Friday, January 31, 2020

Prayer 2559: A Prayer for Those Who Work for Good


Most Merciful God,
thank You for your sheltering presence over us
as we walk the path of discipleship this day. 

Bless the hands of the healers--
doctors, nurses, caregivers,
parents, children, spouses,
partners, friends--
who work with quiet determination 
for the relief of pain, disease, and suffering, 
who watch over and wait upon those who are ill.

Bless the minds of the dreamers-- 
the scientists, the organizers, the teachers--
who see potential where others see problems,
who see what could be
and are willing to work to make it happen.

Bless the strength of the guardians
who seek to serve and protect all
against those who would harm others
either in defiance of or in the name of the law.

Holy One, envelop with in the cloud of your mercy,
and grant your peace to those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Prayer 2558: In awe and wonder


Holy, Holy, Holy Lord,
gathered within your embrace
we arise to greet the beauty of this day,
eager to walk in love and faithfulness,
led by the light, grace, and reconciling example of Christ.

Almighty Creator,
You have woven the night sky and morning clouds 
into a tapesty of beauty, 
reminding us of your promise of faithfulness-- 
You who call the stars by name 
and have inscibed each of us on your hand. 

Sustain us with your word, Blessed Jesus, 
that our hearts be transformed in love and compassion, 
that we tenderly care for each other 
in witness to all You have done for us. 

Renew us, O Holy Spirit, 
in generosity and lovingkindness, 
that we may see and know our mutual dependence 
as one body, one spirit, one creation. 

Merciful One, pour out your grace and healing 
upon all for whom we pray.

Amen.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Prayer 2557: Your commandments, like songs


Most Merciful God,
who calls us to mercy
even as we ourselves receive mercy,
we bow before You in humility and wonder
as we sing our your praise.

May your commandments
be a song in our hearts, centering us
on loving kindness,
doing good,
and walking humbly with You, Our God.

May we sing the melody of your love and faithfulness,
and draw the world to You
by our witness to your beauty, O Savior.

May we be brave enough
to pray for your Spirit to seize our hearts
and make them fully yours, O Lord,
that your will be done on earth as in heaven.

Pour out your blessing
like the healing balm of summer rain
on the dry ground of our thirsty spirits,
and grant your peace and comfort
to those whose hope is in You.

Amen.



"Your statutes have been like songs to me *
wherever I have lived as a stranger."-- Psalm 119:54


from this morning's psalms in the daily office

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Prayer 2556


Almighty God, set your seal upon our hearts 
as we rise and seek to be a blessing
in this day that You have made:
glory and praise be yours forever!

Save us from the presumption
of speaking only
and not opening our ears
to hear your blessing
breathed through even the winter trees. 

May we ever know your call to faithfulness
echoed within the thrum of our hearts,
beating out your repeated blessing
through the miracle of this day, your gift to us 
to practice reconciliation
and take up your healing work in the world.

Blessed Savior,
may our hearts blaze with your love today, 
that we choose to walk in integrity and hope,
tearing down the barriers we erect by fear and distrust
when we fail to treat one another with honor and dignity.

As we bear your Name, may we embody your truth.

Bless the hands that heal and minister today,
and grant your peace to those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Prayer, day 2555


O Holy One of Blessing,
my heart lifts in gratitude
as I rise to think on your love
and everlasting lovingkindness.
I lift my eyes to the morning sky,
and stand amazed at your wondrous works:
the galaxies that lace the heavens,
woven on the loom of your wisdom;
the clouds that sail like mighty ships,
bringing shade and comfort at midday;
the hummingbird that flits from blossom and branch,
fulfilling her purpose in your web of life.
You have set us within this glorious creation
 providing all we need,
and tending to our every moment, O God.

Let my heart be stirred
to embody your love today,
Most Blessed Savior,
that I may walk in integrity and compassion
with all living beings,
upheld by your steadfast grace and peace.

Bless the hands that heal and comfort,
bless the strength of those who fight for right,
bless the journeys of all who wander,
and bless the witness of your children
who preach your kingdom by their loving action.

Envelop within your steadfast embrace
all those whose needs we lift before You, Blessed Jesus,
as we humbly pray.


Amen.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Being Here, Being Light: Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, and annual meeting


The passage from Matthew’s gospel that we heard today lends itself to a lot of possibilities in this season of annual meetings. It’s also a happy coincidence that the intersection of our Martin Luther King holiday coincides with preparing for our Annual Meeting, especially in terms of embracing a concept of the Beloved Community that was so espoused by Dr. King, and that grew out of his deep relationship with God and with scripture. His description of the Beloved Community is what we at St. Martin’s aspire to be: a light to all, a place where peace and justice are taken seriously and where ministering to each other and our neighbors is the highest ideal.

We are a parish rooted in this time and this place, facing the hoped for building of the kingdom of heaven, as Matthew puts it. But when Matthew talks about the “kingdom of heaven,” he is talking about a society right here, right now—not off in the afterlife. Jesus’s hometown was Nazareth, a landlocked village in the center of northern Israel—today, it is predominately Arab. Here we see Jesus move his home base to Capernaum, a fishing village along the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee, in the ancestral lands of Zebulon and Naphtali.

Capernaum, as an outpost on the frontier with Syria, was tightly under the control of Rome, and the synagogue there was built through a gift of a centurion who was a God-fearer. So where we just read about a church in Corinth being challenged by diversity, in our gospel we see Jesus in a town of ancient Jewish heritage under Roman rule. This area was called “Galilee of the Gentiles”—in our reading from Isaiah 9:1, above, it was called “Galilee of the nations” to reflect the diversity of peoples who lived there, either as conqueror or as the conquered. Thus, continuing our Epiphany message of the universality of Jesus’s mission, we have Jesus choosing to start his ministry in a diverse community, one that had known nothing but oppression and the destruction that is the result of that, first from the Assyrians, and then from Rome. 

It is in this improbable place that Jesus begins his public ministry, and where Jesus calls his first disciples. I am convinced it is a vital thing to point out, because it leads us to consider this vital question: how does our location in this place shape our understanding of our witness to Christ and ministry to our neighbors here at St. Martin’s? I ask you to ponder that as we review the previous year.

I want you all to consider that this is holy ground that we stand on. This building is the center of our spiritual and worship lives. It is where we learn together, and study scripture. It is where we grow hundreds of pounds of produce each year to feed the hungry. It is where we offer hospitality to the community. It is where our neighbors vote. It is where we celebrate the lives of our beloved friends and family who have died, and it is where many of our loved ones have their final resting places.

This is sacred ground, holy ground, hallowed with the prayers and praises and laments of thousands of voices and hearts over the decades. This building has been entrusted to us by the diocese, and more importantly by the generations before us who were instrumental in moving this community from borrowed space in an elementary school to the beautiful worship and meeting space we now care for. It is the home base for pastoral care and for our amazing team of lay Eucharistic visitors who help care for the spiritual needs of those in our parish who cannot attend worship. In short, it is where, just like in our reading from Matthew’s gospel today, we engage in the same holy work that Jesus engaged in: teaching, proclaiming the kingdom of God coming near, and healing those who are in pain, sorrow, or distress. I am particularly indebted to Lincoln Drake, Tom Warrington, and Kirt Beckman fort their incredible work taking care of this facility and her aging systems.

In the last year, this parish has made some important changes. We are in the process of replacing the roof, thanks to an insurance settlement, and the work is ongoing due to that same lovely St. Louis weather that vacillates between freezes and roasting. have begun to put in place a series of measures to make the building more secure. We moved our 10:15 service to 10:30, which has been a relief for your priest. Our music program has benefitted from being fully funded in the budget: our choir has grown, and Denise’s network of guest musicians from both within and outside the parish have worked together to create some outstanding moments in our worship life, especially at Easter and Christmas. Our incredible altar guild, led by Ruth Minster, continues to make sure our worship is beautiful and reverent, and they tend to the worship needs of this parish with incredible devotion. 

Over the course of 2019, St. Martin’s held over 200 services from gatherings here at church or at the Fountains to taking communion to people in their homes or in the hospital, stopped only by that pernicious weather. We have offered communion almost 6500 times. We celebrated the lives of beloved parishioners and friends at 7 funerals. We baptized 2 babies and 2 adults. We celebrated a marriage. At our rescheduled Bishop’s visitation, we confirmed or received 11 members of St. Martin’s, six youth and five adults. We already have a new confirmation class starting up, with at least six people interested in formally joining the Episcopal church through this beloved community. We’ve had three book studies led by Pastor Sally, who has shared her gifts with us with beautiful spirit and generosity.

As the great Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple noted, “The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of thoise who are not its members.” We finally got outreach funds to both Cuba and Puerto Rico after months of effort. We have provided aid and comfort to our neighbors who have benefited from the priest’s discretionary fund, and I give thanks to the wonderful women who helped put on the Christmas Bazaar and Bake Sale to help replenish and strengthen this fund.

Last winter, we offered our first ever Ashes to Go station out on Clayton Road, and over 50 cars stopped to pray with me during the course of Ash Wednesday in between services. One woman stopped, and later came back with her entire family, including her daughter, who had never had the imposition of ashes before. Several people shared that this was the first religious action that they had participated in years due to previous painful experiences with organized religion. It was a wonderful witness to our community, and a wonderful way to start Lent with those who might otherwise have not been invited to participate in this solemn ritual.

We have maintained a nursery to be inviting and welcoming to young families, and Sherrie Algren continues to oversee children’s ministries with a dedicated an varied cohort of volunteers, hosting Breakfast with the Bunny near Easter, a vibrant Vacation Bible School in July filled with crafts, music and stories, as well as Breakfast with St. Nicholas. We have a vibrant soft space for worship in the nave, and a new soothing space for people of all age to be able to sit, pray, play, and read out in the narthex. We had a fantastic Trunk or Treat and Garden Harvest Festival just before Halloween, organized by Chelsea Raiche and other garden committee members.

In late spring, a core group of parishioners attended training in the Invite, Welcome, Connect ministry, and several training sessions were held to disseminate the principles behind this ministry as widely as possible. 
Under the leadership of Ruby Downs and Laura Limbaugh, we sold St. Martin’s shirts and used an investment from the budget to host a wonderful Homecoming Celebration in September. It is my hope that all of us will take responsibility for inviting friends and neighbors to St. Martin’s and commit to the ongoing support of this ministry, not just for the sake of this parish, but for the sake of the gospel, which calls us to make disciples for the life of the world.

Just as our gospel passage today depicts Jesus going to people where they are, so too we are called to not sit back and wait for folks to come to us, but to share the good news of God’s love with those around us, and invite them to “Come and see” what the Way of Jesusis all about as a force for change in the world, as we talked about last Sunday.

Our facility continues to be a central location for diocesan events, and that is part of what makes our physical plant a blessing. We host Standing Committee each month, and during the bishop’s search we hosted Search Committee and Transition Committee events, as well as an all-diocesan clergy meeting in March. We also hosted joint social justice meetings with our neighbors at St. Timothy’s as well as an outstanding Syrian dinner. We share our space with AA groups and the River Blenders, and as we get ready to restart the capital campaign that this parish family put aside in late 2017, we look to making our spaces more inviting in order to be able to serve this congregation, this diocese, and the community in an even greater capacity.

We continue to face budget shortfalls, which is an ongoing source of concern for all of us. Our capital campaign and our new roof will help alleviate some of the uncertainty in our budget, by providing funds to replace systems that we live in fear of failing—and when they have done so in the last 20 years, that replacement has had to come out of our investment fund. Your treasurer, Bob Ecker, your steadfast and faithful vestry, your stewardship leadership led by Steve Brunkhorst and Ralph Trieschmann and all the trail bosses have done an outstanding job in seeking to connect with every member of St. Martin’s and encourage the sharing of information and goals to move us toward better stewardship and sharing of our resources for the good of the overall community.

In the late summer, our communications director, Jill Gould, left us for full time employment in the business world, and we miss her very much and are so grateful for her gifts to us. But since then, we have revamped the Beacon to make it more user-friendly and comprehensive, and we are currently working on a revamped parish website which will be more nimble and easier to navigate and update. I continue to be indebted to both Janet Theiss and Wendy Sain for supporting this parish in its day to day needs and in helping me in my ministry to you all in ways both great and small.

These are only a few snapshots of the wonderful things going on here at St. Martin’s. We are here in this place for a reason. Jesus locates his ministry in a specific place at the start of it—where there are ordinary people living ordinary lives, working as fishermen there along the shore, wresting a hard living from a small lake.

St. Martin’s, too, just like Capernaum, is a place where God is fulfilling God’s promises, as our passage from Isaiah relates. Jesus doesn’t just call the perfect, but he does call everyday people to follow him and place his teachings of justice and healing at the core of their identities. Jesus continues to call us to use our gifts for the glory of God, and to be willing to meet people where they are and invite them into the fellowship of faith.

As we look to the coming year, I want to challenge us all to wonder at the steadfast faithfulness of God beside us throughout our joys as well as our pains. May we consider how we understand the call that each of us receives from Jesus today. How do we understand following Jesus as a core part of our identity?

More specifically, how do we grow into deeper faithfulness and mindfulness with the three core parts of Jesus’s mission as laid out in today’s gospel? 

  • How do we bring light to those in darkness?
  • How do we announce the coming of the reign of God and call ourselves and the world to turn our minds toward God’s reign in our own lives, what is called “repentance?”
  • How do we follow Jesus in his example as a human perfectly aligned with God’s dream for creation as disciples, and call others to discipleship?


I am convinced that each and every person sitting in a pew is there because God’s call to all humanity is working within them in some way. Jesus is still calling his followers to share in the work that makes the kingdom of heaven visible and real in the eyes of the world. Let us join together and stand together in faith as we seek to make St. Martin’s ever stronger in its witness and ministry in the year ahead.

Amen.

Preached at the 9:00 am Eucharist at the start of the 2020 annual meeting, St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Ellisville, MO.

Readings:
Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 5-13
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23


Prayer, day 2554: For an annual meeting


O Gracious God, we are your people, 
and we ask that you guide us this day to do your will.
Make of us a priestly people, 
dedicated to the ministry you have called each of us to do. 
Give us wisdom and love in equal measure,
that we may know how, as well as why, we are to follow your path.
Let us clasp hands around your altar as one people,
dedicated to the shared vision of building your kingdom.
Let us go forth then to be your disciples,
nourished by the love that draws us together.
Let us tend the sick, the sorrowing, the weak, and the lost in your Name,
with joy in our labors and praise on our lips.
O Loving Savior, You are with us always:
send, we pray, a special blessing upon those we now name.

Amen.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Prayer 2553: Inspired by Psalm 19


O God, our hearts rise to you
carried aloft on the dawn chorus of birds:
may our praise song resound forever
as night whispers its secret dreams to the rising light.

By your wisdom and art
You have made the tapestry of the heavens;
the firmament is filigreed, a tracery of constellations,
spangled and aflame with light, visible and invisible,
to testify to your handiwork,
O Creator and Lover of All.

In awe and delight,
may our hearts burst forth in service to You,
O God of Splendor,
for like the heavens we too are marvelously made,
and You care for us and hold us safe,
nurturing us and calling us to innocence and truth.

Save us from the presumption of sin,
from the arrogation of your will for ours;
may we seek the good of each other humbly,
in willing assent to your commandments.

And so, O Holy One,
may we walk gently upon the earth this day,
companions in your Way of Reconciliation and Hope.
Lift up the hearts of all who are troubled,
O God Our Portion and Shield,
and soothe the cares of those whom we now name.

Amen.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Prayer 2552: nevertheless, justice


Most Merciful God,
we offer you our gratitude and praise
for your blessings without number,
and ask your guidance
as we seek to live by your dream for us,
led by wisdom and integrity.

Help us renounce our acquiescence
to the path of casual corruption,
commonplace cruelties,
and collateral damage.

Give us the courage to tear down the edifices of power
built on the false gospel
that success for the few
must be leveraged upon the suffering of the many.

Bring us instead, O Holy One,
to a renewed commitment to live by your word
and walk in your ways,
to lend our aid to the oppressed and the hurting,
and to make common cause
with those who stand for justice and peace
built on dignity and compassion.

Hear the whispered prayers of your people,
O Savior and Redeemer,
and grant your peace and comfort to those for whom we pray,

Amen.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Prayer 2551: dedication of this new day



O Loving Creator,
we give you thanks and praise
for your loving call to truth and wisdom
as we place our feet upon the path of this day.

May we make your words, Lord Jesus, a lamp unto our feet
and a warming fire in the hearth of our hearts,
that we may burn brightly before the world
as witnesses to your faithfulness and compassion.

May we stand upright and holy before You,
O Source of Justice,
and put our shoulders to the wheel of your mercy,
working to bring your kingdom near for all to see.

May we make your light blaze forth,
O God Our Stronghold,
to drive away the scuttling forces of hatred and malice,
to work in allegiance to your call to shalom.

Strengthen us in integrity and truth,
O Foundation of Our Hearts,
and grant your blessing and assurance
to those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Prayer, day 2550


Most Merciful God,
our spirits bless your Holy Name
as we dedicate this day to your service.
Help us to use our prayer to You, O God,
as courage for action in restoring the common good
as the fixed mark to guide our life together
as disciples and witnesses of your gospel.
Strengthen us in compassion and grace, O Savior,
that we may renounce the leanness in our souls,
and instead embody your abundance and justice
which seeks the reconciliation of all things.
Give us the heart to work for peace,
a peace whose foundation is the solid rock of brotherhood,
seeking the welfare of others in the name of love.
Spirit of the Living God,
anoint us with the wisdom from on high,
and pour out your blessing upon those we now name.

Amen.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Prayer, day 2549: For Integrity


Most Merciful God,
set your seal upon our hearts,
that they may be filled with your truth
and animated by your gospel of hope.

Teach us to walk with integrity and honesty,
and strengthen us to defend the defenseless among us,
living into your commandments, O God,
in spirit, word, and deed.

Blessed Savior, place your healing hands upon our lives,
and give us the courage to live into your grace,
carrying your Name into the world
as witnesses to your compassion and justice.

Spirit of the Living God,
draw us into your light,
and gather us into your embrace,
placing your blessing over those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Prayer 2548


Creation stirs with a morning song of joy
and calls us into this new day:
may our praises rise with the mounting light
as your mighty arm upholds us, O God.

As the mown field welcomes each drifting snowflake,
let our hearts rejoice in the word of the Lord,
that your wisdom, O Holy One,
may fill our souls to overflowing
and we may stand upright and at peace before You.

Merciful God, help us to see clearly
the beauty of the Way of Compassion,
that we may place our feet firmly within your path
and be a blessing in your Holy Name.

Gather our offered prayers
within the hollow of your mighty hand,
O God Our Shepherd,
and extend the awning of your blessing
over all for whom we pray.

Amen.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

What Are You Looking For? Sermon for 2nd Sunday after Epiphany


In 1987, the Irish rock band U2 released its iconic album “The Joshua Tree.” One of the greatest hits from that album was the song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” This song came at a time when most rock fans were beginning to forget that three of U2’s members identified as Christian, and that their first hit on MTV was a song called Gloria, which was not about a girl but instead contained the words “Gloria in te Domine”—in English, “Glory to You, Lord.” I enjoyed watching my friends in college unknowingly singing praises to God as they sang along.

The lyrics to “I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For” describe the seeking and the searching that so many of us have felt, not just in young adulthood, but throughout our lives: 

I have climbed the highest mountains 
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you Only to be with you
I have run, I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for 

The song then describes the search for pleasure and connection. But it is in the last verse that the band makes explicit the spiritual nature of their searching: 

I believe in the Kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one 
But yes, I'm still running
You broke the bonds and you loosened chains 
Carried the cross of my shame
You know I believe it
But I still haven't found 
What I'm looking for…(1)

The frank confessional tone of the last verses emphasize that this is a song about faith, about searching for transcendence in a world all too mired in immediate gratification. The song recounts a catalogue of experiences that should have thrilled and delighted, but instead have nonetheless been ephemeral, unsatisfying, leaving the seeker empty because they do not point to anything greater than the isolated response to a series of isolated experiences that only provide temporary distraction.

But isn’t this a plaintive cry that comes from the depths of so many people today, both from those who admit to some sort of engagement with faith, and those who lack a faith community of any kind? We are filled with an insatiable hunger for meaning, for connection, for purpose, for peace, for contentment in a world that keeps us constantly on the edge of dissatisfaction, where we are constantly told to want more even as our possessions often are tarnished in our appreciation before we’ve even thrown away the packaging?

The members of U2 were surprised when, shortly after the album’s release, a choir in New York reworked it into a gospel anthem. But to my mind that makes perfect sense: the greatest hymns have always dealt honestly with emotions. “It is Well With My Soul” was written by a man who lost his wife and daughters in a shipwreck. “Amazing Grace” was written by a man who had been involved in the transatlantic slave trade before becoming an Anglican clergyman. “How Great Thou Art,” was written after a powerful storm subsided to tranquility as the writer, Carl Boberg, pondered Psalm 8 while walking. 

Just being able to admit “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” is the first step to acknowledging the longing that lies within us.

It is that sense of longing that caused those two disciples of John to go trailing after Jesus on that dusty road—too unsure or overwhelmed to go up to Jesus directly, they simply lurk behind him, not even knowing what they were hoping to find. “What are you looking for?” I think Jesus’ question to those seekers trailing along behind him is one that we ourselves can ponder, and also ask others when it comes to matters of faith. What is it we are looking for? Jesus is reminding us that the path to enlightenment starts from the acknowledgement of longing, the acknowledgement that we are all seekers, trying to fill a hole within our hearts and souls with something.

We live in an age of substitution. We crave nourishment, but we fill ourselves to the brim with junk food, where even Bread Co. mostly serves up prepackaged foods and actually became the subject of a national petition when they removed their French Onion soup from the menu. We crave excitement, even as we numb ourselves with technology, and the top movie honored by Academy Award nominations is a psychological thriller about a comic book villain many of us wouldn’t want to spend five seconds with, much less two hours in the dark with strangers.

What is it we are actually looking for? The question resonates today as much as it did 2000 years ago. Jesus asks those two seekers that question out of love and compassion. Because just as much as those disciples think that here might be what they are looking for, Jesus has been searching for them, and for each one of us. And I am convinced that that’s another vitally important message to take from this gospel passage. Jesus’s interactions with his disciples constantly portrays him as seeking them out, engaging with people even when they disagree with him, not just sitting back and waiting for people to come to him, but going to where the people are, in their everyday lives.

Our gospel passage also assures us that Jesus welcomes us with our questions, our hesitations, our refusal to believe that something good might also be true. Look at how he responds to those two seekers in our story. They’re afraid to admit to their seeking—so they blurt out the first thing that pops into their heads. "What are you looking for?" Is NOT answered by "Where are you staying?"          

Yet Jesus understands. His response is “Come and see.” And he's not talking about his lodgings. Instead, Jesus invites them to come and see for themselves who he is. And by the end of the day, they themselves are convinced. 


“Come and see” could be seen as a kind of shorthand for the entire Epiphany season. It’s an invitation to move from bewailing that we haven’t found what we are looking for, to taking concrete action to find that meaning that has been missing in our lives. In this season of Epiphany, we hear story after story of how Jesus’s identity was revealed to successive people, Jew and Gentile alike, and in doing so, reveals who God is, helping to bridge the chasm that prevents ordinary humanity from beginning to perceive the essence of God’s nature.

It’s too easy to get caught up in cynicism, across the years and centuries especially. And that’s why we can look at our gospel not just as a story about then, but about NOW.

Too many people are only comfortable with reducing Jesus to merely a historical figure, an ancient wisdom teacher who taught an ethical system based on the golden rule. I suppose that’s better than those who imagine that Jesus is a vengeful referee who hates all the same people we do and can’t wait to chuck them into a hell of unquenchable fire. But not much better. Too many people, self-avowed Christians included, fail to see Jesus anywhere today. But we proclaim Jesus, risen and living in the world today, still guiding us in the way of God, and bridging the divide between humanity and divinity.

What if we took seriously the idea of the ongoing incarnation of God in human vesture that we sing about in our hymns? Because the Church is called to be the embodiment of that same precious body, that same Anointed One, that the disciples encountered. Likewise, the Church is called to equip each and every one of its members to not just embody the healing, reconciling love and wisdom of Jesus, but to see that divine spark in everyone, friend or stranger alike.

As we heard the story of Jesus’s baptism last Sunday, many of us probably reflected upon our own anointing by water and the Spirit in the sacrament of baptism. With that in mind, the call today to “Come and see” to those who do not know God becomes a charge upon faithful people everywhere through the power their baptism to be the living embodiment of Jesus in the world today.

In the early Church, “come and see” was a scandal in the milieu of mystery cults that promised the attainment of secret knowledge to the detriment of those around them. The scandal of the gospel was its universalism two millennia ago—and that same universalism remains a scandal today to those who want to erect walls and stiles and barricades between the seeking and the Savior. Embracing that universal call to “come and see” is the essence of Christian life and discipleship, even if we are faltering and imperfect in our attempt. 

“Come and see” is not a command for the world to come to us—and that’s not how our peripatetic teacher and Savior, Jesus from no-account Nazareth, operated, either. “Come and see” calls us ourselves to be swept up in the unbounded vista of God’s saving love, for only in embracing the mystery of God’s love can we truly dare to share with others the wonders of grace and truth.

“Come and see” is a charge upon us to go meet people where they are-- the poor, the suffering, the overlooked, the downcast, the oppressed, the scorned, the broken and broken-hearted— to love them for who they are whether the calculus of the world judges them worthy or not, and be the healing we long to see in the world. It is standing alongside the despised and the fallen and nonetheless seeing the spark of God’s love in the other as much as we long to believe it resides within us, knowing full well our own failures. It is a call for us to embody the reconciliation, grace, and mercy that Jesus himself embodied—and in embodying those spiritual gifts, Jesus proves that it is possible for us to embody them as well.

Look around you: the world is our mission field. So many people still haven’t found what they are looking for. What if each and every one of us was willing to respond as Jesus did—with love, love in action where there is isolation? With healing and reconciliation, where there has been pain and anger? With invitation and drawing the circle ever wider, where there has only been rejection and heartache? With a personal, heartfelt invitation to “come and see?”

“Come and see” is a call that will only resonate when it springs from the joy abundant we feel at knowing we are Beloved of God, and rather than try to hoard that knowledge to ourselves, to share it with those the world despises so that they too, can join us in rejoicing and renewal. It is a call to a path that never claims that the ends justify the means, but holds that the path itself is holy—and calls us from being mere fans to being actual disciples.

When we live into the relationships that Jesus calls us to embrace with both God and with all creation, we are transformed. We make room within our hearts for the inner light and wisdom of the folly of the gospel of Jesus, one that denies that there must be winners and losers as much of the world’s systems demand. It is embracing the paradox and the gift of God coming into time as a helpless infant, and of the greatest becoming the least, all for love beyond all of our own fearful limitations. It is that embodiment to which the incarnation calls us today. “Come and see” reminds us that the only way love grows is by sharing it with other by not seeking to exclude those different from us but by drawing the circle ever wider until all are drawn within the enclosure of God’s mercy. It is a reminder that God’s love is not a transaction, but a gift and a grace beyond our ken. 

What are you looking for? Let us each be the way for the world to come and see.

Amen.

Readings:
Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-12
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42


Citations:
(1) "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," by Adam Clayton, Dave Evans, Larry Mullen, Paul David Hewson, and Victor Reina, from 1987's album The Joshua Tree.

Preached at the 505 on January 18 and at 8:00 and 10:30 am on January 19, 2020 at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Ellisville, MO.


Prayer, day 2547: 2nd Sunday after Epiphany


Lord Jesus, we acclaim you and worship you,
and give you thanks for your healing love in our lives.
Save us from the presumption of confessing your Name
without transformation of our hearts and minds
for Love's sake.

May we sing out your glory and grace
to all the world,
to witness to opponents as well as friends.
May we open ourselves to your Holy Spirit,
that our overflowing hearts
may lead us to stand for justice
and walk in compassion.

Guide us to live lives of grace and mercy,
and never inflict suffering by action or inaction.
Let us love our God
and each other
with our whole heart,
and walk humbly and reverently upon the earth.

Bless us and shape us,
O Merciful One,
and renew the spirits of those
who call to You.

Amen.