11/15 The 24th Sunday after Pentecost: Faith – Not fear

Since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. 1 Thess 5.11

 

Yesterday I watched as a turkey vulture, a seagull, a red hawk and several crows, all sailed and circled over the breezy sunny countryside – hardly flapping their wings at all, they floated, hovered and turned on the wind upholding them.  In our world gone mad and reveling in division, it was a beautiful and inspiring sight to see these very different birds in the same landscape at the same time, being birds – flying not clinging to a branch – lifted and soaring on a power beyond themselves.

Speaking to the Thessalonian Christians, Paul ever the encourager – speaks of faith to a people caught in a time of persecution and division.  In a world which feeds on doubt, fear and uncertainty – to speak of faith might seem naïve.  But as the Church – faith in Jesus and salvation – is our offering to a world in need of encouragement.  Faith is the only counter to the fear that is proclaimed by the world at every opportunity.   The story of the servants and the talents shows what happens when we live in fear and allow it to overtake our lives.   The man with only one talent – certainly understandably was afraid and fearful of losing what little he had.  But he never moved beyond the fear and ultimately lost everything.   In our lives fear may be our initial reaction to what is happening around us – but it need not be our final reaction.  And this is where faith comes in.  Fear has the power to paralyze but faith provides a great reserve of power and resource – the Holy Spirit, the Comforter and Guide.   Great is God’s faithfulness and may our own faithfulness rise with the Spirit to share in His.

God of love, you pour out your Spirit in abundance on all those whom you call to serve you in Christ.  Grant us the faith, wisdom, and love to make use of all your gifts, small and great – to banish fear – and to serve the coming of your Kingdom, through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/8 The 23rd Sunday after Pentecost “Five of them were foolish and five of them were wise” Mt.25.2

Today Matthew tells us the kingdom will be like a wedding banquet where the maidens bearing the processional lights were not all ready – some had prepared the extra oil needed for their lamps, and some had not.  He finishes with a reminder to keep awake and ready – because no one has the inside line on when God will open the Kingdom.

From the scriptures we know that day will have turmoil and chaos, when God’s eternal call for justice and righteousness can no longer be sidestepped.  As God is presently and eternally making all things new, we pray to have the courage and His grace to be ready NOW for his Kingdom.  Our daily prayer of humble submission is that His kingdom come, His will be done, and for the daily bread of His love filling us and illuminating us.  Saint Charles Borromeo reminds us, “Know and recall that there is no greater wealth and treasure, nothing more excellent and fruitful, than to love God and serve him – and that everything else passes like smoke and shadow”.

The scriptures also tell us “whosoever” comes to God won’t be cast out.  So, let us be ready with the love of Jesus – and one another – in our hearts and deeds.

11/1 The Feasts of All Saints and All Souls: Eternal Prayer, Eternal Life

Let my prayer be set forth before you as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Ps. 141.2

Today as we revere and give thanks for the saints who have gone before us, we pray for the grace to follow them in the narrow way which leads to the narrow gate of eternal life where we will be reunited with them and all who have gone before us.  And as we joined together in prayer in this life, so too may our prayers be joined and continue in eternity.

Dear Father, You have given the saints in Heaven eternal happiness and they now live in the fullness of Your glory. Because of their holy love for You, they also care about us and our families, our friends, our church, and our neighbors. Thank you for the gift of their friendship and the witness of their holy lives. We ask all the saints and every saint who has become especially dear to us to intercede for us. We ask them to help us journey safely on the narrow path that leads to Heaven. O Lord, give us their protection. Grant us their assistance in overcoming temptation and gaining the fullness of life with You. Amen.

Merciful Father, hear our prayer and console us. As we renew our faith in Your Son, whom You raised from the dead, strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in His resurrection, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Eternal Rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

For the Election

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges:  Guide the people of the United States in this election; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

 

10/25 The 21st Sunday after Pentecost: Divine Order, One Rule, One Love

When I was about 6 or 7 my older sister and my brother in law gave me a 12-inch ruler for my birthday.  It was heavy and made out of gold colored metal.  I remember unwrapping it and looking at it and from the look on my face I guess they knew I wondered “what am I going to do with this”.  So, my brother in law said “You know what that is? It’s the Golden Rule.  Since I still looked puzzled, he said “Turn it over and read what it says” So I turned the inch marked side over and read out loud “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  He said “That’s right – that’s the Golden Rule.”

The ruler was made of brass and a bit heavy but I put it in my desk and used it to measure and when I needed to draw straight lines.  With that brass ruler I could take measurements to compare and copy and I could “rule” and mark my drawings or papers with straight lines: Nice, neat and perfect like an expert!  I think some part of us all wants the world to be a place where everything is perfect, exact, clearly defined and in order. And we use all sorts of “rules” to try to do that.  But like my brass ruler, it only stretched so far – and then what?  What do we do when we come to the end of the measure and the problem is bigger than the tools at hand? I’ve lost the brass ruler along the way but I’ve never lost the message of the Golden Rule. 

Today in Matthew’s gospel Jesus ties the Law to the Rule – the first commandment: to love God with all your heart, mind and soul – And second: love your neighbor as yourself.  God’s all merciful and forgiving Love completes and perfects God’s Law.  And when all our rules, laws, answers – run out, run dry, go wrong – who knows what we can do if we all followed the perfect Guide:  The Golden Rule

10/18 The 20th Sunday after Pentecost: What is Lawful ?: Caesar, Freedom and Responsibility

The Gospel reading for today is Matthew 22.15-22

Along with two readings and a prayer 

Isa. 58.6 – 7; 9b – 10

Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke?  Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh?  If you remove the yoke from among you, the accusing finger, and malicious speech; If you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday.

Ignatius of Antioch’s epistle to the Ephesians

Pray unceasingly also for the rest of men.  There is still hope that they may be converted and find their way to God.  By the testimony of your clean lives, offer them an opportunity of becoming your fellow disciples.  Meet their angry outbursts with your gentleness, their boasts with your humility, their contempt with your prayers, their errors with your constancy in the faith, their cruelty with your serenity.  Above all, do not try to match their example.

Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

10/11 The 19th Sunday after Pentecost: Waiting in Hope

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.  From Isaiah 5

 Isaiah writes of the messianic age when the world will be a place of abundance and enough for all – a refuge-like shelter and shade from the storms of life: A mountain and a feast, in images of plenty and tasty food, and of the blinding dividing death-vision shroud to be destroyed by the Lord God as he clears all sadness and disgrace from humanity.  On that day, says Isaiah, we wait with yearning.  

The Church has awaited this day for centuries in the messianic feast known as the eucharist – holy communion, the feast of thanksgiving for God who both leads and follows us in the blessing grace of Jesus Christ – forgiveness supreme.  This time last year we were celebrating Homecoming and getting ready for our 190th Anniversary Feast and Gala.  These occasions were a foretaste of what Isaiah describes and which like him, we await – Caught still, in the death-vision shroud, with even our sabbath feasting interrupted in the confusion of fear that the world has become.  Caught still- and waiting……but not without hope.

Jesus’ story today of a wedding banquet echoes this mountain top feast of plenty with a lesson for us all.  The feast was ready but those called, mocked the invitation – so the doors were flung wide to bring in any and all, with the punchline: ‘For many are called, but few are chosen’.  How many times have we quoted this, and heard it quoted to justify a condescending attitude of superior attitude over someone or group? To point the finger? And that’s the punch Jesus landed in the self-righteous shroud-shade attitude of the chief priests, pharisees, – and you and me.  Whether you think you are called or (better?) – chosen – the point is this: the banquet kingdom-feast is for “all peoples”.   So, pay attention – and be READY.  The wedding garment of grace is available to everyone who asks and receives and puts on Christ Jesus- the garment of salvation.  Paul robed in Christ from the depths of a prison knew this and could proclaim a message of hope – in his tortured waiting – like brother Isaiah: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

 

 

10/4 The 18th Sunday after Pentecost: Telling Stories and Being Changed

Readings:  Isaiah 5.1-7 / Phil 3.4b-14 / Mt. 21.33-46/

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that Jesus was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet. Mt 21.46

Back in Jerusalem this week – or rather still in Jerusalem, the city of peace – and its crunch time.  Things are heating up, Passover is a few days away and Jesus is still on the loose telling stories. First, he told about two sons, one of whom deceived his father and one who changed his mind.  And now he was talking about an inherited vineyard and tenants who tried to steal it.  The religious officials are still afraid and Jesus was still telling stories – about them – and before we let ourselves off the hook – anybody in hearing distance  – and at least they realized it – but they still didn’t want to be changed.  Do we?

A vineyard –producing kingdom fruit.  Jesus was talking about making the world God’s home – and they were afraid.  Crunch time is all relative and the vineyard is getting hotter but we can be a part of changing that by “being changed”.  Paul, the prisoner – the “changed one” – writes of pressing on to what lies ahead.  And as prisoners of the present circumstances we can learn much from his words of gain and loss, worth and value, and the call of God in Jesus Christ.  As the Feast of St. Francis is commemorated today we will do well to recall how he changed and pressed forward always humbling himself and calling all others with to receive and share the kingdom fruit of God’s Peace. 

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where  there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen.

9/27 The 17th Sunday after Pentecost: Heavenly Treasure

Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-32 / Philippians 2:1-13 / Matthew 21:23-32

Who do you think you are?  We’d probably ask the same question if a man came riding into town on a donkey causing a commotion, turning the temple fundraiser upside down, zapping a fig tree, and talked of throwing mountains into the sea.  The religious officials were afraid of Jesus – and of their own shadows.   A little later on Saul was afraid of Jesus too, especially his wayfaring followers – but something happened and he became Paul by the word of Jesus. As the Lord had told Ezekiel, Paul turned and received “a new heart and a new spirit”. Joining the wayfarers he wrote to the Philippians from prison about his separation from them and encouraged them to be “of the same mind”: specifically “the same mind that was in Christ Jesus”.  Encouraging them in his absence to look to Jesus, and to know that even though they were apart, God was at work in them together.  God’s Grace in them.

It’s a beautiful picture and one which recalls to mind a story I’ve shared at quiet days over the years, of seeing a young girl running with outstretched arms, almost stumbling over herself – as overly excited children tend to do, – towards a mailbox where a postal truck has just pulled off in a cloud of red dust, rushing for the delivery of a long- expected parcel.  Today as the turmoil of “covidtide” rages on and the lost voices of division demand to know “Who do you think you are?” let us turn again with new hearts and minds as we pray for the new life we’re given together in Jesus, the heavenly treasure.

Let us pray:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O God, our Healer and our Good, you sent your Son to cure the world’s sickness by taking upon himself the burden of its guilt.  Heal the diseased vision that causes us to mistake evil for good; heal the sickened mind that causes us to mistake selfishness for love; heal the unhealthy habits that we have made our own, so that we may stand together before you, whole in body, soul, and spirit, to sing your praise for ever with all the saints, through Jesus Christ out Lord. Amen.

 

 

 

9/20 The 16th Sunday after Pentecost: Happy in Jesus

“And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”  Jonah 4.11 

Spit out of the slime of a fish belly after a 3 day stay you would think Jonah might have a new appreciation of God’s mercy towards him.  He had ended up belly bound because he turned his back on God –and now Jonah lay gasping for fresh air freed by that eternal mercy after begging God for it and getting it.  Not that it made a long-lasting impression on him- he did get up and go tell the great city Nineveh to repent.  But as soon as they did Jonah got bent out of shape over it.  Evidently Jonah would have preferred to see Nineveh’s destruction – rather than their conversion and God’s extension of mercy to them.   Oh it was ok for HIM to cry out to God and be delivered, but not ok for THOSE EVIL NINEVITES.  And why had God made him get wrapped up in the whole affair anyway?  Jonah just couldn’t let go of it – so he sat down on the hillside hoping to see some wrath, judgement and destruction. But he was disappointed again when his shade bush withered and God gave him another lecture about mercy.   

Like the laborers who grumbled at the generosity of the landowner in Jesus’ tale of the Kingdom – Jonah just couldn’t bear to see for others what he expected for himself.  There’s a lot of that feeling in the world today.  Not wanting to bear with one another – feeling like some (me/we) deserve – and some (they/them) don’t, not wanting to be involved at all.   God’s kingdom to which we’re all invited will be much different from the fishbelly world we live in today where right hand and left hand work at counter purposes – if at all.  When we accept the invitation, the gift of generous mercy is what we’re offered – May we let it be what we really want for ourselves and for everybody else. 

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey” 

9/13 The 15th Sunday after Pentecost UBE Sunday comm. The Rev. Alexander Crummell

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Alexander Crummell, whom you called to preach the Gospel to those who were far off and those who were near. Raise up, in this and every land, evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.