Thursday, February 28, 2019

Prayer 2223


Holy One,
we breathe in your peace,
and center ourselves within your grace.

Awaken us from our winter slumber
and guide us into a burgeoning wisdom,
that we may be the hands and feet of Christ.

Melt the icy grip of fear and division
within our communities, Blessed Savior,
that we may sink our roots deep
into greening fields of justice and peace.

Abundant Light, shine within us,
that we may reveal your glory
in praise of your wondrous works,
that we may be your joyful servants.

By the power of the Holy Spirit,
pour out your blessing upon us,
and upon all for whom we pray.

Amen.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Prayer, day 2222- A Prayer for Rising


O God, early in the morning we open up our hearts to You;
renew our questing hearts every morning in your love, we pray. 
In stillness, in peace, thankfulness wells up 
like a spring of clear water is absorbed into thirsty ground.

Let your holy wisdom take root within us, Lord Christ:
let us prepare the ground of our hearts to welcome your word. 
Nourished by your grace, restored by your mercy,
lead us into reconciliation with each other.

We pray that all have love enough,
and bread enough,
that all may dwell in peace and plenty in your care,
O Most High.
Forgive us for the hearts we've broken rather than set free,
and the walls we've built up to shut ourselves in.

Look upon us with tenderness, we pray,
and help us cast away our vanity and pride.
Lord Christ, let your prayer of love be prayed within us
and draw us into heaven's banquet of fellowship.
Let your Spirit of healing come down
and give rest to those we remember before You. 

 Amen.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Prayer, day 2221


Loving One, we thank you for this day
and raise our praises and prayers to You.
We bless Your Holy Name, and give thanks
for Your deeds of mercy and compassion within our lives.

Wash away our sins and help us overcome our faults,
that we may stand before You night and day.
Give us grace to seek out reconciliation
with ourselves as well as each other,
letting go of what we cannot change.

Let us raise up our joy for all our blessings,
for the strength to persevere
and the love we find in those we meet today.

Look with favor upon us, O God of healing,
especially on those who are wounded in body or soul.
Hear the sighs of your people, in petition or thanksgiving
 as they rest within your embrace.

Amen.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Prayer, day 2220


Holy One,
Light of Lights,
rise within our hearts
and fill us with your light,
that we may be people of hope.
Help us to lift up those
who are in anxiety, grief, or trouble,
by loving each other
through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Grant us strength for today's labors,
compassion for today's encounters,
and rest within You, O God, at day's end.
Ground us in your mercy, Lord Christ,
and root us in your love,
that we may grow deep in faith and justice.
Gathered in your name, O Savior,
we ask you grant your peace and comfort
to those we remember before You.

Amen.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Art of Living Generously: Sermon for the 7th Sunday of Epiphany C



I am struck by the amazing coincidence of this reading appearing in our lectionary as our United Methodist kindred are meeting this weekend in St. Louis to determine if they will be able to remain united as a denomination while struggling with the questions of whether they will fully embrace their LGBTQ members. Yet there is certainly food for thought for all of us in this rich feast our evangelist and the crafters of the lectionary place before us.

This week’s gospel reading is a continuation of the Sermon on the Plain. Susan Hylen describes this section of the gospel as “Jesus prescribes an ethic of generosity for Christians living in a hostile world.”(1) How do we live a life shaped by God and not by instinctive reaction and lashing out that dominates so much of the interactions we see played out all around us?

It is good here to note that Luke’s version of the beatitudes is always grounded in mercy and generosity. Matthew’s version urges the hearers to be perfect, as God is perfect. And that can be daunting indeed, for one thing I think we all know is that we are NOT God, and perfection is pretty impossible as a standard. Everyone stumbles. What a relief is it to note, then, that Luke’s standard presented here is more attainable: Remember that God is kind and merciful, and so you also are called to strive to be kind and merciful.

And the world is indeed hostile to the gospel and to the Christian ethic. Don’t believe me? Listen to this summary and ask yourself when the last time was that you saw leaders, advocating these admonitions as policy:
Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who abuse you.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give, and it will be given back to you.

Of those seven simple admonitions, five from our first paragraph alone, probably the most familiar is the one known popularly as the “Golden Rule.” And to be clear, that rule did not originate in Christianity—in fact, I don’t think anyone knows where it first appeared—but it is certain that a similar dictum has been promoted in Judaism in the book of Leviticus, but also Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, the Sikh faith, Taosim, Homer, Philo, Confucius, and even the Code of Hammurabi. It’s even been quoted in a song by the 80s band Men at Work about an ornery kid named Johnny.

Yet there are dangers in blind application of these rules if we strip them of their cultural context. The admonition about “turning the other check” is one. Some people have construed this as an urging to continue to remain in abusive situations. I do not believe this was ever what Jesus intended. Rather, Jesus is referring here to a ritualized behavior meant to reinforce domination, not an act of random anger violence. People who would beat you on the cheek would do so by using the back of the hand, and it was done to strike one’s inferiors: especially slaves by their masters, or the oppressed Judean population by Roman soldiers. It was not just a strike, it was an attempt to put one in one’s “place.” 

Turning the other check made that backhanded slap impossible. It also exposed the violence of the one doing the striking in an act of bravery and protest. But there is more going on here. Jesus is telling us that our actions should not be based on reaction to others, but directed from our own will to obey God, our Christian ethical outlook.

In the time I spent teaching, I had students confide in me about troubled home situations, including living with alcoholic parents or other abusive situations. One of the things I always reminded my kids, coming from my own experience as a child in situations like that, especially, was that they may not be able to control others, but they DID have the ability to choose how they would respond, especially when behaviors that hurt them emerged as patterns over time.

That response might not be immediate: sometimes it simply started with determining to not follow in the footsteps and behaviors of the person hurting them—which is, if you look, exactly what Jesus is advocating, too. When we are confronted by those behaving badly, hurtfully, we cannot control that behavior. However, we do have enormous power to choose how we would prefer to respond. And that is a far cry from being powerless.

This is what Jesus is telling us in these prescriptions for living a God-shaped life which he himself exemplified for us. Jesus calls us always to remember the grace which undergirds our own lives--- the unearned love and mercy of God toward us no matter how much we screw up.

The very foundation of God’s relationship with us is not punishment, but mercy. And if we let the wonder of that sink into our very marrow, that realization changes us. It helps us let go of our own calculus of inflicting suffering in response to suffering which is so much of the basis of human notions of “justice.” It helps us smooth out the balled fists of our hearts and open them to seize the promise of a faithful God who overlooks our own faithlessness, of the loving God that calls us back from anger, fear, and everyday cruelties and sets us on living out a life based on compassion empathy and love.

An open hand and an open heart are complementary. Sociologists believe that the handshake began back in the mists of human experience as a way to offer your fighting hand to another to prove that neither one of you had weapons at the ready. And so here we are in our gospel today, with Jesus asking us to break the causal chain of violence and suffering in favor of releasing ourselves from the enduring wound inflicted in ourselves by vengeance and refusal to forgive.

And listen, I KNOW it’s hard to forgive. I am a member of Clan Graham, and our family motto is “Ne Oublie,” which means “Never forget.” I am descended from people who came howling down across Scotland wielding axes and claymores until the soil ran red. Listen! You can still hear their howls of fury echoing….. But Jesus’s message is based not on what we want (severed heads on pikes!) but on what we need (being able to put down our halberds and live in amity with each other so that we all can flourish and recognize each other’s dignity and worth).

Yet holding a grudge is one of the surest ways to weigh us down, and it becomes OUR burden, not the burden of the one who has hurt us. One of my favorite sayings about forgiveness is this: Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself as much as to the person who has harmed you, because it frees you from the chains of resentment and anger. 



Another great saying is this: Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.



Psychologists state that it’s easier to forgive someone when three conditions are met:
1. A good apology;
2. A good outcome (as in receiving restitution);
3. An end to the behavior that caused the hurt (what those of us in the religion business call “repentance.”)

Yet sometimes, we are not going to get those conditions met. And we can’t wait around continuing to suffer in the meantime. Life is for living. And sometimes that means letting go of our resentment even when people aren’t sorry, just so that our clenched fists and hearts can be open to be filled with good things that come along.

In Bishop Jake Owensby’s book, A Resurrection-Shaped Life, which we will be studying for our Lenten book study, he meditates on Jesus’s command for us to “turn the other cheek.”

We habitually depend upon the threat of violence to prevent others from hurting us. When someone injures us or insults us, our animal impulse is to strike back, to hurt our attacker worse. We seek to bruise and to intimidate our opponents into fearful submission. In other words, we seek to minimize our own suffering, even if it comes at the expense of someone else’s misery. Jesus is very clear. This way of walking the planet will leave the world wounded and disfigured. Instead, Jesus teaches us to take up our cross and follow him. Only love—in all its vulnerability to the suffering of others and all its risk of injury to ourselves—will heal and transfigure the world. So, when Jesus says, “Do not resist an evildoer,” he is not advocating passive submission to cruelty and abuse, oppression and deprivation (Matthew 5:39). Instead, Jesus wants us to resist evil without becoming evil ourselves…. instead of trying to crush evil, overwhelm evil with good. Feed the hungry. Help addicts get sober. Teach job skills. Share your support network with those who are falling through the cracks. Befriend the bullied. Do none of this in condescension, but in solidarity. 

Don’t withhold yourself for fear of injury to body or soul. Do the good that’s right in front of you. Every day. Our own small acts of compassion and decency might not seem like much in this big, dangerous, aching world. But together, the billions of hands and feet shaped by the resurrection are a mighty force. Resurrection happens through us. We must be patiently relentless.(2) 

The power of our gospel reading today is in its promise of abundance at the very end: if we live a generous life toward others, we ourselves will find an abundance beyond measure, so much that it spills out of our cupped hands and into our laps. We are called to practice the art of living generously, a gift to ourselves as well as a gift to others.

Jesus’s teaching here is filled with active verbs that instruct us in what we are called to do to live as disciples of Jesus. We hear repeated positive commands:
Love.
Do good.
Bless.
Give.
Lend.
Forgive. 

We also hear prohibitions: Do not judge. Do not condemn.
But even these are couched in our own self-interest:
Don’t judge—so that you won’t be judged.
Don’t condemn—so that you won’t be condemned.

The message we receive today in Luke’s gospel starts from a place of gentleness and compassion—that amazingly generous gift known as grace which is better than riches or vengeance. Jesus doesn’t give us the easy news, here, but it IS the “good news” of transformation and reconciliation that leads to justice based on true healing. 

Jesus calls us to remember the grace we receive, to embody grace for ourselves, and then live out that grace in our interactions with others. To make God visible in this world, embody God’s values first and foremost: love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. May it be so among us. Always.

Amen.

Preached at the 505 on February 23, and at the 8:00 and 10:15 services on February 24, 2019, at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Ellisville.

Readings:
Genesis 45:3-11, 15
Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42
1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
Luke 6:27-38

References:
(1) Susan E. Hylen, theological perspective on Luke 6:27-38, in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 1: Advent Through Transfiguration, pp. 
(2) Jake Owensby, A Resurrection Shaped Life: Dying and Rising on Planet Earth, pp. 22-24.


Prayer 2219: Seventh Sunday After Epiphany


God of Abundant Grace,
we worship You and give you thanks,
seeking to live an ethic of generosity
as our work in partnership with You.

Teach us to never return evil for evil, O God,
but respond to hatred
with the power of loving resistance,
practicing forgiveness with courage.
Shape our lives by your mercy, O Holy One,
and follow in our Savior's footsteps,
let us Love.
Do good.
Bless.
Give.
Lend.
And Forgive.

Spread the awning of your grace above us,
and the path of your peace before us
that we may be a blessing in the world
in your Name, as we pray.

Amen.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Prayer 2218: Based on sayings of John Wesley


God of Abundance,
we raise our hearts to You in praise,
and ask your Spirit to guide us in wisdom and love.

Help us, O God,
to be rigorous in judging ourselves,
and gracious in judging others,
remembering the repeated forgiveness which upholds us.

Even when we cannot think alike,
help us to love alike, Blessed Savior,
making us of one heart
even if not of one opinion.

Rather, let us love one another fully,
embracing all who seek You, O Holy One,
by doing all the good we can,
by all the means we can,
in all the ways we can,
in all the places we can,
at all the times we can,
to all the people we can,
as long as ever we can.

Spirit of Love, set us ablaze with a holy fire,
and fill us with courage
to witness to the power of God's love in our lives,
as we ask your blessing upon these beloveds.

Amen.

(Written as the United Methodist Church opens a special session of their General Conference here in St. Louis to address whether they will fully accept all members, including LGBTQ members.)

Friday, February 22, 2019

Prayer 2217


Holy One, we open our hearts to you,
welcoming your guiding Spirit into our lives
as we humbly seek to walk in your Way.

Give us compassionate, charitable hearts, O God,
with the courage to name and resist
the everyday callousness and cruelties we see.
Beloved Savior, help us live more fully the gospel of love,
bearing with each other in gentleness and empathy.

God of Mercy, You know our faults and our failings,
yet embrace us as we repent again and again:
grant us the will to live by grace and forgiveness,
releasing ourselves from the wounds that bind us.

Spirit of Hope, spread wide the wings of your wisdom
to lift us above our fears, we pray,
and grant your comfort and healing
to all those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Prayer, day 2216


Almighty God,
whose Love came down to us
in the gift of your Son to lead us to truth,
we bow before You in prayer.

Send your Spirit of Peace and Wisdom
to pull back that which veils our hearts,
that we may stand before You in thankfulness.
We have been marked as your own, O God:
may we lift up our voices in unceasing praise. 
Hold us fast within your safekeeping,
O Rock of Salvation,
and guide us into holy fellowship as your children.
Bless us and preserve us, O God,
and give ear to the prayers of those we now name.

Amen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Speaking to the Soul: The Eucharistically Shaped Life


A few weeks ago, in the midst of the vicissitudes of this particular winter, our parish had our annual meeting, our first together. The meeting was centered within the liturgy of the Eucharist: We opened the meeting before the procession, we announced the slates of candidates at the announcements in the midst of the service, and we shared communion with each other around the altar rail. We sang the recessional hymn and removed to our parish hall, where we then shared a potluck meal much in the same way I imagine the early church might have (without the Corelle ware and the Tupperware). Gathered in fellowship, we concluded our business, and then concluded our Eucharist.

Our current Book of Common Prayer, still charmingly called “new” even though forty years old, centered the Eucharist as the principal liturgy of our Sunday worship. Thus it seemed only natural to center our meeting in the same way, for it is the Eucharist that draws us together each week and is the foundation of our relationship as a community. But it also brings us to a question: what does it mean to live a Eucharistically-centered and Eucharistically-shaped life?

The 20th century Anglican liturgical scholar Dom Gregory Dix held in his work The Shape of Liturgy that there was a four-fold action at the heart of the service of communion: offering, blessing, breaking, and then sharing communion.

And that should sound right, when we reflect on it. When describing the last supper in Mark’s gospel, listen carefully to the verbs in this sentence: “And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take: this is my body’” (Mark 14:22). The verbs are similar: taking, blessing, breaking, and giving. The same verbs are used in the same order in the feeding of the multitudes, and in the encounter at Emmaus with the risen Christ in Luke 24:30-31. Notice that the bookending verbs are taking and giving-- the very same necessary rhythm of life that we repeat with every breath. Both the taking and the giving are necessary in living our lives at both a basic biological level and at a spiritual level. In the middle is the blessing and the breaking open. This seems to be the recipe for life itself—the good life of which the philosophers debated in ancient Greece and today, and which Jesus himself repeatedly modeled for us and even now calls us to embrace.

The shape of the Eucharist is the shape of a life well-lived. It is both holy and earthy. Further, it is a life shaped profoundly by thanksgiving, by gratitude, by an awareness and mindfulness of this life as a blessing. These are the attitudes and values that form us as a community, across time and geographical distances. Each time we gather for communion, we offer our gifts, which are then taken onto the altar—mundane, simple things like bread and wine, yes, but also we offer what we value—our monetary offerings and offerings of our selves: our time and our talents for the common good. Those offerings are then blessed, consecrated, made holy through the power of the Spirit to help empower us as disciples, both individually and as a community. Those gifts are then broken open—barriers and boundaries fall, so that true sharing can take place. And then those gifts are given back, yet somehow enlarged, made greater than their constituent parts.

And so it is with us: as individuals we go about our daily lives, but as Christian disciples in this community, we do more: we witness to the glory of God, nourished and strengthened for embodying the way of Jesus, reminded and re-membered through our joining together around this altar each week, asking God to take us, bless us, break us open, and give us for the life of the world. And these values answer and put us in service to the empty and hurting places of the world around us. May we be bold enough to embody the Eucharistically-shaped life of our shared communion and community out into the world.



This was first published on the Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on February 20, 2019.

Prayer 2215


O God, we give you thanks and praise
for your protecting hand upon us,
for your lovingkindness and mercy
that bears us up on the wings of love.

May we live as joyful witnesses
to the glory of your truth,
and work for the cause of justice and peace
that all may live in true amity and fellowship.

May we open our hearts to those around us
and tear down the walls of fear and hatred
that seek to divide and conquer.

Blessed Savior, draw us ever closer to you
and keep us within the bounds of your mercy.
We ask for your healing hand
to rest upon the brow of all for whom we pray,
by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Prayer, day 2214: Based on Micah 6:8



Love divine,
we praise You for the beauty of this new day:
alleluias rise with the song of the morning birds.

You have called us into covenant with You;
like a shepherd, You call us back
when we stray from your paths.
Let us seek only to do what is good
in service to You,
for your mercy and love pours down like rain.

Let us do justice to those we love,
and to those we meet,
and to those whom we see suffering.

Let us do kindness
as we walk humbly with You and with each other.

Incline your ear to our prayers for those we name,
O Most Merciful God,
as we bear them up in tenderness.

Amen.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Prayer, day 2213


Loving, Almighty God,
you have been our dwelling place since we were born;
your love is inscribed in our hearts.
It is in you that we are meant to live,
and to love each other as you always love us.
In You we have hope of healing and rest from anxiety.
You are our strength and our redeemer,
and we put our trust in you, for your mercy is unending.
Build up those who are bowed down,
and guide us when we lose our way,
O Shepherd of our hearts.
Watch over, strengthen, comfort, we pray,
these your beloved children whom we now name.

Amen.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Plain Talking: Sermon for the Sixth Sunday After Epiphany C


Last week, in the gospel many of us didn’t get to hear thanks to that rotten weather, Jesus is at the lake of Gennasaret. The crowds were pressing in on him so much, he had to get into a fisherman’s boat there on shore and row out a ways so that he would be able to teach without being knocked into the water. The boat he borrowed belonged to a fisherman named Simon, who had just come ashore to hear this wandering preacher speak. After Jesus finishes teaching the crowd, he tells Simon to row even further out, into the deep water, and let down his net. Even though Simon points out that the night before, when the best fishing often takes place, they had caught nothing, Simon does as Jesus says. And, let’s face it-- that’s always a wise thing to do at all times.

In fact, in the gospels it’s always better to do what Jesus says than what Simon says.

Now the deep water was a place of fear to many Jews. Even fishermen usually stayed close to shore, because in the Jewish cosmology, or mental model of the universe, the deep waters were often places of chaos. It’s where Leviathan lived. It’s a place where if your ship wrecked, you drowned. And there are still many among us who are fine swimming in a pool, or near shore, but get a lot more nervous when the water is so deep you can’t see bottom. We like to be where we can see what’s coming ahead. It’s human nature.

But Simon finds out, as does the watching crowd, that it is in the deep waters where we are often called to do our most abundant and fruitful work. He lets down his net, and as he pulls it up, he gets shocked with the catch of his life. In fact, the catch that Simon draws up in his net is so abundant it threatens to break the nets, and then to swamp the boat.

And our life in ministry—all of us, whether lay or ordained, for we are ALL ministers, as our Book of Common Prayer insists over and over again—is so often like that. Jesus leads us out of our comfort zones. Out where we fear the water is over our heads. And yet, that is where our real work is. And that can make us uncomfortable, or outright frighten us.



That’s when it’s vital to remember this: that Jesus is right there in the boat with us. He’s right there with us when he urges us into the deep waters of mission. He’s right there with us even when we feel the cords of the net straining and feel the boat, hanging above what seems to us to be an unfamiliar abyss, list to one side as we struggle to haul those nets up. Jesus never sends us into the deep waters without coming with us and staying right beside us, supporting us in our ministry.

And then this week’s gospel helps reinforce that. Moses had taught the people of Israel from the mountain, and Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes has Jesus doing the same. That’s why Matthew’s version of our gospel story for this week is called “The Sermon on the Mount.” Matthew sees Jesus as the new Moses, so if Moses teaches from a mountain, so will Jesus.

Luke takes a different tack. Luke starts our story with Jesus going up on a mountain, all right, but to pray, which is omitted from our gospel, but alluded to, because the first words we hear are “Jesus came down with the twelve apostles…” Luke has Jesus going to the mountain to pray, to spend time with God, but then he comes down to a plain to present his teachings on the Beatitudes. And his labelling of who is blessed and who is filled with woe can seem like deep water indeed.

And what basically does Jesus say? I hear a message in this gospel and last week’s gospel that speaks eloquently especially for our ears, as we commit ourselves to being witnesses to God right here at St. Martin’s. I also think these two gospel passages speak to us as we begin in earnest with the search for the next bishop of Missouri, whether we do that as the laypeople of this diocese or as the ordained, whether we do it in filling out the surveys and partaking in the Holy Conversations, or whether we do additional work as members of the Standing Committee, or the Transition Committee, or as our consultant, or as the Search Committee who are doing their particular part.


We’re told all the time that Christianity is dead, that the nets are empty. Yet I am convinced that we are being encouraged to have the faith to go out into that deep water and let down the nets in the places that may scare us, in the places that others have abandoned. I think we are being told to remember that those who are hurting and hungry are the exact places where Jesus is.

Jesus once again comes down in the plain—in the midst of the people. Even though he is God’s Son, he gets right there among us, using his power to heal and to teach. And he tells us this, which was also emphasized in our reading from Jeremiah and from Psalm 1: Those who put their trust in God are those who are blessed, or truly happy. Those who put their trust in themselves, and turn away from trusting God by making themselves the center of attention, will come to woe, even though sometimes it doesn’t look like it in our society.

Sometimes being above deep waters can have a clarifying effect on helping us to remember what is important. Blessed are those on the margins, Jesus tells us—and he urges us to make those margins our home as well as the church. Those who are comfortable believe in their own ability to put themselves into a position of comfort. Putting our trust in God and God’s promises is hard—we tend to come up with work-arounds that in the end undermine further undermine our sense of God’s presence with us.

Jesus is God’s son in human flesh, and thus is our way of seeing what God the Creator is like. We just have to watch. And when we do that, we see that Jesus spends a good part of his ministry living with the poor, and feeding those who are hungry, and comforting the weeping, and healing those whose illnesses caused them to be considered throw-away people.

The Beatitudes are another broad brush stroke in Jesus’s revelation to us about the priorities of God. Staring even before Jesus’s birth, in Luke’s gospel we get revelation after revelation about God’s love for those that society might deem “losers:” the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the outcast, the notorious sinner. We started with the Magnificat, with its proclamation that God has filled the hungry with good things, while the rich God has sent away empty, a raised-fist shout of defiance from Mary, Jesus’s mother that is repeated her in our gospel by her son thirty-some years later. We heard it a few weeks ago, when Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Freedom, release, contentment, jubilee. These are the gifts God gives to those who allow themselves to trust in God, rather than trusting in the working of the human will above all else.

In our gospel passage today, it does not escape our notice that Jesus addresses his remarks to his disciples--not necessarily to the crowd around him, but to those who stand for the church. Jesus has just finished calling the last of the twelve apostles, and already he is giving them their marching orders: If we want to live a godly life, we have to put our hearts and souls into the love of God, into reflecting God’s kingdom values. And Jesus, who reminded us a few weeks ago that his ministry inaugurates the in-breaking of God’s kingdom in the world, leads us to understand God’s love of those who are marginalized.

So Jesus is always with us in ministry. But I want to turn that around for us as well. To be the church, to truly live a life of faith, we also must be where Jesus is. 

Where Jesus is, there we must be also, if we are to actually be disciples, and not just fans. And Jesus calls us out into the deep waters and into the margins. As we seek to witness to the life and vitality of the gospel in our hearts and here at St. Martin’s we have to cast our nets our wide in sometimes deep water, and do the hardest thing of all for modern people: to reflect God’s priorities in all we do.

As we seek a new leader for this diocese, that’s a vital understanding of our diocesan mission to carry with us, too. To remember to not rest comfortably on our own knowledge and our own resources, but to listen to the Spirit of God in all things. To not be afraid to cast our nets far and wide into the deep waters, and to rejoice at the catch we bring up rather than fear it will swamp the boat. To pray for someone who will lead us out even deeper into the fertile mission field of this anxiety-ridden, grossly unequal society around us, and model a different way. A way itself modeled for us by God Godself in human form. A way our world has lost sight of, and in losing sight of this promise, we have lost the cohesion and connectedness that is at the heart of relationship, and at the heart of the gospel. 

But not here! just by being here, we model part of the truth of God-- and the power of a shared identity despite our differences in a world that too often fragments people and seeks to divide them in order to overpower them. Our willingness to open our hearts to those others despise is one of the strongest strands in the nets we let down into the deep.

That’s where the blessings are—over the deep, out in the margins, where we remember how much we depend upon God, yes. But also, paradoxically, we see that the deep water is also the place of blessing, reminding us that God never fails us, never abandons us, and is alongside us always. That’s the greatest blessing we can proclaim through hopeful hearts. And that’s the blessing we can BE as the people of this parish out in the world.

Amen.

Preached at the 505 on February 16, and at 8:00 and 10:15 am on February 17, at St. Martin's Episcopal Church.

Readings:
Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Luke 6:17-26

Prayer 2212: Sixth Sunday After Epiphany


Almighty God, 
we rise and give thanks
to be able to worship you this day.
Lord Jesus, we know that you are with us
always as you call us into deep waters
to be the church for those on the margins.
Let us always put our trust in You,
and remember to open our hearts to each other
as a sign of our faithfulness to your Way.
Make us blessings to those who hunger, Holy One,
and comforters to those who mourn,
even as you place your blessing upon them
and call us to stand with each other as one.
Grant your kiss of peace
to all who cry out to you, O Spirit of Hope,
and gather under your wings those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Prayer, day 2211


In hope and faith, we pray to You, O Loving God:
Creator, Redeemer, Life-Giver;
we offer you our gratitude and praise.

Blessed Jesus,
may we enter through you into abundant life,
given for others,
finding our meaning in love and kindness,
dedicating ourselves to healing and reconciliation.
Where there is anxiety,
let us remember that you are ever with us, Lord:
our Savior stands sentinel
between us and all danger
as the good shepherd and lover of our souls.
Where there is suffering,
let us act to end it,
strengthened and empowered by you, O Christ.
Where there is joy,
let us share and support it,
and where there is peace,
let us nurture it and protect it,
as servants and disciples of the Prince of Peace.

Lead us, Holy Spirit, into integrity and compassion,
and fill us with the inner light of God,
that we may be a beacon and witness to all.
Trusting in your never-failing love and care,
we ask your protection, O God,
for those we love and remember before You.

Amen.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Prayer 2210


Most Merciful God,
make us your holy people,
and anoint us to your service,
carrying your gospel with joy
and gratitude into the world You have made.
Give us discerning hearts and minds,
that we seek not our glory but yours, O God,
to serve each other
and the world You have created
with tenderness.
Place your hand of protection and healing
upon all who call upon you, Precious Savior,
and especially upon these beloveds.

Amen,