Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Year B Easter 7 WED 2021 Like Melchizedek

Year B Easter 7 WEDNESDAY, 19 May 2021

Video Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

"Like Melchizedek"

Hebrews 7:1-17

This "King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him" and to him Abraham apportioned "one-tenth of everything." His name, in the first place, means "king of righteousness" next he is also king of Salem, that is, "king of peace." Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. See how great he is! Even Abraham the patriarch gave him a tenth of the spoils. And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to collect tithes from the people, that is, from their kindred, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man, who does not belong to their ancestry, collected tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had received the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case, tithes are received by those who are mortal; in the other, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him. Now if perfection had been attainable through the levitical priesthood-- for the people received the law under this priesthood-- what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek, rather than one according to the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. Now the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of him, "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek."

Luke 10:17-24

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it."

Sending out the 70, Jesus trusted the Spirit to do the Spirit’s job. The Spirit precedes us in our ministry. The Spirit goes ahead and paves the way. The Spirit opens people’s hearts and minds to the words we will speak, or will divert them if they will hinder what God wants to be done. I love this story, and the way Jesus celebrates their successes is so joy filled. Listen again to his exuberance:

“I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

Jesus wants us to be a part of what was and is to be done. He did not come only to save us, but to enact and implement the Kingdom of God on earth. That involves us, as unworthy as we are, as ignorant as we are. Jesus even says as much. He says we are like “infants” when we go out. That is not an insult, but an assessment of where we are. And he calls us to maturity in him, and enables us to do what we do, and one do we will see “face to face” as I Corinthians 13 promises. But we have to start somewhere, thanks be to God.

We have this because Jesus is who he is. He receives from the Father and hands on to us what he receives. In the Hebrews passage, we see him in this lineage of the eternal priesthood, calling us to trust in him fully.

This obscure reference to Melchizedek is to the King of Salem, the walled city which we think later became Jerusalem. Abraham was beholding to him, and gave him a tithe, 10%, of his spoils from war. Melchizedek shared bread and wine, mirroring the Eucharist, and the early church latched onto this image of a priest without known lineage as a forerunner of Jesus.

This metaphorical ideal is fascinating and beautiful. And it is on this security and authority that we lean as we head out. We head out to not change a situation, but to transform the world, to bring to fruition the Kingdom of God on earth.

We do this through what we focus on for this Sunday, the Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter, the God-in-Us. We stand secure because of this eternal priest pleading on our behalf, one who is in the high order of Melchizedek. There is no stained and unworthy priest, but one who is flawless and blameless and perfect. Thanks be to God!

Friends, I stand with you, in need of this. I am with you, because I stand in need of Jesus’ love and grace, as do we all. I look forward to Sunday. I look forward to what is to be. I look forward to this remembrance of the difference in me and the difference I can make in the world because of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God! Amen

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Year B Easter 6 WED 2021 Worry Not

 Year B Easter 6 WEDNESDAY, 12 May 2021

Video service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

"Worry Not"

A Reading (Lesson) from Luke 12:22-31

He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you-- you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Who here worries?

If you are not raising your hand, you're telling a fib, and you shouldn’t fib even in virtual church.

Whenever we have an angel or God show up in the Bible, most of the time they start with the phrase, “Fear Not.” In fact, I have read that it is used in the Bible 365 times, one for every day of the year. Now, I have not done the homework to check that out, but it is a good quote. We’ll go with it.

Some say, to err is human. But I think it is even more honest to think, that to worry is human. We worry because we have these wonderful brains. And our brains think in stories. We are the storytelling creature. And when we worry it is our brains telling us a story about what could go wrong, a negative story.

But here are some statements about Worry, and let’s explore them.

“Worry is the Misuse of Imagination.”

Now think about it. If worry is the negative story we tell ourselves, what if we did the opposite? And every time we started to tell ourselves what could go wrong, instead we told ourselves what could go right. We imagine the positive. We visualize things going well. And then we can ask ourselves, what can I do to make things go well? And then we can do those things, and that positive visualization can come true!

So when we do not do the things that we need to do to make the good things happen, worry comes back…

“Worry is the emotional response to not being prepared.” 

So how do we not have that feeling? We need to… BE PREPARED! That’s right. We need to do what needs to be done.

A story is told about a college professor who was trying to teach the lesson of getting the big things done, then minor things, then filling in the other stuff that life throws us. So he got a big glass jar, a pail of rocks, a pail of sand, and a pail of water. And he asked, “Do you think this will all fit in the glass jar?” Not one student did. And he said, “Not if we just pour it all in.” So he carefully placed in all the rocks. Then he carefully poured in some of the sand, shook the jar to fill in the cracks, poured some more, shook, until all the sand was in. And then he asked, “Is it full?” Now the students were catching on. And he poured the water in filling the tiny spaces between the sand, which was between the rocks, all in the glass jar.

When I plan out my days, I have to do it like the professor. What are the things that I HAVE TO DO? Or the things that CANNOT BE MOVED? I have to put those in first. Then I can fill in the rest of my day with things I would like to do, or could get done, or I will find fun and energizing. And then I pour in the things that life throws at me, phone calls, emails, Facebook, whatever. But the rocks have to be first. When I do that I do not have to worry. I have taken care of my responsibilities.

And, “Worry is not your Responsibility.” 

Responsibility means that you have the ability to Respond. There are things that you can do, and probably should. But there are things that you cannot do, should not do, or are beyond your control. THEY ARE NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY! You can only do the things you can.

When I played tuba at the University of Richmond, my music professor had me playing some really hard parts. I got overwhelmed! I looked at the whole song, and thought, “I cannot play this!” But he said, look at one measure. “Can you play that?” Most I could, but some were really hard with hard rhythms. He said, then do not look at the measure, look at one beat. “Can you play that?” Yes, I could. He said, “When you are feeling overwhelmed and you have too much to handle, break it down into the smallest part you can until you can do it. Conquer that, then do the next thing, and so on, and so on, and so on.” I have taken that lessen with me the rest of my life.

Whenever I have a challenge, and it is my responsibility, I break it down into small manageable parts. And I do it one part at a time. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

“Worry is letting my emotion, my fear, into the Driver’s Seat.” 

In one of my favorite books, there is a phrase that is repeated. “Fear is the Mind Killer.” What makes us worry is our mind. But when we let worry drive the car, our brain shuts down. Fear kills the mind. When I choose to recognize that there is fear, but I do not let it take charge, I can still think, act, and respond. I get to stay in charge, and the fear just hangs out until I can deal with that. Fear is a warning system, a good one that came from years of evolutionary grooming. Bravery is, recognizing the fear, not letting it rule the day, and doing what has to be done.

In closing, Crises do happen. Bad things do happen. Remember Jesus said, “Today has enough troubles for today.” Troubles do come along, but when they do I can do these things:

I can be in the present, not worrying about the future and what MIGHT happen, but I can do what I can right NOW. And that is what I focus on.

I do what I can. That is my responsibility, nothing more, and nothing less.

I respond as I can.

And then I let the rest go. It is not my responsibility.

Don’t let Worry win. Or as all those angels put it, “Fear not!” Or as Jesus put it, “Do not worry about your life.” Amen

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Year B Easter 6 2021 Abide

 Year B Easter 6, 9 May 2021

Video and Live Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA


Collect: O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

Abiding is a lost art. I must admit. I do not abide well. I have a hard time sitting still, much less abiding. But Jesus is clear. Abide.

“Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

If we need to abide, then we may as well abide someplace nice. And in the love of Jesus things are pretty swell, and I cannot imagine anywhere better.

We all have abided. It is very apt that today is Mother’s Day. And each and every one of us has been born, and therefore must have a mother. Thank God for Mothers. I am always reticent to mention Mother’s Day because for some it causes such pain. But this year I am making an exception because the analogy is so apt, I mention Mother’s Day because we all have one or we could not be here. 

Berke Breathed, the cartoonist who drew and wrote Bloom County for years, wrote a children’s book named “Mars Needs Moms.” Disney actually made a movie from it. Things were crazy on Mars, and the martians were wanting structure out of their chaos. So they kidnapped the mothers of earth. In it a child, who had just wished he did not have a mother. She was a “bellowing broccoli bully and a carrot-cuddling cuckoo” who made him do the things he needed to do. Well, Milo, the main character finds a way to the red planet to rescue his mom and all the moms.  In the rescue, he almost dies and it is his mother who jumps in to sacrifice herself for the love of her child. No question. No hesitation. No regret. He had abided in her for nine months, and there was no other consideration. Abiding is like that. It goes beyond the rational. It goes beyond the word we call love. Abiding is finding a home where all that is needed is given, freely, no strings attached. And the feeling is more than cozy, more than home-y, it is indescribable. It abides.

Abide in me, as I abide in the Father, Jesus urges. It reminded me of an interesting fact I heard. Women, all women alive, were once in their grandmother, in a way. Stay with me here. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have in their ovaries. Okay, so that means they were in their mother. Yes, but when your mother was born, the egg that would become half of you was in your grandmother. So the chain of women goes deep. Grandmother births the mother who is born with the egg that becomes the daughter, and the son, too. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, the Psalmist says and biology confirms here.

When the egg is fertilized, it must snuggle into the womb to live. It must abide. It snuggles in and the magic happens. The placenta is grown and draws nourishment and oxygen from the mother. The embryo grows into the fetus in the 8th week since fertilization, and the abiding is truly established.

The mutuality and interplay is amazing, and fascinating, and so very fragile.

Things can go wrong, and the Abiding can be disrupted or prevented. It is true in the Parable of the Sower and how the seeds grow, it is true in how embryos snuggle in, and it is true in our Abiding in Jesus.  

Jesus tells us how to abide in him and the result.

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

If we keep his commandments, we will abide in his love. And if we abide in his love, our joy will be complete. That is what Jesus wants. That is what I hope and pray we all want.

Think about it. Why do our parents tell us what to do? Most of the time it is for our own good. Most of the time, it is to keep us healthy, happy, and content. Most parents are not out to hurt or harm us. Most parents want what is best, but all parents have to say, “No!”

These commandments come down, not to enslave, ensnarl, or belittle us, but to save us, enrich us, and bemuse us. They say “No!” and pronounce commandments because they love us and care for our well-being. But so often it takes us becoming a parent to truly grasp the immensity of that.

Jesus commands us because he wants us to have the fullness of his joy as we abide in him.

And as we abide in him, we do not try and get our sustenance from somewhere else. When an embryo is gaining everything from its umbilical, how silly would it be for it to be trying to get fed from somewhere else. If we are truly abiding we do not think of anywhere else. 

God wants us to be joyfilled. God wants our complete joy. Not halfway. Not three quarters. God wants us to be filled to the brim and overflowing, so our cup can “runneth over.”

And as I say this, I always have to add the caveat, do not confuse joy with happiness. Things make us happy or unhappy. Situations, pleasures, and entertainments.

Joy comes from within, no matter our situation. Joy is our appreciation of who we are, and whose we are. Joy is the attitude of gratitude for all that we have been given, and all that we have been enabled to do. Happiness is a feeling, while Joy is a choice and the byproduct of Abiding.

And God wants us to choose to abide, and in so doing, God wants our Joy to be complete.

Coen Brother movies are a favorite, always so rich and profound, even their comedies. And one of their most notorious, speaks of the Dude. And in it the Dude rises above the problems of this world, because like he says, “The Dude abides.”

My prayer for all of us, is that we will be more than guests. We will make ourselves at home, snuggled in, safe and warm, for now and always. Amen.