Saturday, July 18, 2015

I Read the Harvard Business Review During Sermon Prep...And, Other Interesting Facts About This Sermon

Proper 11B, Pentecost 8, July 19th, 2015 
Readings here

He had compassion for them. 

This is the sentence I keep coming back to in today’s Gospel.

He had compassion for them.  

And, isn’t that what we long for.

Compassion.

To have another person express empathy and understanding in response to our own need.   

And, isn’t that what the world asks of us.

To be the kind of person who is able to express empathy and understanding in response to the needs of another.  

He had compassion for them.  

He had compassion for them, compassion grounded in his own humanity, compassion grounded in knowing what pain is, knowing what suffering is, of feeling hunger and thirst and the experience of sickness.  

Jesus could imagine their need because he’d felt their need.

And, this then, becomes our faith. A God who can imagine and respond to our need because God has felt our need. A God whose relationship with us is grounded in both passion and compassion.

In passion, calling us ever beyond ourselves, to a bigger love, to a more than faith, to an impossible possible.

And, in compassion, granting grace and mercy freely and lavishly.  

This brings me to the letter to the Ephesians...while my own Study Bible entitles this “The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians” there is clear scholarly consensus that this letter was neither authored by Paul nor written to the Ephesians (one of the clearest pieces of evidence is that unlike other letters attributed to Paul, there is no direct reference to Paul’s personal experience of Ephesus or the people there--and since, according to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul spent three years in Ephesus that omission seems odd). 

So not by Paul and not to the Ephesians. But, rather by an unknown author or authors with the aim of teaching the recently baptized.  

And, that begs the question, what do those new to a life of faith need to know?

They need to know that outsiders have been brought in and they are one in Christ.

They need to know that as followers of Christ they follow the law of love and that in Christ there is peace and reconciliation between all peoples.  

They need to know that they are part of something beyond themselves and that they exist in relationship to each other as well as something we have grown to know as the Communion of Saints.

The Communion of Saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise. (Catechism BCP 862).

Let’s sit with that for a moment...

we are bound to those we love and those whom we hurt as an extension of our own membership in the communion of saints.

we are bound together, the whole family of God, the living and the death.

Those whom we love and those whom we hurt.  

And, is that not a call to compassion?  A call to extend love and empathy and forgiveness and grace and mercy to the entire family of God?

The letter to the Ephesians bids the community to have this kind of compassion, to remember that they too were once outsiders and that as followers of the Way of Christ they are called to reconciliation, they are called to have compassion for their fellow saints and members of the household of God.  

He had compassion for them. 

And so, we as the body of Christ in the world, are called to compassion.  

Passion and compassion, the love of God calling us beyond ourselves and into the heart of the love that brings healing to the hurting. 

I’d like to end with a poem by another favorite poet of mine, Cynthia Rylant.  A poem entitled, God Got a Dog.


God Got a Dog 

He never meant to.
He liked dogs, He'd
liked them ever since He was a kid,
but He didn't think
He had time for a dog now.
He was always working
and dogs needed so
much attention.
God didn't know if He
could take being needed
by one more thing.
But He saw this dog
out by the tracks
and it was hungry
and cold
and lonely
and God realized
He'd made that dog
somehow,
somehow He was responsible
though He knew logically
that He had only set the
world on its course.
He couldn't be blamed
for everything
But He saw this dog
and He felt bad
so He took it on home
and named it Ernie
and now God
has somebody
keeping His feet warm at night.

Somehow, he was responsible.

And, he had compassion for them.

For whom are we responsible?

To whom will we show compassion?

And what will inspire our passion?


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Another Justice Sermon...Still Not Done.

Proper 9B, Readings found here

"As Long as I Know Myself to Be a Coward"

“Then, if you don’t mind, I’ll go with you,” said the Lion, “for my life is simply unbearable without a bit of courage.”? “You will be very welcome,” answered Dorothy, “for you will help to keep away the other wild beasts.  It seems to me they must be more cowardly than you are if they allow you to scare them so easily.” “They really are,” said the Lion: “but that doesn’t make me any braver, and as long as I know myself to be a coward I shall be unhappy.”

-L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz
1856-1919

Was there a time in your life when you had to be brave? 

All they had was a staff and sandals.

And, so they began the journey.  

Speaking truth to power.

Proclaiming love and casting out unclean spirits.

Was there a time when you were brave because there was no other choice?

All they had was a staff and sandals...

And down the dusty roads they went.  

Proclaiming truth to those willing to hear it.  

Was there a time when you found power you didn’t know you had in order to do what had to be done?

All they had was a staff and sandals..

And, the power of Jesus’ name.

Proclaiming healing and anointing to the broken and the suffering.

What does it take for us to be brave?

All they had was a staff and sandals...

And grace, manifested in the hospitality of others.

As Paul writes, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

When is the time for bravery? 

They went with their staffs in hand, the dust of the road picking up at the footfall of their sandals and a tunic.

They were subject to “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ”

Who shall be brave?

They proclaimed repentance, transformation and reconciliation. They proclaimed wholeness. 

They stayed where they were welcomed.  And in places where no one stooped to wash their feet, as was the custom when a visitor arrived, they moved on...shaking the dust from their sandals.  

I know that we can be brave.

When a small group of Christians gathered for Bible study at Mother AME Zion and welcomed the stranger, they did not know they were being brave and would be martyred for their act of hospitality.  

What are we willing to risk for hospitality?

When Bree Newsome scaled the flagpole in front of the South Carolina state house to remove the Confederate flag, she claimed her bravery extended from the recognition of her own freedom, “I did it because I am free”.

What will we do because we are free?

When Presiding Bishop elect of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry preached at the closing eucharist of General Convention he referenced the Julia Ward Howe verses, 

In the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea.
With a glory in his bosom
That transfigured you and me.
As he died to make [folk] holy
Let us live to set them free
While God is marching on.
Glory, glory hallelujah
God’s truth is marching on.

Will we be brave enough to live to set people free?

I began this sermon with a passage from The Wizard of Oz, “Then, if you don’t mind, I’ll go with you,” said the Lion, “for my life is simply unbearable without a bit of courage.”? “You will be very welcome,” answered Dorothy, “for you will help to keep away the other wild beasts.  It seems to me they must be more cowardly than you are if they allow you to scare them so easily.” “They really are,” said the Lion: “but that doesn’t make me any braver, and as long as I know myself to be a coward I shall be unhappy.”

As long as I know myself to be a coward I shall be unhappy...

Perhaps this is the proverbial thorn in our collective side that keeps us from experiencing the fullness of God’s love...that unsettled feeling, that sense that all is not well, that awareness that this status quo needs to be thrown over for a new way of being.

As long as I know myself to be a coward I shall be unhappy.  Amen.



********* (the following was written but not preached)



As long as we know that freedom has not truly come, we will be unable to rest. 

As long as we know that we have not been as brave as God calls us to be, we will be unsettled in our souls.

Bernice Johnson Regan, in her work “Ella’s Song” sets the refrain...

We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

And when I juxtapose her words against the Gospel today, I imagine those sandal clad feet trudging down the road and the disciples humming...

We who believe in freedom cannot rest...

We who believe in the power of Christ to transfigure, to transform, all peoples cannot rest...

We who witness injustice cannot rest...

We who believe in love cannot rest...

We who are free while others are oppressed cannot rest...

Bree Newsome, in her interview for the Blue Nation Review, put it this way “I see no greater moral cause than liberation, equality and justice for all God’s people. What better reason to risk your own freedom than to fight for the freedom of others?” 




Suffer some so that others might suffer less?

23B, Scripture appointed (track 2) +++ Growing up poor meant growing up with the constant awareness of who had what. More or ...