Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Year B Proper 3 WED 2018 Reframe Rethink Re-envision

Year B Proper 3 WEDNESDAY, 30 May 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
"Reframe Rethink Re-envision"

Matthew 12:43-50
43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation.”
46 While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Reframing. A lot of Jesus' teaching is about reframing, thinking things through at a different and often higher level. As Einstein reminded us, “No problem can be solved at the same level of consciousness that created it.” And that is why I think this is the way of Jesus, both in his teaching and in his approach to people. Think about the woman caught in adultery, or the woman at the well, or even Nicodemus from Sunday. They came in at one level, and Jesus invited them to reframe, rethink, re-envision how life could be.

This morning we have a lesson that is a parable about unclean spirits. In the second, we have a lesson through a teachable moment.

The unclean spirit parable is what we still find today. We can take people out of a situation, and they may seem better for a day, week, or month. But have the “corrected” person go back to the same situation, and old habits and old friends come streaming back, often with a vengeance. You may feel changed, but to create significant and substantive change one MUST change houses. It is like putting new wine in old wineskins. It just ain’t gonna work.

New wine in new wineskins. Get rid of your demons, but do not move out of the old house, and the demons can and will come back. When you change, change.

Even more shocking and scandalous is the comment about what makes up Jesus’ family. Here I think he is actually modeling the line he gives to the man who must go home to bury his father. “Let the dead bury the dead.” Is he saying here that we need to break familial bonds and identification? No. Absolutelty not. (Unless they are those demons that come back with a vengeance in the last parable.)

What he is saying here is that our understanding of what it means to be family, in caring, nurturing, supportive relationships needs to be expanded. In the Mark telling of this story, it is not that they come to speak with Jesus, they  come to take him home, “because he is beside himself.” Jesus, you have gone plumb crazy and we have come to bring you home. You have lost it. But Jesus then says, “Those who do the will of God are my mother, and sisters, and brothers.” Mark 3:20-35

In Matthew, the author replaces God (from Mark) with “my Father in heaven.” He is claiming his first identity as a child of God before he is a child of Mary or Joseph. When I do wedding ceremonies, I tell the bride and groom that they are now each other’s highest earthly priority. And I truly believe that. I also believe when Jesus said, “Seek first God’s kingdom and his okaying of you, and everything else will fall into place.” (Glenn Hinson paraphrase, a seminary professor I had.)

To be the best husband and father and priest and me, I need to put God first. And then “my cup runneth over, ...and surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” But Rock, he sounds so rude to his family. And that is why they made sure that they wrote this down. It went head to head with cultural expectations, and in so doing it reframed the conversation. Who are my family, the ones I care for and take care of? The ones who seek out and do God’s will. Those, those are my family.

But think on it, one of his last breaths was used to tell the beloved disciple to behold his mother. Even from the cross he made sure that his family responsibilities were taken care of. Reframing, rethinking, re-envisioning. That is what he came to do, and enable us to do. Amen

Year B Visitation of Mary Observed Contemplative Service 2018

Year B Visitation of Mary, 27 May 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal Church
"Saying Yes to God"

Outline of extemporaneous talk:

Luke 1:39-57  (NRSV)

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

46 And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.

  • Mary said yes to God.
    • Story told that the angel Gabriel sought for years and years for a woman who would say yes to God and bear the Christ child.
    • We should say yes to God
    • When we say yes to God, I think several things happen that this passage reminds us
  • Our soul magnifies the Lord (Just like Mary's did)
    • As the Magnificat begins: "My sould magnifies the Lord..."
    • We are not magnified, we are the magnifying glass, and we are letting God be bigger to those that encounter us
  • The Spirit is drawn to Spirit
    • When we say yes to God, others who do the same connect with us and are even drawn to us
    • Just like the words at the end of a yoga class, Namaste, the spirit in me recognizes the spirit in you.
    • The baby (John the Baptizer) "leaped in Elizabeth's womb" 
    • Elizabeth thanked God that Mary, her younger cousin, said yes!
  • "The world turns upside down"
    • I do not use these words lightly, name of the song the British played when they surrendered at Yorktown. Mightiest empire failed.
    • "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly..."
    • The whole order can and will be changed as we get into God's plan by saying yes
  • Say yes to God when he calls, like Isaiah in this morning's passage, "Here am I, send me."

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Year B Trinity Sunday 2018 Three in One and One in Three

Year B Trinity Sunday, 27 May 2018 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“Three in One and One in Three” 

Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 
 Isaiah 6:1-8 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;  the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”  
John 3:1-17 There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” 

He comes slinking in at night. Have the worries of the day kept him away? While busy, he is a man of authority and he can find the time if he wants something. I think he came by night to avoid notice. People came to him for answers, and here he is coming with nothing but questions.  

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological condition, where no matter how accomplished someone is, they have this nagging, bottom-of-the-stomach feeling that they are a fraud and will soon be found out. Psychologists say this is on the rise. But I am sure that it is as old as humanity. One of the keys of leadership is to know when to listen to and when to tune out those nagging whispers hidden deep down inside. 

Nicodemus was a leader, a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council). When we say Pharisee now after two millennia of conditioning, we hear bad. But they were attempting to be righteous, in EVERYTHING they did. Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy, repeatedly, but he kept talking to them. Their beliefs had a lot in common, and I believe that is why Nicodemus came to him that night. Nicodemus, “he went to Jesus looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.” [Nods to Jimmy Buffett] 

My hope is that I am like Nicodemus. When I have questions, may I always be driven to Jesus, too. 

No matter how “schooled” Nicodemus was that night, he did not give up on Jesus. In the Gospel of John, chapter 7, when the Sanhedrin is ready to condemn him immediately he reminds them, “Hey, doesn’t our law say we have to have a trial first?” 

And even more moving, he helped Joseph of Arimathea prepare the body of Jesus and provided the spices for his corpse. Maybe he took the words to heart, “For Christ came not into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:17 

This passage contains a ubiquitous verse, John 3:16, but that is not why it is chosen for today. But in that famous verse and the surrounding passage, the language is very Trinitarian. Today is Trinity Sunday. Now normally we would force Celal to preach, because the clergy seem to always choose to be away or share the pulpit with the low man on the totem pole on Trinity Sunday. Anyone worth their salt knows not to touch the Trinity with a ten-foot pole. It is the third rail of Christian theology. 

Think about it. There are a lot of problems with even the idea of the Trinity.  
  • The word Trinity is never mentioned in the Bible. 
  • How can any being bifurcate oneself, much less trifurcate oneself? 
  • It is a metaphor, and the only way we can describe it is to use other metaphors. 
    • St. Patrick had his shamrock, one plant/three leaves 
    • Water’s forms: Ice, Water, and Steam 
    • People’s roles: Father, Husband, Brother or Mother, Wife, Sister 
No matter what we use it is inadequate. No matter what we say, the words are not enough. Back in my Baptist pastor days, I was getting ready to baptize someone, and literally, it was 10 minutes before the service when they said, “Oh, I do not want you to baptize me with any other words than ‘I baptize you in the name of Jesus.’” I said, nope, not gonna happen. When asked Why? I said, because Jesus said so. “Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” Matthew 18:19-20 I know she was trying to honor Jesus, but I think the best way to do that is to do what he said.  
So, there we are, there are a lot of problems with the Trinity. It makes no logical sense. That is why I claim it as a Mystery. I can give no words to it, other than from deep down, way down deep in my soul, it is right, and good, and true. Wiser and more sold out people than me have encouraged this metaphor, this handle for the intangible and inexplicable. God who made us, God who saved us, God with us. All God. All true. All coexistent. And they all point to the reality and the nature of each other. The more we are driven into the Spirit, the more I see the reality of Christ who points to the Father, and the Father points to the Son and the Spirit.  

This language limits us. It always does. 

In the passages from today alone, let us look at how God is described. 
  • Lord sitting on a throne in a robe. 
  • The LORD is repeatedly used in our Psalm for the day. And the ALL CAPS designates in English translations something unique. The Lord used in Isaiah is the Hebrew Adonai, which we translate literally as Lord. But whenever we see ALL CAPS in an modern English translation that designates the proper name from God Moses got at the burning bush, often wrongly translated as Jehovah, Yahweh is much closer, but a good Jewish person would never be so blasphemous as to say it, so tradition said to replace it with Adonai which is how we got to the ALL CAPS LORD. The tetragrammaton, the 4 letter word without vowels. 
  • Spirit (and remember that could also be Wind and Breath as I mentioned last week) 
  • Abba! Father! But even here, Father is not the best way to see this. It is more intimate than Father. Abba is the Aramaic word for Daddy. It is what a child says. Any man may be able to be a Father, but it takes a relationship built on trust and love for a Father to become a Daddy. 
  • Son of Man. Here once again, there is cultural baggage that we need to unpack. The Son of one is seen as the Essence, the Quintessential element of the Father. The Spittin’ Image is how we may speak of the image, but here it connotes the Character as well. This Messianic title taken from the Book of Daniel, the Son of Man is the Messiah, the Chosen or Anointed One of God. So, the Son of Man, the Quintessential Man, the Ultimate Man, the Pinochal of Humanity is the equivalent of the Son of God, All That Is The Best encapsulated in this one. And we give him a name, Jesus.  
We invite each other in our creeds to see God in these three ways: God the Holy Other (wholly other?) apart, separate, untouchable, unchangeable, distant. When God shows up in Scripture, these are called theophaniesTheophanies are when a form appears, and many believed that even viewing God was imminent death. When Moses was offered to see God pass by, he refused to look God in the face because he would surely die but God set him in the cleft of the rock and he sees the back of God in God’s passing. Isaiah declares, “Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips, and come from a people of unclean lips.” But even here, God makes a way. He purges with a burning coal the irregularities of his tongue, and gives him the right to speak. And in the cleansing God asks, “Who will go for me?” and Isaiah immediately responds. “Here am I. Send me.” These words are still read on this Trinity Sunday, and at ordinations for that is that call of this God. 

The Imposter Syndrome I mentioned before could not be more true for those exploring a call. We have two from our midst discerning a call to the Clergy right now. Pray for them. God’s way will be clear for God is not a god of confusion. But that spirit that was true of Isaiah and still rings true: “I am unworthy. But if you will have me, I am yours.” That same Spirit called Isaiah, as it calls us, as it called Christ to be baptized and then into the Wilderness and then to Gethsemane and then on to Golgotha. Elijah’s still small voice that he heard whispers still. 

God the Ever Distant, God the Oh-So-Human, and God the Ever Present. This is why we need this metaphor of the Trinity. The Three in One, the One in Three as one of my favorite prayers puts it. (The Breastplate of St. Patrick link) 

It is ambiguous and confusing. It is contradictory and mysterious. And because of that I find it all the more true. Some relish ambiguity, others run from it and abhor it. But think on it, if we could ever define God it would cease being God. The God who can be named can be controlled. Remember the story of Jacob wrestling with God all night at the ford of the Jabbok? After wrestling all night, he asks the name of the one he is wrestling, and Jacob instead is given a new name, Israel, he who struggles or wrestles with God. Even Yahweh we have already mentioned is Ambiguous. I AM WHO I AM. But it is all the tenses of the verb “to be.” The God who Was, and Is, and Will Be.  

I love that the One we serve cannot be contained, or defined, or controlled. We have a faith that is bigger, and broader, bold enough for all time. And because of that, we serve a God who is not limited by the limits we apply to ourselves of anyone else. As Scripture repeatedly says, “With God, all things are possible.” And any meager metaphor limits this God who does the impossible. Thanks be to God. And when this God of the Impossible calls, may we respond as Isaiah did, “Here am I, send me.” Amen. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Year B Pentecost 2018 Too Deep For Words

Year B Pentecost, 20 May 2018 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“Too Deep For Words” 

Collect: Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Romans 8:22-27 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 Jesus said to his disciples, ”When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 

Happy Birthday, Church! All who are in Christ, Christ’s holy catholic (universal) Church, have reason to celebrate this day. The promise of the Holy Spirit was received in that Upper Room almost 2,000 years ago.  

The Advocate, as Jesus calls the Spirit in John, is God-in-Us, in whom we move, and breathe, and have our being. I have spoken of this before, in both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the words ruach and pneuma, have the same approach. The words used cover wind, and breath, and spirit. It is all the same.  

This helps me when I get caught in my head, and think too often of the Spirit of God as ephemeral and intangible. Too often intangible equates to non-existent. And non-existent is the last word I would apply to the Spirit. 

I think of the times when I had a hunch, or a feeling, and for no conscious or recognizable reason I said a word or did something and people looked at me like I had superpowers. I do not. Ask my wife. Far from it, but that same Spirit I tried to stay attuned to is accessible to all of us in Christ. It opens doors that are closed, and opens stone-cold hearts that are as locked down. Time and again, the Spirit works in ways that we cannot plan for or expect/demand. But when it happens, that sense of awe comes in. God breaks through, and we must acknowledge it. 

On Pentecost, some heard the disciples and it seemed to be the rants of drunken idiots. While others heard their utterances and heard the Good News. 3,000 people responded that first day and the Gospel spread throughout the Roman world. “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs.” And remember, that is the Jewish believers in Jesus that came on board that day. The evangelization and the welcoming of the Gentiles, the non-Jewish, was yet to come. 

One of the great changes which enabled the work to spread as far and wide as it did was one simple fact, and it is unique in most of the major world religions. I know I talk about language a lot. I find it fascinating. Even this morning I looked at the Greek and Hebrew for Spirit. Etymology, the study of the development and meaning of words, is something that will always fascinate me. And one of the main reasons is this. Our faith is unique in that we are not tied to and limited by having to worship in the same language as the founder of our faith. Very few of us in this room speak Aramaic. Jesus’ name was not even Jesus, the Greek version of his very Hebrew name, YeshuaAND THIS IS NOT A WEAKNESS. One of the key reasons Christianity has travelled as far and wide as it has is because it is translatable, and because of that it is UNIVERSAL. Now ministers study Greek and Hebrew so we can clarify and edify, but I am far from fluent. I am really good as looking up things in dictionaries and on the internet and that is good enough for most of what I need. But our faith is not tied to language. It is tied to Truth and that Truth will set us FREE. 

And think about it, as they were speaking in tongues, the words were understood and clear no matter where people called home. The Spirit spoke to them. And if you think about it, Pentecost is the reversal of Babel. The story of Babel is that God confused the languages because people were attempting to be greater than God. But Pentecost is enabled and empowered by God so that we can be at work in the world on God’s behalf. It is the ultimate sign of being on God’s team. God speaks for us despite our meager efforts. 

I find it funny sometimes when people enthusiastically respond to a sermon, and they will tell me what they heard. SO OFTEN that is not at all what I said, or meant to say. But that is the Spirit, saying to them what they needed to hear through my meager efforts. I smile and nod, and on the inside say, “Thanks, Spirit!” because I know it was not me. 
If you have been on the internet in the last week you may have run across the argument whether it is Yanni or Laurel being said. You hear what you hear, and out of context you must rely on perception which is always limiting. It is Laurel, by the way. 
We are not responsible for how people hear, even though we try our best to be understood. Let’s leave that up to God. 

In the monasteries and convents of the Middle Ages, when often monks and nuns got up in the middle of the night to pray, we might think that they would get in trouble for falling asleep during the prayers. But in many monasteries and convents, if a person fell asleep they were not awakened. It was called Holy Musing when the Spirit spoke directly to the monks or nuns and falling asleep in the prayers was seen as a direct way to get the person’s attention. I will try to think that way when I see folks dozing off here. Just like the prophecy quoted in Acts: “Young men will see visions, and old men will dream dreams.” For that to happen, we have to give space for God to do it and not belittle folks when it happens. 

The Spirit speaks when others hear a word of God from us. The Spirit speaks when we are attuned to the promptings and urging of God in our daily lives and dreams. The other way, one that Paul brings up in Romans, is how the Spirit speaks for us when things are so bad we just do not have the words. 

Life is hard. We all deal with tragedies which can be heartbreaking and unspeakable. Part of the training of ministers is to teach a ministry of presence. There are times when the best thing to say is nothing. ANY WORDS would be trite and belittling of the situation. Think on all the horrible things people say when someone dies or a tragedy strikes. “They are in a better place.” or “God wanted another angel.” When we say things like that, think on how we are describing God. Often the better choice, is to say nothing. To be still and silent, and present. When Lazarus died, “Jesus wept.” And maybe that needs to be our model. And if there needs to be any speaking, let the Spirit do the talking. As Paul said in Romans: “...the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

Today we celebrate the Holy Spirit, the One who speaks through us, the One who speaks to us, the One who speaks for us when we do not have the words. 
Sighs too deep for words. Groaning, and weeping, and sighing. Our Advocate works on our behalf at all times and in all places. Thanks be to God. 

The Spirit, our Advocate, with others, with God, and with our very selves, is wonderful. Acts likened it to a fire. And it is. 

Yesterday the fire was lit in a wonderful and surprising way. And the world stood by in awe, and in derision as well. I find the timing impeccable that this is Pentecost weekend. Must be God at work again. Our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Michael Curry, spoke to about ⅓ of humanity when he was asked to give the sermon at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. People were amazed, and many made fun. However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached. Unquestioningly, unabashedly, and emphatically. The Spirit saw a chance, and enabled the good news to be preached. St. Peter had his 3,000 on Pentecost, and Presiding Bishop Curry had his almost 3 billion. Do not tell me God’s hand was not in this.  

In a world filled with horrible news and bleak attitudes, the world was enchanted with a message of hope and love. Esquire Magazine, a most cynical of journals reported it this way:  
“And at this point in history, when the world seems to be getting crueler by the minute, an impassioned plea for self-sacrifice, a call for a life centered on love for one’s neighbor, is exactly what we need to be hearing. Particularly when it’s delivered in a castle that has survived the Norman conquest and two world wars. In the last thousand years, Windsor Castle has seen worse than what we’re living right now. We will come through this. But we have got to start loving one another. We really did not expect to get inspired by a Royal Wedding, but there you are. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to join the Episcopal Church.”   
-Dave Holmes link 
And what was said? I won’t do it justice, but this was the part that struck me the most: 
Someone once said that Jesus began most revolutionary movement in all of human history, a movement grounded in the unconditional love of god for the world. And a movement mandating people to live that love. And in so doing, to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself. I'm talking about some power, real power, power to change the world. 
He didn't die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn't—he wasn't getting anything out of it. He gave up his life. He sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the well-being of the world, for us.  That's what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish sacrificial redemptive love, changes lives and it can change this world.  If you don't believe me, just stop and think and imagine, think and imagine, well, think and imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way.  When love is the way, unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive, when love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the Earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more. When love is the way, there's plenty good room, plenty good room, for all of god's children because when love is the way, we actually treat each other well, like we are actually family. When love is the way, we know that god is the source of us all and we are brothers and sisters, children of god. My brothers and sisters, that's a new heaven, a new Earth, a new world, a new human family. -Presiding Bishop Michael Curry link 

Yesterday, sisters and brothers in Christ, we witnessed the evangelical witness of our brother in Christ, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Most of These as well as the Least of These. We witnessed another Pentecost moment, when even Esquire Magazine, and the New York Times, and CNN, and Fox News, and The Guardian, and too many others to share repeatedly the Gospel message to the world in awe with the idea that love can and WILL change the world. 

As we come to bring a new one into Christ’s family, we pray for her and the work of the Spirit in her life and in her family. We celebrate her choices to be a part of Christ’s Church, and promise to walk with her as she continues to believe and grow in her faith. It is an honor and gift to us to be able to celebrate and welcome her today. 
This is the birthday of the Church, and the birth of a new day in her life, and Pentecost. We have so much to celebrate! Thanks be to God. Amen.