Monthly Archives: January 2012

Epiphany 4, 2012

The Lessons for this Sunday can be found here. I worked most closely with Psalm 111.

How are we to praise God in an assembly of the upright when we know that we often aren’t? And yet we come together every week, as we should.

N.B. The quotes are close but not exact. My memory was only up to so much this morning. The West Wing episode is “Game On” and the Merton quote comes from Thoughts in Solitude.

(There will be a few moments of silence before the sermon starts. Thank you for your patience.)

Listen: Epiphany 4, 2012

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Epiphany 3, 2012

The lessons for this Sunday can be found here.I worked most closely with Jonah 3:1-5, 10.

Jonah spent 3 days walking across Ninevah and the whole city repented. Not bad….

(There will be a few moments of silence before the sermon starts. Thank you for your patience.)

Listen: Epiphany 3, 2012

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Good Theology Saves

I read. All sorts and types of things. I read people who agree with me, people who disagree with me, people who almost or mostly do one or the other.

I read for work. The Bible, I hope obviously; liturgies and about them; sermons, my own and others; theology; social and political commentary; current events; and anything else that will make me think, make me stretch, help me better understand people, help me better articulate a faith which is beyond words.

I read for fun (and sanity). Fiction—most often science fiction, but also mysteries, horror (it has be really good), and whatever else I find and enjoy. Poetry because I fall in love with a well-turned phrase. Memoirs because I love learning about how others experience their lives.

I read.

Right now, in this season of my life, a season with more than a little grief, a time when it is challenging to remain optimistic, I’m reading for a new reason. I’m reading for hope. I’ve survived tough times before. Often enough that I sometimes thing that between all of the fingerprints, hand impressions, and nail troughs I have made trying to hang on to faith, hope, and love, I should have gotten better at it. More dextrous. More able to secret away the right-sized portion to sustain me.

Instead I’m bookmarking my way through hope. Literally bookmarking my way through Jurgen Moltman’s Theology of Hope. Underlining passages and scribbling notes on my bookmark. I am a thorough reader.

As I work to pastor and serve my congregation through change, trying to bring to our times together the right combination of my very real grief and the eternal reassurance that nothing is lost in God, I need someone else to remind me of those things.

I need the voice of Moltmann, a German theologian, alive but only real to me through words on the pages in front of me. I need him to remind me that God, while keeping us firmly in the present, calls us into a hope and a future that leave all Christians disquieted. I need to be reminded, in the midst of my now, that “hope casts [me] upon the future that is not yet.” (pg 26)

Because hope is hard. It is hard, in the face of the loss and grief which are so common in this world, to continue to stand on the eternal reassurance of God’s promises. It is hard, after the kind of long day which leaves one feeling empty to rise the next morning ready to praise and serve.

And it is harder yet to continue to believe that these things are necessary, that they are the actions of faith. That they are hopeful. But they are. And even though I know this, I still need Moltmann’s word to remind me that, “Faith and love are timeless acts which remove us out of time, because they make us wholly ‘present’.” (pg 30)

The joy of a book is that it will be wholly present to you just as you need it be. So no one minds as I make my way through Theology of Hope far more slowly than I usually read, savoring the words, sustaining myself on the reminders that hope is not only worth holding onto, but still being held out for me to grab. Right now, Moltmann and his Theology of Hope is saving me.

This post is one of many for Provoketive’s synchroblog on Hope.  Please go read my fellow writer’s reflections, stories, and hopes here.

Categories: Theology, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Epiphany 2, 2012

The lessons for this Sunday can be found here. I worked most closely with 1 Samuel 3:1-20 and 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.

Samuel (and Eli’s sons), Paul, and Martin Luther King Jr. “All things are lawful for me but not all things are beneficial.” Paul is making an ageless point. The pursuit of what is beneficial for ourselves, our community, and God ought to be always before us.

(There will be a few moments of silence before the sermon begins. Thank you for your patience.)

Listen: Epiphany 2, 2012

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Layers of Grief

When I moved into my office—my only one amid the Churches I was called to, I did it with verve. I was the first new priest in 20 years, and possibly the first to use this space in longer than that, based on the dust. Boxes of books were piled into the Honda sedan I drove, my brother’s help was solicited for the unpacking and cleaning, a new area rug purchased, and the furniture rearranged.  My books—arranged by subject area, new color with the rug, less dust, more friendly. Suddenly, the office space was mine. It was a new beginning, a new chance.

Moving out has been a slow trickle. More like fading away. Every time I’m there I take a tote bag of books away with me, carting them out of the office and building. Carefully selected to be the books that will be missed least from the shelves, the ones I will least likely mind having buried in the back of their temporary shelving in my apartment. I take my time selecting them, always making me the last to leave, solitary in my little ritual of grief.

Because there will be no new priest after me. No one will rearrange the furniture again. No books will replace mine on the shelves. I need not debate whether to leave my lovely rug for my successor, wondering if they will want it. St John’s is closing, the parish dissolving. The gamble we took together, the mostly impossible task I described in one of my first sermons, has proven beyond us.

You can ask why. I do. I even have answers. There are the double handful of answers I give on even days about the changing demographics of small towns; about being Episcopalian in a conservative town; statistics about mainline Churches; the ability of any congregation to change; and my worry about being young, female, and liberal. Then there are the answers I give on odd days while looking between my hands and my reflection in a mirror, knowing that it wasn’t enough and wondering what might have been, if only…

In between I know that these answers, any and all of them, don’t matter. I mean, they matter to academics and perhaps to the priest in the next town over hoping their church is is where St John’s was ten years ago. But not to me, not to the faithful remnant who will attend the secularization of our Church’s building with the Bishop and I.

Answers are only a layer of our grief.

Our grief as we celebrated our last Christmas together as a parish. Our grief as we recognize that we will not celebrate Easter together. Our grief as we all remember funerals, baptisms, and weddings, and holy conversation held in this space. As we begin to make decisions about where the stuff of our parish should go. One or two items relating to the history of the 100+ year old parish to the town museum. One or two items crafted by family members to their descendants who are parishioners. One or two will come home with me, as memorials and for my continued use. And the rest, hopefully, to other Churches, where they will continue to be used to the glory of God. In the midst of all this grief, we gather to celebrate Eucharist and count out our last few services together, in much the same way as family gathered around a deathbed keeps track of the breaths, full of grief and the knowledge that the end is coming.

Categories: Church, Priest's Life | 1 Comment

The Baptism of Jesus, 2012

The Lessons for the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord can be found here. I worked with Genesis 1:1-5 and Mark 1:4-11.

It all begins with water: creation, Jesus’s ministry, Christian life. Mostly gratuitous Hebrew and Star Trek references thrown in, both for my own amusement.

(There will be a few moments of silence before the sermon starts. Thank you for your patience.)

Listen: Baptism of Jesus, 2012

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Holy Name, 2012

The Lessons for the Feast of the Holy Name can be found here. I worked most closely with Philippians 2:5-11 and the history of God’s name.

God’s name was not to be spoken and then Gabriel had a meeting with Mary.

(There will be a few moments of silence before the sermon begins. Thank you for your patience.)

Listen: Holy Name, 2012

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