Saturday, December 22, 2012

Newtown & Third Sunday of Advent

Listen to this sermon at St. Simon's website - sermons

You may remember a couple years ago,
the movie, Eat, Pray, Love
which was based on the book by Liz Gilbert.

In case you missed it, Julia Roberts plays a woman
who has gone through a messy midlife crisis
and is motivated to travel around the world
on a journey of self-discovery.

At one point in her story,
she travels to Italy, India, and Bali
where Liz has a rather direct conversation
with a new Brazilian friend
and says –

“A true soul mate is probably
the most important person you'll ever meet,
because they will help tear down your walls
and smack you awake.

“A soul-mate’s purpose is to shake you up,
tear things apart,
and maybe even break your heart along the way
allowing new light to get in.

You know when I saw this –
I thought of our readings…
and what a perfect definition this is
for both John the Baptist and Jesus.

Someone who comes into our life,
shakes things up,
and prepares us for the New Light
which is to come.

Unfortunately, this morning
there is very little New Light in NewTown, Connecticut.
Quite the opposite, actually…
so many broken hearts.

People of all ages and backgrounds,
have been shaken up by this…

But as the prophet Isaiah
and even St. Paul wrote…
“Surely it is God who saves us,
trust in him
and be not afraid…
God IS very near to us…”

But you know,
part of our real challenge as "Christians"
is to REALIZE that the miraculous birth of Christ
and ultimately his resurrection
took place right here.

Not on some far off planet somewhere
but God came to live right here on earth,
in human form…
and even in the midst of a hail of gunfire
from a mentally ill 20 year old boy…

To the rejoicing of two parents,
with unexpected news that she would give birth
to the savior of the world.
God is near to us.

But, what a contrast…OR is it?

Well, if God is very near to us,
as Paul says – this means both:
in those broken hearted places
and when we rejoice – Gaudete.

John the Baptist knew a lot about both….actually.
and so did Liz Gilbert in her travels.

But, neither one were very confident…

In fact, at one point John asks,
“Who are you Jesus;
Are you REALLY the right one?”

A simple “yes” or “no” response
would have been good enough,
but that’s not the kind of answer Jesus prefers to give. Is it?
He’s not always clear…

But like John,
one day we may be sitting in a prison,
OR what feels like one…

Locked in a midlife crisis
like Liz Gilbert,
and be confronted with the question –
“Who are you Jesus?”
and, “When are you going to do something?”

Like John, it is here
when WE have to make a decision…
whether or not to put our faith in Jesus.
Or cut and run…
and start shooting people.

There comes a moment when we have to ask --
“Am I really reflecting the Love of God?
Or am I trapped in selfish…Evil?”

Of all the accounts over the last 48 hours,
the hero who still stands out for me

First grade teacher, Victoria Soto.
She was 27 years old from Stratford, Connecticut,
and apparently hid her students
in closets and cabinets,
and told the shooter the kids were all in the gym.
He killed her, but not one child of hers was harmed…

Those children and each of us today
experienced Christ Jesus
by Victoria’s actions.

But for now, the good people of Newtown
and the rest of us, wait…
We wait for Christmas to come.
To take away the darkness.

Sure, the stinging questions linger…
but somewhere deep down in side all of us…
let us by Faith, KNOW that Christ really IS coming.

That beautiful North Star is real…
and like Aslan, it’s on the move…and Bethlehem is the destination.

Until it arrives…Let us:
Rejoice in the Lord always;
Again I say, Rejoice.
Let our gentleness be known to everyone.
Because the Lord is near.

Do not worry…
but in everything by prayer and with thanksgiving
let our requests be made known to God.

Because the peace of God -
it surpasses all our understanding,
and WILL guard our hearts
and our minds,
so that we can truly reflect…
the Love of Christ.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans Day Sunday Sermon

You can also listen to this sermon by clicking on the following link:

Recently, I was introduced to a rather provocative
American Roman Catholic priest and theologian,
by the name of Fr. James Alison.
He is somewhat in the same line as the popular
Contemplative in Action writer, Richard Rohr.

In Alison’s book – “Faith Beyond Resentment,”
he writes about how hard it is
for some Christians to “do” theology…
meaning –
to practice what we say we believe, consistently.

Alison is the type of Jesus follower,
who is ready for action in ministry,
you might say - he is a risk taker!

Police Sergeant Kimberly Munley
certainly knows about taking risks,
you may remember her as a true American hero
saving many lives
during the terrible events at Fort Hood, Texas
a few years back.

Her risk and Alison’s action
both point to this --
Faith is about trusting in ourselves enough
to simply say –
“OK God, I can’t do this any more?
I need you to take over now.”

Sound familiar?

Fr. Alison refers to these “big moments…
as places where the heart begins to crack.”

Members of A.A. and the allied Twelve Step movements
know exactly what he is talking about…
they like to call it….Step one:

“We admit we were powerless
over -- alcohol, sex, drugs, eating, etc…
and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

You know –
for sheer honesty and practical spiritual power,
there really is no more important step
than to admit this and say,

“I am powerless over ______ and I need help…”
It seems to me this is exactly
what both widows in our readings today are experiencing.

Elijah tells how powerless the widow was
over the many issues in her life.

But, her trouble was…
she couldn’t create a god big enough to help her.

In fact, what she really wanted
was for someone else to do it –
and “It” meaning to have a transformative
spiritual relationship with God for her.

But thankfully by God’s grace,
the Widow reached down into the well of her humanity,
and found something on her own…
and “IT” changed her.

Then, one day, Jesus remembered
a time when he was in Jerusalem
watching all the cool and the well-connected people,
parading into the temple with their gifts.

In the ancient temple,
there was a place called the Court of Women.
And in this spot there were 13 collecting boxes
called “the Trumpets.”

Each trumpet was designated for a special community need.
So, people would come and make large contributions,
to impress the onlookers.

Well, on this day,
Jesus saw something which stunned him…
this unnamed widow,
was throwing in two mites into one of those trumpets.

What was a mite?
They were the smallest of all coins,
and was worth about one 40th of one penny.

And yet Jesus turns to his friends and says,
“did you see what that poor widow just did?
She has just put in more than ALL the others combined . . .”

In other words,
she had just risked everything…Step one.

These two women allowed the flickering Light of Easter
as small as that may have seemed,
to once again burn in their lives...

They took a risk and it paid off…
maybe not exactly as they had hoped,
but their relationship with God WAS transformed.

And ya know,
maybe that’s what you and I may need to hear this morning…

“What are the risks we need to take…
so that we can begin to know God more and more.
To move into a relationship that is not locked up
in a book or a church social club,
but is active and lived out with consistency.

Speaking of action,
today in America is Veterans Day –
and we remember hundreds of thousands
of brave men and women
who have faithfully risked their lives
to preserve our freedoms.

Maybe by their example and countless others,
we too can have a renewed Hope
that God is calling you to…
take a risk in the search for a Job,
or to dream of a healthy new beginning…
God’s Dream for each of us is to be Free.

Free to step out with confidence and faith
so that we can embrace God’s eternal
and life-giving Love and Grace.

That’s a risk worth taking…

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Easter Sermon preached at the 10:30 am Eucharist 
at St Simon's on the Sound Episcopal Church in Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Also, you may listen to this sermon and many others at the St. Simon's Church website - 
simply click on the following link:

Jesus’ Resurrection,
has now completed…everything.
God’s plan of salvation is finally in place.

And so, for 2,000 years,
Christians around the world
have gathered on this day
to simply say,
“We believe” in the Resurrected Christ.

But let’s talk about this business of Love’s redeeming work.

I suspect at some point,
you have lost someone
who was deeply loved and important in your life.

Their absence created an emptiness in life
which maybe even now is hard to fill.

The British poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
once wrote –
“But what is loss….but an experience of love?”

If we did not love,
there would be no loss.
Love means that relationships matter.

And so, at its very core,
grief is an expression of love’s loss.

In the darkness of Easter morning,
Mary Magdalene decided she had lost too much…
she loved Jesus.

The Gospel says she went to "see the tomb."
And who knows what she expected to see there,
it certainly wouldn’t have been a miracle.

In all probability the disciples spent the entire day Saturday
in bent-up-anger and grief at what had been done
to their beloved Rabbi.
But that deep love,
which each one of us knows…
love that is experienced in loss –
brought Mary back to the garden on that Sunday morning. 

At the empty tomb,
Mary saw how God vindicated faithful, stubborn,
and self-less love…folks like you and me.

Speaking of self-less love…
There is a popular new movie
which my daughter Emma
has now insisted that we see twice already…
and it’s called the “Hunger Games.”

The lead character is a clever 16-year-old girl,
named Katniss Everdeen.
She lives in a futuristic, dystopian society
filled with injustice and hopelessness.

In a rather shocking opening scene,
not unlike many self-less love stories in the Bible,
Katniss volunteers to stand in for her younger sister
and fight off 23 others in an outdoor arena
until only one remains.

A few days into this ordeal,
Katniss develops an alliance with a little girl named Rue.
Rue is 12-years-old and reminds Katniss of her sister Prim.

However, Rue is killed by another tribute.
And at Rue's request Katniss sings to her as she is dying,
and spreads flowers over her body
as a sign of respect— and…
of disgust towards the evil Capitol.

What happens next
I believe is what many of us come here to see,
and that is…
the transforming power of Easter’s redeeming Love.

Because when Katness stands up to the TV cameras
and signals a defiant act toward the oppressors…
she sets off a revolt against the evil powers.

Katness shows that in loss,
Love’s work begins to transform the world.

The empty tomb is evidence
that the sacrifice of emptying one's self
for the sake of another…
is God’s promise that Love defeats evil.

And Love will not disappoint,
nor will it destroy…or be destroyed.

what God asks of us…is not easy to take on.
The loss or betrayal of a loved one IS devastating.
God knows that all too well.

In raising his Son from the tomb,
God promises that love will indeed triumph,
broken hearts will be healed,
and emptiness can be filled…

If not in this time of ours on earth
in the time of God, to come.

But for now,
if you are willing to see it,
we can discover God walking with us,
from Calvary to the garden,
from an empty tomb to Emmaus.
From Fear to Glory!

Jesus Christ is Risen today.
And, He shall reign forever and ever!