Saturday, January 31, 2015

Presentation to NW Florida State College Center Life Long Learning on The Episcopal Church

Recently, I was honored to be invited to present a program and classroom discussion on the basics of the Anglican Church to the Comparative Religions Class at the Northwest Florida State Community College Center for Life Long Learning here in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. 

Please find below a special link to YouTube video of this presentation. It is here where you can watch my program in its entirety (about 90-minutes). Also, see the page/graphic below (used with permission from Fr. J. Robert Wright's Church History Class at The General Theological Seminary), which was one of the handouts I provided for the students in this CLL Class. Certainly, I would welcome your feedback and encourage any comments about what was discussed regarding our wonderful tradition in the Christian faith.

Blessings to you this Epiphany Season!


Timeline of Church History
Christian Denominations

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bishop Transition Committee Member

I am honored to be currently serving along side an outstanding group of lay and ordained clergy who are on the Bishop Transition Committee. On Monday, Jan. 19th St. Simon's will take a bus with nearly 50 Episcopalians to Dothan, Alabama for our first day of Walkabout sessions.

Webpage link for the new Bishop Nominees --
Also, CLICK HERE to access a special link to read the latest brochure from our Transition Committee which outlines the bios on each of the four candidates. They are impressive group and we hope that you will spend time reading about them.  Reminder that the election will take place on Feb. 21st at the Diocesan Convention held at Trinity Church, Mobile, Alabama. 

2015 St. Simon's Vestry Retreat

On Jan. 10th, the St. Simon's on the Sound Episcopal Church 12-member vestry set aside a full day to get away to Christ the King Episcopal Church in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida (see photo to left) and spend some time with each other on retreat. We opened with a Eucharist and then were led by Fr. Mark, Steve Larson and our Senior Warden Bob Hauge.

Scenes from Vestry Retreat at Santa Rosa Beach on Jan. 10, 2015

Fr. Mark, Bob Hauge (Sr. Warden), Steve Larson

In-Reach Vestry group, chaired by Jackie Glover
Outreach Vestry group, chaired by Joey Havelka

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Was great to spend time with my dear friends Karen (center) and John Werner (right) recently in Dallas.

Pre-Game view of ATT Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Enjoyed my time at the Cotton Bowl as Baylor narrowly lost to Michigan State.

Visiting with John Morris "Voice of the Baylor Bears" pre-game at the 2015 Cotton Bowl. I worked along-side John and the late Frank Fallon for many years at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Christmas Eve 2014

Click here for sermon audio

Merry Christmas!
And Thank you for being here tonight.
Thank you for taking the time
to remember what this day is all about.

When you love someone,
what do you do…to show them or express to them, your Love?

If you are a teenager falling in love for the first time,
or the mother a newborn child,
most of us want to show this love by simply saying,
"I love you."
And that’s a big deal…

It takes a lot to get to this point in a relationship, doesn’t it?

And this is exactly what God does for us tonight.
God’s actions bring into the world
the purest, most kindest Love
we will ever know.
Christmas is a love story.

And for thousands and thousands of years,
God has revealed His love for us, in story and action.

Of course, Love actually begins at creation –
in fact, the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth says
every human being is “loved” into life by God.

Throughout the Bible
God expresses his love for us –
by Word and examples..
but apparently this wasn’t enough.

So, God communicated to us
by taking every ounce of love he had,
and he sent it to us in the most fragile
and vulnerable of packages:
in the flesh of a newborn child.

The Word became flesh and lives among us.

But the trouble is…
many of our images today of this baby Jesus
are hopelessly colored by years of Hallmark cards…
or sentimental Anglo-American Christmas images –
which have weaken the harsh reality of this child’s birth.

Several years ago on Christmas Day,
a good friend of mine who is a priest in Tampa,
told me when she was getting ready for their service,
which included carols, dancing
and a living Nativity scene….

the people started to arrive,
and they were greeted by the sight of several street people
on the front steps of the church.

There were two which stood out…a man and woman with a shopping cart
and a bundle of rags.
Several people stopped to offer help
and some invited them in out of the cold.
But the homeless couple politely declined all offers.

Finally, one of the nervous vestry members approached my priest friend and said, 
"We've got a problem with these people."
He wanted to call the police and remove them.
So, a patrol car came by
and the couple were asked to move across the street
where they wouldn't disturb all the dressed up church people.

But at the end of the service…the big moment arrived:
Dancers dressed in white appeared in the back
to lead the Holy Family down the center aisle.

And just as Mary & Joseph entered
you could hear loud gasps from all over the church.
The Holy Family walking down the center aisle
was the homeless couple from the front steps.

The baby Jesus was the bundle of rags
they had held in their arms.
As the angels led the holy family toward the altar they wept,
as did most of the congregation.

Jesus entered the world as a homeless child,
in utter humility and great poverty.
Tonight, two thousand years later,
Jesus waits to enter our hearts, too
in the very same way.

He waits patiently to be invited into our life.
So that HE can walk along side us through it all…
the glorious, joyful days,
and those gut wrenching, unimaginable ones.

The Word became flesh and lives
with our men & women serving across the world…
on an aircraft carriers in Southeast Asia,
to some lonely Airman on duty right now
in Minot, North Dakota.

Tonight, we gather here in this beautiful church
and remember once again
the greatest story ever told…
“The Birth of the Savior of the World.”

And so as we journey to Bethlehem
let us now return our thanks and simply say…
“We love you Lord Jesus.
WE LOVE YOU – just as you love us.
And now, Look down from that bright sky
and stay by our side until morning is Nigh.”

Fr. Eric Zubler, left and Fr. Mark Fitzhugh, right  

Monday, April 21, 2014

EASTER 2014 - St. Simon's on the Sound Episcopal Church
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

and I’m not referring to the birth of Jesus,
sorry – I couldn’t resist that! 

We met a remarkable man
named…Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph placed our Lord Jesus in the tomb
and sealed it tight with a huge bolder.

Jesus was dead…
All hope for a Messiah had once again, failed.
Trusting and believing in God was nearly gone.
Organized Religion was corrupted by rules, politics,
and hypocrisy.
The people wanted no part of it.
Sounds familiar?

In light of your answer,
let me offer you this:
Do you see any possibility of a relationship
between Imagination and Faith?

The reason I ask…
I believe every human being,
who has ever lived,
has been given the ability to imagine
and have faith in something.

And, if you grew up in the 60s and 70s like I did,
your mind might rush to the Beattle’s on this –
particularly John Lennon…
but they are no help today. Sorry!

The fact is there are 2.3 Billion Christians worldwide
who in some shape or form,
have answered this question positively.

However, as large as that number is,
and living here in the Bible belt of America
we can easily forget,
that Christians make up only one third
of the total people on this planet.

That means, there are 5 billion people
who do not believe Easter is significant what so ever.
We’ve talked about this previously,
where nearly 17-percent of all ages in America
have no religion at all.

That is a problem.
Or more positively put,
That is our Mission.

Easter’s message is really very simple,
Life has conquered death…

So, for all Christians to live,
we have to remember this…
the ONLY reason we come to this beautiful place
is to worship God,
and proclaim by our actions,
that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.

That Mission has not changed one centimeter
from the first century to this very day.
Church politics, bickering over selfish control needs,
equals death…hence the need for Good Friday.

So, today – this Easter Sunday,
God has given us yet another chance
to begin again.

I am convinced God is calling you and me
to obey this command –
“Go and make disciples of all people,
baptize them,
respect them,
just as we want to be respected,
and lo, God will be with us always,
even to the end of the age."

Braden John Costabile
and Grayson Christopher Scheel
We begin with you…
You are a blessing to us, and your family.

And in a moment,
we will welcome you into the fellowship of God
and into Easter’s joy.

Back to my question,
if everyone one of us has the ability to imagine
and have faith in something,
then what are we to do
throughout these Great 50 Days of Easter?

Of course, Easter is more than a one-time event.
Easter is an attitude, a perspective.
So, how do you want to build on this
and imagine a new tomorrow?

Imagination is not delusion.
Ask Bill Gates and Walt Disney.

And Faith can be indescribable,
but so are love, peace, hope.

So, Jesus helps with this,
in the expanding universe of his heart,
because even after the soldiers beat him,
and Judas betrayed him,
He demonstrated that Mission is not limited
to the beautiful and the good.

In fact, spiritual growth often comes in spite of the pain and death.

But, in the meantime,
Jesus invites us to expand our hearts.
To grow in imagination.
To experience Easter faith,
and to practice respect and love for all people.

The American poet Mary Oliver says it best,
“Even beyond what I see, I imagine more . . . .
Well, we will all find out, each of us.
And what would we be, beyond the yardstick,
beyond supper and dollars,
if we were not filled with such wondering?”
Happy Easter!