Saturday, November 28, 2015

Occupy Hope, Occupy Advent

Advent 1C, 2015
Text found here
Occupy Hope

There is a photo, my mother and I seated in the open hatchback of our car. Yellow grasses bend around us with the wind.  Her arm is slung about my shoulder.  I am twelve and we have driven up the mountain side to witness the total eclipse of the sun.  We are perched on what looks to be the edge of the world.

I am smiling. I do not know that in 5 years my dad will die near that very place.  I do not know that after his death my mother will careen into disaster--her fragile mental health upended by tragedy and alcohol.   

I do not know.  Nor, does she.  And, so we wait, ready with our homemade eye protection to witness an event detailed in any number of narratives foretelling the end of days--the sun, obliterated, and the end upon us.     

And, we smile, we know better.  This is not the end.  But, in retrospect, perhaps it was.  It was the end of some things and the beginning of others.  

We lived that day.  Secure in love.  I was newly twelve and we did not know.  

Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars...”

And, the gravity of the veiled sun spins us round.  And, we drive up the mountain and perch on the edge of the world.  To bear witness.  But, we are not there to witness the end of the world.

We are there to survive it.  And, then to tell of it.  

Author Annie Dillard, describes a total eclipse of the sun which occurred in 1979, 

“You have seen photographs of the sun taken during a total eclipse. The corona fills the print. All of those photographs were taken through telescopes. The lenses of telescopes and cameras can no more cover the breadth and scale of the visual array than language can cover the breadth and simultaneity of internal experience. Lenses enlarge the sight, omit its context, and make of it a pretty and sensible picture, like something on a Christmas card. I assure you, if you send any shepherds a Christmas card on which is printed a three-by-three photograph of the angel of the Lord, the glory of the Lord, and a multitude of the heavenly host, they will not be sore afraid. More fearsome things can come in envelopes. More moving photographs than those of the sun’s corona can appear in magazines. But I pray you will never see anything more awful in the sky.”  

The photo does not do the awful justice. And, so photo in my mind’s eye, I was twelve.  My world was going to end. A new world would begin. I would choose to step into that new world.  And in that choosing, I would choose to believe in hope.  

To live, to become, to hope.

And, this is the theme of the first Sunday of Advent.


Hope that we can avert disaster.  Hope that promises will be kept.  Hope that the veiled sun will emerge intact.  Hope.

Can we understand the power of hope?  

Hope.  It is what the prophet Jeremiah proclaims in the portion of text given to us today--chapters 30-33 of Jeremiah are referred to as the little book of Comfort.  

And, after the first 29 chapters of Jeremiah, there is a need for comfort...

In Jeremiah’s charge as a prophet he is instructed to pluck up and tear down and then build and plant anew (Jeremiah 1:10).  So in the first 29 chapters he describes the failings of Israel and the devastation that has been wrought by those failings--he castigates the exiled people and angrily mourns the devastation in their midst. Jeremiah addresses a community devastated by the Babylonian invasion of 587 BCE, a community living in exile and longing for return.

Exile akin to eclipse--Jeremiah writes to a shadowed world. But, his charge being two-fold, he cannot neglect to tell of the God who builds and plants.  And, so out of the shadows emerges the comfort of God’s promise.  

The prophet offers hope, and the Lord says, “I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.”

And, the sun emerges from behind the unseen moon, “Thus says the Lord: If any of you could break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night would not come at their appointed time, only then could my covenant with my servant David be broken” (Jeremiah 33:20-21)

God’s covenant with us cannot be broken--it is as consistent as the rising and the setting of the sun.  Nor is God’s commitment to us dependent upon our own abilities--God’s covenant manifests itself in grace. Such grace, as the collect for today tells us, that our possession of this grace will allow us to cast away the works of darkness.

Grace into our upturned hands, grace freely given.  And, with grace, we become not an apocalyptic people, but anti-apocalyptic.

Anti-apocalyptic?  Apocalyptic foreshadowing becomes a warning we can heed.  The edge of apocalypse offer us an opportunity to transform ourselves while there is still time. Apocalypse stands at the edge of the world and then walks away from that edge--there be dragons the maps proclaim and the ships take heed.  
Out of the apocalyptic imagination we are given insight into what might be and the opportunity to choose a different way.

And, so we choose. And, on this first day of Advent we are invited to choose hope.

To trust hope. To stare into that veiled sun and know that the shadow will pass. To occupy hope, even from that place of exile. 

19th century author Frederick Charles Woodhouse writes, “The season of Advent gives us a new motto of life, “Occupy till I come.”...our bodies our faculties, our talents, our influence, our natural gifts, all belong to God; we are but tenants-at-will, we occupy till God comes” (“A manual for Advent” by Frederick Charles Woodhouse, 1883).  

Occupy, till I come.  Occupy until the covenant is fulfilled. Occupy until the baby is born. Occupy until justice comes. Occupy until love wins. Occupy until all are liberated.

Occupy Advent, occupy hope!

We began with an eclipse and so we will end with one, 

During the colonial period in American History there was an eclipse of the sun. It caught members of the New England state legislature off guard. In the midst of panic, a member made a motion to adjourn but one legislator stood, “Mr Speaker, if it is not the end of the world and we adjourn, we shall appear to be fools. If it is the end of the world, I choose to be found doing my duty. I move you, sir, let candles be brought”- (The Christian Century, November 17,2009)

And, so the sun eclipsed and they stayed the course. And, so today, as we light the first candle called hope, we proclaim our duty--to light the candles and proclaim that when this truth passes away a greater truth will come into being.  

We will occupy hope, we will occupy Advent. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Apocalypse--the Sermon that Wasn't and the Hope that Is
28B, Readings found here

I had a lovely sermon all planned out--Hannah’s song, the themes of thanksgiving and praise; the liturgical role of Hannah’s song and my own awe that the existence of this piece within the canon makes clear the early Israelites’ understanding of God’s interest and investment in the lives of women. 

In that other, lovely, sermon I was going to invite us to explore how we use prayer--how prayer allows us to engage with God within the context of our own lives and experiences.

It was a lovely sermon...

We were going to talk about God and how we as the church have an opportunity to engage God in our own narratives--and how the gift the church offers is the forum for making those connections between the world, our lives and our God.  

I think that you would have liked that sermon...

But then, this is not that sermon.  Because, once again I find myself praying into the depth of disaster. Beirut, Baghdad, Paris...and I wonder how many of you have come here today wanting to talk about God in those places and God in this place. 

I wonder, how many of us long for a means of understanding these terrors in light of our claim, as Christians, that love will win and that death will give way to life. 

I wonder, what those claims mean in light of both global and personal catastrophe.

And, from this, I engage again with Hannah’s song--a song in which the feeble grow strong and the weapons of the mighty are broken.

That will be the day...and, in that day, lies the hope of which we speak.

Our peculiar hope--out of death, life. An apocalyptic hope, is it not? 

Apocalypse our hope?  Apocalypse as comfort? I’m not entirely sure I want to sign up for that sort of bedtime reading!  

Or, do I? The other day, I was engaged in a conversation with a member of this congregation.  In jest, I joked about how useful I would be “come the zombie apocalypse”--“I can apply pressure and pray at the same time!”  

While I am not exactly sure why we started talking about zombie apocalypse (I’m guessing it was my fault), what I do know is that as we, as human beings in this culture and this time, jest about such things in response to our collective anxiety, our fear.  Fear about the fate of this world and our seemingly precarious place within it.

So, when we jest about zombie apocalypse-reading books like World War Z and avoiding the detours around Minneapolis’ popular Zombie pub crawl--we are experiencing our culture’s efforts to make sense of what seems to be impending doom by placing it within a mythic construct. Or, rather, we are writing our own apocalypses in the here and the now.

And in these apocalyptic texts there is a comforting demarcation between good and evil.  You, you over there--you’re evil, you, you over there, you’re good--the zombies versus the humans  How much simpler would the world be if such things were clear!  

There is a well known song that uses this trope as a means of unifying humanity against those forces of evil...

“Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'awl's neighborhood”

Yes, I did just quote Michael Jackson’s song “Thriller”...but, did so with good reason.  In this lyrical text, the human speaker depicts the impending approach of an evil horde of zombies as a means of solidifying alliances with another human being.   

Humans versus zombies--can good and evil be more obvious? And this desire to paint with broad brush strokes groups as either all good or all bad, while understandable, has horrific implications.

In our search for sides we fall into the trap of vilifying others--dehumanizing them and denying their dignity.  An us and them, where the goal is the destruction of the other and not the reconciliation that can give birth to new life.  Destroying our brothers and sisters is not our goal or our hope as Christians--our hope is new life and the inbreaking of God’s peace into the world.  

I am called to remember that into the midst of conflict amongst the disciples Jesus reminded them of their priorities by placing a child at the center--lifting up the most vulnerable and placing their needs at the center of the disciples calling.  

And, so I wonder, confronted as we are with this text, can apocalypse in scripture do a similar re-centering?

Can we read what's known as the "little apocalypse" in the Gospel of Mark and find at its core a re-centering on new life in Christ?

We'll begin by looking at the center of religious life in Jerusalem, the Temple.  The fall of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. was an unimaginable catastrophe--an example of impossibly exacting craftsmanship.  It was built of stones weighing an average of 10 tons apiece--no mortar was used, rather the Temple was bound together by the laws of physics and the care of its builders.  The Temple, built upon the Temple Mount, towered over Jerusalem--both literally and symbolically. The Temple’s destruction was not only a physical act of aggression, but psychological as well--inspiring terror amidst a community that had been shaped by its reality.  And, so as the Gospel invites the listener to consider the destruction of what seems indestructible, it does so to an audience who already knows of the destruction that will come to pass and is trying to find meaning within it.  

Those addressed by the Gospel of Mark would have wondered what it meant to them, as first century Jews and Christians, to live in this time of wars and rumors of war.  And, so, the genre of apocalypse takes the landscape of the ruined temple and places it within the context of a cosmic battle, 

“Many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”

So, let us re-center ourselves, as Jesus invites us to in this passage--step away from the wars and rumors of wars, stay calm and consider, Jesus has once again put a child at the center.  If there are to be birth pangs there is to be birth.  From sorrow to rejoicing, from death to life. 

The terror that comes by night is not the center of the story--the birth of a child is.

And, so we gather to celebrate life in the midst of death. The powers of darkness cannot win when we stubbornly insist upon holding life and love at the center. 

Let us pray, for all of us,  

"O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us, unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." (BCP)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

That Dangerous and Finite House

All Saints, 2015
St. Clement’s Episcopal Church

The texts for preaching:
  • Revelation 21:1-6a
  • John 11:32-44

There are four baptismal feast days observed by the church, Baptism of Our Lord; the Great Vigil of Easter; Pentecost and All Saints.  

Baptism of our Lord because it marks the occasion of Jesus’ own baptism and God’s claiming of Jesus as the son in whom God is well pleased.  

The Great Vigil of Easter, because the texts appointed for that night explore the arc of God’s work of salvation in our midst.  From the water of creation, through the Red Sea to the baptismal waters of our own deliverance.  

Pentecost, because that feast marks the gift of the Holy Spirit to the world.  It is the birthday of the church and an occasion upon which formally joining the body of Christ through baptism becomes an opportunity to observe that the Spirit continue to move in our midst and transforms the every growing and changing body of Christ in the world.

And, then, All Saints.  All Saints because it a day when we remember and celebrate all of the saints that God has placed among us, now and in the distant past. We remember our loved ones who have died and acclaim, yet again, that death is not the end of our story--rather, death is a beginning of a new life in God in Christ. And in that new life in Christ, all of God’s beloved children are saints, and a cloud of saints and witnesses surrounds us in our lives and in our deaths. We baptize on this day as a way of celebrating the union of all who have been baptized with one another and the communion of Saints.  

So, Caroline Joy and Kyle George have been (or will be) joined this day with the communion of Saints and in that joining they enter into a journey of new life in Christ.  A journey of life to life and love to love and light to light. But, it is not a journey they undertake alone--they travel with all the saints as their guide. 

The Saints of this place, and the Saints of the wider church.  The Saints in the here and the now, and the saints that have ever been.  They will not travel alone and we are asked to keep our own promise to travel the way with them.  

And, where does that way lead?  It is said that in pilgrimage we discover within ourselves, along the way, all that we might have hoped to find in sacred destination.  Or, in other words, we don’t need to go anywhere to abide with God, as God abides with us in our everywhere.  

And so, when we welcome people into the household of God we are welcoming them to what is most fundamentally true--they have always and will always live a life with God who is at home in our midst.  Our midst, the where we are right now, then becomes the holy city of Revelation.  We are, in our very nature, the home of God amongst mortals.  

And, this holy city is the culmination of Revelation--the summation of the text is the abiding of God in our midst.  Or as Leonard Cohen put it in “Beautiful Losers”, a book I don’t actually recommend, in which he describes a Saint as one who “so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance.  Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape.  His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world.  He can love the shapes of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. “

And, so the Saints, in the image of God and in the way of Christ love and live within the present moment and through all eternity.  And, in that loving and in that living, give themselves over to a life lived in a “dangerous and finite house”.

What a radical yet wholly true notion, God lives with us in a dangerous and finite house.   God so loved the world...that God gave God’s self over to the depth of all that it is to be human--the pain, the suffering, the rejoicing, the loving.  And, in that sacrifice of self, there was a weeping and a knowing of the hurt that happens on the journey of the heart. 

God abides with us.

What a powerful naming of God with us--God who makes all things new, God who has made us new!   God at home with us, in the home of all creation in a  house which we create, a house which is always under under construction, and a house we will help construct.  

And, so this house of our being where God abides in our midst...what will we make of this house?  

House of prayer, house of hope, house of God...

There is a contemporary hymn that invites us to a building of this house where God is in our midst...Marty Haugan’s invitation

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness and as symbol of God’s grace;
here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where love is found in water, wine, and wheat:
a banquet hall on holy ground where peace and justice meet.
Here the love of God, through Jesus, is revealed in time and space;
as we share in Christ the feast that free us:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach, and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured, taught and claimed as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place. 
Marty Haugen. Tune: TWO OAKS

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Letter to the Church, Pentecost +24

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, my beloved, feisty, 97 year old grandmother died on Tuesday.  And, so I begin this letter to you on a plane roughly half-way between Minneapolis and Maui, on a flight I had not planned to take. But, life and death happen--and so, here I am and here you are (well, technically, at this precise moment I hope that I am still asleep because, you know, time change).  As Michael Moore, said, a letter for a sermon was what the church used to rely on for edification--and so, consider this an epistolatory sermon in the style of Paul...

In which case, 

Theophilis, aka Gretchen, I bid you peace and ask that you convey my greeting to any who are new to the church.  

As I prepared to write this sermon, rather, letter, I turned to a sermon I wrote three years ago on this text. And, to my surprise, it was the sermon I needed to read in this moment as I mourn the loss of Tutu.  

In that sermon, I detailed a “Call the Midwife” episode in which the main character mourns the loss of an elderly patient she had grown to love. And, through the loss of this patient, she realizes that love is worth it. That opening herself up to the risk of loss and heartache is worth the great and holy gift that is love...that if she is to truly live she must also learn the gift that suffering can bring--that suffering, being the result of living, engaging and loving others, is worth it.  

The pain is worth it, the grief is worth it. The risk of loving is worth it. Almost 20 years ago, I remember lying on my grandmother’s bed before leaving to go back to the mainland, she was patting my back as I wept and I remember feeling embarrassed to cry in front of her--but I could not help but weep. I was all too aware that, as she closed in on 80, it was entirely possible that this woman I loved would die before I saw her again. And, so, as I cried she comforted me--and this memory is a comfort to me as I return home to mourn her death.  

And, I realize that if I had been too afraid to allow myself to be vulnerable in front of my grandmother, I would never have received the care that brings me such comfort now.  

Grief, love, sorrow and pain--all intermingling and all understood by the God who loves us as we are, a God who suffered as we suffer and rejoiced as we rejoice.  I claim this understanding of suffering, on the part of God, as critical to my own life of faith--in many ways, I am a Christian because I serve a God who understands both how hard it is and how wonderful it is to be a human being. In the letter to the Hebrews, Paul testifies that “He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness”.  

I have shared before that when I need to imagine the God incarnate it is the image of Michelangelo’s “La Pieta” that I meditate upon--this sculpture of Mary holding the body of her dead son becomes, for me, an image of God holding us in the midst of our suffering.  

And, as I meditate upon this image--I find myself further comforted that, in the midst of my own grief, and new as I am to this church, I have a community here that holds me--holds me in prayer and love and in understanding. This understanding is a gift.  Here we have a community of people who who know what it is to be weak and know what it is to grieve and know what it is to rejoice--and in that knowing are able to deal gently with each other as Christ dealt gently with us. Look around, there are people here who understand suffering because they too have suffered--they will weep with you and be with you in the hard times...if you let them.

People often wonder what it is I “get” out of going to Church--and my response is that I get to be part of a body of people who, in its best moments, is able to bring the love of God to fruition in the world. 

And, if I were ever asked to give a stewardship testimonial (thank you Emily and Anthony!) that would also be my response about why I give financially in order to support the church--it’s a place where real people can come together to try our best to love each other and heal the world, and where we can be loved even when we fall short. We are in this together...  

For, who here hasn’t wept at the pain of loss?  Who here hasn’t celebrated a birth or mourned a death?  Who here hasn’t paused in their perusal of the newspaper in awe at the horrific things that we as human beings are capable of doing to each other, and in wonder at the kindnesses we can show?  We love as Christ loved and suffer as Christ suffers because we are human.  And, because we are human we are the children of God and because we are the children of God we are wrapped in God’s embrace throughout our lives, our losses and our loves.  

And, this is a love that knows suffering, this is a love that has been broken, this is a love that has endured, this is the love that looks upon us in the midst of our imperfection and failings and STILL LOVES US.  This is a love that deals gently with us because it is a love that knows what it is to suffer.

Once again, that phrase from Hebrews, “He is able to deal gently” with us.  And, so in the Gospel today, we hear Jesus deal gently with his disciples. In their fear and in their anxiety they began to argue amongst themselves over who was the greatest.

And, as I picture their arguing, I imagine it was easier to argue than weep over what was to come. So in their grief they lashed out at each other--asking for something that did not matter, in the face of what really did matter.  So there they are, the brother’s Zebedee, ”Jesus I believe, reward my belief”.  

And there Jesus is, responding with a reminder of all that will come and resetting their priorities...“you do not know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  Now, this is not a call to seek out suffering but rather it is a call to share in Jesus’ own calling--the calling to be a human being and the calling to serve.  Because, if we are human we WILL suffer and the grace in that is our ability to serve others who suffer.  Called out of our shared humanity and shared love to live with empathy and compassion for all of the beloved children of God.  

The next leg of my flight is boarding now, so I need to sign off...and e-mail this to Gretchen before I get on the plane!  

I remain, yours in Christ, 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Then, Now and Will Be: 1892 and 120 Years of Stewardship

On the Occasion of the 120th Anniversary of St. Clement’s
Scripture Found Here

For context, the liturgy used on the 120th Anniversary of the Founding of St. Clement's was that of morning prayer with communion from the 1892 Prayer Book (American).  An online version of the 1892 prayer book can be found at

On the bookshelf in my house I have a copy of my Mother’s 1928 Book of Common Prayer--my brothers thought I should have it after she died, you know, since I’m the religious one.  It has her name in it, and every time I look at it, I am reminded of her.  I’ve never used her prayer book for my own prayers, but it becomes a means of connecting with my memories of her and grounds me more firmly in who I am.  

And, then, there is my home communion kit. Gifted to me by Jean Hoover, it belonged to her husband, the Reverend Henry Hoover.  Both Jean and Henry have died, but in using their gift I am reminded of the love that endures all things.  In the kit is a note--detailing its origin as Henry’s father’s kit, a gift from his Bishop.  I am the third generation of priest to carry this kit on visits.

We are all carriers of memories, of objects we deem sacred, we keep the traditions and pass them on to the generations to follow.  And, it is a gift to be able to turn a page and see for ourselves what those who’ve preceded us in this life of faith held dear. To kneel as they kneeled, to say the words they would have said, to be in this space and know the love and care that has gone into the preservation of what could be a museum piece alone--but is instead a vital and busy place of prayer, fellowship and service.  

Today we mark the 120th Anniversary of St. Clement’s and just as described in the carefully preserved newspaper clippings in the Service Register kept that year, we celebrate with 1892 morning prayer followed by communion.

“At the close of the consecration service, Morning Prayer was said by the Reverend Ernest Dray, the Lessons being read by Archdeacon Appleby. Bishop Potter delivered an able and appropriate the conclusion of the sermon, Bishop Gilbert, who was suffering from a severe cold, made a very brief address, calling for the need of unity and cooperation on the part of all who proposed to make St. Clement’s their church home.  Holy Communion was celebrated, Bishop Potter acting as celebrant.” (newspaper clipping, found in Parish Service Book).  

Unity and cooperation...

And, so 120 years of unity and cooperation (mostly!) have brought us here--to a place many of us call our church home.  And, our own unity and cooperation is just as essential now as it was then--we bring a variety of gifts to this place, and it is that very diversity of gifts that enlivens the body of Christ and allows us to continue on in this place for the people of the now and the people who are yet to be.  

And, so, 1892 in 2015--then and now. And I wonder how we, the people of the now, hear the words of the people of the then.  Words like render, dissemble, goodly, vouchsafe.  Phrases such as, “the place of departed spirits” and “dispose the hearts of all rulers.”  

And, then the scripture, King James Authorized--no longer authorized for our regular Sunday observances!  How will we hear the good news if the words no longer make sense to us?  

A word by word explication seems necessary.  But, then, I begin to feel a bit like the Humpty Dumpty of Alice’s encounter in “Through the Looking Glass”.  Humpty Dumpty assures her that he knows the meaning of all poems and so Alice requests an explanation of the opening verse of Jabberwocky...

''Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
   And the mome raths outgrabe.'

'That's enough to begin with,' Humpty Dumpty interrupted: 'there are plenty of hard words there. "Brillig" means four o'clock in the afternoon — the time when you begin broiling things for dinner.'

And, so, Humpty Dumpty and Alice continue through each word of the opening verse of Jabberwolky, concluding

“'what does "outgrabe" mean?'
'Well, "outgribing" is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle...Who's been repeating all that hard stuff to you?'

'I read it in a book,' said Alice.” (Carrol, Through the Looking Glass, 1971)

I read it in a book...and here we are with our books, and these words, and our history. 

From the first American Prayer Book in 1789 to the current 1979 version.  

So, what do we see in these words and phrases...what needs opening for the meditation of our hearts? When I asked myself, what one thing do I want each of you to hear in the midst of all of the words of today, I found myself drawn to one simple sentence from the Gospel.  

 “Then Jesus beholding him loved him”.  

Jesus loved him--even though he didn’t get it, even though he walked away distraught at the notion of giving out of his abundance, Jesus loved him. I’ve often thought of this text as an indictment against the accumulation of wealth at the expense of others—and it is (and next time this Gospel appears on a Sunday you’ll hear more about that!).  But, what I’d never noticed was that despite this young man’s inability to let go of the wealth that he has been told is keeping him from living up to God’s standards…despite this, he is loved by God.  When we fall short, Jesus loves us.  When we are unable to do what we should, God is present and we are loved.  

And, perhaps this, perhaps this is what unifies and allows for our cooperation--this shared knowledge that no matter how we might fall short, we will be loved.  And, no matter how our fellows fall short, they too are loved.  

The generations preceding us at St. Clement’s would have heard this text in the course of their own worship here.  And, I wonder if they too were drawn to the knowledge that Jesus loved him, and in loving him demonstrates that we ourselves are loved. I wonder, if someone sitting in that pew there, might have underlined that phrase and found comfort in it for another day.  

These are our books, these are our things, these are our inheritances.  And, they remind us both who we are, from whence we have come and of the God of love to whom we belong.  And, so the invitation today is to enter into this service with a sense of wonderment, wondering at what our ancestors in this place thought and held dear, wondering at our ability to pray these prayers that they prayed, wondering at the stewardship, and trust that was extended in order to make this place this place.

We are here because they were then.  

They will be because we are now.