Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Year C Easter 5 WED 2022 Recipes for Success

 Year C Easter 5 WEDNESDAY, 18 May 2022

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“Recipes for Success”

Collect: Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Leviticus 19:1-18

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols or make cast images for yourselves: I am the Lord your God.

When you offer a sacrifice of well-being to the Lord, offer it in such a way that it is acceptable in your behalf. It shall be eaten on the same day you offer it, or on the next day; and anything left over until the third day shall be consumed in fire. If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination; it will not be acceptable. All who eat it shall be subject to punishment, because they have profaned what is holy to the Lord; and any such person shall be cut off from the people.

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.

You shall not defraud your neighbour; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a labourer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling-block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

You shall not render an unjust judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbour.You shall not go around as a slanderer* among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood* of your neighbour: I am the Lord.

You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

12 But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters,* to respect those who labour among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; 13esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14And we urge you, beloved,* to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. 15See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing,18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets,* 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.

23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound* and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

25 Beloved,* pray for us.

26 Greet all the brothers and sisters* with a holy kiss. 27I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them.*

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.*

Matthew 6:19-24

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust*consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust* consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.*

Good morning, friends. 

When I was in middle school, my mom’s friend threw a Tupperware Party. In the back of the little book she gave my mom, there was a page of “prizes” you would get if you, too, held a Tupperware Party and sold a certain amount. One of the prizes was a radio with an alarm clock. It was small, sleek, and it caught my eye. That was the day I decided that I would have a Tupperware Sale. I had sold candy and donuts door to door raising funds for sports team and scouts. How hard could a Tupperware Party be?

When I reached out to the saleswoman, she was shocked and surprised by my age and probably my gender. Little did she know who she was dealing with. Jumping over a few weeks, I turned in all my orders and got my clock radio.

Most of us, when we set our minds on things can accomplish them if things are only up to us. Mindset. Sweat and hard work. Diligence. These things get you a long way.

Repeatedly I have followed this pattern in my life. When I wanted to be in my school’s foreign exchange program. When I wanted to have leadership positions. When I decided what I want to be. I set my mind on things, and then I would do the work to make it happen. The biggest thing is me convincing me that this is what I want. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” And where my heart was, my future could soon be.

You may have tuned out in our readings this morning. They are simplistic. Do this. Don’t do that. But often that is what we are looking for. We want to know, am I on the right path, or not. Leviticus is mostly a recapitulation of the 10 Commandments. First Thessalonians is instructions to those in the Church. Matthew is a section of the Sermon on the Mount, looking at what we hold most dear.

Much of what we teach and preach is encouraging us to put our hearts and minds on the ways of God. Call it Wisdom like the Psalms, or Love like Jesus, it all comes back to what we define as Success, and the road map to get there.

Deciding where we want to go, and who we want to be, is only the first step. Committing to the journey and working the process come what may is the rest of it. Like our 12 Step friends, admitting you have a problem is the first step. Working the rest of the system is the path to get what one wants.

I invite you to reread the Scriptures from today. I made you copies and they will be on the table in the back as you leave. Underline the instructions. As the Collect says on Proper 28: 

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

May that be our charge and our call. God wants our best. And he shows us the way. Amen 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Year C Easter 5 2022 Hindering God

 Year C Easter 5, 15 May 2022

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“Hindering God”


Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Acts 11:1-18

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, "Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?" Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, `Get up, Peter; kill and eat.' But I replied, `By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But a second time the voice answered from heaven, `What God has made clean, you must not call profane.' This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, `Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.' And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, `John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, "Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life."

Revelation 21:1-6

I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

"See, the home of God is among mortals.

He will dwell with them as their God;

they will be his peoples,

and God himself will be with them;

he will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;

mourning and crying and pain will be no more,

for the first things have passed away."

And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life."

John 13:31-35

At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Good morning, friends. We are interesting creatures. We are creatures of habit and ritual. We get into rhythms and cycles, and it is so hard when they become too calcified or unresponsive to the world we are in we tend to defend our normal way of doing things instead of responding and growing in response to whatever new is happening.

Rock, what on earth are you talking about? 

Simply put, we tend to get stuck in our ways. And sometimes, it is not even our ways. We are simply upholding tradition.

A story is told about a young married couple who for the most part are happily married. Until one day, the wife decides to cook a ham. The husband, pleased with the aromas emerging from the kitchen, goes in and notices that his loving bride had cut off the end of the ham. It struck him as funny, but in their newly wedded bliss he said nothing. The next time they cooked a ham, the same thing happened. The third time he could not keep his mouth shut and asked, “Why on earth are you cutting the end off the ham before you cook it?”

The wife laughed and replied, “Why, that’s how you cook a ham, silly!”

He looked at her, incredulous. “I have never seen anyone cut the end off a ham to cook it,” he said. 

“Well that’s the way my mother always did it!” she responded, a little defensive.

The husband would not let it go, so at the next family gathering he asked his mother-in-law about why she taught her daughter to cut the end off a ham to cook it. 

“Why, that’s how you cook a ham, silly!” his mother-in-law replied. “That’s the way my mother always did it!” She looked at her son-in-law a little worried.

At Christmas that year, his wife’s grandmother joined in the festivities, and again, he would not let it go. With his wife and mother-in-law there, he asked his grandmother-in-law why she cooked a ham by cutting the end off. His wife and mother-in-law looked at each other knowingly, ready for the grandmother to straighten the young man out. 

“Tell him, mom, that’s the proper way to cook a ham.” 

The grandmother looked at her daughter questioningly. “What are you talking about?” she asked.

“Mom, whenever you cooked a ham you always cut the end off! I saw you! All those years growing up!”

“Dear,” said the grandmother, “we cut the end off the ham because the only pan I had deep enough wouldn’t fit a whole ham! I had to cut the end off, not for the ham, but because of my roasting pan!”

So often, our ways became ruts. And ruts are only long ramps into our graves.

If we always do what we have always done, we will only get what we have always got. And when conditions change, even more, we need to mend our ways.

In our reading from Acts, Peter is called to task for his baptizing Gentiles into the Way of Christ. He had a vision, as did the head of the house in Caesarea. The Holy Spirit brought them together. And thankfully, Peter heard the will of God, the third time through anyway.

He recognized that this was a departure from the way he was raised. He had kept kosher his whole life, but in his vision he was ordered to kill and eat things that he knew to be unclean. The proof for him was in the pudding. If God was not for it, nothing would have happened when he lay hands on the man and his household. His defense, “If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”

Who am I that I could hinder God?

How many times in the history of the Church have we gotten in God’s way? Or justified and rationalized going deliberately against God? Maybe even more close to home, how many times in my life have I tried to hinder God? Like Peter said, “Who am I to hinder God?” God’s way will win out, it always has and it always will.

Friends, we may not like it, but God believes in Crock-Pots. Or at least the “Crock-Pot approach” to things. God cooks things slow. As St. Paul put it, “in the fullness of time.”

You may have heard about the amazing discovery this week, they have finally been able to take a picture of the monster black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Kendra shared this week a story that Piper recounted on Facebook, that her very own father was one of the two astronomers who predicted that this existed back in 1974, and helped name it Sagittarius A, or Sgr A*. It took most of my lifetime for that sound they heard way back then to be visualized through the Event Horizon experiment. But science plays the long game, too. Knowledge is knowledge. Substantive change is substantive change. Slow cookers work best when you want the flavor to go all the way through. Transformation, true, deep, substantive change takes patience and faith.

There are so many ways we try to hinder God. We think that what we hold sacred is what God wants, always. John’s vision of heaven declares that God is about not the same-ol’ same-ol’. 

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

Not “See, I am making all things the way they are.” What a horrible waste of time and energy that would be!

Friends, be open to the prompting of the Spirit. Be open to new callings and new ways of doing things. Do not try to hinder God!

And how might we hinder God?

  • We hinder God when we put our culture before metanoia, that renewing of our minds that we use the word “repentance” for. God’s call is for all of us to be transformed in all ways. God does not want us to remain comfortable and happy but to make rivers in the desert, and the dead to live again.

  • We hinder God when we put our Status before our Mission. Thinking of how this might make us look, keeping up being proper or acceptable hinders our following of God. To change the world, cultural propriety is one of the first things to go.

  • We hinder God when we hold onto our Fear over our Belovedness. We are asking today, how might I hinder God. But before even that question, ask this: “Which influences me more, my faith or my fears?”

  • We hinder God when we put Certainty before Belief. The modern mind introduced in the Enlightenment took away our faith. Now it was needed to rid us of superstitions and silliness. What also went out was forgetting that faith is a matter of the heart long before it is of the mind. If you are entirely certain, how is that faith? Certainty, and our emotional need that drives us to that, hinders our following of God.

  • We hinder God when we create cults of Purity instead of Righteousness. Peter was Pure when he let nothing unclean pass his lips. He was Righteous when he followed God’s call. DO NOT CONFUSE THE TWO.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus makes it clear. They will know we are Christians, followers of Jesus’ Way of loving God, not by our Certainty, not by our Purity, not by our Worries and Fears, our Status or Propriety, but by one thing and one thing only.

They will know who we are and whose we are by how we Love. The reason why this is so hard is because it is so simple. We make up these rules and exceptions when we forget this simple and eternal truth. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

What is our ham that we need to cook in a different way? Are we stuck in generational ruts of prejudice and superiority? Or are we listening to that new way this Holy Spirit is calling us to embrace?

Let us go forth, New and Improved. Let us follow the Call of God. Amen

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Year C Easter 3 2022 Clueless

 Year C Easter 3, 1 May 2022

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA


Collect: O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Acts 9:1-6

Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." 

John 21:1-19

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me."

Today is a joyous day. Today we celebrate and baptize little Evie, merging her story with The Story. Often growing up I had heard that history came from the words “His Story,” being God’s story, but it is actually from the Greek “histor” or wise man. 

But when we have the view, the long view, what we celebrate today is the cycle of life, bringing in and celebrating with 4 generations today. What a rarity, what a joy!

But I want to talk about the baby for a bit. Evie is clueless. No offense. She may be in the moment, but it is not imaginable that she will have any conscious memory of this day. It may live in family stories, and when the pictures get pulled out she may remember the reminiscences, but she will not remember the day.

And in this day, we tie her to Jesus’s baptism, and to the Hebrew children walking through the Red Sea, and to our baptisms that we have had, and to all the baptisms that are yet to be. We re-member our baptisms, both reconnecting (re-membering) and thinking of them as well. We remember the baptisms we have seen, and the Baptismal Covenant vows we made or had made on our behalf. But we were not always in this state of being in the know. We had to start somewhere.

We were Clueless, and then we moved into a place of Revelation. Our eyes were opened, and all was revealed. That is revelation, that is unveiling of what truly is.

Saul thought he was defending the faith of the one true God. But lo and behold, what he was doing was the exact opposite. And really, if God is who we say God is, does God need defending? Come on!

Now as [Saul] was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." 

And he was struck blind, “blinded by the light!” if you ever wonder where that phrase came from. He was taken to the city, Damascus, and after three days his eyes were opened, metaphorically, literally, or both, the scales fell off, and he could see again.

He was clueless, like little Evie. And that is okay! There is no fault in ignorance when you are a baby.

Ignorance is the lack of information. Stupidity is not being able or willing to learn and change. The baby is ignorant because she is clueless. No one faults her for that.

But Saul ignored the scriptures, he ignored the miracles at hand. He felt he needed to take matters in his own hand, and persecuted the church on behalf of the Jewish religious leaders (thinking he was doing it for God, the audacity!) encouraging the killing and imprisonment of the followers of “The Way,” as early Christians called themselves.

Saul chose to be clueless, thinking he was doing the will of God. How often do we act in such a way to tell God what to do? God is still at work. God is still drawing the Kingdom more and more into reality. God goes to lengths we cannot fathom or imagine to love us and to bring us home.

Every so often God breaks through the noise and clutter we fill our lives with and gets a word in edgewise. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Your-name-here, your-name-here, why do you do fill-in-the-blank to hinder my kingdom?” When we get those nudges, those whispers, or even those blinding lights, how do we respond? 

Ignore them?

Rationalize them away?

Or do we stop in our tracks and listen?

Saul, who transformed into St. Paul, through the work and grace of God, spent three days blind, and then three years in Arabia and Damascus [if curious see Galatians 1:17], changing and growing and understanding what everything he learned as a youth really pointed to. It was not killing people in God’s defense. It was humbly becoming the first missionary to evangelize the known world.

He moved from a perspective of needing to prove he was worthy of God’s love to a place where God’s love sought him out and brought him home through Grace. He was Clueless, and then the Love of God was revealed in all its Glory. Thanks be to God.

In our Gospel reading we see the disciples, those closest to Jesus. They were clueless, too. They had seen the Risen Lord, but when there was uncertainty as to what to do, they went back to what they knew, the lives they led before they even met Jesus. Now some of you might argue that when in doubt one should go fishing, but in this instance, I do not think what Jesus had in mind for his closest friends and followers.

Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Going back to what we know, going back to the status quo, going back to the safety of what came before is no longer a choice for those of us who are no longer clueless. Choosing to stay clueless makes us stupid. Not ignorant, intentionally clueless.

What I said last week remains true. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is no longer a choice.

Jesus does not want any of us to choose to remain in the dark. Jesus wants us to grow into the fulness and stature God intended for us.

Sometimes we do things to uphold tradition. Sometimes we do things from familial expectations. Sometimes we are running, running from shame, running from guilt.

The encounter of Jesus and Peter on that Galilean shore is one of the most loving portraits of Grace in scripture for me. Jesus does not force himself on Peter, demanding him to change his ways. But there are so many ways that Jesus sets it up for Peter to step up, to grow up, and to come into the fulness of relationship  and love Jesus is offering.

He sees his disciples going back to their old lives, their old way of doing things, losing sight of the vision of God’s Kingdom he gave to them. But even then, after a night of toil, they had caught nothing. So Jesus gives them what they thought they wanted, fish. 153 of them, all big. That type of detail in the story fascinates me.

And here Jesus set the stage for Peter to see two things, Jesus still loved him and accepted him just as he was, and that Peter could love and forgive himself for what he had done. 

And you may be saying, but Rock, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, and he has to do so three times! Yep. You are right. But do think Jesus ever doubts that Peter loves him? Don’t you think Jesus knows Peter’s heart? Your heart? My heart?

And not to mention, Jesus just witnessed Peter jump out of a boat and swim to him. Peter’s love was not in doubt, TO JESUS.

But Peter needed to hear Peter swear his love to Jesus. And he needed to do it THREE TIMES for his own sake. Not Jesus’s!

Only twice is the word charcoal used in the New Testament. Both are in the Gospel of John. Chapters 18 and 21. Most of us, when I mention the smell of charcoal, we can all pull it out of our store of sense memories. Our sense of smell is one of the strongest memory triggers that there is. Think of Thanksgiving. I bet you can smell it first, before any visual triggers. For me the smell of Christmas is Gluehwein, the warm mulled wine of the Christmas markets in Germany. I smell that and I feel the cool on my cheeks, the wool of my scarf wrapped tight, the tinkle of the Glockenspiel playing Christmas carols. All from a smell.

Did Jesus think that Peter remembered warming himself on the charcoal fire in the court of the High Priest Caiaphas? And that smell would trigger consciously or not the denials Peter made? Saying emphatically that he did not know Jesus not once, not twice, but three times?!? 

And here we are, smelling the charcoal again. And being asked who this Jesus was to him again, not once, not twice, but three times.

I do not think that any of this is accidental. So much of our spiritual lives is not about convincing ourselves that God loves us, that Jesus wants what is best for us. The older I get the biggest spiritual battles I wage are whether I can do what God wants me to do, whether I am worthy to do what God seems to be calling me to do. Too often my spiritual warfare is with who I belittle myself to be. And all the while Jesus finds a way to confront that “less than” image we hold, and goes to lengths, great ones at times, to tell us that we are not only loved, but lovable, not only able, but capable of great things. 

Saul on the road to Damascus is confronted with the truth of what he was truly doing and then becomes St. Paul.

Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee has to decide if he will put down his nets once and for all and take up the mantle of his calling in God. It was not God preventing him but that nagging voice in his ear, “You are not good enough. God could never forgive you for what you did.” But Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus does not even recognize the excuses or the blame. He gets to the work at hand. 

Jesus combats that lying voice for Paul. Jesus combats that lying voice for Peter. Jesus combats that lying voice for all of us with the final two words of today’s reading.

Hear these words, and obey. Staying Clueless is not a choice. My prayer for Evie, for the parents, and godparents, for all of us is Jesus’ words of invitation and hope. “Follow me!” Amen

Friday, April 22, 2022

Year C Easter 2 2022 Dear Holy Spirit

Year C Easter 2, 24 April 2022

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“Dear Holy Spirit”

Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Acts 5:27-32

When the temple police had brought the apostles, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man's blood on us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."

Revelation 1:4-8

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Dear Holy Spirit,

Hi. I need to talk with you about something. I need to clear the air. You have been messing with me, and I am not sure what to say. Where do I begin?

Last week when we had our Easter service, it was like a huge weight was lifted. Like the worry and anxiety of the last few years was delivered from us, like my ears were clogged and had been for so long that when they opened up it was like I was entirely different. Wow. Thank you.

I start there because it is what struck me first, but from that high point for me, for our church, you cut to the quick inside me. You give me a glimpse of what we can be, what we should be, and then you start shining your light around in my insides and start showing me what it will take. What it will cost me. What it will cost all of us to be the house of faith you would have us be.

For so long, Church has been something we do, but it is not about buildings or programs, but it is about transformation. Each and every one of us formed into the likeness of Christ. It is about making the dead rise, the blind see, the hungry fed, the naked clothed. It is about BEING the church, not something we put on our calendar.

When I wake up, I need to be breathing you in and out as much as I do oxygen. SO funny that the word we use for you Spirit is the same word as breath and wind in both Hebrew and Greek (RUACH and PNEUMA). I do not have to think to breathe, but when I focus on my breathing that intention becomes my focus and something changes. Something changes inside of me. I want to get to the point where my being in you is innate, as much a part of me as my breathing, but when I focus, when I give you my intention, great and holy and good things take place.

And like I said, you are messing with me and it would be a lot easier to slip into complacency and rest on my laurels, my education, my ordination, but I am not just a priest, I am a follower of Jesus. I am not some spiritual coach. I am a player on the field, too, or at least I should be. Player/Coach, or Follower/Priest.

For the sermon this Sunday, it even says in the readings that every one of us should be a priest in this new Kingdom that Jesus established. John of Patmos relays this in a prayer:

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Somehow, someway, I am to get up this Sunday and talk about what you are leading me to say, and I am not sure what you are asking me to say. Maybe I need to get up and just be honest, opening up the top of my head, opening up my heart.

In our collect on Sunday, it says this beautiful statement: 

in the Paschal mystery [You] established the new covenant of reconciliation…

This Lent we studied your covenants through the ages, from Adam all the way to John’s vision of the promise of the New Heaven on a New Earth. Three things kept coming up: Paradise (lost or unveiled), Progeny, and Presence. So in Jesus, in this new Covenant of Reconciliation we are invited into the indwelling Presence, and that’s You again. In our reading from Sunday on Acts, you are messing with Peter like you are with me. When the religious authorities call him to task, telling him to stop preaching in Jesus name, he brings you up. 

"We must obey God rather than any human authority. …[W]e are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."

He cannot ignore or dismiss you. And that is my very problem, too. Something’s got to give.

And it looks like it's going to be me.

You keep calling me deeper. Our theme when COVID started, “Lead Holy Spirit into the Depths of God.”  You took us seriously on that one. If the last two years have not been the depths, I cannot imagine what would be. Guide my steps as I attempt to lead your people into and through these places you keep leading us. 

And thank You for not letting us know in advance how much the recent past would cost all of us. So many dead. So many hurting in so many ways. Spiritually. Emotionally. Financially. The toll was so huge, and yet You have been with us through these ups and downs. Through it all, you keep giving us these FaithPoints that keep us on Your path and following Christ. 

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his Resurrection, all 11 but Thomas, he breathed on them. There it is again, breath, wind, spirit, and he shared You with them. Breathe on me, Breath of God, as the hymn says. Breathe on me, Breath of God. Do I mean that? Do I really want that? If I do, there are no more excuses, no more going back to the way it was before.

Knowledge, while a gift, is a dangerous thing, a Danger to the status quo. If I know something I have a new Responsibility, because I now have the ability to respond. And you keep teaching me day by day, and Lord help me, I have to respond.


Ignorance may be bliss, but it is no longer a choice.

In this new covenant of Reconciliation, you are drawing the whole of creation unto Yourself. Reconciliation is about drawing us back into profound relationship, not just toleration. You do not want to just put up with me, or any of us, but you want Your Presence to come in, make itself at home, and have Your run of the house. You abide in me and I in You. 

Reminds me of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, “we see in a mirror dimly, but then we shall see face to face.” We live in a time when that type of openness and clarity is more and more rare. People with their poised and fictional online personas, is there any who are truly who they say they are? Am I?

But as you live in me and I in you, I cannot hide. I cannot pose. It is so hard to be naked and unashamed. But according to Your covenants that is what you are aiming for, getting us back to the Garden, back to Paradise. And since I invited you in, it is nigh impossible to be about mixed purposes. 

But here we are, the end of the week and my mind is pinging. I could go in 1,001 different directions this Sunday when I am tasked to inspire the people and help them see Jesus, but again and again, it keeps coming back to You and me. Is it Your prompting or just me getting honest with myself after such a glorious Holy Week where I saw you moving in your people and me over and over again. My only honest response can be total honesty. You are living up to that prayer from over two years ago, and you keep leading me into the depths of God.

Thanks, thanks alot. I always tell people to be careful because they may just get what they pray for. 

In our Gospel this week I even noticed that I am in there. All followers of Christ are in there. Jesus even blesses us:

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

Humbling to think that Jesus thought of me, and all of us who followed him these last 2,000 years.

Well, I am sure I will be wrestling with you again, and probably soon. On this side of heaven you will never be done with me. There is always some way that I can follow Christ more, and you are here to get me there. No sarcasm. Thank you. Thank you. Help me, as only you can.

In the Revelation passage it names You the Alpha and Omega, the A to Z. You got me from my earliest days, you have me now, and you will have me all the way to wherever Your path leads. On Judgment Day You will point at me and say to our righteous judge, “He’s with us.” Grace. Grace. Grace is what you are all about. You are always with us. I trust that, I may not like it at times, but I know You have my best interest at heart, for me, for the Kingdom, for Ever. Draw me in closer, call me even deeper, no matter how much I kick and scream along the way. I trust You, and want what You have to give me. And when I forget, please, lovingly remind me of that. 

Love, me. Amen.