Saturday, December 29, 2012

1st Sunday after Christmas C

Happy 5th/6th Day of Christmas!!  That’s right isn’t it? Let’s Count it Out… It annoys me when even major retailers do not do their due diligence to know what the 12 days of Christmas are – this year I was getting all of the Starbucks coupons for special deals on the 12 days of Christmas – BEFORE Christmas. 

In today’s Gospel, we get the Birth Story of Jesus from John’s perspective – you heard all about the angels and shepherds and cows, and the manger in that didn’t you?  Nope.  This is John’s version and it is PACKED with Words upon Words about The Word.  We don’t get any glimpses of the Charlie Brown Christmas special here – or even a lineage like we get from Matthew – here we get the back story.  In the Beginning is actually better stated as Before the Beginning… before Genesis… before Creation… before Time began ticking.

If you remember your Genesis stories of Creation (yes there are 2) – God speaks Creation into being.  The lack of violence is one of the profound differences in the Christian version of Creation vs the other Ancient Near East versions of Creation.  God Speaks the Word and Creation begins.  The Spirit moves over the water at Creation – the Trinity in action from the beginning. 

This text from John is read every first Sunday after Christmas – maybe because it is such a tough concept for us to grasp – maybe because it is so important for us to remember that Jesus may have been born in the flesh in a manger but he was before time, maybe just to confound us.  It’s hard to know.  But He was born among us – perfect God and perfect Man – born to speak to us of God’s love.  Born to free us from the Law.  Born so that we could have Faith and be adopted as sisters and brothers, heirs, not slaves.  The Incarnation of Christ is the beginning of a new way for us to be in relationship to God.  A way of freedom and peace and light. 

On this 5th/6th Day of Christmas, let us ponder that new Light in our lives that the Word brings – Let us find new ways to accept the perfect gift freely given by Jesus. 

He became as we are so that we could strive to become as He is – Come Let Us Adore Him!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent 3C

            So I had a sermon written for this weekend.  It had a good theme – a good catch line: “Roots vs Fruits.”  Seems to me that John the Baptizer is saying that we shouldn’t just rest on our past history of church going, of denominational dependence, of feeling entitled to whatever brings us here.  He points (John always points) to our fruits – what we have to show from living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ every day.  The Fruits of the Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Self-Control, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith and Gentleness.  JtB says to those gathered that no matter what their job, they are to be fair and honest in doing it.  That was the sermon.  Then All Hell broke out in an elementary school yesterday morning.

            This one is different, isn’t it?  It sounds as though it is a domestic violence episode to the nth degree.  It involved small children.  Even in the BCP (p 494), we recognize that the deaths of children are different than the deaths of adults.  Children have not yet become what they will.  When a child dies, the adults who love them lose the child certainly, but also all of the hopes and dreams they had for that child.  At least two of the children who were killed are Episcopalians.

            What are we to do?  This is the Rose weekend – the weekend of Joy on the Advent wreath.  We have Zephaniah encouraging us to sing, shout, rejoice and exult.  Paul in Philippians and Isaiah in the Canticle want us to rejoice.  Don’t they understand that we are sad?  Don’t they know what has happened?  Along with the crowd in the Gospel, I ask “What then shall we do?”   

            Our Presiding Bishop calls us to pray: We grieve with the many families and friends touched by this shooting in Connecticut. We mourn the loss of lives so young and innocent. We grieve that the means of death are so readily available to people who lack the present capacity to find other ways of responding to their own anger and grief. We know that God’s heart is broken over this tragedy, and the tragedies that unfold each and every day across this nation. And we pray that this latest concentration of shooting deaths in one event will awaken us to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day. More than 2000 children and youth die from guns each year, more than the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Will you pray and work toward a different future, the one the Bible’s prophets dreamed of, where city streets are filled with children playing in safety (Zechariah 8:5)?  

            Each of us has something we can do - just as JtB spoke with the different people in the crowd, encouraging them to be fair and honest in their work, we all have work to do in this tragedy.  For some it will be sending a card to the school or the local churches, for others it might be tacking gun or mental health issues - only you know what God has uniquely equipped you to do and what fruit you may bear here.  I do want to be clear - God was in that building - with each and every person, responders, teachers, students - God did not abandon them.  I hope that if you hear anyone say differently, you will address that gently.  How could anyone believe that God - whose own son died a violent death - whose son's body broken we will celebrate in a few minutes - would abandon them in their time of greatest need.  

           And then I circle back to the original sermon this week.  How dare we proclaim Joy?  How dare we not?  Even in our sadness and grief, we can still produce the Fruits: Love, Joy, Peace, Self-Control, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith and Gentleness.  That is exactly what we are called to do in this.  It takes courage.  It takes a history of living into the Gospel.  Keeping all this in mind, let us pray again our Collect of the Day:  Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent 1C

           Happy New Year!  We are such a weird group of people aren’t we?!  Episcopalians and other liturgical churches move to the beat of a different drummer – particularly with the calendar.  Today is the beginning of our new liturgical year.  Last year (last week) we were still in Year B, but today we begin Year C – we will get a lot of Luke this year!  If you follow the Daily Cycle, you will begin Year One.  Today we also switch the Prayers of the People and the Eucharistic Prayer.  (stand or kneel).  So here we are celebrating the New Year before Advent and before Christmas. 
            The world out there began celebrating Christmas before the turkeys had cooled – some even before the jack o’lanterns were extinguished.  Every store and restaurant has Christmas decorations and Christmas music – it’s a cacophony of lights, colors and noise out there.  But here we are again being counter-cultural.  Today is also the first Sunday of Advent.
            Advent is a season of hopeful waiting.  Jesus tells us today in the Gospel to be alert – I used to have a t-shirt that said “Be Alert – the world needs more Lerts.”  Being alert is different than being overwhelmed – different than the manic nervous energy we can see all around us.  What does being alert look like?
·      Prepared – not afraid – peaceful – “It is unfortunate that we can secure peace only by preparing for war” John F Kennedy. 
·      Look up – Lift Your Heads – when we are prepared, we can look with hope
·      Clear our hearts of
o   Dissipation – too much energy used without a real accomplishment
o   Drunkenness – addictions, power, control
o   Worry – what??  How does worry make this list?  Dissipations and Drunkenness are the opposite of Stewardship.  Worry is the opposite of Faith
·      Do not fear – get ready and stay ready

How do we go about being counter-cultural?  Being good stewards of our time talent and treasure – not worrying – and praying.  This is how Jesus calls into a Holy Advent.  It is a specific list that we get today.  It doesn’t mean that we cannot decorate our homes and enjoy holiday gatherings.  We do not have to be Scrooge in the midst of the holiday gaity.  Instead think of it as permission to go slower – to be mindful – to make connections – to prepare your soul – to meditate – to pray for God’s will to be done in your life.  Pray about what you can do to draw evermore close to the God who loves you more then you can ask or imagine.
I invite you therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observation of a Holy Advent, by preparation and prayer; by self-denial of dissipation, drunkenness and worry; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.  May it be a season of hopeful expectation in your life and in the life of St Martin.  Amen.