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Posted on May 7, 2018

Preparing to be sent out—sermon for 6 May 2018

Preparing to be sent out

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Book of Common Prayer, p. 855

May 6, Sixth Sunday of Easter:

Psalm 98
Acts 10:44-48
;  1 John 5:1-6John 15:9-17

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 Please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.

Turn to page 855 of the BCP, An Outline of the Faith or Catechism

What is the Mission of the Church?

“The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”

Ok. That’s pretty broad and all-encompassing, but then so is God.

Next question: How does the church pursue its mission?

Answer: “as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.”

The church pursues it’s mission as it prays and worships…so being here…participating in this service…no matter what that participation looks like—if you are here—you are carrying out the mission of the Church.

But the church also pursues its mission as it proclaims the Gospel…that one requires a bit more than just being here…but remember Gospel simply means “good news”…and remember that our baptismal promise is to proclaim the Gospel “by word and example”. We proclaim the Gospel as much by how we live, how we treat others, how we work together toward common goals as we do through the words we say. In other words, to paraphrase St. Francis, “preach the Gospel always, use words if necessary.” But the words are still important.

Being able to say, “I’m a Christian”…or it’s because I’m a Christian that I do X, or believe this…” That’s really important, and probably a lot scarier in this day and age, than just being a good person. It might require more courage.

The church pursues it’s mission as it prays and worships, as it proclaims the Gospel…and promotes justice, peace, and love. There you go…it’s about how we live in the world. How we live in God’s world as faithful people.

Next question.

Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?

Answer: The church carries out its mission “through the ministry of all its members.”

Through the ministry of all its members. That’s you…and me…and as our reading from Acts points out…All on whom the Holy Spirit descends…it’s foolish to think that God’s work can only be done by only a certain group of people.

The church carries out its mission “through the ministry of all its members.” Let’s talk about the laity (that’s you)—and a pro-tip about the way the BCP is written—things that are more important, or preferred come first. So if the direction says, “the people stand or kneel” it means standing is preferred. If it says “the people kneel or stand” it means kneeling is preferred. So, notice how the ministers of the church are laid out…”Who are the ministers of the Church? The ministers are “lay persons bishops, priests, and deacons.”

So what is your ministry? It’s to carry out the mission of the Church… “to represent Christ and his Church, to bear witness to him wherever they may be”…wherever you go, you are representatives of Christ… “and according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world;” So, based on the gifts given to you by the Holy Spirit—your natural skills and abilities, or even just the tasks that you are called into, you are to go out—as I try to remind you every week—to go out and do the work God has given you to do—be engaged in God’s mission of restoring and reconciling. Whether that is as a student, a teacher, a lawyer, a financial analyst, a doctor, a nurse, an administrator, a small business owner, a parent, a grand parent, a child, a sibling…whatever it is you do for the other 167 hours of the week…that’s the mission of the church.

What we do here…and what we do when we’re not here. I told you, it’s all encompassing.

The fifty days of Easter are drawing to a close. Thursday (the 10th) marks the Ascension…the day the risen Christ ascends to the Father…on Pentecost we receive the Spirit and are empowered to carry on his work. Jesus, today, is getting us ready for this. Today, he reminds us—just as Kathy did last week—to abide in him…to remain attached to him—like branches are attached to the vine—remain attached through worship, and prayer, and community…we can’t do this alone. Abide in his love. Remain in his love. Stay attached to his love. Live out his commandment, which is what? “love one another as he has loved us.” Abide in that…and live it out…carry it out to others.

“I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” The fruit of restoration, the fruit of reconciliation, the fruit of peace, justice, and love…the fruit of mission.

As Easter draws to a close, Jesus is preparing us to be sent out…to visibly be his followers in the world…and today we’ll have some practice. At the end of the service, all are invited to join in a Rogation Procession around the church…you can read about it in the bulletin…we’ll go out of the church and offer prayers for our neighbors, for our common life, and for all creation…which we are called to restore to unity with God and one another.

That’s one way we’ll practice. Another is a “listening project” The Mission and Outreach Committee, with the help of many others in the Parish and a team from Episcopal City Mission, are undertaking. Over the next few weeks, a group of about 14 of us will be going out and inviting 3 or 4 people one at a time into conversation about what “mission” means here at All Saints. How are we living out God’s mission in this time and place? The goal is to hear your stories, your passions, and your questions about mission and outreach, so that the Mission and Outreach Committee can be more responsive to the  work that matters most to you. So that we can understand where God is calling us as a community to be focused in the next several years. To listen for those places that are longing for reconciliation, and reconnection. We won’t be able to get to everyone before the Mission and Outreach retreat on June 9th. But I hope these types of conversations can and will continue.

We are being prepared to be sent out…every Sunday…it is an all-encompassing mission…but it’s not an impossible one…these commandments are not burdensome…and we have each other and a great cloud of witnesses—saints and apostles—to rely on. And we have Jesus, the great High Priest…the good shepherd…the Alpha and Omega…the one who is and is to come…our brother…our friend…

Abide in him…and love one another…and God’s mission will be fulfilled.

Amen.

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Posted on May 5, 2018

The Vine Abides-homily for 30 April 18, Easter 5, Rite 13

 

The Vine Abides

Kathleen O’Donoghue, Family Minister

Homily for April 30, Easter 5 and Rite 13

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

 John 15:1-8  ”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

This morning I have the honor of speaking to our Rite 13 youth…Charlotte, Riley, Lucas and Nora. This is their day when we celebrate a rite of passage of sorts. It’s not Confirmation, that will come later, but an acknowledgement that becoming a teenager, becoming 13, is a time that you need support and encouragement and nourishment of the spiritual kind. It can be a scary time, filled with exciting possibilities for the future, but still tethered by the roots of being dependent on parents, teachers, community and church to help point you in the right direction and support your growth.

Now even though these words are specifically for our four teens today, they’ve assured me it’s OK if you all listen in and think about your own spiritual growth too.

When I saw the gospel text for the day I had to smile. I know that Becky Taylor really loved these verses and structured church school last year around the verse, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” When one thinks about nurturing and support of the children and youth of All Saints, Becky immediately springs to mind, as she was such a faithful source of nourishment and tending of their spirits.

I also had to smile because this is also MY favorite image of God and God’s people. As a very young child, I read these words weekly, as they were carved into the wood surrounding the chancel at St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Dorchester. At 7 I didn’t know much about growing vines, but each week I tried and tried to understand what Jesus meant by “I am the vine and you are the branches”. It was in fact a kind of prayer or meditation that I engaged in for years and I can’t help but think it shaped me as a follower of Jesus.

Finally I had to smile because I really can’t think of a better gospel lesson for our Rite 13 youth and this celebration today. 13 year olds in particular are in this magical place when they, where you, imagine they are invincible, can plan to be and to have anything they would want in the world and most of all, feel they can accomplish all this on their own. I say this to you all today, thirteen year olds, because I of course used to be 13, (can you imagine?) and I thought exactly the same thing about my future, my life and my own ability to navigate the world without the help of those annoying adults who kept telling me what I needed. Anybody else have this experience when they were 13? Look around you for a moment and see in what good company you find your selves! If there were ONE SINGULAR THING I would wish for you, one thing you would learn as you become older teens and young adults, it is that YOU SHOULD NOT TRY TO GROW UP ALONE. Our culture encourages individualism and following our own paths and making a mark based on our capacity to be entertaining (YouTube videos) or to get as many “likes” as possible on our Instagram pictures. None of these things is BAD in and of itself, but you just need MORE than this. We ALL need more than this, to flourish, to grown, to produce fruit in our lives.

Mentioning “producing fruit” brings us back to the vine and the branches. Thinking about that picture, Jesus being the vine, the large supportive structure of the grape plant, and we being the branches, the off shoots of that vine, is exactly right. We depend on Jesus, the vine for our spiritual nourishment, for our support, for our community surrounding us as we will surround you during your time of blessing here today. Thinking we can bear spiritual fruit without the vine is simply a mistake. Have you ever seen fruit that has begun to grow but then fell off the tree or plant and is lying on the ground? What does it look like? Its growth has stopped, it is not ripe (think about a green strawberry or tomato), it wouldn’t taste good if you picked it up off the ground and bit into it. Fruit needs the continued nourishment and water and sun that staying attached to the vine provides.

Maybe this all sounds pretty obvious and what control does a strawberry have if it gets detached from a vine anyway? Well, this is the thing about Jesus. You and I know and I think those listening to him that day knew, Jesus isn’t really talking about grapes on a vine or strawberries on a plant. He says “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” AH HA! Once again Jesus catches them, Jesus catches US, by talking about something they understand in their own lives and then makes a CONNECTION to his own purpose of helping them get ready for his departure, start to tell the Good News of the Gospel in the early church and most importantly, remain nourished and cared for in the presence of the Holy Spirit, which will sustain them, feed them, help them to produce fruit in their lives. Do you get it?

YOU are the fruit of the vine! Your parents or grandparents or your guardians have raised you and cared for you throughout your life, all thirteen years of it, to help you become the best fruit you can be! Ripe and full of life and nourishment for the world. And now it’s coming to a time in your life that you will start to decide if you want to remain, to abide, in that place where you can continue to be nourished and tended to or if you think you’re good and you can take it from here. I wonder what effect that decision will have on your fruit?

I’d like to make sure you know I’m not saying your family, your church, your school has to do everything for you. That’s not nurturing, that’s suffocating!

Here is however what all of those, family, school, sports, music groups, theatre and to me very critically CHURCH, can continue to do for and with you as you continue to grow and flourish into your life.

  • First is CARING. We at All Saints LOVE YOU and your changing teenage self. We want you to participate in worship, have a sense that prayer is powerful and know you have people here to whom you can tell anything, ANYTHING, without fear of judgment or laughter.
  • Next is CONNECTION. The people here will be here for you all through your teen years and as you enter adulthood. When you feel that you are absolutely and utterly alone in the world, and you will feel that way, call or text someone you know at All Saints.
  • Maybe most importantly, we offer COMMUNITY to you. In the past we have celebrated your firsts, listened to you sing with Schola, watched you acolyte and cheered when you didn’t set anything on fire! We celebrate you today at 13 and as you develop and create your own way in the world and we’ll do the same at your Confirmation, at your Graduation, when you send updates from college, when you marry and have your own family. Does all that sound fake or that we can’t promise this? It’s what the church has been doing for years, decades, centuries, millennia. The Church continues to abide in Jesus (the vine) and it will continue to do so into the future, forever. We are your community, we will offer you nourishment (physical and spiritual as a matter of fact), tend to your hearts, pray for your sorrows and celebrate your joys. Abide in us here and abide in Jesus. V5 “I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me, you can do noting” v8, “My father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Stay in your church community. Remain and develop connections with each other, older teens to show you the way and adults who have been through it all before.

Abide with Jesus. Go to him in prayer, ask for help, share your joys, grow and mature in your faith.

Take that fruitful faith and share it with others. With family, with friends and perhaps most importantly with the folks you don’t know, the desperate, the hungry, the lonely. Show them Jesus in all our interaction with them and help them to see that He is the vine and that they may also abide in him. Become his disciples.

Amen.

 

 

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Posted on Apr 11, 2018

Where was Thomas?—homily for 8 April 2018

Where was Thomas?

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By Caravaggio – http://www.christusrex.org/www2/art/images/carav10.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6804893

April 8, Second Sunday of Easter:

Psalm 133;
Acts 4:32-35;  1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

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

 

I wonder where Thomas was.
That first night…
John’s account says, “When it was evening on that day…(that day being Easter)…the day that Mary Magdalene returned with this incredible story of seeing Jesus…Alive.
(She thought he was the gardener, but still), she saw him and ran and told the others, “I have seen the Lord.”
And they do what? Go into hiding. All except Thomas
That evening they are locked in, and afraid.
But not Thomas.
He’s not there.
I wonder what he was doing?

John’s gospel account gives us a picture of Thomas as one of the boldest disciples.
Thomas is willing to go with Jesus back to Bethany near Jerusalem after they hear that Lazarus has died. Everyone else is terrified that returning will result in them all being stoned to death.
But not Thomas. He’s the one who says, “Let’s all go so we can die with him!” (John 11:16)

In the non-biblical stories…the tradition that grew up around Thomas, he was the apostle who ventured the farthest. Legend says that he set off through Syria, and Persia, and made it as far Kerla along the west coast of India, and established a number of churches among the Jewish diaspora there. He may have traveled into Indonesia.
There are other legends, recorded by Jesuit missionaries in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, told by tribes in Paraguay, that a holy man—“Father Thomas”—one of the apostles, had lived among them, preached the gospels and performed miracles.
So maybe on the evening of THAT day, Thomas was hiding out somewhere else…but give what little we know about him, that seems unlikely. Thomas never appears to be a cowering sort…he’s a hands-on kind of guy…a doer.
So what was he doing?
We don’t know—I have some theories—but all John says is that he’s not in the room with the rest of them.
And what about that doubting….he doesn’t appear to be someone who lets his doubts—his skepticism—or his fear get in the way of actually doing something.
But this one incident gets him this unfortunate nickname—“Doubting” Thomas.
But come on…
Would you believe that group?
These are the same people who just a couple of days ago fled…deserted Jesus…publicly denied knowing him…
and now Thomas is just supposed to trust them again?

Let’s think about this doubt for a minute….
We live in a world that is seems to be simultaneously absolutely incredulous (disbelieving) and utterly gullible.
We both refuse to believe in certain things…and we believe in all kinds of other things with very little evidence.
We live in a world where: Show me…Prove it…Pics or it didn’t happen…
Operate side by side with truthiness, and fake news, and outright lies that no amount of facts can combat.
Everyday we are awash in “see it for yourself” images…raw, unfiltered footage of every manner of good and evil.
And we also awash in photoshopped, staged, promotional propaganda.
We’re all doubters (or we should be)…doubt, as they say, is not the opposite of faith…certainty is the opposite of faith. We all need to have a good deal of discernment about what we will or won’t believe.
And here’s one reason scripture is so powerful and necessary in a world like ours…because all that input…your favorite news show…all your subreddits and twitter and facebook feeds, your Netflix queue and all your Amazon recommendations…they all work towards encouraging you to believe that the world really does work exactly the way you think it does. They are all about confirming the status quo…The gospel very, very rarely affirms the status quo. The Gospel is always a challenge to the way we think the world works. It is always there and ready with examples that run counter whatever the status quo is…and it’s important to have that.
But that doesn’t help us with where Thomas was.
There’s a long standing scholarly debate about whether the author of the fourth gospel is the same as the author of this letter we heard today. Maybe they were the same person…or maybe just from the same community…one thing they share in common is this insistence on “what we have heard, and what we have seen with our eyes.”
And do you remember what John’s letter says next? “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands.”
Now in the Gospel story, none of the other disciples touch Jesus…they see and rejoice…but apparently it’s not just Thomas who touches…”We declare what we have heard…and seen…and touched with our hands.” The resurrection is not just something to believe in…it’s something that can be touched…and felt…and known…not just intellectually, but known in a tactile…embodied…cellular way.
So here’s my theory…as to why Thomas wasn’t there that first night.
I like to imagine that he wasn’t there because he wasn’t afraid, and was out doing what Jesus had taught him to do…healing…reconciling…ministering…I like to think that he was the one bold enough to carry on with the mission even with the leader dead.
Maybe Thomas isn’t there because, as we can see, he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, so maybe he’s out continuing to care for those wounded by Rome’s brutality…bandaging the bloodied heads, the crushed hands, the bodies wounded by the violence endemic in society …
the hearts bruised by loss, twisted by fear…the spirits battered by the demands of trying desperately to keep up…or souls diminished by being unable to provide basic sustenance for their families.
In other words, maybe Thomas is out being an apostle…carrying out the hard, messy work of God’s mission…bringing reconciliation…pressing for peace…advocating for justice…embodying shalom…
Maybe…And maybe John, through this famous scene with Jesus is connecting the wounds of Christ, with the wounds of the world….
And reminding us…that following Jesus means something other than overcoming doubt and “believing six impossible things before breakfast” (Through the Looking Glass) it means getting your hands dirty…
It means being willing to reach out and touch the wounds that we inflict on each other…in order to bring healing…
It means risking your heart, and being willing to step into the messy, difficult, and scary places of hurt and grief that are always left in the wake of violence…in order to bring peace…

Maybe Thomas wasn’t there that night because he was out doing that….
And maybe he is here every year, on the Sunday after Easter to remind us that following Jesus means bringing your whole self…doubt and all…and standing with others in difficult situations…it means being willing to look at and touch the wounds we inflict on one another….it means going out to be with the vulnerable…to those places of greatest need and to proclaim, “peace”… It means going out and making those connection…those real…tangible connections…because that’s where we truly discover the reality of the resurrection, and where we proclaim “our Lord, and our God.”

Amen.

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Posted on Apr 1, 2018

The Ship of Faith—homily for Easter Day

The Ship of Faith

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Photo Credit: Adam Heitzman Flickr via Compfight cc

Principal Service:
Psalm 118:1-2,14-24
;
Acts 10:34-43; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11Mark 16:1-8

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

They say, the ship of Theseus was preserved for centuries. Theseus, the legendary founder of ancient Athens, was so revered that the Athenians preserved his ship. They accomplished this by removing all of the old planks as they decayed and replacing them with new ones over and over again for hundreds and hundreds of years. Which creates this paradoxical thought experiment…if all the timbers have been replaced, is it still the same ship?

This same paradox gets told as “my grandfather’s ax.” This is the ax my grandfather gave me, the handle broke and had to be replaced several times, and the head wore out and had to be replaced several times, but I would never buy a new ax, because this is the one that belonged to my grandfather.

All Saints Parish was founded 124 years ago this November. I dare say, no here this morning was there at the time. Yes, the building is still here…lovingly tended to (we replace things periodically)…but the true timbers of this ship of faith…the wood…the warp and weft of this body of the faithful…have all been replaced…many times…over several generations…Is it still the same church? Are we still the same church?

Are we still part of the same Diocese that was founded in 1784, when Samuel Seabury was consecrated as Bishop of New England and New York, the first bishop in the Episcopal Church?

Are we still part of the same church that was reformed by Elizabeth I (and many other reformers) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?

Are we still the same church of Gregory the great in the sixth century, Gregory who sent Christian missionaries into northern Europe, including the British Isles, and established Christian outposts there?

Are we still the same church that Paul writes to today? The church in Corinth…Which is (by the way) as close as we get to any actual witnesses at the tomb that morning. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth around the year 50, only a few decades after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus—his are some of the earliest writings we have…Mark and Luke (who wrote Acts) came much later. Are we still that church?

In many ways, the answer has to be…”of course not.” There are too many cultural and historical changes that happened between the first, sixth, sixteenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and twenty-first centuries.

On the other hand…

“I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received… through which also you are being saved…(This is Paul talking to the Corinthians, but he might as well be talking to us). “For I handed on to you…what I in turn had received…that Christ died, and that he was buried…that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures…that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred, most of whom are still alive… Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, he appeared to me.”

This is what I proclaim, says Paul, and “so you have come to believe.”

Paul had an experience of the resurrected Jesus. And so did many others. Which he then told others about.

And did you notice that all we heard today was someone else’s report about Jesus’s resurrection?

We didn’t actually see Jesus this morning…just heard about the resurrection from others. This young man in the tomb, Peter, Paul, the writers of our hymns…me…

Thousands of people down through the centuries. I bet there are some here who have had an experience of the resurrected Jesus…

This mysterious figure sitting in the tomb, robbed in white, tells us that Jesus isn’t here, and then says, “but go and tell the others…He is going ahead of you, and you will see him, just as he promised.”

Go and tell others, and you will see him. There’s a connection between telling others and seeing Jesus.

They must have done that, because not long after this people start telling stories about meeting strangers on the road. Strangers who open up the scriptures to them, and then when they invite him to eat, he takes bread, and blesses, and breaks it, and Jesus is revealed as real and present in their midst, which is just what we do today in the Eucharist…modified to be sure, but in essence very much the same as it was 100, 500, 1000, 1500, and almost 2000 years ago.

They must have told the story, because soon others see the Risen Christ in locked rooms, and on a beach, and on the road…wherever they are feeling lost, and hopeless, whenever their hearts are breaking, or sometimes they’re just going about their day…laughing with those who laugh, and weeping with those who weep…and in the midst of that daily existence…Jesus is revealed to them. And what we have inherited is their testimony…and these ritual practices…

This ship…this church…is the same, because these traditions…open us up to be able to experience of the Divine in our own lives…they help us see God acting in the world…they help us learn how to be human…(which is not as easy as it sounds)…they teach us how to live in community…how to truly belong…our traditions recognize that we are going to get it wrong…we’re going to mess up all of this up, and make mistakes…and so our traditions help us heal the wounds…and bind up the brokenness…And we’ve been at this…doing it very imperfectly…for a very long time.

Gustav Mahler is often credited with this quote. Apparently, he did say it, but he was quoting it from a German translation of Thomas More. I’ve googled it and can’t find the true origin of the quote, but that doesn’t make it less poignant, or less true…

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”

We are not here this morning, to simply commemorate something that happened some two millennia ago…we are not worshipping or preserving the ashes of some long deconstructed ship…we are the tenders of a flame… We are the keepers of a light that shines in the darkness…and the darkness cannot overcome. We are the tellers of tales, and the singer of songs…songs and stories that tell of the power of life over death, of hope over fear, of love that embraces all and never ends…

“You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified.  He has been raised. He is and is not here. Go and tell others…tend the flame…shine the light…he is going ahead of you…you will see him, just as he told you.”

Amen.

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Posted on Feb 18, 2018

Subtraction—sermon for 18 February 2018—Lent 1

Subtraction

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Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds Flickr via Compfight cc

February 18, First Sunday in Lent:

Psalm 25:1-9;
Genesis 9:8-171 Peter 3:18-22Mark 1:9-15

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

We’re still hearing voices.

That same voice that we heard on the first Sunday of Epiphany, the voice we heard last week…it echoes again today.

Noah hears it. Jesus hears it…(maybe we do too).

We’ll hear it once more at the end of Lent…Just as we’re about to enter Jerusalem in triumph. Just as it looks like everything is going to be great! Just before all our hopes get crushed, and we are left with nothing but that empty, black pit—the reality of our denial…our betrayal.

Jesus hears that voice and is immediately driven into the wilderness. From this wilderness he begins a journey—a journey he keeps beaconing us to accompany him on—and we do…a ways…but it’s hard…and we fall, and fail…Because the journey moves from this voice declaring “You are my Child, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased,”—it moves from being bathed in this glorious proclamation, to a voice in agony, crying from the cross, “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me!”

The journey moves from hearing God’s voice, and knowing God’s presence, to knowing only God’s silence…sensing only God’s absence. Of course, there’s more to the story than that…but confronting that absence is a crucial part…

Meister Eckhart, the 13th century German mystic, said: “God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction.” [Source]

God is not found by adding anything, but by subtracting.

That’s what this journey is…it’s a process of subtracting…of letting go…of clearing out what is not needed…and discovering, and holding onto the only thing that is needed.

We have to remember that this is also the journey God takes with us…this is God’s own journey. We heard the story today of how God established a covenant with Noah, and every living creature—(I think that’s really interesting—that early covenant is not just with us, but with every living thing). God establishes a covenant yet remains aloof…somewhat apart from all us creatures. God’s got that reminder in the sky (I think that’s really interesting too…apparently God needs reminders). But you know the rest of the story…and you know that remaining aloof doesn’t work out so well. So God, in Jesus, does something radical. God subtracts. God gives up…God empties…Describing this in a letter to the church at Philippi, Paul says “Though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself,…taking human form…humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Jesus emptied himself…God empties God’s self…even to the point of death…even to the point of non-existence…for us…for the sake of all of us creatures…because it’s out of that black pit of nothingness that Easter, and ultimate reconciliation, is birthed.

The spiritual journey is more about subtraction than addition.

There’s a pretty well known Zen story, about a student who goes to seek out a master.

The master invites the student in and offers tea. As the student talks about how excited they are about working with the master…and how influential the master has already been the students life…the master gets the tea pot and two cups…and the student goes on about all their studies, and accomplishments, and struggles…and the master begins pouring the tea…as the student talks the master fills the cup to the brim, and then keeps pouring, and the tea begins to overflow and pours down the sides of the cup and over the table and onto the floor…and the student—still talking—finally realizes what is happening and thinking the master may have lost it says, “Stop. What are you doing? You’re spilling it everywhere.” The master stops. Looks at the tea cup, and then at the student and says…”You are just like this tea cup…you’re already so full of all your own ideas…I can’t teach you anything until you empty your cup.”

The spiritual life is more about subtraction than addition…What do you need to do to empty your cup? What do you need to let go of? What do you need to clear out of your life?

In Lent, as in our whole spiritual life, we begin with that reminder that we and everyone (everything) else is a beloved child of God, and along the journey we shed or lose or deny or betray that belovedness…until we are aware only of God’s absence. God walks this path with us…picking us up when we fall, healing us, teaching us…and emptying God’s self out…for us…relinquishing all the power that God has until all that is left…all that remains…is love.

Amen.

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Posted on Jan 31, 2018

Sunday’s Ministers

Thank You to Everyone Leading Worship this Week
Presider and Preacher The Rev. Dr. Richard Burden
Assisting Priest The Rev. Anoma Abeyaratne
Music Christian Lane, The Choir of All Saints

Jessica Petrus Aird, The Schola of All Saints

Verger Bonnie Randall
Minister of Ceremonies Sue LeClaire
Chalicers Jim Daniell, Yvonne Schlaeppi
Healing Minister Tom Nutt-Powell
Crucifer and Acolytes Duncan Jurayj, Luke Thibault, Theodore Yang
Lectors Susan Sturman, Mary Urban Keary, Honor McClellan
Crucifer and Acolytes Tatyana Danahy-Moore, Riley Klaus, Tysen Klaus
Welcome Minister Roberta Schnoor
Ushers Chuck McVinney, Kendrew Caporal, Margaret Hogan, Henry Kettell, Jimmy LaCroix
Altar Guild Susan Cleaver, Chad Landrum, Sue LeClaire, Bonnie Randall, Rebecca Sheppard
Vestry Counters Yvonne Schlaeppi, Margaret Harrison
Social Hour Hosts Harold and Candy Petersen

 

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