|Faith Matters Sunday School Class|
|Christ Church Greenwich Christmas|
|Christmas Day laugh with Tina|
|Greeting family at St Simon's|
One Christmas Eve,
a preacher was standing at the door
greeting those who had come to the service,
and he met a man who only attends church
on Christmas and Easter.
The preacher pulled the man aside and said to him,
“brother, you’ve got to join the army of the Lord.”
Now, I will go out on a limb here and say,
this guy was not an Episcopal priest…just sayin’.
Nevertheless, the man responded to the preacher,
“Pastor, I am already in the army of the Lord.”
The preacher nodded,
“Then how come I don’t see you here
except on Christmas and Easter.”
The man smiled and came right back,
“Well, that’s because I am in the Secret Service.”
Whether you are in the Army….Air Force
or the Secret Service,
Christmas is an incredible story, isn’t it?
of how God comes to live right here amongst us.
And so, tonight we are Living members,
of the greatest Love story ever told.
But what exactly does Love mean…you might ask?
Well, a group of 4 and 8 year olds were asked this…
Their answers run deep --
“When my grandmother got arthritis,
she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore.
So my grandfather does it for her all the time,
even when his hands got arthritis too.
“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody
most of your French Fries
without making them give you any of theirs.”
“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down
and little stars come out of you.”
My favorite -- “Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas,
if you stop opening presents and Listen.”
Hear the Good News on this Christmas eve:
Love has come into this room, right now.
God is pleased to dwell with us…as one of us,
because God loves us.
And yet tonight,
God comes as a baby, helpless, vulnerable, dependent.
Recently, I was walking across the hospital parking lot
when I came across a man who looked to be in his early 30's.
He was walking briskly, in business attire,
his eyes toward the ground.
I could see he was completely bald.
In other words, a good looking guy…
I figured he was on his way to the Cancer Center for a treatment.
I thought for a moment about his condition,
so young, dealing with this disease, interrupting his day of work
to come and receive medicines
that would either kill him or make him well.
I said a private prayer for him and all those I know
who are living with cancer right now.
Later, I was surprised to see the man again.
But this time he was looking straight ahead,
a big smile on his face.
He was not alone.
High on his shoulder was his son, four years old,
wearing a Winnie the Pooh bathrobe.
And then I realized… it was the child who had cancer,
who had lost his hair,
and was going home that day.
This young dad had shaved his head
not because HE had cancer,
but out of LOVE for his son.
I learned a lot about Incarnational Love, that day.
What looked to me and to the world,
as a sign of weakness
was in fact a sign of the deep love
this Father had for his Son.
Well, unfortunately for many of us,
Christmas can be a time when our woundedness,
and our vulnerability
is felt the strongest.
the lead singer of the British group – COLDPLAY.
knows exactly what this is like.
He wrote a song about his wife,
Gwyneth Paltrow’s, father’s death --
“When you try your best, but you don't succeed.
When you get what you want, but not what you need.
When you’re too in love to let it go
Lights will guide you home…
And I will try to fix you.”
Tonight, there are no secrets…
God has taken us up on his shoulders,
and He has fixed the world
with his Unconditional,
Incarnational – Love.
Our task now is to embrace this love,
and wrap our selves up in it…
And, let us join all the host of heaven
on this Christmas eve night,
Because Joy has indeed come into the world,
and it is now called: Emmanuel – God is with us.
So, why do we still keep coming back?
Not just to church,
but today specifically – Palm Sunday.
Why not just wait one more week
and join the other 300 on the twice a year plan?
Why today, of all days?
Maybe it's because we want to be reminded
of who we are.
And maybe there is a deep need
to bring something to the Cross this morning?
What are we looking for at the Cross?
Most of us, I think,
are people who come to Palm Sunday with needs…
with a purpose.
Let’s face it,
Christians are pretty needed people…
We NEED to know so much, don’t we?
We need to know:
there is a God somewhere out there who cares.
Even when the closest to us has died,
or when our aging parents
can’t take care of themselves like they used to.
Lord knows, we have needs…
But trouble is, where and to whom
can we bring those needs?
The famous Dutch Roman Catholic priest,
has a lot to say on this subject.
Apparently one day,
Nouwen found a sculpture of "Jesus on a donkey"
in the Augustiner Museum in Frieburg, Germany.
He said this sculpture turned out to be
one of the most moving Christ figures he would ever see.
It came from the 14th-century
from a small village along the Rhine River.
And was made to be pulled around on a cart
during the annual Palm Sunday village procession.
Nouwen found himself drawn to the sculpture.
He sent postcards of it to his friends,
if he was still alive
would likely post this photo on his Facebook wall.
Looking at the face of Jesus he wrote,
"There is melancholy, but also peaceful acceptance.
“There is a deep awareness of the unspeakable pain to be suffered,
but also a strong determination to do God's will.
Above all, Nouwen said, “there is love.
An endless, far-reaching, boundless love
born from an unbreakable intimacy with God.”
Barbara Crafton – dear friend of Connie and me.
Priest, writer, actress, retreat leader.
tells the story of Clint Daniels.
Clint was in his 50s
and one day came to her church in Manhattan,
St Clement’s – off Broadway theater weeknights.
Clint noticed people putting on long robes.
Tying ropes around their waists,
I can only imagine what he is thinking…
"Come be a part of the mob," a stranger told him.
It was Palm Sunday and the church was re-enacting
the Crucifixion in costume.
He was to be part of the crowd or mob that shouted,
"Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"
He wasn’t sure about this group at all…
Another stranger hurried up to him and said --
"The man who was supposed to play one of the thieves
on the cross didn't show up.
Would you like to take his place?"
Clint agreed and was shown to the cross
where he would look on as Jesus died.
But just then,
something about Clint's manner
caught Barbara’s eye.
And she turned to him and asked,
"Have you ever asked Jesus to forgive you?"
"No," Clint replied softly,
"but I think that's why I came here."
Why do we come to church on Palm Sunday?
What are we looking for?
Two months before coming to St Clements’
Clint had been released after serving15 years
at Sing-Sing State prison.
He was a real thief.
Even after his release
he had gone on stealing cars and trucks
until he realized that something was missing from his life.
In that moment at church, at the Cross
Clint found forgiveness, and acceptance.
Forgiveness is always present
for those who are willing to ask.
You and I came back today looking for something,
Maybe like Clint…
looking to that old Rugged Cross
It's quite a day, isn't it?
And it will be quite a week, too.
A week filled with
A meal and a garden,
A Cross and a Tomb.
A Dead Jesus and a Risen Lord,
the prospect of Nothing
the prospect for Eternality.
Recently, I was out walking
close to our home here in Ft Walton.
It was a relatively quiet evening, not too cold…
And the night sky seemed like it was as big and wide as Texas.
For a few moments looking up,
I felt like I had been transported back to my childhood…
to a wrinkle in time when I was just about 19 years old,
and remembered a day when my father had died
suddenly of a heart attack.
A time, which I now can call…
an "instantaneous, pivot of life."
Meaning - one moment your life is in place,
and a split second later,
everything has changed forever.
And so, I looked up
into the vastness of our enormous universe
and simply said…Wow!
Look at this creation…
Look at what God has made,
and all of life’s glorious complexities.
But, you know God,
“I still have a lot questions for ya”…
How is it that in a few weeks we’ll begin to see
hundreds of beautiful purple and white Crocus’
starting to pop up and reach to the sun for new life?
How can it be possible, dear God,
that we live on a planet
where we can clearly see your hand in nature.
You are not a mystery.
You have given us life and cause…
But far too often, now
we continue to experience,
at a moment’s notice,
the precious, sweet gift of life torn away, from us.
How can this be?
Where are you in all of this…
So many contradictions?
So, few answers…
Do you remember…
the popular 80s song writer, Karla Bonhoff --
wrote a lot for Linda Ronstadt.
I think Karla tried to answer this when she wrote:
"We never know where life will take us,
we just never know…
And we never know when death will shake us
and we wonder how it will feel."
Well, today it feels pretty awful, doesn’t it?
Remembering that same feeling,
I walked back up our drive way,
and I heard a voice coming from next door…
it was a small child’s voice,
it was as clear as a bell.
The little girl said, only four words,
“Because, I love you.”
There it was…God’s answer!
Here I am - in full bloom.
God loved David Darnell into being
on a hot August day in 1971,
and from that very moment on
David has been a shinning light
for countless people…
Rich and Poor,
Black and White.
But, maybe David’s Godmother, Carolyn Scott,
said it best –
“our world is a much darker place now without David…
but I believe Love enhances, Love enriches,
and most of all, Love will endure.”
Betsy, Jasper, Ruby, Ben, Kai…
Sharilyn, Mary and Cloyce,
Davie, Connie and Jimmy –
all the cousins.
Jesus weeps with you,
and will never abandon you.
God loves you!
Someone once defined grief as “the pain of letting go.”
And I like that.
I think it accurately describes what we do
every time a loved one dies;
we have to let go, ready or not.
And so, today we gather here in this beautiful space
to continue our grieving,
and not so much to find absolute answers.
But in this grief, let us never forget
that what matters most for people of faith…
whether you are Jewish, Catholic, Baptist,
or on your own spiritual journey,
we can all NOW fully understand…
Which is - the God of Abraham is the source of all life
and when we die
each one of us returns to this very same source
of goodness and love which has created us.
And, if that’s not a message of hope…
then I guess, I don’t know what is.
Hope and Love are simple, Free gifts.
It doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to figure that out!
They come under the heading called -- Grace.
It was in the midst of a cold Maine winter in 1848,
when the Shaker hymn writer Joseph Brackett, once wrote –
“‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of Love and Delight.”
It seems to me this is exactly
where David is today, isn’t he?
With the Resurrected Christ,
surrounded by Love and Delight.
And so, David Lee Darnell
Today, as you enter the New Jerusalem…
We lift you to God.
We left you to God with all the love of our heart and say…
good bye and thank you in the very same breath.
Thank you for your loving presence in our lives…
You will always be loved.