?,” but to encourage faith; “what happened, and what does it all mean?

The writer engages with the question of a Christian’s proper relationship with power, at the time the Roman Empire, the civil power of the day: could a Christian obey God and also Caesar? It’s an interesting question for us today, with the political division and strife going on as we head towards election day. How do we as Christians exist in relationship the challenges of political posturing and the negative commentary espousing the alienation of whole groups of people? Do we follow the whims of the times, do we ignore it, or do we stand for something different, something more important; the need for hope that comes from faith and trust in God. What guides us in our journey?

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the arrival of the Holy Spirit. As promised by Jesus before his death and ascension, the Advocate, the guide, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sent in his name, arrives in this morning’s lesson. And true to Jesus’ statement, it arrives. Teaching and reminding the disciples of all that he had said to them, fulfilling scripture of old. It’s arrival heralded with a rush of wind and those gathered suddenly speaking in unfamiliar tongues, in all the languages of the word. So startling an event that crowds gathered around them, astonished and amazed at hearing their own language. Something familiar and comfortable heard in the foreign land they were in. An event so unusual that their first assumption was that they were watching a bunch of drunk people making a spectacle of themselves. But Peter reminds the crowd, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. They aren’t drunk!

I’m a big believer in the Holy Spirit. To me, it’s a whimsical almost magical presence, always guiding, sometimes tempting and teasing. A Holy Instigator, most always leading to moments of amazing grace. I believe being playful is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And in a nod to the inclusive and open nature of my theological training at Episcopal Divinity School I’m one of those people that more time than not refers to the Holy Spirit in the female pronoun of “She.” She has been quite active in my life and especially my call to ordination and never ceases to amaze me here in this special place Trinity Stoughton. I’ve commented to colleagues more times than I can remember that this place is filled with examples of the Holy Spirit in action. In our growth, in attendance and pledging. In the gift of our music program as it continues to grow. In the excitement of mission and outreach as we continue to build programs with meaning for our parishioners to participate in. Each in their own way impacted and formed by the work of the Holy Spirit and those who are open to her guidance.

It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that empowers us to work for the recreation of this parish, but also the world. For healing relationships and the growing of God’s all inclusive kingdom here. She brings us to new places, places where in our faith we find the words, in our language or in one we don’t yet recognize to connect with others. She helps us to lose our shyness in speaking with others, speaking their language – about the needs and cares they have, and the way in which they can be met with the love of God. To be the voice for hope and love, a voice need in this world: a world that needs to hear about reconciliation, about mending hearts and souls. A world yearning to hear of the healing joy of the spirit, joy that leads to true love and friendship.

This joy is the joy of the good news of the love of God in Christ: this is the language we are called to speak, using our imagination and vision, and dreaming, to find the words and deeds which will tell this good news. And all the while, the Holy Spirit is clearing the way for us to do a new thing, to speak a new truth, to change and be changed, and to be free from fear to speak these words. The fear Jesus recognized in the disciples when he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Today we celebrate one of my favorite moments in ministry, the rite of Baptism. And what makes this morning particularly special is the baptism of Rose Tinsley Davis comes two months after the baptism of her father Steven. In years to come they will share a unique bond, experiencing this rite so close together. Sharing as our book of common prayer describes it, the “full initiation” of a person, by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church.

In some ways, this way of thinking challenges our understanding of what initiation is and what it is that membership means. In years past, initiation was thought of as the end of a persons understanding and training in faith. That, as we matured and as we “learned” about church, we reached a point where it was celebrated in the act of confirmation. We had arrived in our faith journey. Our 1979 Book of Common Prayer shook that concept up a bit. It instead places all the emphasis on Baptism. Baptism is front and center as the mark of our faith and sets the stage for all that comes later in our life. It’s all we really need, this marking of ourselves as Christians. And while Confirmation is still celebrated as a mark of passage as an adult into the church community, for me, baptism is what it’s all about. Something eternal and everlasting, like the mark of the chrism on our forehead, it remains with us forever, helping us to recognize the Spirit’s presence deep within our lives.

In a few moments as our baptismal hymn reminds us we will be invoking the Holy Spirit, the advocate, the teacher to come; “Veni Santus Spiritus, Come Holy Spirit, from heaven shine forth with your glorious light. Come from the four wind’s O Spirit, come breath of God; disperse the shadows over us, renew and strengthen your people.” Words of incredible beauty and meaning as we call for the Holy Spirit to come and bless Rose and shine on her in baptism.

One of the beauties of our church is the understanding that Baptism is a communal event. It’s meant to be done as one of the central acts of our principle service of worship on Sunday. And there’s a reason for that. In this service we who gather this morning for this celebration are called to renew our baptismal vows also. Each time we celebrate a baptism we do so, over and over and over again. Our initiation, and that of Roses, in the years to come in her life is a process that never really ends. We’re constantly formed, informed and reformed by each and every person we meet through our journey in life. We are God’s holy people, created and formed in his image and called to be in relationship with one another. And it’s in moments like these, celebrations of baptism, of marriage, of death, that we gather in the strength of our faith.

When you look at our readings this morning have one theme in common, a call to relationship. And in the call to be in relationship is the idea, the gift given to us by the Holy Spirit of being playful and creative. We miss out when we think the word Church is limited to a building. We miss out on the importance of relationship when we are too serious. Pentecost reminds us that church is a body of people working to be in relationship with one another, building a relationship with God, and manifesting God’s love in the world. And Church is at its best when the people are diverse, creative, invigorated, prayerful, supportive of one another and a little wild and playful, just for the fun of it. Acting in love, in fun, filled with the hope of the holy spirit.

The greatest gift we’re given from our Triune God is the three part gift of hope. Hope of an endless deep abiding love for his created from the Father, Hope of eternal life from his Son our Lord, and perhaps for some like me, the hope of lifelong guidance offered by the Holy Spirit.

And that’s the hope we have for Rose. That by being guided by the Holy Spirit she may someday shed abroad her gifts throughout the world, by the preaching the Gospel that it may reach to the ends of the earth. That she may one day prophecy and see visions, and not only dream dreams, but share those dreams for a new world, to those hungry for a message of hope, love and promise. And that she many one day say to someone in need “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Offering the gift of her presence in their lives, daring to be the person destined to show God’s kingdom on earth through her actions and love.

So with that hope in mind, let us celebrate our faith and invoke the Holy Spirit to rest in this special place on this great and glorious day. To God be all glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

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A sermon on Mission

mission
Sermon on mission for First United Methodist Church – April 17, 2016

Good Morning,

I’m Father Harry Walton, the priest-in-charge at Trinity Episcopal Church on Sumner Street in Stoughton. I’m thrilled to be here with you this morning and for the opportunity to offer some words and thoughts on the upcoming medical mission trip this May, which Rev. Rebecca and Arielle Tomlinson will be participating in.

I’ve been part of this mission team now for a little of seven years, and despite the sameness that exists, the basic functioning of the team and the clinic we run, I’ve experienced seven unique experiences, seven instances of standing on holy ground. Witnessing and experiencing encounters that have forever shaped my understanding of what it means to truly reach out to the other. I’ve come away from these experiences truly living into Christ’s great Maundy, his great commandment; to “love God, with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind; and to love my neighbor as myself.”

The trip we soon embark on is an eight-day medical mission trip in the Dominican Republic, a trip sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese in South Carolina, but one, which reaches out around the United States. Our team is comprised of members not only from South Carolina, but also here in Massachusetts, Tennessee and Florida. We gather, strangers and friends to spend a week living in relationship with people who are in desperate need of medical care, people living without clean water to drink, often in homes that would stun most people living here. And we will staff and run a medical clinic in a barrio, a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Santo Domingo, the largest city in the Dominican Republic, located in the southern portion of the country.

When I first began these trips, I had never really thought about taking part in mission work far from here, there always seems to be so much need in our own area. But when God calls you into something and you open your heart, before you know it, your off and running. There is suddenly a lot to do, in a very short time. As Rebecca and Arielle can attest, there are more shots and pills more than you really want to know about and an endless stream of emails. It takes quite a bit of planning to put one of these mission trips together, yet in all the conversations and to-do lists, there is an ongoing reminder that; “this is mission first, and medical second, always remember that. Go and share Christ’s love with others first and the work comes after.”

When we arrive in the Dominican Republic we’ll be part of a team of thirteen, very biblical when you think of Jesus and his twelve apostles. We’ll squeeze a dozen plus medical trunks, an equal number pieces of luggage and almost as many people and personal items into a small trailer and bus, and head off to our destination, the small church of San Pedro y San Pablo in a poor neighborhood called la barquita, “Little Boat” in English, it’s name because of the persistent flooding which occurs, often flooding out the homes. There we are met by its priest and a group of parishioners who through the course of the week became our guardians, our helpers and more importantly our extended family. They are there before we get there in the morning and they are there after we leave in the afternoon; at all times welcoming us and watching over us. These people become part of our team and our liaisons to the community we work in.

After unpacking and setting the clinic up, we split up into groups to walk the barrio, to see the place we were working in and the places the people lived and we tried to meet some of the people. This is not only for our experience, but also for the neighborhood to know that we are there, and that a clinic will be operating. It’s tough to describe it to you. Houses packed side by side, some without windows or doors. Many of them made of scraps of wood and rusted corrugated steel. Some of these homes places we wouldn’t even think of leaving a lawnmower in here in the US. The roads, where they are paved have deep grooves carved into the sides of them, not just for rain, but for sewerage and dirty water to run down the road. It becomes quickly obvious to us that many had limited or no running water or electricity. Its hot, its muggy, it smells; its depressing and sad in ones first look. Yet as we walk we quickly discover that this trip will be all about relationships. People make it a point to smile, to wave, to say hi and talk to us. When we stop to take a picture, children instantly appeared, all wanting their picture taken. We occasionally will be invited into small homes, their owners proud of their accomplishment and wanting to share it. The interpreters as Rebecca will quickly find out are instantly put to work not only during the clinic, but in every moment of this trip, translating non stop.

Those of us who were not interpreters do pick up words or phrases. I sadly admit this morning that even after seven years, I know very little Spanish. I know enough to tell you to sit here please, follow me or stand here. But my all time favorite is “lo siento; mi espanol no es mui grande” – “I’m sorry, my Spanish is not very good”. I get a lot of laughs from my friends there, along with soft chastising for it not improving. And in the city, where you were accosted every 5 feet by a street vendor selling something, we become adept at using the phrase, “No tengo deneiro, missionary”. Sometimes the look on their faces tells you they either understood we aren’t going to buy anything or they were afraid you are going to baptize them … they usually leave quickly.

We never know how many people we’ll see on these trips. When our clinic begins, due to the number of people seeking assistance, numbers usually have to be given out. People line up outside the church early in the morning for these numbers, many being told to try again the next day. Those who are lucky and get a number gather and wait in the church. I was overwhelmed when I walked into the sanctuary the first time. Being the first face they saw in the clinic because I was part of the registration process, it was unnerving when their eyes all focused on me. But as I looked over the crowd while the first few began registering, I saw that there were smiles, quiet conversations and laughter. No one was stressed, no one agitated. God was at work here – you could feel it.

And as the people began coming to me to, I felt a steady stream of love come to me, in a pat on the cheek from an elderly person, a smile, a pat on the arm, some holding my hand while speaking to me. While I didn’t understand the words they spoke I understood the meaning. God was there in every face, in every interaction, and it was wonderful. They were living their faith on their sleeves, out in the open to share with everyone, Joyful living. This essence of being travels throughout the clinic, from registration to the nursing stations, where they are triaged. To the doctors, where they are examined. And finally to the pharmacy, where they are given medication and dosage advise. In each and every interaction, no matter how tired any of us are, there is a deep abiding love for one another as time is taken to acknowledge each other and share a bit of our stories with one another.

From the first day of the clinic to the last, from the waiting area and registration in the church, to where patient are brought upstairs to the clinic, all you see are busy yet smiling people. No worries, no fears; the conversations flow between the nurses, the interpreters and the patients and back because they are all speaking thru Christ’s love. The Holy Spirit is there, radiating everywhere. It was a complete immersion into a world of Gods love. Despite language differences there was communication, compassion, laughter and the never ending smiles. There are reunions of old patients and the people who have done this clinic for years. Elderly people hugging the new workers to say thank you because they couldn’t express it in English something Rebecca and Arielle will experience. And the kids; they’re the same everywhere. The babies steal our hearts and are readily handed over for us to play with, to coddle and to take pictures with. Each person young or old leaves their mark on us. And each one of us will find a connection with one particular person, one that will stay with us for a lifetime.

Over the past few years, a tag line of sorts has evolved for our team: Ubi Caritas, Deus ibi est. “I bring what I have and find that God himself is there”.

We experience this phrase it in real life in mission work; God is indeed already there, in each and every patient we touch. We go expecting no thank you, no praise. We each go searching to find a missing piece of the puzzle of our own lives, the piece that always is the hardest to find. We go to share our love and our life’s experiences with others and our love of Christ. And then offer whatever physical assistance we could in the way of service and medicine. “Mission First, Medical second”. We receive back far more than we bring down. And I think, in the opposite, the people of the barrio of la barquita feel the same; that they receive more than they ever expect to. New friendships, new love, and new familia. Weeks later Rebecca, Arielle and I will still be working through the emotional impact this upcoming trip will have on us. As the leaders of the trip told us, “you’ve experienced mission and an immersion in another culture. You already knew about the needs in your local community and now you have seen first hand the needs of a different culture. Take time to process what you’ve experienced, talk about it, and share the experience and its impact on you with others”

If I had to pick one word to describe our work in the DR it would be JOY. Joy in our group, in the people of the barrio in Santo Domingo and in the priest who serves the little church of San Pedro y San Pablo. In a place where a bottle of pills, available to so many people is so unaffordable that they have to wait for a clinic to arrive. In a place many of us would never consider going, yet where we found family and God’s presence front and center. A place sadly where drinking water is contaminated yet is drunk by necessity. Something many in the developed world take for granted; clean drinkable water every time they turn on a tap, or even flush the toilet.

In the short span of a week, the people of la barquita will see a changed group of people leave them. A week earlier these people see us get off the bus, a mix of some familiar faces from years past but many new faces, looking a little shocked by the surroundings, unsure of what to do. And on the last day they will see us as family and part of their community; and they know of our families like we theirs. We will have bonded and shared in Gods love together. As our psalm says this morning, we will discover that we “have been anointed and our cups truly runneth over” by this experience.

“I bring what I have and find God himself is there”.

He IS there, in every face. In the barrio we serve, in the city where we stay. Where life is loud and at times claustrophobic. But it is life being lived and shared by people who know that if they take a moment to stop, listen, and reach out to others they find God is truly there and it is so good and joyful.

What we’re asked to do through mission work is to reach out where we can to those in need and share God’s inclusive love as much as we can. No more, no less. What we can do is to touch others lives, to let them know they are loved and are Gods children and are not forgotten. And then like a vine that love will spread, from one person to the next, and so on…unceasing. Christ’s great command to us is probably the simplest request we could get in our lives, yet one of the most hard to accomplish; that we love God, and we love one another. We are called to spread his message to others and simply do what we can; not everything. A simple pat on the back, a call, or some kind words to another human being; simple actions that lead others to do the same to another person, with their hoping that it will change their lives the way you changed theirs.

We have opportunities all around us here in Stoughton. Home visitations, the Stoughton food pantry, your Tuesday morning coffee hour. We have Evelyn House, a sanctuary for women and children escaping homelessness and domestic violence. All ministries that give us an opportunity to truly make a difference in someone’s life: from something simple to something potentially life changing. I leave you with a challenge this morning; take the chance, seize the opportunity. Become involved in service to others. Step out of the safe zone we all create for ourselves in our daily lives and our “busy-ness”. Step out of this holy place to do the work of holy people and become engaged in the lives of others. Don’t miss out on the reward that comes back to you ten-fold when you focus on others instead of yourself for a moment, the Joy.

An in this work, may the peace and love of our lord Jesus Christ be with each and everyone of you this morning, and with our extended faith family in the Dominican Republic, Amen!

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Easter Sunday – A sermon on Mark 16:1-8

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Mark 16:1-8
“Do not be afraid; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here….”
Boy, you know you’re always in for one big surprise when an angel appears and tells you “Do not be afraid.” Its no wonder the two Mary’s fled the tomb in terror and amazement. But we have the advantage today, we know the rest of the story. We know the miracle that happened so long ago.

Todays gospel lesson is at the end of Mark’s gospel, but not quite the end. It’s a surprise for many, but there are actually TWO endings for Marks gospel. A short ending and a long one. For those familiar with Mark, we know how his gospel is written. It doesn’t start out like the other synoptic gospel of Luke and Matthew, recounting the birth of Jesus. It begins with Jesus’ baptism and the start of his ministry. It was the first to be written, and is pretty short and to the point. Mark doesn’t use flowing elegant language, or fill in many of the details. So its no surprise that scholars believe naturally, that the shorter of two endings is the original and the longer one, was added years later. But no matter which ending your comfortable with, its still the familiar story we all know.
Story telling: In its many way shapes and forms, whether short and to the point, or long and articulate, is how we have shared information we feel is important since the beginning of time. This is how the world has been shaped and reshaped, this is how our faith was shaped, and this is how we deep in our hearts are shaped as stories of families are shared generation to generation.

In an article I read some time ago the author spoke of the power of story telling; how it is by story that we understand who we are, how we came to be and what we are about. We are living in a time when all around us old stories are dying and new stories are struggling to be born. He writes, “We all live by story, and we are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. New story emerges in many ways—as we let go of the old story and attend to ancient wisdom, to essence, to Sabbath rest, to dream, to song, to ceremony.

Mostly it emerges as we try to live it out in the midst of the old story still around us, a process often filled with risk and conflict. Hall goes on to explain that Jesus lived a new story in the midst of the old. Into a story about obeying religious rules and keeping commandments in order to please God, came a new story: the rules are God’s gift to us, not our obligation to God. We are invited into God’s rest and order, not required to live up to a standard placed upon us. Jesus shows us a way that is about passing it on, being loving and compassionate as God has been loving and compassionate to us. Jesus goes beyond structure to essence. Structures exist to serve essence.”

Our parishes today, and we as Christians who follow Christ are these structures of essence. We continue the stories of the past, in telling and retelling them. And then we add our chapter for those who follow us tomorrow. And in this day and age, we wonder just as our predecessors did; what will the future write for us? will this place be here in fifty years? Will we have enough money, Will we continue to be a place people wish to be part of and grow? What is it we’re called to do? Hall concludes his article by noting, “Jesus could have spent his time trying to revise the old story, but he didn’t. He chose to act out his own authentic story, one about self-giving love and compassion. Living the new story in the midst of a very powerful old story involves considerable risk. This is our call today as we add our chapter to the ever evolving story of our parishes, our church and our existence. That if we are in pursuit of Jesus, we recognize that we will be always moving from our own self-serving story to a self-giving story. In essence, living a story of love.

In our Gospel today, when the two Mary’s arrived at the tomb they encountered the unexplained, the unimaginable, the undeniable. Christ was no longer dead in the tomb. And they left after being instructed to tell the story. The short ending to Marks gospel tells us; “And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward, Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation”
Through the stories we’ve heard over the past week, we recognize that God, in his deep abiding love for us, hasn’t just called us once. He calls us over and over, sometimes in loud shouts and sometimes in quiet whispers, into and out of relationships and that He is present and active throughout all of our experiences, especially in times of hopelessness, or grief or death. All these things God has done, God has done for us. And Christ calls us again, to be sent out through us from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation. In this hopeful understanding, we recognize that we today are the latest, greatest part of the continual unfolding of God’s story, God’s plan…. God’s dream for the world.

As we follow Christ and spread his good news, we enable others to discover their story; To then share that story with others and then begin their next chapter. So as we leave here today and into the weeks and months to come, perhaps our greatest gift to those around us is to rediscover what Christ’s call means to us. To update our story and then go and tell our story again, even if we feel we’ve done it before, sharing them with others, so that they too can be empowered to do the same. In doing so, perhaps then the very essence of who we are becomes part of who they are and who we all are, part of God’s amazing creation in his kingdom here on earth.

The short ending is enough; it is all we really need to understand our call through Christ’s resurrection. Eternal salvation has been given to us through him.

The tomb is empty, but our hearts have been filled. What wonderful a story to share with those we encounter who long to hear good news.

It’s time now to tell your stories; to share the good news with others, to let them know the unexplained has happened, the undeniable truth; Christ our Lord is risen, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia<a

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Good Friday – A sermon on John 18:1-19:42

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One of the more interesting aspects of crafting a sermon is called doing the Exegetical work; referring back to scripture, peeling the layers back like an onion to find what is at the center of the teachings. Done right, it can be a process that can take hours to do, not something that can be easily done for each Sunday Sermon. Tonights Old Testament lesson however caused me to spend a few hours looking at Isaiah, one of the great prophets in Hebrew Scripture. In our lesson tonight, Isaiah recounts the story of Jesus in remarkable detail, rich with details describing the life and death of Christ hundreds of years before his birth. This one lesson is rich in metaphors, that, when its placed against the passion gospels, you can match up example after example where the prophecy written so long before comes to fruition. I encourage you as perhaps part of your Holy Week journey, to place them side by side for comparison.

Isaiah, was one of the top four writers of scripture that Jesus referenced in his ministry. Isaiah was a well known, but not over liked writer in Jesus’ time. His writings were not always well received when referenced, which wouldn’t have surprised Jesus, because they weren’t very popular when Isaiah wrote them either. Isaiah continually preached about the disconnect between the people and their God. In his parables, Jesus reminded those listening, that even hundreds of years earlier, Isaiah warned of “people who’s eyes do not see, and ears do not hear.” He called out the Pharisees and scribes for their lip service to God in front of the people – “They honor God with their words, but their hearts are far from him.” And he alludes to Isaiah’s warnings in his parable about the vineyard, and the landowner who leased the land to others and went away. Referencing God who left his earthly kingdom to our care, and killed his servants who came to reap the harvest.

Today, in the mystery that is our faith, we stand at the foot of the cross, where our learning and God’s teachings intersect. God seeks to teach us here to make passage into eternity, to enter into his astonishing light, and life, and love. God calls us into a new understanding of what it means to live, recognizing that as humans, it is far beyond our capability to understand life beyond the mortal existence we cling to. We yearn to learn, yet exist in the isolation we create around ourselves in our fear. Fear that keeps us self focused instead of focusing on the other. Fear that keeps us from loving ourselves, which expands into keeping us from loving our neighbors.

Jesus hangs on the cross today because it is so hard for the flesh to let go of its insecurities and needs, of its own fears and anxieties.  Jesus hangs on a cross today because we would rather reject the gift that he is offering than learn to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.  How does this happen?  Why does this happen?  Jesus hangs on a cross today because we are so afraid to love our neighbors as ourselves because it means having to look at ourselves more deeply, more honestly, more forgivingly.

I’ve talked before about these intersections; these thin spaces -those places where the Holy and the Human meet. Tonight we stand at perhaps one of the thinnest spaces possible. We stand one foot on and past the threshold of death and before us stands a door opened by God. Holy Week is a call from Christ to die with Him sacramentally on the Cross. It is an invitation to be more
demonstrative in the expression of our faith. We are called take the Cross from Golgotha and move it to a place in our hearts. to walk with it, experience it, and be changed through Its power and grace. As Christ dies for us on the Cross, so too, we are called in a way – die for Him in an act of total and unconditional surrender. In so doing we will discover our real self and truly experience the joy of the Resurrection—not only Christ’s, but also our own.

We come to the realization that God has gone as far as he can go in His love for us, and It is now up to us to see just how far we’re willing to go to meet that love!

Soon the starkness of our sanctuary will be replaced with the beauty of life displayed in fresh flowers and candles, Silver will replace the simplicity of wood and our altar shifts from bareness to layers of fabric. And the eternal life promised to us through Christ’s resurrection will enlighten the world. Out of death comes life, out of our anguish a new day begins, we again see light.

One of the most meaningful statements of our understanding of death and grief as Episcopalians I believe, can be found in our Book of Common Prayer. It is in fact in our service for the burial of the dead, an Easter Service The preface for this service reads as follows:

The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we too, shall be raised. The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
 
 This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.

Tonights retelling of the passion gospel reminds us that we are an incarnational faith; We believe that God inhabits God’s creation.  God’s became present among us, in the person of Jesus, and remains present in the Holy Spirit, in the imprint of God’s very image on all that is, making us and all in this world real, important and Holy.  The world that we experience is not, as challenging as it may be, something we need to move beyond.  The world that we experience is not a prison that we need to escape in order to experience God.  We recognize that God is here, in all that is, in the world that has been given into our care, and that God is present in us, our flesh, the very stuff of which we are made. God comes among us and shows us that we are beloved, that we are made in God’s image, that we are holy and sacred – and that nothing can separate us from the love of God. 

And if we are to believe Jesus, and embrace the truth that he brings, we must learn to live with a sense of abundance, generosity and love.  We must proclaim the Good News of God in Christ to others, we must seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and we must strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being! 
Our Epistle reading reminds us tonight- “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Our day, our death will come. We cannot avoid it, we cannot delay it, despite our best attempts. Yet as followers of Christ we believe that life continues in a new way, in a new place. If we live in that understanding of grace, then we can face the pain of death, because God faces the pain with us. God will reveal His grace to us through his promise of everlasting life, through his Son Jesus.

All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Amen

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