Keep My Commandments, Easter 7 2017

end famine elca

Morsels & Stories: I talked about #praytoendfamine.  You can learn more here.

Sermon: Jesus tells us to love him and keep his commandments.  What does Jesus tell us about how we best keep commandments?


The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with John 14:15-21.


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The Commandments, The Love, The Way Easter 5 2017

the commandmentsMorsels & Stories: I talked about the part of the Eucharistic Prayer called the anamnesis.  How time gets slippery, bringing the past forward so it is present with us during the Eucharist.  I read from “The Cult as Recapitulation of the History of Salvation,” Jean Jacques von Allman’s essay in Primary Sources of Liturgical Theology.

Sermon: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and it is a way that leads back through the ancient texts and commandments.

The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with John 14:1-14.


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The sheep outside, Easter 4 2017

The Good Shepherd cares about the sheep left outsideMorsels & Stories: I read from the introduction to Rabbi Kushner’s reflection on psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd.


Sermon:  I remember a story we read about a month ago about Samuel heading off to anoint the boy out in the field with the sheep.


The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with John 10:1-10.  The story about Samuel is from 1 Samuel 16:1-13.


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Quest Long and Prosper

One of the more fun things I had to do while seeking ordination (often called The Process because it is long—8 years in my case—and arduous and can veer straight into institutionalized hazing), was a summer parish internship.  I was offered a position at a little church, where I stayed in their apartment and could walk down to the farmers market Sundays after services.  As I’ve been ordained longer and preached more, I’ve been increasingly thankful for that church.  They very kindly listened to some sermons I would preach very differently now.

But along with their homiletical patience, an inside peek at day to day Church life and power differentials, they also taught me something very important about who sits in our pews: Geeks.

I’d preached a sermon that mentioned my deep love of speculative fiction (SF—often called science fiction and fantasy).  It wasn’t horrible.  And while I don’t remember the details of the sermon, I do remember that for the rest of the morning people would approach me, always when it would be just the two of us, and confess their love for Star Trek.  We are all, I learned that morning, Star Trek geeks. 

This memory surfaces when I’m afraid I’m about to get too geeky for people.  It’s a balm against a the cultural norm that asks us geeks to stay in the basement with our dice, books, and to-scale models.  It helps me remember that, even when the rest of the world seems a little too normal, I have a place in the pews with all the other geeks.

My friend, Jordan Haynie Ware, wrote a fabulous book about the Church and Geeks.  Jordan and I go way back on Twitter and were once in the same room at General Convention 2012.  She is awesome.  She is a geek.  Ultimate Quest: A Geek’s Guide to (The Episcopal) Church (CA link) establishes her as a wise and witty writer.

Far more effectively than the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Ware draws readers through the basics of Christian faith, with an special eye on Episcopal pomp and circumstance.  She manages both an eye for the essential things people first wandering into the Church would need or want to know with enough detail to impress some longtime attendees at coffee hour.  And please join in me in giggling, hopefully internally, next time a congregation near you starts some “communal slam poetry.”

As the title promises, Ware introduces lay and clergy in gaming terms,

“Laypeople are the front-line fighters of the Christian party.  Clergy are the caster—they hang back “buffing” with encouragement and teaching, “detecting magic” by naming the Holy in everyday life, and “healing,” by offering the sacramental presence of God when that everyday life gets rough.” (pg 47)

managing a delightful balance of truth, humour, with a deft combination of Church and gaming geek-doms. 

Through out the book Ware shows her thorough knowledge of many corners of SF and Church worlds, citing the Bible, Joss Whedon’s works, The Prayer Book, The Princess Bride, Hamilton, papal encyclicals, Marion Zimmer Bradley, CS Lewis, and, yes, Star Trek among many others.  And if you don’t know all of these inside out there’s a bibliography (“Worlds Unknown”) in the back—you can find some new favourite authors and artists. 

Definitely written with a particular care for those who are new or newly exploring faith and the Church, this book would fit nicely into the shelves of all faithful geeks as we seek to “Quest long and prosper.”

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Salty, February 2017

saltMorsels & Stories: I talked about why and how we clean up after communion.


Sermon: Why salt isn’t like other spices.



The lessons for today can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with Matthew 5:13-20.



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I have seen the Lord! Easter 2016

Triduum Triptych by Jo Nygard Owens used with permission

Triduum Triptych by Jo Nygard Owens
used with permission

Morsels & Stories: Why colour Easter eggs?  I tell the story of Mary Magdalene’s red eggs.


Sermon: Mary runs to tell the apostles, “I have seen the Lord!”  Just as Mary, Hannah, and Miriam also proclaimed God’s miracles.


The lessons for today be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with John 20:1-18.




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Washing Feet, remembered

A brief snippet from a longer piece I’m working on:

In seminary our liturgy professor told my class that the Triduum, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, preach themselves.  And I knew that it was true. 

I remember the liturgy, but not what my priest said about it, not how it was presented, not how the logistics happened (even now I have to look things up and walk through it in my head).  My memory simply holds the story of this days, more than the details.

It must’ve been middle school when I first attended this liturgies.  I remember watching the women in the choir slip off shoes and knee high pantyhose.  For my middle school, engineer raised self, this was insight into the mystery of womanhood and sudden equality with people I looked up to.  Somehow, tonight, we became more alike than not.
I remember strangers, for all that we’d worshipped together for half a decade or more, handling my o-so-sensitive feet kindly and gently—unlike my brothers who still delighted in tickling me breathless. 

And I still walk away from the simplicity of chairs, basins, towels, and water wondering how they add up to so very much.

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

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Holy Ordinary Ashes

If you look back through my sermons (link), especially my Maundy Thursday ones, you’d find a repeating theme that Jesus took ordinary things and made them holy.  We can see this in baptism where water is turned into our sacramental entrance to God’s family, in communion when bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood to sustain us, in God’s choosing us to carry the truth of God’s love to the world. 

This evening I was thinking about how Ash Wednesday, especially as we prepare, might be the time in the Church calendar where we most live the ordinary things turned holy.

It all starts a few weeks before Lent when I invite those who can still find (or if you’re more organized than me, just have) their palms from Palm Sunday to bring them back.  A small pile collects near the Church office. 

Then on Shrove Tuesday, I collect any interested people.  Although my church folds our palms into cross, I always ask if people want to come burn the palms.  Out in the parking lot, I crumple a few pieces of old bulletins in the bottom of the metal bowl I bought my first year here at the Good Sam down the road.  The small group gathers around as I light the matches from the sacristy and touch it to the paper.  And then people: parishioners, those who mostly turned up for the pancakes, Scouts, parents, teens, the eager, and the reticent put the palms into the flame.  I occasionally remind people to keep feeding (as it does burn out and did tonight), and ask people to be mindful that the palms burn into the bowl.  And then, it’s over.  The last palm has been burned; the remaining embers left flickering. 

As the others leave, the fun over, I take the oven mitt I bring from home and move the bowl more deeply into the snow (thankfully we live in Alberta so there’s a lot of potential fire stopper around—and never mix ash and water).  I usually make a few rounds of the church—checking in with the pancake supper clean-up and checking on the ashes as they cool.  Then I gingerly double check the temperature of the bowl before I carry them inside.  I like to take mine to the wide empty counter in the Sacristy where I smash them a bit  with a rock, this year one I picked up on my evening dog walk.  I make sure they are all small smear-able pieces, pull out any thing that didn’t quite char completely.

Truthfully, I usually remember to bring the olive oil early on Ash Wednesday.  We only use a few drops a year, so I just snag the one from my kitchen.  I mix a few drops in (trying to aim for dryer as I can’t really start over).  Not everyone does this but it’s my preference as I find it makes the ashes smear just a little better.  Then I divide the ashes into two small clear bowls.  One I bought at the same time I bought the metal bowl.  The other was lurking in the very back of a kitchen cabinet.

And that’s my story behind the Ashes of Ash Wednesday.  A second hand metal bowl.  Two mismatched clear bowls.  A rock from the side of a sidewalk.  Palms people opt not to keep.  Olive oil from my kitchen.  Tomorrow they become a reminder of our mortality, tomorrow they help us begin Lent, prepare for Easter.  The ordinary, in this case almost the obscenely ordinary, turned into vehicles for the Holy.

The God whom I love delights in this sort of Divine joke.

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Struggle, July 2015

Robyns SermonsMorsels and Stories: Discipline not punishment

Sermon: Struggle

Today we hear some of David’s sins.  And it’s a text, along with others and much of our world and lives, that we should struggle with.


The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with 2 SAMUEL 11:1-15.


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Needing Air Masks

I loved how Holy Week and Easter morning unfolded this year.  Of course, I find that the richness of the liturgy is so great that no matter how many mistakes I may make, the significance and connection these services offer doesn’t fail.  After Easter Sunday I took three days off.  Well, Monday is one of my usual days off but I took Tuesday and Wednesday too.

Taking time off is a bit of a pain and I almost always have to force myself to actually do it.  Routinely, I sit in my office in the days leading up to time off arranging for others to cover some responsibilities, cancelling some events, delaying some conversations, praying that no one dies, and talking myself into actually being gone.  It seems easier in these moments not to leave.  Not taking time off would save me from writing the email detailing work that I do from memory, keep me from saying “later” to conversations that I enjoy having, wouldn’t have me asking other people to go out of their way to let me sleep in.

Three things stop me.  One, as someone quoted someone else as saying, “an overworked priest is depriving others of their baptismal ministry.”  If I insist on doing everything myself, I am, at some point, getting in the way of someone else doing things God has called them to.  

Two, many of the things I do are not essential.  The Church, not even my little parish, will not collapse if we have to make do without bulletins or if the newsletter doesn’t get emailed. 

And third, taking my vacation time is what allows me to keep being a priest.  This work I do is exhausting.  Not because my hours (especially in Lent and Holy Week) can be long, not because I work almost every weekend and major holiday, not because of evening meetings or unpredictable phone calls.  This work is exhausting because to be with a community and to listen to the joys and sorrows, the struggles and and griefs, is exhausting.  It is holy work and there’s nothing else I want to do.  But it is hard.  My body and my soul both need times of rest and renewal.  

Not too long ago I read that Reverend Willimon has invited us to reconsider Sabbath as more than time off but as time for God.  I find vacation time, and similarly regular days off, grey space where I need the time off to care for myself so that I can keep looking forward to going to work.  They are time for me and time for God.

When it’s hard, either being a priest or taking time off, I remind myself of an analogy a seminary classmate shared (which had been shared with her and in the great economy I have shared many times since).  During the emergency announcements on a plane, we are told to put our own air mask on before helping someone else with theirs.  Not because we don’t want everyone to be able to breath, but because if we don’t put our own air mask on first we won’t breath.

Why did I take three days off after Easter?  Because I needed my air mask.  Lent and a Holy Week has been particularly full of work this year with lots of nights and Saturdays (my other day off) and a few Mondays.  My house needed cleaning.  My body needed rest.  My spirit needed rejuvenation.

I needed my air mask.

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