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Posted on Sep 16, 2018

Being wrong

Being wrong


You can find this on the second floor of Building 9 at MIT, in the corridor that should lead to Building 7 (but doesn’t). Source

September 16, Proper 19

Proverbs 1:20-33Psalm 19,
James 3:1-12Mark 8:27-38

Draft text of the homily, it may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.

In the very first season of The West Wing, as Jed Bartlett is still figuring out how to be president, he and his wife Abbey have their first White House fight.

The fight has to do with naming a new Fed chair, and it turns out that, years ago Abbey dated the guy Jed wants to name, and instead of confronting this complicated history, they both attempt to outmaneuver each other by using their staff, and the press. Towards the end of the episode, they eventually have it out. Abbey is furious that Jed tried to “handle her,” and Jed is furious that she tried to circumvent him by expressing support for the as-yet-unnamed-Fed Chair on the morning talk shows. Abbey eventually admits she was “wrong about the thing.” She pauses, and then she continues, “however…” Jed rounds on her an utters one of the more memorable lines of the entire show. “No. No “however”. Just be wrong. Just stand there in your wrongness and be wrong and get used to it.”

Just stand there in your wrongness and be wrong. But that’s hard to do, isn’t it?

In 2011, Kathryn Schultz, a staff writer for the New Yorker gave a Ted Talk called, On Being Wrong. In it she asks the audience, “how does it feel—emotionally—…to be wrong?” Dreadful? Embarrassing? Thumbs down? Okay? These, she says, are all answers to a different question. These are the answer to the question: how does it feel to realize that you’re wrong? Realizing that you’re wrong can be devastating, or revealing, or funny….but that’s not the same as being wrong.

Because you were already wrong, even before you realized it. So, being wrong…she says, doesn’t feel like anything…Or wait, that’s not accurate either…being wrong does feel like something…it feels like being right.  Remember the Roadrunner cartoons? When the roadrunner runs off the cliff, and the coyote follows…but doesn’t fall immediately…just hangs there in the air…? She says being wrong is like that. We feel like we’re on solid ground, but we’re already way off the beam.

That’s where Peter is, today…out in mid-air. He hears this talk about the Son of Man undergoing great suffering and being rejected, and killed, and rising again…and that’s not right. That’s not what’s supposed to happen. He’s sure of it…he’s sure he’s right. But he’s not. Somewhere along the way, as Jesus is talking, he ran off the cliff and is standing there in mid-air…being wrong, until Jesus points it out.

He’s wrong. And so are you. So am I. So are all of us. Right here. Right now. We are wrong….about something…about a lot of things undoubtedly. But we don’t know it…because it feels like we’re right. We are wrong an awful lot of the time. We look out at the world through these little particular windows…”through these glasses darkly,” and we think that our thoughts and beliefs about the world perfectly reflect the reality that we see…but it doesn’t. And we have trouble even comprehending how anyone could possibly see things differently. Until it gets pointed it out…”Get behind me, Satan.” And that’s when we look down and notice that we’re not standing on anything, and start to scramble.

What if we could just stand there in our wrongness and be wrong and got used to it? If we could do that, would we eventually learn how to fly?

“All of us make many mistakes.” It’s how we learn. It’s how we grow. It’s how we move closer to one another and closer to God. It’s actually something sort of wonderful, and positive. Being wrong, and making mistakes and learning from them is part of what makes us deeply and uniquely human. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

The cover of Kathryn Schultz’s book “On Being Wrong” has a picture of a target, and an arrow way off to the side. It’s a very theological image, because what gets translated as “sin” in English, is really a Greek word which means, “to miss the mark.” And we do it all. The. Time. We miss the mark. We hurt one another. And often— instead of scrambling back to our imagined solid ground—we’d be better off standing their in mid-air…standing in our wrongness …and just being wrong…and try to get used to it…and then begin the work of reconciliation. Of getting back on solid ground…together.

Our Baptismal covenant—those vows we make and reaffirm whenever someone is baptized—tries to help us understand this. In them we promise to “persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.” Did you hear that? Persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin…not “if” we miss the mark, but “when.” Not “If I happen to completely go off the rails and trip and fall on my face, then I’ll come back…” No. When I do that. And I will do that…a lot…

“Look, I don’t want to say and do stupid stuff, but I’m walking around in mid-air most of the time without a net…I’m going to trip, fall, stumble, and come crashing to earth on a very regular basis, so I’ll use prayer, and scripture, and coming to church…whatever tools I’ve got to get back to walking closer and closer to my fellow travelers and to God.”

This is going to become especially important for us this year, particularly next week as we gather to discuss the book Waking Up White, and begin our year long series of deepening conversations about race and racial justice. These are not comfortable conversations to have. It will be important to remember that that we all will miss the mark. Not “if if I happen to wander off the cliff…” but when I do. Anyone who does this work, knows that we will all unintentionally say things that cause hurt…we will all do things out of the subconscious biases that we all have. And when we say and do these things…When we miss the mark…in those moments when we’re out in mid-air…feeling very “right” but being very wrong, and others point that out…(hopefully, with something gentler than, “Get behind me, Satan”), when others point it out…it’s important to remember to allow yourself to just be wrong. To just sit there in your wrongness and be wrong. It’s ok, and natural, and perfectly acceptable to feel uncomfortable when entering the real work of reconciliation…when beginning the hard and grace-filled work of having our filters and our assumptions and our certainty challenged. It is Gospel work. And Gospel work is not easy work. That’s why it comes in the shape of the cross. It is not comfortable, or especially easy…but it is vital. And we have the example of Jesus to follow. And we have the promise of Jesus to be with us…through it all. Calling us back when we go astray, picking us up when we fall, feeding us and sustaining us to keep going. We are—and will continue to be—wrong a lot of the time, but we know the one who can and will guide us in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake.

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Posted on Sep 9, 2018

Be opened

Be opened

Be opened


September 9, Proper 18:

Psalm 125 & Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
James 2:1-10 (11-13) 14-18Mark 7:24-37

Draft text of the homily, it may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.

Here we are, on another threshold. The start of a new program year…a new school year…welcoming new people…welcoming back familiar faces.

Thresholds are those moments between the past and the possible…between the known and the unknown…between the now and the not yet…

Thresholds are those tension-filled moments just before things are revealed…and known…and opened.

Jesus meets a woman on a threshold…The Gospel tells us we’re “in the region of Tyre,” which means we’re out in the borderlands…in Phoenician territory…gentile territory…a long way from where Jesus has been working. Borderlands are spaces where cultures mix, and the rules and customs of one don’t always mesh with the other. It’s a place where boundaries become porous…and where conflict is always possible…a place where you don’t know what to expect…It’s also a place where things are cracked open…where some find a voice…and others have their ears opened…where deeper truths are revealed. It’s a threshold.

“Jesus entered a house,” it says, “but did not want anyone to know he was there.” Good luck with that—because here comes this woman, a non-Jewish woman—with a compelling need and a powerful faith. Details are always important, and this story in Mark is significantly different from the one in Matthew. In Matthew, Jesus is out on the road, with all the disciples. But here, there is no mention of the disciples…it’s just Jesus and this woman.

So picture this…he’s in the house…and she comes to the door…and maybe he tries to get past her…to escape, but she…kneels down in the doorway. It’s a gesture of pleading, but also of strength…classic non-violent resistance…she kneels in front of him, and he’s now stuck. And what happens when people feel trapped? They lash out. There’s no getting around the fact that what he says to her is incredibly offensive.

But the way she responds to him…is incredibly faithful, and courageous.

“Sir, even the dogs eat the children’s crumbs.”

The tension on that threshold is electric. And in that tension…something opens up…in the space between her speaking and his hearing…the Holy Spirit slips in and cracks the world open. In that space…I think the Holy Spirit stuck her fingers in Jesus’ human ears and whispered “Ephphatha—be opened.” Because in that moment, her daughter is healed…and Jesus (learns? remembers? Recommits to?) his divine directive…and it’s clear once again that God’s love and grace are for all people.

The next story is an echo of the first.

It’s in a different border land…we’ve moved from the Phoenician region of Tyre to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, to the Decapolis…a more Roman area, but still a border lands of the Jewish world. Again, in Matthew the details are different. Matthew says, “Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others.”

But in Mark there’s just this one guy, who can neither hear nor speak.

And again, Jesus goes off alone with him—“he took him aside in private”—and now Jesus is the one who says, “Ephphatha—be opened.” And his ears are opened, his mouth is opened…and there’s no shutting it again…the more he orders them to not tell anyone, “the more they proclaimed it.” (Mark 7:36) The messianic secret, that Jesus is the son of God—the fully human, embodied, incarnation of God—is starting to get out, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

And next week, we’ll start to hear more of what that really means…”Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected, and be killed, and after three days rise again….and those (of us) who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake…will save it.” We won’t fully understand it…in fact, we will spend the rest of our lives learning how actually do that…but today our ears have been opened…we’ve crossed that threshold…we can’t un-hear it.

Our spiritual journey is one of constantly crossing thresholds…and having our ears and eyes and hearts opened…more and more and more. We need to be opened…constantly opened…to what the Spirit is saying and doing.

We need to listen, and be open to—and be opened by—those who kneel down and those who persist. Those who block our path out of desperation, and those who are brought to us by others. Sometimes we will be the ones whose ears and eyes will be opened…and sometimes we will be the ones who need to take a knee…find our voice…and humbly and courageously speak.

Today, at the beginning of this new school year, we are being invited by the Holy Spirit to cross some thresholds…to enter territory that is a bit strange and unfamiliar…to be opened…to engage in conversations with one another that will be both challenging and opening…conversations around our own experiences of race…conversations around our own experiences of economic inequality…conversations around our experiences of this place…our history…our programs…and to be open to where God is calling us to go…

Welcome back. As we stand on this threshold. I pray that in the silence that always follows the homily, and in all the days ahead, each of you will hear the Holy Spirit whisper—“Ephphatha—be opened.”


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Posted on Sep 2, 2018

How is it with your soul?

How is it with your soul?


Photo Credit: David Paul Ohmer Flickr via Compfight cc

September 2, Proper 17:

Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10 & Song of Solomon 2:8-13
James 1:17-27Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23

Draft text of the homily, it may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.

How is it with your soul?

Our siblings in Christ who follow the ways of the Methodists, say that John Wesley asked this question often in small group settings.

I’ve had Methodists today ask me this.

How is it with your soul?

It’s an important question, much heftier than “how are you doing?”, or “how’s it going?”

But it’s not a question that gets asked a lot in our world.

It is a question I think we ignore at our own peril…

How is it with your soul?

I know variations of this question get asked in Daughters of the King meetings, and at some of our other small group ministry meetings—Geography of Grace, and Faith Explorations—sometimes in vestry meetings…not that specific question, but ones like it…questions designed to help you listen to your own soul…to discover your own soul…and all of it’s longings…

Maybe we need to start asking it more often around here…try it out…when you gather with two or three others over coffee…at the start of meetings…or at the dinner table with close family and friends…take some time and ask…How is it with your soul?

What would change, I wonder, if we asked that with more regularity…and then—and here’s the key—because it’s not just asking the question…what if we asked it and then listened…really listened…to the response…?

It’s a two part exercise…Asking and then listening.

“Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak,” advises, James. Boy. How often do we get that turned around?

Quick to speak and slow to listen, that’s our culture.

There is real power and grace in listening to someone else’s story…to someone else revealing or struggling with…how it is with their soul.

Recently a friend of mine, a priest in another diocese, had an encounter in a grocery store. He had stopped by on his way home, so he was wearing his collar and a man came up to him and said “How can you priests come out in public after all that stuff in the news?” Referring to the most recent horrible allegations of clergy misconduct and coverups. And my friend, very courageously, very wisely, and very calmly replied: “Do you want to talk about it or do you just want to be angry at me? Because I’ll be ok with either.”

The man ranted at him for what was probably 30 seconds but felt much, much longer.

My friend did nothing but listen, and when the man was done said simply, “I didn’t do any of those things in the report. But I think it was horrible, and I’m upset about it, and I’m sorry that the church and its clergy has let you down. I’m sorry.”

The man just stood there. And then my friend asked: “Are you ok?” The man slowly said, “Yeah. Thanks for letting me vent. I don’t even know you, Father.” To which my friend replied, “That’s ok. We’ll get through this somehow. I’m glad you said something. Let’s pray for all the victims, ok?” The man said, “I will.” And then he said, “God bless you, Father,” and left. Both of these men were shaken by the encounter, but somehow more whole after it, because a soul had been revealed and listened to.

How is it with your soul?

Be quick to listen and slow to speak. It’s powerful combination.

Of course, my friend was able to do that kind of listening, and being with a person in a tough situation, not because they have a collar on, and have been endowed with some kind of magical power. My friend was able to do it, because he practices…because he trains, because he has committed time and effort listening to his own soul…and to the soul stories of others. It’s not really all that mysterious…it’s just practice. It’s the way of love…those practices that I introduced way back in July…We can all do it…

And asking How is it with your soul? is a way of supporting and strengthening  those practices….so try it…ask it of yourself (how is it with my soul?) and listening for the response…Practice asking it of others, and listening for the response…

Is it harder to do that with ourselves or with others?

I think in many ways it might be harder to do that for ourselves…I think very often don’t want to know what’s going on with our own souls…because we’re afraid of what we might find there…

“For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come:” (yeah that’s true), and there’s that list…that list of things we all know is in us…folly, pride, envy, deceit, and even the big ticket items—the really bad stuff—even if they don’t describe any of our past or present actions, we all know that we’re just a few steps of really terrible luck away from them….”All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” We know it’s all in there…so better not look…Just keep a lid on it…What if I ask, “how’s my soul? and I don’t like what I hear?

I know this was one of my biggest fears when I first became aware of the voice of my soul, and started—tentatively—to listen to it…I remember thinking, “What if I go looking for my soul, and I either can’t find it, or I don’t like what I find? “What if I discover true self and it turns out I’m a—word I can’t say from the pulpit.”

Here’s some truth that I have found…When you start to listen to your soulstory, and the soulstory of others…you will come across all of that dark stuff… pride, envy, folly—a lot of folly…a good bit of deceit…but you will also discover, grace, and hope, and joy,  abundant generosity and incredible strength…It’s all there—and God is there as well, working with you to transform it all. I disagree with James, I don’t think it’s fruitful to try to “rid yourself of sordidness and rank growth of wickedness.” To simply get rid of all that bad stuff…It’s important to not act on those feelings of anger, envy, avarice, be deceitful etc. but instead of trying to get rid of all the dark stuff, I’ve found it much better to ask God to help me transform it…so that it doesn’t deform me and my relationships.

Here’s another bit of truth that I’ve discovered…as practices go…asking about what your soul—and the souls of others—is up to…what it really longs for…and really listening to and absorbing the response…is not the easiest thing. But it is the most rewarding. It takes time and effort and commitment.

But we’ve got time, and we have the capacity to do it, and God’s grace to guide us…so, how is it with your soul?

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Posted on Aug 26, 2018

Restless—homily for 26 August 2018



Photo Credit: coniferconifer Flickr via Compfight cc

August 26, Proper 16:

Psalm 84 & 1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11) 22-30, 41-43
Ephesians 6:10-20 John 6:56-69

Draft text of the homily, it may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.


How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of  hosts to me.

My thirsty soul desires and longs

within thy courts to be…

my very heart and flesh cry out, O living God for thee.

Gorgeous words, aren’t they?

I wonder…

What does your thirsty soul desire and long for?

What does your very heart and flesh cry out for?

Is it God? Is it something else? Do you even know?

It’s OK. A lot of us don’t know what our soul really longs for…

We think we do…but it’s hard to genuinely know when there’s so many things competing for our attention…when there are so many mixed messages. We’re told that we’re supposed to want all kinds of things…And our desires tend to fly around like anxious swallows, flitting from one want and desire to another.

“O God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You,” is how St. Augustine begins his Confessions.

Our hearts are restless…hungry…and seeking…and restless…

It’s human nature. I mean we all have certain wants…needs really. Food, water, shelter…but how do we distinguish between lunch and the bread that comes down from heaven?

We all need…security…we need to feel safe: personally, emotionally, financially…But you know how hard it is to feel really secure in those ways…how many really…really feel financially secure? How many feel like that it’s safe to show our emotions? To reveal our inner lives?…To close friends…maybe? How many feel physically safe in your home…where you work…out in the world? Probably fewer feel really safe than you would imagine…All of that insecurity keeps that swallow flitting around. And keeps us from knowing…truly knowing…what our heart, our flesh, our soul longs for…cries out for.

In order to mitigate all that anxiety, we all need friendships and intimacy to help us make sense of it all…We need to feel like we belong somewhere… We need to know that we are valued…that our lives matter…that we matter.

We need to be in touch with our soul…we need to pay attention to it.

“This is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know,” says poet Mary Oliver, “that the soul exists, and that it is built entirely out of attentiveness.”

The soul is built entirely out of attentiveness.

Poets are often the most attentive.

Our psalmist today, a pilgrim who has apparently travelled a long a very long way…who has gone through the desert vales, and found springs…who has climbed from height to height — and you can’t do that without going through a lot of really difficult terrain—this poet-pilgrim looks toward the altar notices birds nesting in the crevices of the temple nearby. It’s an image that has always arrested me. In the words of the Psalm: “even the bird has found a home, and the swallow a nest for itself, that puts its fledglings by Your altars” [Psalm 84: 2, Robert Alter trans.]. That’s an image that always gets me…a small, vulnerable bird nested with its young near the altar. And not an altar like this…not a wooden table, beautifully decorated inside a railing, surrounded by an artfully designed stone building. No, the altar the psalmist sees is likely the one Solomon built and prays in front of today. That altar, the altar of burnt offerings (according to the book of Chronicles), was 30 feet wide, and 30 feet long, and 15 feet high. It stood just outside the temple and was where the animal and bird sacrifices were offered. It was not, I imagine, a place of serene calm and tranquility. Rather it was likely a place of tumult and commotion…of blood, and smoke and ashes…and this is where this…the vulnerable creature…not only finds rest, but “lays her young.”

It’s like a line from another Psalm: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…(or in another translation) in the presence of those who trouble me.”

The soul finds rest…even in the most chaotic of circumstances…because God is present even in the most chaotic of circumstances…but we have to pay attention to the soul…we have to listen to its cries, and be attentive to its longings.

Jesus says a lot of troubling, difficult things today. And at this point in the homily, I’m not about to start unpacking all of it. It’s not good to pretend that it’s not part of our scriptures, that we don’t have to wrestle with it…but we don’t have to wrestle with it today. Today, it’s ok to respond more like Peter…”I don’t necessarily get it, but where else am I going to go?”

Today…I think it’s enough that we listen for, and pay attention to our soul…that bird-like being that knows there is rest, and food, and safety in the presence of God…and that God’s presence is all around…so all encompassing that, really…where am I going to go?…

Today, it’s enough to be attentive to that still small voice in each of us. The voice that desires us to experience a deep rootedness in the soil of our own created being. The voice that thirsts for real, authentic connection in community. The voice that cries out to tell the truth about ourselves and the world. The voice that has breathed life into us, and that longs for us to share that life with others (Parker Palmer, Hidden Wholeness, p.33-34). The voice of heart. The voice of our soul. The voice of God.


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Posted on Jul 22, 2018

The Way of Love—homily for 22 July 2018

The Way of Love


July 22, Proper 11:

2 Samuel 7:1-14a & Psalm 89:20-37
Ephesians 2:11-22Mark 6:30-34,53-56

Draft text of the homily, it may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.

“The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

That sound pretty good, doesn’t it. It does to me, maybe because I’ll be going away this week for a family vacation. I hope you’ll be able to get some rest this summer too. Rest is important.

We don’t always think of it as an essential part of our spiritual growth. But it is. God rested on the seventh—the Sabbath—day, and commanded us to do the same. In fact, many scholar argue that the Sabbath is the final act of creation. It’s not that God took a break, but that creation wasn’t and isn’t finished until God created the Sabbath—and sanctified rest. Jesus rested, and he instructs the disciples to rest. It’s not optional. It’s part of spiritual growth. Part of the Way of Love.

Some of you might be aware that General Convention wrapped up last week. General Convention is the governing body of the Episcopal Church. That meets every three years. There’s a House of Bishops, and a House of Deputies made up of both clergy and laity. Between the two houses there’s maybe close to 1,000 people who show up and for 14 days pray, worship, and debate and pass legislation that affects the life of the church and our continued witness in the world. This time there were over 500 resolutions brought forward, debated, amended, concurred, or not. For those who love legislative wonkery it’s as close to heaven on earth as you can get. For those who are convinced that the tedium of following Robert’s Rules of Order is one of the forgotten circles of hell, it’s less enticing. What is easy to miss, I think, is that it that for over 230 years it has been a model of that increasingly rare species: an actual functioning democracy. Our weekly e-news contained a link to a summary of what happened there, you can look at that at your leisure, and I’m happy to have conversation about it. What I thought was most significant and resonant with the Gospel today was the framing of General Convention done by our Presiding Bishop.

Our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Michael Curry. Probably now best known as “the royal wedding preacher” also sometimes knows as our CEO—Chief Evangelism Officer, in his opening homily framed the entire convention using the Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life, which you have in your bulletins.

The way this came about is that Bishop Curry invited a group of people to “come away to a deserted place”—Ok, it was actually the Atlanta airport—he called a group of people together to help him “think and pray through how do we help our church to go deeper as the Jesus Movement”—that’s how he refers to us, “The Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement”—how do we help our church go deeper “not just in word, but not just in deed, either, but for real. How do we help our folk to throw themselves into the arms of Jesus?”

Great question. And what this small group apart realized was that what we need is not a new program…not a new initiative…not a new set of criteria or metrics…

What they realized…is that we already have everything we need in the traditions of the church. And if you’ve been coming here for a while you will have heard me say much the same thing…

The things we do here are ancient (many of them)… and we keep doing them because they actually work! Bishop Curry says: “For centuries monastic communities and religious communities and people of faith who have gone deeper in this faith have lived by what they often call a rule of life; a set of spiritual practices that they make a commitment to live in, practices that help them open up the soul, open up the spirit, helped them find their way, a way of throwing yourself into the arms of God.”

And so, Bishop Curry began wondering, what would happen…if he asked every Episcopalian to adopt this way of love, these practices for a Jesus-centered life? What would happen if we all committed to these practices?—

Now, in truth if you’ve been baptized, and if you’ve been here any time we’ve reaffirmed the baptismal covenant you’ve already made these promises—you’ve already made these commitments…this is just a way of reminding us, and helping us recommit to and deepen them.

So let’s take a look. [full resources can are here]

You can start anywhere on the wheel, but Jesus today starts with rest, and I started with rest, so let’s start there. As I said, it’s not optional. So rest…have a Sabbath…

Then next on the wheel is Turn. Pause. Listen, and choose to follow Jesus. Every day we have opportunities to turn away from the powers of sin and death and toward the power of love…toward God. Bishop Curry likens this to a flower turning toward the sun. It’s interesting because that’s the way the Gospel today starts…The disciples are out doing the work…and they turn back…turn to Jesus and gather around him.

What helps you turn again and again to Jesus and the way of life?

Next: Learn. Reflect on scripture especially on Jesus’ life and teaching. Again in the Gospel today we hear, “and he began to teach them many things.” He’s still teaching…if we’re open to learning and committed to learning.

Bishop Curry told the convention: “before you march, before you protest, before you do anything, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus…before you get up to speak…before you go over to the water cooler and start whispering something into somebody’s ear…meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus.” You can do it in the privacy of your own home, or you can find companions and friends to help you with it…but take time to reflect on the life and teaching of Jesus early and often.

And then: Pray. I know this is one of those things that trips people up…we want to do it “right.” But really the only wrong way to pray is to not pray. Prayer is simply opening yourself up to God and God’s presence. You can think of it as “wasting time with God.” But you have to make time for it. What practices do you have that help you dwell in God’s presence…if you need help or people to talk to about it the DOK would be glad to talk to you.

What’s next? Worship: Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and dwell with God. Well you’re all here so achievement unlocked for you this week!

Prayer and worship were the two pieces I couldn’t exactly find in the scripture this week, until I remembered that there’s a big chunk missing from the gospel…in between where it says: “and he began to teach them many things”…and “when they had crossed over to the other side” something pretty significant happens…does anyone know what? The whole feeding of the 5000! Where they gather. Jesus prays, takes bread, blesses, breaks it and gives it out…sound familiar? Sound like something we do here every week? Pray and Worship

And then Bless: Bishop Curry says, “O we have been blessed to be to be a blessing. How can you bless this world, how can you bless others?” Jesus and the disciples go across to the other shore and begin to heal, to cast out unclean spirits, to speak truth and love, to build right relationships. How do you bless others through sharing your resources, your faith, your story?

Bless and Go: This is one of Bishop Curry’s favorite phrases. Go! Go to listen deeply, and with humility. Go to heal a hurting world. Go to become the Beloved Community. And that’s what Jesus does as well. Especially in Mark, they go away, then they go to the other side, then they go to villages…Go!

And then rest again…turn…again…learn…again…pray, worship, bless, go…


It’s not a new program…it’s as ancient as the Psalms. As Bishop Curry says, “It’s been field tested”…and it works. Bishop Curry says, someone asked him “how do you live a sacrificial, loving life?,” And he responded, “Well I guess it’s the same way a first responder does… They’ve practiced. They’ve practiced how to save a life.  And when the moment comes, it’s instinct. The spiritual practices are how we practice for when the moment comes, and the Spirit moves through us.”

You’ll hear more about this in the fall. I hope that you all get some rest this summer. And I hope that you all will take this insert home, and will really think about it, and work with it, and make a deeper commitment to these practices. For centuries, these have been the way that people have been built up as “living stones” into a holy temple…a dwelling place for God. This is how we can follow Jesus in our own day, and bring love and healing to a hurting world.


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Posted on Jul 8, 2018

Transformers—homily for 8 July 2018



Photo Credit: .hd. Flickr via Compfight cc

July 8, Proper 9:

2 Samuel 5:1-5,9-10 & Psalm 48
2 Corinthians 12:2-10Mark 6:1-13

Draft text of the homily, it may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.

David stands alone in a field…facing a giant.

And unlike the fearful Israelites surrounding him, he is secure in his faith…his faith in God…his faith in God’s love and care and possession of him…his faith in God to be in control…and thus he transforms the fear surrounding him and slays the giant.

A powerful man with a gravely ill daughter, and a powerless woman plagued for years with a disease for which there appears to be no cure, both push through a crowd of fearful, anxious people, and reach out in faith…faith that even in their immense need and brokenness that God loves and cares for them…and in reaching out they transform a crowd of need into a cloud of witnesses.

For the past two weeks, we’ve heard stories of faith and fear…and today, again, Jesus stands in the midst of skeptical crowds…with the anxiety rising,  “how can he do this?” … Fear seeping in… ”Where did he get this?”…and today…for the first time…fear seems to have the upper hand…He is unable to do any deed of power, and is “amazed at their unbelief.”

Fear is a giant…we know this…and faith often seems small and insignificant in comparison.

Fear is ever-present…we know this too…Every day waves of fear constantly crash over us. Faith is there too…somewhere…we think…we hope…and yes, faith is important but…sometimes…maybe this time (we fear) …faith might be too little, too late…If even Jesus can’t do anything about it…

The fear that emerges in questions like: “How are you doing this Jesus?” “Why are you doing this?” Aren’t you the carpenters son?” today might transform into: “Why can’t you do anything about this?”… “Why aren’t you doing anything about this?” “That’s all you’ve got? An offhand comment about ‘Prophets not being without honor’ and then just walking away?”

But, there’s no single faithful response to fear…There are many ways Jesus could have handled this…he could have done what many of us might do—what many of our public figures do—when faced with a direct challenge to their position or their authority…he could double down. He could “stay on message,” “push-through,” try even harder to get them to come around…try to control the situation…but that’s not what he does.

And I’ve missed this every time I’ve read it. Having this faith and fear framework made me notice this time, what he does…what his response is…because he doesn’t just ignore it…what he does is way more interesting…

In the face of this fearful crowd trying to drain and tame him, he names what they’re doing—“there is no prophet in his own city…” “your own expectations are blinding you.” And then he gathers the twelve and gives them “authority over unclean spirits,” and sends them out. Instead of consolidating and reasserting his own power…he shares it…he redistributes it…gives it up…gives it to others, and sends them out to do the transforming work he’s been doing…

There are many ways of standing up to the ever-present giant of fear.

He sends them out with his authority, a buddy (that’s important), and some very simple instructions. Go to a place, tell the story, if they’re hospitable and receptive, hang out…do what I’m doing…if they’re not, move on…shake off that dust…don’t let the fear and the negativity congeal around you…don’t let it clog up your path and trip you up.

It’s a risky and remarkable move. And notice also what they don’t do. They don’t go out and try to convince people that Jesus is right…They’re not campaigning, or drumming up business, or even being evangelical in the sense of trying to convert people. But they are being evangelical in the sense of listening…and telling stories…sharing meals…and helping out…They’re operating like transformers…dialing down the fear, and pumping up the faith. Just by their presence.

What would change in the world if we did that? If we started to view our role in that way…as transformers…not clinging to power, but redistributing it…dialing down the fear, and upping the faith, the hope, in any situation… What would change?

What would the world look like if we each left here…grounded in an absolute unshakable knowledge that God loves us…what if we each left here grounded in the unshakable conviction that not only loves us, but that God loves everyone…without exception…

What would change if we went out with that knowledge, and really believing that God was active in the world…that God’s deepest desire is to draw the whole creation into reconciled, right relationship?

What would change if we left here with absolute clarity that our task—our faithful task—was to simply pay attention, and try to follow God’s leading in our lives…pay attention to and point out God’s movement in the lives of others…and then, if people were receptive we could stay and have a conversation…learn more about them…learn more about ourselves…and if they weren’t receptive?…we could just shake it off and move on. What would change if we did that?

What would change if all Christians did that? What would change if people from all faiths (and no faith) talked in small groups together about what we value, about how we discover love and find meaning in something that is utterly beyond us, yet as close as our own breath?

What would change? Maybe nothing…maybe everything.

We’re confronted by fear all the time. Some of fears are gigantic, and intractable…some are personal and insidious. And there is no one correct response to fear…Standing up to the giant. Reaching out in vulnerability…Listening to the truth from the powerless…Letting go of power, giving it to others…and shaking the dust off. All of those are faithful responses, what’s key is that as we respond with faith, faith begins to transform fear into courage, begins to transform brokenness into wholeness, begins to transform despair into hope. That’s what we’re called to do and to be…to be transformers for the power of God…so that God’s power do the work of transforming the world.


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