Sunday, August 14, 2022

Year C Proper 15 Hard Truths

 Year C Proper 15, 14 August 2022

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“Hard Truths”


Collect: Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (a portion of today's reading)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Luke 12:49-56

Jesus said, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:

father against son

and son against father,

mother against daughter

and daughter against mother, 

mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law

and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”


Friends, this Sunday is a inside the family conversation. Jesus is speaking plainly, honestly, and shockingly frankly to most ears. It may sound like Jesus needs a Snickers, but it is much more than that. What he says does not fit the mold we may have of Jesus of Nazareth. He speaks of how his teachings will be confrontational and divisive. And remember, there were times when he overturned tables as well as welcoming children. 


Truth is often a hard pill to swallow.


Sometimes our mental images are far more comforting than reality. And our denial may let us slip back into our prejudices and bad habits, friends, it is not where we really want to reside. Who wants to live in a lie?


We often forget that Jesus was murdered for political reasons, his teachings were dangerous and he needed to be silenced and his “divisive movement” must be quelled by the religious leaders that be in the precarious balance of powers they shared with the Romans who were occupying their state. To keep what little they had, they had to pay an expensive price. What is the life of one man to maintain the way things are?


To the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious congress, obviously that this was worth it. Jesus’ prediction came true.


His message, if we really do what he calls us to do in the Gospel, not what we think it says, but truly says, is as shattering to the status quo today as it was then. 


Despite the current debates to the contrary, there is right and wrong. There is good and bad. There is Evil in this world out to undo the Kingdom of God. Every single one of us, not just the clergy or super-religious amongst us have the responsibility to discern. We all must do the work of discernment, listening to the prompting of the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives.


Think of it like Jiminy Cricket if you have to, or that still small voice while the world is in uproar, but each and every one of us are given the opportunity every day to “choose this day whom we will serve.” We are given the opportunity to choose the right, and turn away from the wrong. The high road or the low road, we all choose our path.


In the early church, in their baptismal practices before infants and children were baptized, the new initiates would gather in the predawn hours beside a stream or river of flowing water. They would get into the chilly waters, and as the sun cracked over the horizon they would turn and renounce the darkness, and turn back and embrace the light. Then they would be baptized into Christ. Claiming and residing in Christ in a lifelong commitment. Some of that language remains in our baptismal promises.


Even today, in countries where Christianity is not the norm or predominant, many are fine if their relatives are curious and attend a Bible study or church service, but if people are baptized, they understand that this is serious, a game changer. They understand the words of Jesus that there will be division.

“Father against son

and son against father,

mother against daughter

and daughter against mother, 

mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law

and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”


Somewhere along the way we have allowed our faith to become cultural, and I have seen images where people have drawn Jesus with American flags, or even worse, with a gun. Nothing could be further from the Jesus of Scripture than images like these.


Like the Hebrew prophets of old, Jesus knew that things were not as God would have them. Like Isaiah called out the hypocrisy of those who considered themselves righteous in Isaiah 5, just a little bit further down from today’s reading:

Woe to those who drag iniquity along with cords of falsehood,

    who drag sin along as with cart ropes,

who say, “Let him make haste;

    let him speed his work

    that we may see it;

let the plan of the Holy One of Israel hasten to fulfillment,

    that we may know it!”

Woe to those who call evil good

    and good evil,

who put darkness for light

    and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet

    and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes

    and shrewd in their own sight!

Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine

    and valiant at mixing drink,

who acquit the guilty for a bribe

    and deprive the innocent of their rights! [vv.18-23]


Jesus came to promote the Kingdom of God. Not his religion. Not the Empire. Not the Emperor. Not the Right to bear your sword. Jesus came to reframe our world, and have us step up into the reality of the Kingdom of God. A place of Grace. A place where all are welcome, no matter what has come before. A place divided from the way things are in this world. Jesus knew that his way of thinking, and living, and this message would drive a wedge into hearts and minds, and our society itself.



Jesus said, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided…


The way I read this is not that Jesus wants division, but he wants the Kingdom so badly that he knows the outcome. Don’t put the cart before the horse. The horse is the Kingdom of God, and the cart that follows is division. Treating people with Love and Grace goes against the power structures that were, and are still today. The hard truth that Jesus says here in Luke is not past tense. It is as true today as when he said it.


For so many outside the Church, they can almost see the divisions and the hypocrisy better than we can. When people claiming to follow Christ talk about needing jet airplanes or fancy cars or luxury items it is disgraceful. 


While I was traveling recently it made the news in England about the preacher in New York who was doing an online service and was robbed at gunpoint for a million to a million and a half dollars in jewelry that he and his wife were wearing. Not supposedly these two people are followers of Jesus who only had the robe on his back when he died, and even that was taken and gambled over by the soldiers at the foot of the cross. Surprisingly enough, when we landed at Dulles, the customs official who welcomed us back into the country asked if I had heard about it while I was in England. He brought it up when he found out I was a priest. He then mentioned that his uncle was the NYPD detective on that case. I told him that I would pray for his uncle and I have. I also encouraged him to have his uncle look into the minister who had a million plus in jewelry. That sounds more shady to me than the robbery.


Friends, we preach a message of love and sacrifice. Of life change and eternal reward. Of turning the other cheek and generosity. Of humility and prayer. Power, and Privilege, and Prejudice are not choices we can make when we are truly following Christ.


And none of us, not a one of us, especially me, gets it fully right on this side of heaven. There are and will be logs in our eyes as we slowly attempt the conversion of our hearts on our road to heaven. That is why we gather for encouragement and strength, for correction and confrontation, for reconciliation and absolution in our divided and divisive path into the Kingdom of God Christ brought about. There are many shoulders of the faithful that we are standing upon, and the world is slowly shifting to that final day when all shall be revealed and the Kingdom will come in its fullness. That is why the preacher in Hebrews can encourage and strengthen us with their admonition:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.


Ashland is a train town, and an old standard that was actually a hit again in my teenage years echoed through my brain this week preparing for today. 


People get ready

There's a train a-coming

You don't need no baggage

You just get on board

All you need is faith

To hear the diesels humming

Don't need no ticket

You just thank the Lord


So much truth there. I need to let go of the baggage of this world and get on board. Do I have the faith to do so? Or will I let it go by? Ponder that friends. Jesus’ promises confront and welcome still. Amen


Sunday, August 7, 2022

Year C Proper 14 2022 Dressed for Action

 Year C Proper 14, 7 August 2022

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“Dressed for Action”


Collect: Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Luke 12:32-40

Jesus said to his disciples, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

"Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

"But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."


This morning’s Gospel reading is almost a midrash on the Scout motto: Be Prepared. 


And that is not a bad thing, last week I warned about the “just in case” things we often do to make ourselves feel comforted. They may help or not, but we do them just to feel the comfort of having them with us. It is the adult equivalent of a security blanket.


This week, Jesus’ instructions are about the things that should bring us real and lasting comfort, Anticipation and Preparation.


Jesus instructs us of the Outcome of the hard work he asks of us. He starts with the destination so we understand the journey we are being asked to take. 

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Like the Father speaking to the Elder Son in the Prodigal Son story, Jesus reminds us, “All that I have is yours.” We are being made a promise before the mentions of the costs are brought up. Keep your eyes on the Prize, and keep that thought through the struggles that are ahead.


Here in Luke we have instructions added to the phrase most of us know from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


How do we show what we hold most dear? Generosity. Be generous like God is generous. We think we cannot be because we look in our hands and see so little, but God is generous so we can be generous. It is not our meager portion that we are giving from, it is from God’s abundance. We are to be good stewards, yes, but gracious stewards. That is why Jesus can say: 

“Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


It is in our valuing that we show what we hold most dear. Your house is burning down, and you have time to grab three things. What are they? When you look at those three things you have a good idea of what you value. 


What do you value most? What are your irreplaceable treasures?


In regards to Anticipation and Preparation, we must anticipate the hardships and struggles that the way may bring, and in the foreknowledge we can do what needs to be done to lighten our burdens in our service.


Jesus goes on. 

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.”


Serving someone takes a lot of Anticipation and Expectation. I trust we all have had the experience of going to a nice meal when every need was foreseen and we were cared for before we could even think to ask for anything. As our glass nears the bottom, a refill is offered. The butter has been set out soon enough so that it easily spreads. The plate is cleared once the last bite is taken. Quiet, unobtrusive, dedicated. A good servant is worth their weight in gold.


If you have ever watched the show Downton Abbey, we see Carson and so many others entirely dedicated to keeping up the pretense of the British upper class and their status. The interplay between the “downstairs” where the servants maintain the facade of the upstairs is fun to watch. They are all experiencing similar thoughts, feelings, and trevails. But the distinction between the servers and the served is intriguing to our supposedly classless society. I appreciate the British clear distinctions, as I find them a bit more honest. But from our classless American perspective (I will let you decide how to define classless), the difference is fun to watch.


In the show, the efforts made, some of them Herculean, are amazing to see. Anticipation. Preparation. The very things Jesus calls us to in our reading for this morning.


When I waited tables in seminary I learned much on how to care for people. When to step in. When to offer something. When to stay away. All of it is a dance in the service to others.


In the show, Downton Abbey, it was something special that brought the Lord and Ladies downstairs to celebrate or show appreciation to the staff. This is what Jesus is talking about. When we are attentive and encouraging, the Lord, THE Lord will serve us and show appreciation for the attentiveness and preparation that we have shown.


Anticipating the needs of the Master, and having the work done before it can even be asked is the best way to be attentive to what we are to be about.




Lastly, we are given that glimpse of the endgame again. Yes, we will be given the Kingdom, but the final step of that is the return of the Son of Man which will come “like a thief in the night.”


Be dressed for action. Keep your lamps full and lit. We never know when the day or hour could be. We need to plan and work as if Jesus were returning in another millennium, and our personal ethics need us to behave as if Jesus is coming back tonight. Both/And, not Either/Or.


We always need to be on guard. Especially when we see that things are different, or not the norm.


That is why so many of us are so tired these days. Our “New Normal” is so radically different from what came before. We are averaging about half our normal numbers before COVID. We are doing better than most. We are making the norm to have things videoed, and uploaded online. I have resigned myself that I will have a camera in my face for the rest of my career. I am not complaining, but the last three years have seen an entire rewrite to how things need to be done. Getting used to different expectations can be a hard lesson to learn.


When I used to help in the training of overseas missionaries, a story they told to help prepare people is for folks to know their context. 


Two missionaries were sent into the depths of the jungle in a southeast Asian country. The traditional homes were built on stilts, with the animals kept in pens below the houses. The missionary couple had all their belongings moved into a home built for them in a village, and it was quite different from the housing they were used to living in the States.


The wife of the couple was having a very hard time adapting. Between the heat and all the jungle and animal noises she had not had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. Beside herself, one night they woke up after a long night’s sleep. The woman said to her husband, “That was the best night’s sleep I have had since we moved here!” Relaxed finally, she stretched and sat up to get out of bed. She went to put her feet in her slippers, and found that they were gone. Then she noticed everything was gone. All their clothes. All their furniture. All the pots, pans, and food in her kitchen. Wrapping their sheets around them to cover themselves up, they went outside and called their neighbor.


The neighbor came over to their house and at this point the couple shared that everything in their house had been taken, literally everything.


The neighbor could not believe it. “Were you not on guard last night?”


The husband said, “No. We weren’t. In fact, we had the best night’s sleep we had since we have been here.”


The neighbor looked at them like they were crazy. “But how could you sleep?” the neighbor asked. “Didn’t you hear the quiet?”


The neighbor went on to explain that the silence the couple so appreciated came at the cost of all the dogs having their throats slit, as a gang of thieves had come into the village to steal the things of those who did not know the signs. What was seen as a gift was actually a signal to vigilance. 


When it comes to Anticipation and Preparation, a big part of that is preparing for the thief in the night, whether that be literal thief or the Son of Man’s return. Either way, the signs may change and we still need to maintain our post and be on guard.


“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit…”


We never can know when the time is or when it could be. Anyone that tells you otherwise is a charlatan. But if we stay prepared, if we keep the faith, if we continue our vigilance when the Lord comes we will be rewarded. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Amen


Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Year C Proper 13 WED 2022 He Gets Me

 Year C Proper 13 WEDNESDAY, 3 August 2022

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“He Gets Me”


Collect: Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without

your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the

Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


John 1:29-42

The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know

him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit

descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize

with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I

myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’* The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples,

and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they

followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him,

‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where

he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John

speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found

the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed*). He brought Simon* to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of

John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter*).


Good morning! A few thoughts this morning on the call of God.


The other day I was sitting in Panera meeting with a Randolph-Macon student I am supervising this summer. Ken actually saw us when he came to arrange the bagels for this morning, and he got a chance to meet her.


She had just gotten back from a mission experience in Guatemala. In her enthusiasm for going, she mentioned that she could not wait to bring them Jesus. We had a long talk about that, and one thing I mentioned is that Jesus was already there. I asked what she meant about bringing them Jesus and that got into a long conversation about the nature of salvation, but in really practical ways.


The Gospel message this morning echoes that conversation so well. While she was on her

trip I asked her to look at how the Gospel is contextualized for each and every one of us.

There is the general call of God to every soul to be in a relationship, but there is the

individual call of God that is the key that can unlock our heart, the only key. Blaise Pascal

put it this way: 

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true

happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill

with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that

are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable

object; in other words by God himself.” - Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425)

This is often summarized by the idea that there is a God-shaped hole in every one of us that

only God can fill.


But what I find fascinating and beautiful, there is a uniqueness to our call, the Gospel, the Good News, finds its way to us in a language, or image, or sign that speaks to us individually. The Gospel contextualizes itself to who we are, who God made us to be.



To the blind one, the Good News is sight. To the drowning one, air. To the hungry one,

food. But we need not run to the extremes. Some of our needs are higher up on Maslow’s

hierarchy. Just look at the call stories in today’s readings.


To John, Jesus gave him purpose. He was a man of action and prophecy, and his fulfillment came in pointing to the Anointed One. Andrew needed mystery, “Where are you staying?” And Jesus responded, “Come and see.” Alluring and invitational, all in one. Peter needed to be understood, to be seen. Upon meeting him, Jesus gives him the name by which he would be known the rest of his days.  Jesus… looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter*). Or in English, Rock. Peter needed to see from the get-go that Jesus got him, for who he was and for who he could be.


My supervisee from the college had a very different trip by looking at the felt or real need

of the person she was with on her mission experience. It was not some commodity that was

to be given (say these magic words and you get into heaven), it was about a relationship

between her and this person, and a relationship between them and God.


No matter our history or our future, no matter our deficits or our riches, the Gospel of

Jesus Christ is powerful and amazing. The Gospel is as universal and as individual as our

fingerprints. Thanks be to God! We can all say like Peter, “He gets me. He really gets me.”

Amen

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Year C Proper 13 2022 Packing Light

Year C Proper 13, 31 July 2022

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“Packing Light”


Collect: Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without

your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the

Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But he said to him,

"Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of

greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man

produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, `What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said,

`I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to

my soul, `Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, `You fool! This

very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who

store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."



When I travel, my proclivity is to toss something in the suitcase, just in case

  • Bring a flashlight, just in case.

  • Extra sets of underwear and socks, just in case.

  • A few extra days of medicine, and some antacid, and some anti-diarrhea medicine,

  • just in case.

Those are things I might actually use, but there are other things that fall into that “just in

case” category, that just weigh me down.

  • A nice outfit, just in case we get invited somewhere.

  • Another pair of shoes, just in case because it goes with that outfit better.

  • Another bag, just in case we bring more things home than what we brought. 

Ju

st in case. It is a cautious thing. Too often, for me anyway, it gives me a sense of control, a

way to hang on to the reassurance that I am autonomous and the master of my neck of the

woods. But when we travel we are notoriously at risk. We are in the unknown, and we have

to trust our skills, our abilities, and the kindness of strangers.


Travel is a risky thing. There is a reason that our spiritual lives are often portrayed as

journeys. Today we are talking about packing light. In the middle of this vacation season, it is

more than just a travel tip. It is a spiritual metaphor.


From Poetry: We are put on earth but a little space to learn to bear the beams of love. -William Blake

From Scripture: For we are strangers and pilgrims before you, O Lord, as were all our ancestors; our days

on the earth are like a shadow… -I Chronicles 29:15


Friends, having just arrived back from an adventure, I have pondered these things long and

hard. It is amazing how little one can get by with when we allow ourselves to let go of that

much freedom, stepping into the unknown and into faith in ourselves and in our God.


Jesus, when he came to do what was his to do, had to give up more than I am asking any of

us to consider today. The early church has a hymn about it recorded by St. Paul in Philippians

2:5-8:

Let the same mind be in you that was a in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross.

J

esus packed light. With all the glories of heaven, he forsook it all so he could make himself at

home, and come be one of us. Had he been born into royalty, the story would not be

miraculous. But he did not. He chose to be humble. He chose to be poor. He chose to be a

refugee from political persecution. He chose to ashue politics and political power, as we know

them. He chose to ashue religion and traditional authority, as we know it. He chose to have

nothing so we could have everything. He chose this path because he loved us. He chose this

path so we would pay attention. Despite all these choices going against the expected way of

doing things, we are still wrestling, wrangling, and paying attention 2,000 years later.


When the man comes to Jesus to settle a family quarrel over inheritance, Jesus invites the

complainer to rethink and reframe his life. He is giving so much energy to something that

at the end of the day does not matter that much. Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of

possessions.


So often, what we think we possess ends up possessing us. Hold on, yes, but hold on loosely.

Possessions, calendars, these are things that we need to look at as directions and intentions.

But we also need to be open to outcomes and possibilities. If we weigh ourselves down with

things external, we could very well miss out the gift that lands in our laps.


Tuesday, my oldest and I were walking through Oxford, getting a lay of the land. I had a

direction we were going, I knew where we wanted to end up. But in our walking, I took my

head out of the map, and glanced down a sidestreet. I turned and said, “Hey, there’s a castle!

Let’s go check it out!” And we did. And while scoping out Oxford Castle and Prison out we

saw a sign for A Midsummer Night’s Dream done outside in the cool of the evening. A

highlight of our trip came because we were open to outcomes. We followed our nose when it

caught a whiff of the serendipity of the moment. If we had been beholden to an agenda or

a predetermined course, this wonder would have been missed.


As Jesus said, “One's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” If we lug that

stuff around we cannot respond quickly.


When I was in high school I got to see Eddie Albert of Green Acres fame on Broadway in a

revival in the Depression Era play, You Can’t Take It With You. That phrase has stuck with me since.


My wife’s boss was the CFO of a Fortune 500 company who came to the realization that his

work, while rewarding and important, was killing his family and his soul. He stepped back,

and chose a different path. Rich i.e. wealthy) is very different when you no longer see it as

being rich monetarily. He chose to be rich in different ways.


The parable Jesus tells to make his point is about not majoring in the minors, about “Keeping the main thing the main thing.” Or, “Don’t put the cart before the horse.” Or from the play, “You can’t take it with you.” All that you have is your soul, to echo

Tracy Chapman. Friends, a few weeks ago we talked about our distractions and worries as

keeping us from God. Today we are talking about misplaced priorities. We focus on the small

with the looming giant above us.


Jesus' parable is about One Day verses Today. One Day I will get my life in Order. One Day I

will make enough to be comfortable and feel safe. One Day I will have time to be with my

family. One Day I will whatever.


Friends, Jesus’ Parable is that One Day may never come. One Day is not promised to any of

us. We are given the gift of Today. And that is why it is called the Present. Cliche, I know.

But that does not make it untrue.




Today we say goodbye to Becky+. She has blessed us with her ministry, her help, her

friendship. When she first mentioned possibly leaving I thought about the season she was

here. She has helped weather the worst storm the Church (big church and this church) has

weathered in our lifetimes. We were tossed and turned. Closed and frightened. Dispersed,

yet somehow still connected. And we are still here. And in the midst of even this chaos, she

felt a call to parish ministry and to leave St. Catherine’s. Becky+, if you can hear the call in

this, God’s still, small voice must be loud and clear.


The safety of staying where we are versus the call to venture forth is a huge dichotomy. And

when God calls us out of the harbor, we strip down and pack light. We want our boats riding

high in the water as we face the high seas. It may feel safe to stay in the harbor, but it is not

what ships are made for. Ships are made for sailing the seas.


Jesus was in heaven itself, Paradise Eternal, seated with God the Father. And for love of us

he forsook it all and sojourned with us. 

He humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross.


And we were made to be on the High Seas of Faith as well.

For we are strangers and pilgrims before you, O Lord, as were all our ancestors; our days on the earth

are like a shadow…

And as we let go and let God, we see that our home, our harbor in and with and through

God is awaiting us, now and forever. Of what need we be afraid?


Pack light, friends. Venture forth. Live the faith by stepping out. As Jesus promised, “Lo,

I am with you always…”  Amen