Sunday, November 27, 2016

November 27, 2016 - 1st Sunday of Advent

Readings for the Day.

Listen to the sermon.

Happy New Year!!  No, I didn’t tear too many pages off my calendar.  Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and the beginning of a new church year.  

Last Sunday we celebrated the end of the year with the observance of Christ the King.  With the promise of a place in Paradise with Jesus ringing in our ears, we start the cycle of the church year anew preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ.

In Advent, we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ in three ways, as a vulnerable baby born in a stable, as the Spirit of Christ present with us now and always, and as the triumphant King whose coming again we still anticipate.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20, 2016 - last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King

Readings for today.

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What kind of a king promises thieves and criminals a place in glory?

We find ourselves here at the last Sunday of the church year, Christ the King Sunday, revisiting a text we usually read during Holy Week and recalling the kingship of Jesus.

Jesus was not the king the Hebrew people wanted or expected.  

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October 30, 2016 - Proper 26C

Readings for today (Track 1).

Listen to the sermon.

I want to talk about Reformation this morning.  That might seem like a funny subject for us Episcopalians.  Today is Reformation Sunday!  Reformation Sunday isn’t part of the calendar of The Episcopal Church, but it IS important to our sisters and brothers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  The ELCA and The Episcopal Church have a Call to Common Ministry, a shared ministry that we entered into about 20 years ago where we share clergy and ministry partnerships.  At Diocesan Convention last weekend we had the two Lutheran bishops from western Washington, the same area that our diocese covers, join us for convention.  So we got a little lesson in reformation from Bishop Jaich.

He defined reformation as something that happens when God’s spirit of grace meets a holy calling.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

September 18, 2016 - Proper 20: First Sunday at Emmanuel

Readings for the Day (track 1).

Good morning, Emmanuel!

It is pretty exciting to be here with you this morning.  I am marveling at God’s goodness and grace and sense of humor.

This is a homecoming, of sorts, for me.  I first attended Emmanuel when I was in college, and then I had the privilege to be ordained to the priesthood at this very altar nearly 10 years ago.  I have been serving God in ministry in other parts of the country since ordination, and I never expected to find myself back at Emmanuel.  What a joyful surprise, and a bit of grace, to be here, with you for the next little while.  God does have a sense of humor!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

June 5, 2016 - Proper 5: Farewell to St. Stephen's

Readings for the Day (track 1).

Listen to the Sermon.

Hello, Church. It’s lovely to be here with you. There’s a lot to say this morning, and I want to start with Scripture. Worship is at the heart of our life together, and hearing the Word is at the heart of worship.

Today we are heard two stories with remarkable similarities. Both are about widows with one son. Both widows’ lives are endangered by death – one because her son had died, and the other because she and her son are about to starve to death. Both women’s lives are changed by a gift of life – grace and hope. A gift that is just that – something given undeserved and unearned, just because God invites us to keep living life more and more fully. Gifts that offer a new life, resurrection of spirit, even.

All those parallels about the widows are good and interesting. The element that took me by surprise was fear. When Elijah asks for food and the woman hesitates and explains how little she has, Elijah says, “Do not be afraid.” When Jesus raises the young man on the funeral bier, the people are seized with fear. How often do we witness God working in our lives, and our first response is fear?

Let’s be honest, if you see someone raised from death, or healed of an illness, or in recovery from addiction, it disturbs the order and stability of our common sense lives. Perhaps we fear God’s activity in our lives because we fear being changed. Even if we’re not totally satisfied with our lives, at least we feel like we know them and so find a measure of stability, order, even safe predictability. But if God gets involved, then who knows what may happen!

Look at the people of Nain, where Jesus raised the widow’s son. After their great fear, they began to praise God. And they began to tell people what they had seen – and the Word spread throughout the surrounding country.

What if we, too, are called to tell our story? To tell others, people who aren’t here in church, about how we see God working in our lives, and let them draw their own conclusions? Or to invite them to come be part of a community where we experience God’s activity in our life?

We are often afraid of the unknown because we haven’t been there before, or of having our sense of order and stability disturbed. The gospel today gives us something we can do when God’s activity in our lives makes us afraid. We can praise God for the ways new life is being revealed to us in the unexpected and in miracles, and we can tell our story and invite others to join us in being surprised by God.

As we – you, St. Stephen’s community, and I, with my family – enter into the next few months of transition we may be feeling a lot of fear of the unknown. Our sense of order and stability has been disturbed. And, I am quite sure that God is at work in our lives – individually and as a community of faith. We don’t know all of the details about what lies ahead. We do know that God has already brought some amazing signs of new life to us – and we have that story to celebrate and tell.

A few weeks ago I shared with you a three points to hit when saying farewell to someone you love and respect: Gratitude, Forgiveness, and Hope.

Sisters and brothers, I am grateful to you for the opportunity to be your priest for these past four years. It has been a blessing and a privilege to walk with you, as individuals sharing personal journeys of faith and as a community seeking to live faithfully into the kingdom of God.

You welcomed me as a first-time rector, and nurtured me as I learned new ways of living into my priestly identity and ministry. Together, we asked hard questions about who God is calling us to be in this time and place, about how to invite and welcome people seeking a community of faith, about what it really means to welcome children and youth as full members of our community. We wrestled with the past, even as we look toward the future. Together, we envisioned a place where all people are truly welcomed, where God is worshiped with joy, where the Good News is taught and lived, and where we proclaim God’s love to our neighbors by feeding them fresh, nutritious food.

Along the way, I have learned from you as we walked this journey together. I have learned how to sing a Rite I funeral, how to cense the altar with holy smoke, to sit with someone who is dying and to pray over them when they have just died. I have learned to only put a little wine in the bottom of a chalice you will hand to a 6 year old, and to cover the mic when I’m going to sneeze. You have taught me about the power of prayer to heal, about really appreciating the smallest gifts of a breeze scented with flowers or sun on my face, and about the importance of play. You have shaped me as a priest, in ways I do not yet know. Thank you, St. Stephen’s. You will always be part of me, and I love you.

When we arrived here, Esteban was 4 and Isabella was 2. This is the church they will remember as their first faith family. You encouraged and supported us as a family. Thank you. We will miss you.

On my first Sunday with you, Mother’s Day in 2012, I preached about loving one another as God’s beloved. Loving honestly, with humility, forgiveness and generosity. Love that invites others in, speaks truth with gentleness, and proclaims God’s healing love to the world. Love that is work, and takes intention.

Every relationship has expectations. Things we hope the other person will ask, know, do, be there for – even if we forget to actually tell the other person about those expectations. I know I have had unmet expectations of you, and I’m quite sure you have had expectations I failed to meet. I am so sorry for all the ways I have disappointed you. If I have hurt you, I am sorry.

One disappointment I need to say aloud is that this ending to our relationship is not how any of us wanted it to end, and certainly not how I thought it would end. AND it’s OK. I am OK. My family is OK. St. Stephen’s is OK.

I believe we are created for love, and that life is too short to spend precious energy holding on to anger or grudges. I have already forgiven you for any hurts you have caused me. Will you please forgive me for anything I have done that would prevent us from continuing on as beloved sisters and brothers?

Looking forward, I have a few wishes and hopes for you.

First, believe in yourselves and trust God. God has planted some seeds here that are starting to sprout and grow. Love and nourish them. Even if you can’t quite see what kind of beauty they will bring or fruits they will bear. Growing is hard work, and it the coming months will require every person’s energy and work. You already have all that you need to do what comes next. You have an amazing set of leaders in your vestry, and in these pews. The experience and wisdom, and examples of faithfulness that you will need – it’s all right here. Don’t hesitate to offer your voice or hands or community connections. St. Stephen’s needs every one of you because no one else brings quite what you do!

Second – Love your new leaders. Your priests for the next while will be very part time. Which means you will see less of them, and other people will fill roles that I might have been filling. Love them. Love them as you together figure out how to live your ministries differently and more fully. Love with humility and forgiveness and generosity of spirit.

Third – Be gentle with yourselves and with one another. Change is not easy, and grief is cumulative. Every new loss reminds us of past losses, and grief may wane but it can come back at the most unexpected moments. So be gentle. Allow yourselves to have all your emotions. Share how you feel – others probably feel that way too. And, when things aren’t going as smoothly or quickly as you want, remember that everyone is doing their best.

Fourth – Pray for one another. Pray for God’s guidance. Pray for your leaders, for your pew-mates, for those who have not yet found St. Stephen’s as their faith home. Pray for healing, for grace, for forgiveness, and above all pray for courage to bear witness to God’s love to the world.

And please pray for my family and I. We, too, have many unknowns ahead. We will spend June taking vacation to a mystery destination. When we return, we will spend about 10 days packing up our house like mad, and a few days after that cleaning before we sign the papers for our house sale on June 27. After we sign the papers, we will say our final farewell to Erie by eating at Eat N Park, which was also the first place we stopped when we arrived here.

We will be at Waldameer on June 19, and you may see us around town until June 27. When we leave Erie, we will visit family and friends in New England and the DC area before we head west to Seattle. Our road trip will include several national parks, including Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone, and we will visit friends all along the way. We plan to arrive in Seattle in early August, and will live with my parents until we find a house to rent. Please pray for safe travels, and for the right jobs to become known.

My friends, we are here to love. To love one another, as God has loved us – and to turn that love into action. As we finish our ministries together, let us pray for open hearts and minds, for patience, and that God will reveal the possibilities and resources for whatever it is that God has in mind for us all, and grant us the courage to respond to that invitation when it comes. For today, let us delight in one another.

Farewell. God be with you. Aloha.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

May 29, 2016 - 2nd Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 4

Readings for the Day (Track 1).

Listen to the sermon.

Seasons. That’s what’s on my mind this week.  It could be that 2 weeks ago it was snowing, and this week it is summer-hot and humid.  Seasons are about weather, about repeating cycles of life and death and rebirth.  We talk about seasons of the church year, cycles of a congregation, seasons of our lives.  Seasons have highs and lows, patterns that are predictable but not absolute. 

Some seasons we see extreme growth and fruitfulness – like summer.  When the seeds we have planted, or God has planted in our lives, seem to take nourishment from the very air, and they grow into big, beautiful plants that bear luscious fruit – so much luscious fruit that we can share our bounty again and again. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

May 15, 2016 - Pentecost

Readings for the Day.

Listen to the Sermon.

Jesus knows his disciples are upset by the idea of him leaving.  We can almost hear the anxiety and fear in Philip’s voice when he asks Jesus, again, about seeing the Father. 

We know that kind of anxiety and fear – in our every day personal lives, in our uncertain and chaotic world, and in our life as a community of faith.  There are so many things we cannot control.  Like Philip, we might like to pin Jesus down and say, “Show us that God is REAL, and we will be satisfied.”  Then we will know everything will be okay.