Friday, June 29, 2007

take me out to the ballgame!

I got to go to a Cubs game at Wriggley Field today with my good buddy Matt. It was the fullfilment of a life long dream for me. Good times, good friends, good seats, and baseball...who could ask for anything more?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Five things I dig about Jesus

I got this from Svandive, and if you play along please leave a link in the comments so we can all see.

Five of the things I dig about Jesus are:

  • 1. He obliterated the rules and made it all about relationships!
  • 2. He loved people he wasn't "supposed" to and pissed off people that society says we should suck up to.
  • 3. He would not compromise his principles for the sake of his own safety.
  • 4. Healing Powers
  • 5. Yeah...and that resurrection thing is pretty cool too (see number one)!

God's Peace,

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sermon for June 17th, Proper 6 Year C

“Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.”

May only God’s word be spoken, and may only God’s word be heard. Amen!

Once upon a time, in a southern city similar in size to Omaha, in the right neighborhood on the right side of town there was an Episcopal church with all the right people who dressed in all the right clothes and drove all the right cars. It was a well-to-do place as long established in the community as it was long steeped in tradition. The Families had been members there for generations and the patterns of worship well established and unchanging. One day a shocking thing happened in this monumental Episcopal congregation: a visitor. He calmly strode down the aisle and sat down in about the middle of the pews. Oblivious of the indignant looks of those that passed by who normally sat in that pew and equally oblivious of the looks of shock from those that could not believe he had to audacity to sit in so-and-so’s pew, our dear visitor knelt down to pray before the worship began.

Despite a few ruffled feathers at this new comers presence things settled down a bit and the service was moving along fine until the sermon. About an eighth of the way through the sermon the visitor said out loud in a moderate volume, “Praise God!” The people around him were just about to drip off into their traditional mid-sermon naps, so they were not sure it actually happened. Things kept going along and they began to journey towards dreamland again when again in a louder voice the stranger in their midst said, “Praise, God!” This time it was loud enough that not only were the people around him sure it happened, the usher in the back of the church perked up and took notice as well. The priest kept preaching and a few minutes later the visitor once again hollered, “Praise God!” At this point an usher rose and stately walked down the aisle stood over the man and said, “Sir, we don’t praise God in this church.”

We laugh at that joke because we know that in whatever context we are in there are unwritten rules of conduct. Whether it is at the office or at school, the golf course or a sporting event, the bridge club or even at church, we know there are things done and things just not done.

It was no different in Jesus’ day. There were commonly accepted cultural norms of how to act in public. Therefore when we read our gospel today, we should not be shocked by the Pharisees’ shock at the actions of the woman of the story. See in Jesus’ day women weren’t allowed to speak to men in public, much less touch them. So when this woman washes Jesus’ feet we are talking about an action far more culturally appalling then shouting praise God in an Episcopal Church.

So, as I was meditating on this passage this week, I began to wonder: Why did she do it? What would posses here to walk into this room of men, risk, literally, her life, and perform this profound, ostentatious—dare I even say—erotic public display of affection.

As is always a good idea, when one is puzzled by something in scripture, I reread the text. As I was in my fiftieth of sixtieth time through the text, I think I caught a clue to our dear lady’s motivation. Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” I think the word ‘hence’ may be the most important word in that sentence. Her sins have been forgiven and she responds by loving.

This leads me to make two points to you today. First, good works are not the path to salvation rather they are the response to salvation. The apostle Paul writes about this a lot in both his letters to the Galatians and Romans. In our passage today he writes, “Yet we know that a person is justified—that is to say saved—not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” Here Paul is referring to the law of God given to Moses. In other passages he brings up the figure of Abraham who received the promises of God well before there was ever a law of God to follow. Indeed the Hebrews who followed Moses out of Egypt did not have the law either, but received it as guidance of how to respond to God’s gracious act of liberation. We do nothing—indeed we can do nothing—we do not possess the ability to earn God’s love. The love of God, the redemptive life giving power of God, is given us freely out of the graciousness of God. The woman of our story does not anoint Jesus’ feet in order to gain salvation and forgiveness; rather she is forgiven and then anoints Jesus’ feet in response, which leads me to my second point.

When we experience the grace of God, when we know the forgiveness of Christ on a deep level, our loving response often does not fit in with the unwritten rules of the day. The liberation of our bondage by God often produces responses that are dramatic and disruptive. Whether it is giving money to those who beg, or food to those who are hungry; whether it is being an advocate, a voice for people who unwritten rules say should keep their mouths shut or the idea that we as a people never have the right to violently take a life; or even shouting “Praise God” in church, responses to the grace of God will often make us uncomfortable even angry. But that leads us to a question.

Who in the story are you going to be today? Who in the story am I going to be today? Who in the story is the community of All Saints going to be today? The “sinful” woman who is so appreciative of what has been given her that she is willing to risk it all to act out her love for God or the Pharisee who can’t get past the way he thinks things ought to be in order to participate in the love Christ in his midst.
I know whom I want to choose to be, and I know whom I hope that All Saints chooses to be. In the words of our baptismal covenant, I pray that with God’s help I and we will be the sinful woman. Amen!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Herding cats!

So, I was helping a friend recently test a website he built for work that is to collect information for a study. I was one of several testers, and fortunately I followed the rules and performed the test properly; for my friend told me some of the testers did not follow the directions completely and their data became null and void. I replied that it is often easier to herd cats then it is to get a group of people to follow directions. In fact my band director in high school claimed that you have not told people directions until you you have repeated them at least three times, but that seven times was a better rule of thumb. In the words of the movie Swingers: Seven times is kinda money.

Anyway, I think there is a metaphor for preaching here, or a least a word to the wise. See I often feel I am preaching the same sermon over and over again to the point that I worry that I'm boring people. The truth of the matter is, however, that you have to repeat things in variety of ways to keep whatever you are saying in people's consciousness long enough for it to seep into their sub-conscious. I guess the seven times phenomenon highlights what Jung once said about it taking a thousand years for an idea to catch on.

Therefore: keep preaching the same old thing that brings about so much newness: God's Grace!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Five


Cathy over at revgalblogpalswrites:
We snitched a bit of time on an quiet island nearby this week. It was a last minute plan, escaping with a minimal amount of preparation. One must have essentials that make it a relaxing time. Perhaps you have had this opportunity to escape, or maybe it's only been a thought to get away. However, suppose you were told to pack some essentials for a trip to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Describe your location, in general or specific terms and....

Secluded beach or secluded mountain cabin, either would be nice. The key is magnificent nature and privacy.

1) What book(s) will you bring?

bible, Harry Potter, Something intellectual from the nightstand stack.

2) What music accompanies you?

Whatever is on the Ipod, but I would listen to a lot of Miles Davis

3) What essentials of everyday living must you take (as in the health and beauty aids aisle variety)?

tooth brush and tooth paste...I'm a minimalist

4) What technological gadgets if any, will you take with you or do you leave it all behind?

Only the Ipod

5) What culinary delights will you partake in while there?


As a bonus question, what makes for a perfect day on vacation for you?

Beautiful scenery and a thick book!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Thursday either/or.


The rules are simple. Below you are given an option. Choose one and defend you opinion. You may play in the comments here or as a post on your own blog. If you play at your own blog please post a link here to your play so we can all see. And now, your option:

Either Early Bird or Night Owl?

I use to be a night owl, but I am increasingly an Early Bird. I am usually in the office before 7:00 a.m. these days and earlier on Sunday morning. But I love getting here early. It gives me time for reading and prayer--two essentials to a healthy existence.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sermon for Trinity Sunday year C

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, what is man that you should be mindful of him? The son of man that you should seek him out?”

I speak with you today in the name of the Triune God. Amen!

Good (Evening) Morning! Thank you for joining us on this Trinity Sunday. It is traditional, like Low Sunday the Sunday after Easter, for this day to be another one of those international the Associate gets to preach occasions. I checked around and indeed most of my friends that are associates and/or curates are indeed preaching this morning. It seems there is a bit of a rite of passage for associates to have to stand up—literally in front of God and everybody—and try and explain the Trinity. Now far be it for me to ever back down from a challenge. So let’s give it a go, shall we?

Basically, without getting too technical, the doctrine of the Trinity is the teaching that we know God in three distinct persons, but yet they are one. Now, my middle school English teacher is somewhere in the southern United States cringing right at this moment because I just mixed plural and singular in a sentence. They is plural and can not be One. Luckily God is beyond the rules of grammar; so this is indeed possible. Though possible, I do believe it is still confusing for the very reasons my grammar teacher is cringing. How can three distinct things indeed three distinct persons, be One?

Indeed, the church has been trying to describe our experience of the triune God, the three in One, since our inception. Athanaius, one early articulators of the Christian faith from the fourth century put it this way:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.

14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

Got it? Good, because I don’t. Now that is about as clear as the federal tax code don’t you think? That makes about as much sense as yelling touchdown at basketball game.

Now truly the Triune God is incomprehensible, but not because of God, rather because of our tendencies. See, there is more going on about God than we could ask or imagine. Too often we are clouded by our limited perceptions of things. We have particular categories, boxes in which we place every thing and every person. As long as these people and things function within our conceptions of whom and what they should be we are able to blithely mosey along without paying much attention, without giving ourselves to the moment or each other.

These perceptions often lead to a rather mechanical worldview on our part. It can lead to a checklist type existence with a series of do’s and don’ts. It produces an extreme desire for control, because if we understand the cause then we can manipulate the effect. It manifests itself in a compulsion to have an ordered proscribed path leading to a predetermined destination. Furthermore, the daily grind, the rat race, or whatever you want to call it is a manifestation of our tendency to mechanize our lives. Wake up at the right time, drink the right coffee, drive the right car, have the right job. Complete the checklist, and purge the task list from the blackberry then all is well. The Bishop and Scholar N.T. Wright, describes this as the concrete we have used to cap the wells of spirituality, covers over the life giving waters of God.

This is all fine and dandy until God breaks in gives us a swift kick of Christian love. I think that is what happened to our psalmist today. He or She writes, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, what is man that you should be mindful of him? the son of man that you should seek him out?” I think the Psalmist was on auto-pilot and then suddenly it dawned on him or her, “wait a second, this creation is too elegantly fashioned too particularly ordered for it to be an accident. Furthermore, the being that created all this, the one that nurtures everything from the smallest sub-atomic particles to the paths of galaxies in the universe, cares about little old me.”

“What is man that you should be mindful of him?” Why in the entire universe, of all that is seen and unseen, would God, the Supreme Being, care about us? Furthermore, when there is so much going on in this existence, from the paths of planets and the emissions of stars, to the reproduction of cells and the motions of atoms, why would God seek us out? Why would God call us?

This wonderment, this overwhelming sense of awe is, I believe, the beginnings of enlightenment, the beginnings of wisdom. It is when God breaks in to our well managed routines to say to us there is more than what we are noticing that we begin the path to wholeness. This call of God’s is towards relationship and away from mechanization.

Indeed that is what the doctrine of the trinity is: a teaching about relationship. Our existence is meaningless without relationship and incomplete and broken without a relationship with God. Indeed whether say Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, or Speaker, Word, Breath we are attempting to describe a relational existence much more akin to a divine dance then a machine.

Now this is frightening to us, because a mechanical worldview is clean, comprehendible, and predictable. A relational worldview is messy, confounding, and unpredictable. In a relationship one may be asked to do or go where one least expects. This is okay. We can overcome the fear because we are not alone on the journey. Jesus says to his disciples today, “I know you are not ready for it all. That’s okay. The spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit that is me and is God will be with you and will guide you to all.”

My brothers and sisters, the call for us today is to be open to the cosmic divine dance that is the triune God; to be open to the relationship that is beyond our comprehension and regulation. We are called to be open to the spirit of Truth to lead us deeper into relationship. For as incomprehensible as the trinity is, as incomprehensible that the God that creates all that is seen and unseen cares about you and me, as incomprehensible as it might be God, loves us even more. God loves us so much that God became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ and remains with us in the presence of the Holy Spirit. God loves us so much; God invites us to this table to receive the grace of God in the bread and wine that is the body and blood of Christ so we can then go be the body and blood of Christ in the world. Amen!