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!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

$20 Homeless Backpack Care Kit

Cheri and I recently visited several wonderful Outreach Committee volunteers and homeless guests who came to St. Simon's Episcopal Church here in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Our church provides a "Cold Night" shelter to men, woman and children who are homeless in our area. I was especially struck by the wide range of ages and special needs of those who came to us for food, shelter and hospitality. As always, I tend to leave this ministry with so many thoughts and concerns as to how I/we can respond even more throughout the year.

Yesterday, I came across this video (above) which seems to be a simple and effective low cost way to respond to individuals who may find themselves homeless and hungry.

I pray this will be of some help as you seek to discern how God may be leading you to help someone in need.
Epiphany blessings,

Christmas Eve 2013

Here is a printed copy of my 2013 Christmas Eve sermon. Also, you may listen to this sermon by clicking on the following link: Christmas Eve 2013 sermon from The Rev'd Mark L. Fitzhugh

Ben was really big
for a first grader.
He was solid. All boy.
Everybody loved Ben.

He was the gentlest of souls,
and was certainly No bully.
Ben was a friend even to the smallest of kids
at church and school.

At our last church in Connecticut,
his mom and dad were close friends of ours.
Ben was excited about our upcoming Christmas play.
He wanted to be one of the shepherds…
of course, all little boys love to dress up
and be shepherds.

But the trouble is on this particular year,
the lady directing the play
had a larger role in mind for Ben.
He was cast as the innkeeper.

He practiced and practiced,
but became more and more nervous about his lines.

The morning of the play,
everything was going beautifully.
Then came the part where Mary and Joseph
knocked on the door of the inn.
Ben answered the door right on cue
and gave his line.
“What do you want?”
‘We seek lodging. “

“Seek it somewhere else, this inn is filled,” Ben replied,
with just the right touch of gruffness.

“But sir, we have tried everywhere,
we have come a long way, and we are very tired.
Don’t you have a corner
where we can get out of the cold?”
“No. Go away!,” Ben properly commanded.

And this is where it happened…
Ben broke his icy stare and looked at Mary.
And you could tell something happened to him.
There was a long silence.
The audience became nervous and uneasy.
We thought Ben had forgotten his lines.

So, the prompter whispered., “No, be gone.”
And Ben halfheartedly repeated.

Then Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary
and they began to move off the stage.

Ben couldn’t stand it any longer,
he could never be this cruel.

So, with big tears welling up in his eyes
he gave a performance..
I have never forgotten:

“Wait, Joseph, don’t go!” Ben literally cried out.
“Bring Mary back.
You can have my room, and I’ll sleep in the cold.”
Right after the service,
one grumpy lady came up to me
and said Ben had ruined the whole pageant.

I looked at her and said –
“You’ve got to be kidding me…
you just sang one of the greatest 18th century
English carols ever written by Isaac Watts,
“Joy to the World”….and YOU sang,
“Let every heart prepare him room.”

Isn’t that exactly what Ben learned from this story…
He made room in his heart for Jesus.
How can we, prepare more room in our hearts for God.

This Christmas,
God is preparing our hearts.
God challenges us, and our values
and our dreams.
Just as Joseph was challenged
to welcome the child into his home and heart
despite the difficult circumstances.
God challenges us to welcome Christ into our lives
and allow this child to transform our hearts
and homes with his peace and justice.

And so, tonight,
some two thousand years later,
the baby Jesus waits to enter our hearts, once again
just as he did for Mary and Joseph.

Jesus 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, too.

The Word has became flesh and lives
in NewTown, CT…Denver, Colorado,
with our men & women serving tonight in Afghanistan,
on an aircraft carrier in Southeast Asia,
in the Emergency Room in Ft Walton Beach.

Tonight we all gather to listen
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 with our whole heart –
just as you have always loved us.

And now, “Look down from that bright sky in heaven
and stay by our side
until morning is Nigh.”