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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

A preacher's little girl inquired, "Daddy, I notice every Sunday morning when you first come to the pulpit to preach, you bow your head. What are you doing?" The priest and father explained, "I'm asking the Lord to give me a good sermon." The little girl innocently said, "Then why doesn't he? When I first came to St. James I preached a lot about community; so much so, in fact, I thought I may be overdoing it. So, I stepped away from it for a while. And yet I’m constantly reminded, particularly through scripture, that Christian community is a vital part of who we are called by God to be in life and that we need to honor it, feed it, and invite the world into it. The world nowadays has perhaps

The Great Amen!

The Eucharistic Prayer of all four prayers in our Book of Common Prayer ends with what we call the Great Amen. Our response to God, as a community in the Eucharistic Prayer - a prayer of thanksgiving, praise, sacrifice, and renewal - is to proclaim AMEN with one voice, one heart, and one spirit I think it would be rather easy for us to think of the Eucharistic Prayer that always begins, "The Lord be with you," as a prayer that we passively listen to. But there is a call and response, a dialogue, between people in the pews and priest behind the altar, passing through all of us that recognizes what God has done and is doing for us. AMEN proclaims that we embrace the notion that we are God's pe

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Disciples are in a bit of a crisis. Last week they thought they had things right. They had been sitting at the feet of Jesus for three years. They had seen what he had done, what he is capable of doing, and had seen him heal and feed thousands - maybe tens of thousands – of people. And last week Peter culminates it all by saying, “You are the son of God; you are the Messiah.” But Jesus then informs them that he is going to be handed over into the hands of men, will be killed, and on the third day he will rise again. Suddenly, everything falls to pieces for the 12 and they really don’t get their feet back under them again until sometime after the resurrection. They cannot get their heads

Drawing near to God

“Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.” James 4:8a The letter of James is directed to an audience (most likely Jewish Christians) that was struggling to keep faith in God through Christ amidst controversy, opposition, persecution and isolation. James focuses on acting on our faith, being “doers of the word,” not merely receptacles of God’s Word found in Jesus. Paul, whose focus on trust and faith in God above all else, may appear to be in opposition to James’ belief that “faith without works is dead.” But, ultimately, faith and trust in God should make us willing and able to act in the world from our place of hope in God’s love that we have come to know in Jesus of Nazareth. James

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Proverbs 1:20-33; James 3:1-12; Wisdom 7:26–8:1; Mark 8:27-38 My brother, Mark, and I have a kind of tradition. Each year, on our birthdays, we send each other a card attempting to one up the other with some gentle teasing. As we became older, age became fare game, too. On my 50th birthday, he sent me a card with a cartoon drawing on the front, of a man feverishly climbing a hill. The caption on the front read, “With age, comes wisdom.” On the inside, the man has reached the summit and sat contentedly at the foot of a sage, old man sitting in the lotus position. The caption read, “Isn’t that right, oh ancient one?” Let’s remember, he is 2½ years older than I am. I suppose that card came to

Who do you say that i am?

“But who do you say that I am?” Matthew Mark 7: 29 We are beginning our spiritual journey for the next few years by asking ourselves, “Who is Jesus to me, really?” In Mark, Jesus asks his disciples a version of the same question when He says to them, “Who do you say that I am?” Now, imagine that it was Jesus asking us the question. How do we respond? Peter quickly piped in, “You are the Messiah!” And yet Peter was, in the short term, unsure of who Jesus really was to him. Discovering Jesus’ identity, in all of its complexity, is an important part of our faith journey. Sometimes, however, denial is the only protective device we can think of when faced with who we really understand Jesus to be

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

I am reading a book by Will Willimon, a retired Methodist bishop, called Why, Jesus? And he has titles for Jesus like Preacher, Vagabond, Party Person, Peacemaker, Home Wrecker (another sermon), and Magician. The chapter on Magician is really about Jesus the healer and what his healings might be or mean. How do we see the healing hands of Jesus in our 21st century world when we put a lot more trust in medicine, government (diminished but still there), etc. than we do in the power of God to heal and guide us? If we begin asking ourselves the question, “Who is Jesus to me, really?,” how do we connect with the healing possibility of Jesus in my life and in the world? Once a month I officiate a

What about suffering?

One of the most challenging obstacles to faith and continued trust and hope in God can be suffering. I was at a monthly Eucharist this morning at a local skilled care facility and most of the people who come to the service are from the memory unit there. In addition to the challenges of dementia, many (almost all, really) have some form of physical challenge associated with their memory loss and/or age. I tried speaking very briefly to them, before Communion, on the matter of suffering and healing and felt, well, less than convincing. What does the reality of Jesus mean to a person who has lost nearly everything, perhaps even themselves? Does our prayer for healing for those most afflicted,

Where our treasure is....

Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6 Labor Day seems a good time for us to reflect on the “treasures of our hearts.” What do we value most? How do we place our time, energy, and focus there? We don’t necessarily have one treasure, but many. However, we might ask ourselves on this Labor Day, where does my life’s work reside? What do I love most, value most, and want to nurture above all other things? As people of faith we are called, I believe, to value family and friends; they are trea

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. My beloved speaks and says to me: "Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away." Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10 1 My heart is stirring w