Good is weeping and we weep with Him

A sermon preached on the fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Year C, RCL)
at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Del Mar

Isaiah 65:1-9
Psalm 22:18-27
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

Link to audio here

21-770x425

In the sound of music the Von Trapp children are taught that the true display of love is obedience.   Neat and tidy, acting perfectly on command.  A whistle from father, a clap of his hand is all that is needed for the children to snap into line and into the father’s perceived circle of love.  What kind of love was that?  I’m sure the children did love their father but under such strict and tight control was the pure, complete and faithful love of the children really allowed to grow?

God is not like Baron Von Trapp.  I dare say that God is wiser.  For he knows that true love can only be received when it is completely given out of free choice without any coercion and only when it is given deep from within the heart.  But we are human, we are tempted by the world, by the promise of power, of status or the fantasy of any of a million of other temptations.  God has given us free choice, so that we are truly free to choose and to love him.  But far too often we use that freedom of choice unwisely.

In order to experience true love you must be prepared to be hurt by the consequences arising from the freedom to choose.  And when that happens true love must bear the pain.   Today God is weeping.  As the funerals for the victims of last Sunday’s mascara at the Latin night in the pulse gay nightclub in Orlando begin to take place God is weeping and we weep with him.

Sometime in my training during the last three years someone said to me that as I got more experienced as a preacher that I would build up a library of sermons and at times I would be able to pull out an old sermon and recycle it for a new time.  I’m sure that he meant a sermon on the trinity, one of our most favorite topics to preach on, but this week I was horrified when I was preparing the message for today.   I remembered that I preached a year ago this weekend at St. Paul’s Manor.   The Sunday after the shooting in the Charleston AM and E church.   The reality that a week after my ordination I already had a stock sermon on mass shootings was devastating.

There has been too many shootings, too many times that we have been horrified, whether it be little children at Sandy Hook, youngsters at the movies in Colorado, worshipers a church in Charleston, or a young gay couple dancing in what should have been a safe place in Orlando, Florida.

As I got home from church last Sunday I saw an interview with a mother, Christine, desperate to find news of her son.   Christopher Leinonen had been dancing at the nightclub with his boyfriend Juan Guerrero and was missing.   His terrified and heartbroken mum pleaded for information and begged, for an end to deaths by assault weapons, for an end to hatred, for an end to violence.  Both Christopher and Juan were later confirmed as victims of the shooting.  Both were killed out of hatred.   That hated has no place in our faith.  Today, more than ever before we need to love deep enough and freely enough to stand and be counted.   There is no room in our faith for hatred of others.

Paul writing to the Galatians in our epistle today says “for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.  As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”        And that promise lives on today.   There is no longer black or white, young or old, republican or democrat, gay or straight.  For all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

One of the things that I love so much about St. Peter’s is our prayer life.   We are a parish that is active in prayer.  God hears our prayer, but that is not enough.   We need to understand and be open to be transformed through prayer.   In prayer we invite the incarnate Christ into our lives and once he enters into our lives we are called to follow him.   And every time we pray we are inviting anew Christ to be active in our lives.   Prayer without action is incomplete.  We offer our prayers to God, he hears and he calls us to action.   In our free choice we can respond to that call to action or we can choose not to.   Today I challenge us all, each and every one of us to choose action.

In our Gospel reading, a man is possessed by demons.   So often when we read this story we look to the man, possessed by demons, as someone else.   As the other.  But maybe that possessed man is you or me.   We don’t like to use the demon word.  It reminds us of spirits, of things unknown, of evil.   But when we think and study more about demons we realize that they all have some common characteristics.  They take a person over, they drive that person away from society and away from those who love them, they cause a person to do things that they would not normally do.  We have many modern day demons.   Addiction, greed, self-promotion, hatred of others, selfishness, the list goes on.   I would guess that if we honestly examine ourselves we all have demons that control us, that drive us away, that break our relationship with God.

But let’s remember the rest of today’s Gospel.   Those demons recognized Jesus as God.   Jesus did not shy away from talking to the demons.   He took action and drove the demons out of the man.   And through Christ, because of prayer we are called to action, we are called to face up to the demons in our life and in our world.

We are that demon possessed man.   We have as much need to shout out to the Lord as he did.   And when we engage with the Lord we can overcome our demons.   It may not be instant, as was the case in the gospel reading, and it may not resolve itself in the way that we expected or even wanted, but we must place our trust in God.

Our society is also that demon possessed man, and the world in which we live in has need to also shout out to the Lord.

Are you ready, to bow down in prayer to the Lord, and being transformed by prayer, to take action?

What would Jesus do?  Did Jesus just pray for the man possessed by demons?  No, I’m sure he prayed but then he was moved to action.

God is weeping, the Holy Spirit is weeping and Jesus is weeping.   The Holy Trinity is standing united as one with Orlando.

As people of faith, I pray that we offer our unconditional and free love to God.  That we weep with him, that we fall down on our knees and pray.   But in the giving of free love we will be transformed and called to action.

I pray that we recognize the demons in our own lives, not least the demons that hate others or stand silently by as others hate the world.

What would Jesus do?   I don’t have an absolute guarantee of an answer, but from every example he taught us during his life here on earth he would not just stand by and let hatred rule the day.

Today we weep with God.  Today we continue to deeply pray.  Let us give our love freely to God, and in doing so be transformed by the power of his incarnation in the world and in ourselves and take action.   Then we will be closer to making that mothers plea, for an end to gun violence and to an end to hatred, a reality in a world that is begging for love.

Christopher, Juan and 47 others died because of hatred.   At this very moment people on this earth are living in fear, are being persecuted and are being killed as a result of hatred and violence.   Hatred of the color of their skin, of their sex, of their origin, of their faith and of because of who they love.    There is no room in our faith for hatred or violence.   There is room for prayer.  But in that prayer we are transformed and we are called to act.

Weep with God, pray to God, act for God.

Restoring the voice of those who cannot be heard

A sermon preached on the third Sunday after Pentecost (Year C, RCL)
at Good Samaritan Church, San Diego

1 Kings 17:8-16 (17-24)
Psalm 146
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 7:11-17

Link to audio here

rasing-widows-sone

A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.

A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”

The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”

As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”

The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.

A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”

Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.

When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”

And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

I am sure that many of you may have heard that little story before but it does serve as a good foundation for our readings this morning.  I’m sure that the man spent a lot of time in prayer as the flood waters rose and did his very best to listen for God to tell him how he was going to save him.   The problem was that he was listening for what he wanted to hear.   He wasn’t listening for God to speak to him in unexpected ways.  God did indeed speak but he was not heard.

How good are we at listening for the word of God?   In our Epistle this morning Paul tells his readers about how he heard the will of God and how it changed his life.   A dramatic change – from being a person who persecuted Christians to being an apostle and cornerstone of the early church.    As Paul was walking along that road, no doubt he was thinking about his next scheme, his next plan to try and destroy the church.   I am sure that he was not listening for God voice but he heard him.   What a miracle that was.

I wonder, in our own journeys how do we respond to hearing God’s voice?   When God calls us to do something different, something that is a little bit hard, how do we respond?   Do we say yes, do we try and bargain or do we pretend that we never heard anything in the first place?

In our Old testament reading God called to the prophet Elijah and sent him, with very few details, to Zarephath.   Elijah heard the voice of God and acted on his command.  In the reading we learn of the mother whose son dies.  That mother was a widow, she was the mistress of the house, and now her son was dead.   What little status she had as a woman and a widow was maintained by her son – and now he was dead.   Her voice had been silenced by a society that put no value on her being.  But the prophet Elijah came and gave her voice back by interceding to God on her behalf, and God listened.  And God listened.  Many miracles happened that day.   Restoring a dead person back to life was a miracle but also the fact that the silenced voice of the widowed mother was heard was indeed another miracle.

You may well by now recognize that our first reading and our Gospel today are essentially the same story but with different characters.   Lets go back to our Gospel reading.

Jesus and his band of followers are entering town.  You can imagine it.  I bet it was quite a sight.  People were excited by this man.  We are told that the crowd was large.   The spotlight was on Jesus.  I often like to take myself back to biblical times and to try and imagine what it would have been like to be there.   Sometimes I pretend that I am a reporter for the local newspaper – the Jerusalem Times.  What would I have seen that day?  I would have saw Jesus and this large crowd.  That was the story of the day.  Following this man was newsworthy.   But then ,just as the crowd approaches the city gates a funeral possession emerges.

Out of respect the people in the crowd with Jesus may have lowered their heads and stepped out of the path.  But no one was interested in the widow, the grieving mother.  No one was going to give a thought of what her life would be like now.  No one would feel the depth of her pain of losing her child.  If I were there as a reporter there was no story in the boy’s death, the headline, the story was still Jesus.

But that was not the story that the gospel told.

The mother did not shout out to Jesus, unlike other gospel stories there was no plea to raise the boy from the dead.   The pain that the mother felt, was kept inside.   Her voice was silenced by the events going on around her.   But Jesus heard the silent voice.

He saw her, and had compassion for her.  He reassured her “Do not weep” he said.   Then he transformed that grieving mothers life by returning her son to life.   He gave the now living son back to his mother with unconditional love.   No words of explanation, no list of tasks to be performed.  Jesus heard the silent call, he responded, he acted on the voice that had been silenced.  And that is the miracle of today’s Gospel.

And we are called to follow Christ to live the gospel in our lives today.  Who is the grieving widow in our community?

Gabriel, and I have changed her name for reasons that will become obvious, is a seven year old girl who lives at Dorcas House, Vida Joven in Tijuana – the foster home that we support as a diocese.   Her father is in jail, her mother was addicted to various drugs and her mother’s life spiraled out of control.   With no one to turn to she decided to take her own life and jumped of a bridge whilst holding Gabriel who was little more than a baby at the time.   Gabriel, survived, her mother did not.  After being passed around different agencies she settled at Dorcas House where she now is safe, but without her parents and the lifetime scar of how her life began.  Who will hear the voice of Gabriel’s mum? Or the neighbor down the street addicted to prescribed painkillers?  Who will hear the voice of Gabriel as she grows up and questions the society in which she lives?

Who will hear the voice of the homeless veteran suffering from PTSD?  Or the voice of a 12 year old factory working in India making cloths for our high street stores?

Our Gospel today calls each and every one of us to listen for that voice.   It calls us to do everything that we can to let that silenced voice be heard.

If we open ourselves up to prayer and we listen for God’s prompting then I know we can hear those silenced voices.   But we need to be open to hearing God’s voice in new ways.   We need to be like Christ and look beyond the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives to see those in need around us.

In the words of our psalm this morning.   God gives justice to those who are oppressed and food to those who hunger.  As we leave here today, I pray that we will listen hard to where God is directing us to look and listen.  I pray that we will do all that we can to give a voice to those whose voice has been silenced.

That is what Jesus did for the mourning widow, and there is no better example and guide for us than Jesus Christ our Lord.

My Lord and my God – Time to unlock the doors

A sermon preached on the second Sunday of Easter  (Year C, RCL)
at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Del Mar

Link to audio here

Acts 5:27-32
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31

bbc-spaghetti-harvest

I want to ask you a question.  Who believes that spaghetti grows on trees?  Well I have to say that you are a bunch of doubters.   For a period of time in 1957 a sizable portion of the British population believed that spaghetti grows on trees.   Why?   Why you may ask?   Because they saw the evidence.  On April 1st 1957 the distinguished and respected British broadcaster Richard Dimbleby narrated a documentary on the BBC which featured a family from Ticino in Switzerland carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest.   It showed family members carefully plucking strands of spaghetti from a tree and laying them in the sun to dry.   Spaghetti was not a widely-eaten food in the UK at the time and was considered by many to be an exotic delicacy.   In the end it was an April fool’s joke, even the BBC can have some fun.    However the fact remains that people basically wanted to believe, they saw and they believed.

On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found it empty, she ran and told Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one that Jesus loved, and they went also and saw the empty tomb.  A little while later, the risen Jesus appeared to Mary.  Mary confused him for the gardener but recognized him when he called her by her name.      Mary believed, she had seen him and she did what the Lord asked her.  She went and told the other disciples.   And now we pick up the story in our Gospel reading that we have just heard.

How do the disciples react to hearing that Jesus had been raised from the dead?   Did they go out and proclaim the good news?  Did they have a celebration to mark this good news?   No.  They huddled together in a room and locked the door out of fear.   The reaction of the disciples to the news that Jesus had been raised from the dead was fear for what it meant and I’m sure that there was a good serving of doubt in that room as well.

What happened next?  Jesus appears in that locked room.   Now it would not be unreasonable to expect that he may be a little ticked off.  After all of his teaching, after all of that time spent together, after being murdered on the cross, after being raised from the dead, he shows himself to Mary and asks her to tell them that he is alive.  And all his disciples could do was to lock themselves away in fear.   Was he frustrated by this response?   No.  Not at all.  He comes to them with a blessing – Peace be with you.  The disciples see Jesus, they see his wounds and they rejoice.   Finally!   Jesus empowers them with the Holy Spirit and sends them out into the world to live and share his gospel.

But Thomas was not there, he had not seen, and he had his doubts.   I don’t think that he lost his faith, or that he did not believe but he had his doubts.    And for this, for the rest of eternity he gets labeled Doubting Thomas.  A name which I think is a little unfair.   We have no evidence that his friends, the other disciples, had any different reaction to Mary telling them that she had seen the risen Lord.    And I guess that if we search deep within ourselves then many of us may have doubts at times at some level.  I know that for me, doubt can surface in the form of me questioning what I think or believe about a certain aspect of my faith.   But that questioning helps me think and in the end makes me stronger in my faith.

So Thomas doubts, what does Jesus do?  He appears to the whole group, this time including Thomas.  Interestingly the other disciples are still in that same room.   The door is unlocked but it is still closed.   We are making progress.   Jesus is still not flustered and gives Thomas the same blessing Peace be with you.  But this time he goes even further in showing Thomas that he is real.  He invites Thomas to touch him, to place his finger on the Lords body.  That is all that Thomas needed, to see the Lord.  He did not need to physically touch him.

All that he needed to do was to see the Lord.  And now we see doubt turned on its head.  Thomas replies My Lord and my God.  

My Lord and my God.

Up until this point in our gospels Jesus is referred to as teacher, master or Lord.  Thomas’s doubt is wiped away and he sees Jesus not only as his Lord but also as God.  The divinity of Christ shines into his life.  The response of Thomas is much more striking than the response of the other disciples the week before.  He who doubted now saw God in the flesh.

Jesus’s response Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe is not a put down of Thomas and his doubt, but a blessing.   It is a beatitude.   It is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount.   It is an instruction to Thomas, to the disciples and to you and to me to go out and help people see our Lord and our God in the world and in our lives.

We know that is what the disciples finally did, they opened the door to the room that they were huddled in, we know that they went out and preached the Good News.   In our reading from the Acts we heard how Peter and the apostles got into trouble with the Jewish council for teaching in Jesus’s name.   If they once doubted, they now believed and being sent by the Lord our God, they did his work.

So here we are, one week after Easter.  Are we like the disciples, huddled in a room with the door closed?   We have been told that Jesus, our Lord and God is risen.   We have seen Jesus at work in our own lives and in the lives of others.  Now it is time for us to go out from the room and help others see Jesus in their lives and in the world around them.

How will we do that?   How will you do that?  When you leave this church, this room today, what can you do to help someone else see Jesus?  Maybe they will see Him in an act of kindness that you show, maybe they will see Him not by your judgement but by your offer of a blessing.  Where there is darkness, maybe you will bring light.  There are so many ways that you can help people see Jesus at work in the world.   But you need to go out and show them.

At the 5pm service last night we welcomed baby Edward into the Christian family in a joyous and happy baptism.  Edward’s parents, Godparents and our whole community supporting Edward gave our promise to help show Edward Jesus in his life.  I reminded all those present last night that it will be easier to show him Jesus when times are good.   When he sees Jesus in the beauty of this earth, in this place that we call home.  In the love of his family and friends.   Everyone present last night made their baptismal promise and with that promise comes a commitment to try our very hardest to help Edward see Jesus when times are also hard.   When he has doubts, when he is afraid and when he retreats into his own room just like the disciples did.  Each and every one of us join those present last night, though our own baptismal promises, to show not only baby Edward but all who we come into contact with, the face of Jesus in their lives.

In spite of any doubts that we may have, if we believe, then Jesus will make himself known to us, he will bless us.  And like Thomas, having seen Jesus at work in our lives and in the world we will come to call Jesus both our Lord and our God.

I am Judas Iscariot

Holy Thursday Homily given at

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Del Mar on March 25th, 2016

Maundy Thursday, all years RCL
Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
Photo credit : http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/washing-feet-a-dream-for-a-servant

(link to audio of sermon)

I am Judas Iscariot.   I have betrayed Christ.   I will betray Christ again in the future.

Please be seated.

My second favorite musical, after Phantom of the Opera, is Victor Hugo’s Les Miséables.  I love it when I can take someone to see it at the theater, especially when they have never seen it before.  I watch in wonder as they fall in love with the music, the story and the performance.    Sometimes though I am disappointed after the performance, when I ask what they liked most about the show?  More than once I’ve been told that they like the spectacle, the music, the acting but they didn’t quite get the story.   A big problem with the musical is that a key scene, critical to the whole story occurs in the opening few minutes of the performance.  The time when you are still settling down, rustling in your bag for those mints or discreetly trying to work out how to take a picture of the stage without the usher seeing you.   Whilst all of this distraction is going on you miss the part of the story when the bishop offers Jean Valjean forgiveness after he steels the bishop’s best silver-wear, and how the bishop freely forgives and offers the forgiven thief the remainder of his riches.   If you don’t grasp that part of the story the rest of the musical is at best a good performance.

Tonight we remember the institution of the last supper.  Today when we think back to that meal we know it was special, we know that it was a celebration of the Passover, but I wonder if we sometimes forget the significance of what was going on.  Our reading tonight from the book of Exodus reminds us of why the Passover meal is celebrated.   The Israelite’s had been keep as slaves in Egypt for many years.   God had called on Moses nine times to go to Pharaoh and warn him of terrible plagues and other afflictions that would be delivered onto the land of Egypt if the Israelite’s were not set free.  This tenth time however was different, it was a case of life or death.  God, promised that he would pass over the land of Egypt and kill the firstborn of both humans and animals of anyone who did not worship the Lord.  Those who did worship the Lord however were told to sacrifice a whole lamb and to mark the two doorposts and lintel of the house with the blood of the lamb as a sign of their devotion to God.   The sacrificed lamb was to be eaten that night.   The Lord promised to Passover houses marked with the lamb’s blood and spare the firstborn of that house.   Faith in the Lord that night would be a matter of life and death.  WE need to truly understand the story of the first Passover to fully grasp the significance of the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night that he was betrayed.

Many years later, Jesus shared in the Passover meal with his disciples but he knew that he was the lamb to be sacrificed, for the freedom from sin and for eternal life for all of mankind.   It was like Egypt all over again but the stakes were higher.   Not only life and death, but eternal life or eternal death.  For salvation and reconciliation of a broken people back to a loving God.

Knowing the pain and suffering that was to come, and not just human pain and suffering but pain and suffering for the whole world, Jesus did something that was extraordinary.  He washed the feet of his disciples.   Again it is easy to overlook the significance of this action.   Masters, teacher, heads of household did not wash the feet of even their most valued guests.   Not even servants did that.   If a guest of a household was lucky the host would leave a bowl of water and maybe some soap for them to wash and bath their feet themselves.   When Jesus put that towel around his waist he was breaking every social norm of the day.   For us, it seems like a humble action, for those present it was like something never seen before.

But let us go back to our text, to the Gospel of John.  Judas Iscariot, the one who would betray Christ was already marked.   John writes “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him”.  Judas was already a sinner, Judas had danced with the devil.   Jesus knew this.   Again John writes “for he knew who was to betray him”.

Judas was already a sinner, Judas had danced with the devil.   Jesus knew this.

But still, Jesus washed his feet.   Aware of what Judas was about to do, aware that the devil had already been at work in him.  Jesus washed the feet of Judas.   Knowing what was about to happen to him, knowing that within hours he would be tried, flogged, half beaten to death, denied, and hung on a cross to die.  Jesus could have simply passed on by and not washed the feet of Judas.   But he didn’t.

We call today Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday.  The word Maundy means to command.  Jesus gave a new command.  “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.  Nowhere in the text does Jesus exclude anyone.

During the most significant remembrance of the Passover sacrifice.  After Jesus had broken all rules and norms of society by washing the feet of his disciples.  In the full knowledge of Judas’ betrayal.  Jesus is crystal clear in his command.  Love one another.

I am Judas Iscariot.   I have betrayed Christ.   I will betray Christ again in the future.  By my actions, by my deeds, by what I have done and by what I have not done.  Judas is not just some historical figure he is present today in all of our lives.  We live in a world full of violence, we have been painfully reminded of that just this week with the attacks in Belgium.  As I examine myself I ask the question ‘have I been a good advocate for peace?’   In our own country we have seen hatred, division and profiling increasingly enter into our everyday lives.  As I examine myself I ask the question ‘Have I been complicit by my silence?”.  In so many ways I am Judas.

But the good news is that Jesus commanded us to love each other.   He washed the feet of Judas, he will wash my feet, sinner that I am.  But he also commands me to get down on my knees and wash the feet of others, without exception.   The feet of the rich and of the poor, of those who agree with me and of those who do not, of the Jew and of the gentile and of the roman centurion.

As we come to the holy table tonight and share in our communion meal, we remember that Jesus is sacrificed for us.  For our sins.

As our feet are washed and as we wash the feet of others.  We remember the command that Jesus gave, to love one another without exception.  Jesus washed the foot of Judas, Jesus will wash my foot and yours and we will wash theirs.

Dangerous Love

A sermon preached on the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (Year C, RCL)
at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Del Mar

Jeremiah 1:4-10
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-30
Psalm 71:1-6

(Link to the audio of the sermon – click here)

loveindangerous

 

photo credit: http://www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com/love-is-dangerous-still/

 

I want to share with you a story that our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry gave at his installation last year.   I need to take you back to 1940’s, to a time when our armed services were still segregated, a time before Rosa Parks sat down at the front of a bus, a time when Martin Luther King was still in seminary, a time when it normal to treat black people differently.   A young black couple we dating.  The female attended an episcopal church, her boyfriend a different denomination.  On this particular Sunday they decided to worship together at the Episcopal Church.   This happened to be a Sunday when the Holy Eucharist was being celebrated, this was pre-1979, and when it came time to receive communion the girlfriend went up to the alter rail.  The boyfriend decided to stay in his seat.  He watched as his girlfriend knelt next to white ladies on either side of her, something that he was not used to seeing.  She received the bread, and then to the boyfriend something amazing and unheard of happened.  His African-American girlfriend received the wine from the same chalice that was being used for everyone one else. The same chalice that the white congregants were drinking from.  He was amazed that such inclusive was being practiced.  At that moment he decided to become a member of the Episcopal Church, the couple married and later had a son.  That son, was our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry.

Now when I tell you this story it may be hard for us to fully understand just how significant it was for a black woman to drink from a shared chalice with white men and women.   But it was.  I am sure that when that church first introduced the practice that the white men and women of the congregation would have been uneasy.  I am convinced that the rector would have been challenged and sure that there would have been people, good people, who thought that he was committing some ungodly act.   But that rector and the leadership of that church practiced dangerous love.   They responded to the call of the gospel and of our scriptures to go out and work the love of Christ into the world.

That’s nice, we have learnt from it, that was back then.

I have a friend, who is a retired pastor, who ministered to people dying from HIV related illnesses in the early days of the AIDS crisis.   Not many people supported him, many people found it easier to condemn and judge the dying than offer the hand of Christ’s dangerous love.

Our world is full of fear of those of other faiths.   We are too willing to let the horrific actions of a few, taint our vision of millions of loving, good and honest Muslim brothers and sisters.

We live in a society where people still ask, do black lives matter?

Do we learn?  Do we engage with those who society pushes to the margins?  Do we actively go out and practice dangerous love?   Yes we do, just look at the ministries that we have here at St. Peter’s.  Helping Hands, Joy to the World Kinder Garden to name just a few.  But as we gather our gifts for growth, as we celebrate 75 years worshiping here at St. Peter’s how will we practice and engage in dangerous love as we move forward?

In the Gospel reading that we have just heard Jesus is in his home town.   Last week, our Gospel reading came from the same setting and we saw how pleased the people were to have Jesus with them.  No doubt they were proud that the local boy had done good, no doubt they wanted to keep Jesus to themselves.  But then we come to today’s reading.  Jesus reminds them that no prophet was accepted in their home town.   Sitting in the synagogue, that holy place, Jesus tells those people who love him that this was not the place where he needs to practice his ministry.   I think that he meant this with all of his heart and said it forcefully.  So much so that he not only upset those around him but he whipped them up into a frenzy so that they drove him not only out of the synagogue but also out of his hometown, running for his life.

Do not misunderstand me.   The church is important.   It is here that we come together as community, it is here that we come to be nourished by sharing in a Holy meal, it is here that we come to learn, to be energized, to be transformed.    I like to think of the Church as a pair of lungs.   Critical to all that we do.  Every breath of air that we breathe in rushes through the lungs but then, and this my friends is important, that air is exhaled out back into the world.  And so it is the same for us a Christians.   We are drawn into the church, we are transformed by all that we do here but then we must return into the world.  The breath of Christ, the breath of our faith the breath of you and me.

And so we go out into the world to love.   How nice that the people who put together the lectionary then give us the passage from second Corinthians about love.  Love is patient, love is kind, love is never envious or boastful or arrogant or rude…. You know how it goes.  We use this passage so often.  We look at it and so often we see a beautiful rose.   It’s nice, it’s comforting, it’s all about love.   Yes, but there is also another way of reading it.   As we celebrate our first 75 years, as we build on the gifts for growth that God has given to us, as we look to the future.   I invite you to consider the passage again but this time consider dangerous love.

Love is patient, dangerous love is often practiced before the world we live in is ready for it.  When we look at the world around us, at the margins of our society and around the corner of our street, our interactions of love may be seen as revolutionary.   We need to trust that we are acting in God’s time.  We do not like waiting and often it is uncomfortable whilst we wait.

Love is kind, when you have a moment this week stop and think about what kindness actually is.   Where in our lives is there room to offer an act of kindness to someone else? No doubt the world will carry on if we simply walk on by, but how much better our world would be if we put ourselves out and offered acts of kindness.

Love is never envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  When we practice Christ driven dangerous love we will find ourselves in uncomfortable places and it will be easy to wish for an easier path.  But we are not called to spend our whole lives as Christians sitting comfortably, we are called to go out into the world and be like Christ.  There are times when we will want to shout about the good that we are doing and sometimes if it helps the cause we need to do that, but our true recognition comes from God.  God sees all things and knows all things and that is our reward.

I could go on.   I pray that the next time that we hear this beautiful reading that we will hear the call to practice love, even when that love takes us to dangerous places.   Jesus knew that he had to take his ministry out from his hometown into the world, he knew that the love that he practiced would be dangerous.  Are you ready to follow him?   75 years worshiping in this place, many years ahead of us.   We need to continue to go and show God’s love.   And if we truly want to follow Christ, let us never be afraid to practice a bit of dangerous love.

 

 

What is your spiritual style?

Israel Galindo, writing In The Hidden Lives of Congregations – Discerning Church Dynamics says ‘Understanding the hidden spiritual style of a congregation will help its leaders and members apprecia…

Source: What is your spiritual style?

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The well-differentiated leader

Family Systems Theory was not totally new to us as we had covered the concept during our pastoral care course during the first two years of our education.  The Rev. Dr. Simon Mainwaring reintroduce…

Source: The well-differentiated leader

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Church Redevelopment Part 2: Letting the legacy live

The first part of this blog contained a case study that was developed for the Leadership for Church Redevelopment workshop led by the Rev. Professor Michael J. Christensen.   In class, which was en…

Source: Church Redevelopment Part 2: Letting the legacy live

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Church Redevelopment Part 1: The Case Study

Last weekend we had our second session with the Rev. Professor Michael J. Christensen.  This time on Leadership for Church Redevelopment.   In preparation for the class he asked us to develop a cas…

Source: Church Redevelopment Part 1: The Case Study

Click on the source link above for the full posting on the School for Ministry Student’s Blog Site.

The seekers found their own way to make sense of the lesson.

The Rev. Monica Mainwaring recently led an afternoon workshop on spiritual formation for children and youth. We discussed our own experiences and some of the resources that we use including the won…

Source: The seekers found their own way to make sense of the lesson.

Click on the source link above for the full posting on the School for Ministry Student’s Blog Site.