The Witness of the Martyrs

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14C)
August 11, 2019

Genesis 15:1-6
Psalm 33:12-22
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

68318842_1089277887947009_6900374056382496768_nIn April of 1965, a seminarian from the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts, published an article in The New Hampshire Churchman, the official magazine of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. In the article, the seminarian wrote about his journey south into the black belt, describing in painful detail the types of atrocities that he and other activists experienced and worked to overcome during the Civil Rights Movement, acts of violence and oppression that good people endured simply because of the color of their skin.

His journey brought him to Selma, Alabama, the site of  “Bloody Sunday” and the beginning of that five-day, fifty-four mile march along US Highway 80, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the capital steps in Montgomery. During his time in Selma, the seminarian encountered racism and bigotry at its worst, even from parishioners and clergy at the local Episcopal church. At the end of his article, the seminarian wrote, “Our life in Selma is filled with ambiguity, and in that we share with men everywhere. We are beginning to see as we never saw before that we are truly in the world and yet ultimately not of it. For through the bramble bush of doubt and fear and supposed success we are groping our way to the realization that above all else, we are called to be saints. That is the mission of the Church everywhere. And in this Selma, Alabama is like all the world: it needs the life and witness of militant saints.” Continue reading

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Resting at the Feet of Jesus

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 11C)
July 21, 2019

Genesis 18:1-10a
Psalm 15
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

benchRaise your hand if this situation sounds familiar to you. You have some time off from work. So, you’re out and about, getting things done and running errands. Maybe you’re at the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon buying groceries for the week ahead or you’re at the pharmacy filling a prescription. You happen to see someone you know. Maybe you haven’t seen this person in a long time or maybe they’re a close friend and you’re just happy to see them. You go up to this person and they ask you, “Hey! How are you?” You look at them and respond with a smile, “I’m good! Just busy!”

Does this sound familiar to anyone? I catch myself saying it all the time. “I’m good! Just busy!” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I would much rather be busy getting things done than spending most of my time sitting around doing nothing, but, as a society, I think we have to acknowledge the fact that “busy” has generally become the “go-to” answer we use at any given moment to describe our state of being. Staying busy has become our way of life, and resting from our work has become the exception. Rest has become a commodity, something we only do if we have extra time to spare in our busy schedules. Continue reading

The Good Samaritan

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10C)
July 14, 2019

Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Psalm 25:1-9
Colossians 1:1-4
Luke 10:25-36

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 10.54.16 AMOne of my favorite television sitcoms growing up was Seinfeld. If you never watched the show, it was basically a show about nothing. There were no ongoing plots or recurring themes. You could easily pick up in the middle of a season and completely understand what was going on. There were four main characters in the show: Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer, and each week, audiences would watch as this group of friends somehow became involved in the funniest and most preposterous situations that you could imagine.

The show’s series finale aired on May 14, 1998. In the finale, Jerry and George are getting ready to produce their own television show with the NBC network. Jerry is given access to the network’s private plane to fly from New York to California to begin working on the show, but before leaving, the four friends decide to fly to Paris for one last celebration together. During the flight, Kramer starts jumping up and down on the plane in order to get water out of his ears (I told you it’s a show about nothing), and when he does, he accidentally falls into the cockpit of the plane, causing the pilots to lose control and forcing them to make an emergency landing. Continue reading

Sent Forth

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9C)
July 7, 2019

Isaiah 66:1-14
Psalm 66:1-8
Galatians 6:1-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

rosary-3It’s a tradition at my seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, that every spring, on the evening before commencement, the graduating seniors are recognized and commissioned in a liturgy called the Service for the Mission of the Church. As you might imagine, one of the purposes of having such a service is to send forth those who have come to seminary to be formed for ordained ministry, but actually, what I love most about this service is that there’s no mention of ordination at any point during the liturgy. On the contrary, the Service for the Mission of the Church focuses on the ministry of all baptized Christians and the mission to which we are called – to “Go ye into all the World and Preach the Gospel.” You can find these iconic words from the Gospel of Mark printed above the main doorway of the chapel at the seminary, serving as a reminder to those who enter that all who are baptized into the Body of Christ are sent forth and commissioned to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus by word and example.

The Service for the Mission of the Church and the end of seminary is a powerful and moving experience for graduating seniors and their families. In many ways, it’s the culmination of years worth of hard work, commitment, and the willingness to answer a call to ministry that began long before the students ever arrived at the seminary. As exciting as it is, it can also be an unsettling time for graduating seniors and their families as the thought of leaving quickly turns into reality. Without much preparation at all, close friends and classmates are saying their “goodbyes” and getting ready to go their separate ways into the world to serve Christ and the Church. All of a sudden, it’s time to pack up and move to a new home with the uncertainty of not knowing what lies ahead. This is certainly what my family and I experienced as we prepared to leave the seminary community, and I suppose this is what it’s like for most people who are preparing to begin a new journey, people like the disciples in our Gospel lesson for this morning. Continue reading

Companions Along the Way

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday
June 16, 2019

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

hqdefaultAs many of you know, I was away for a few days this past week attending the “Invite Welcome Connect Summit” at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. It was a wonderful experience! While I was there, I had the opportunity to attend several workshops and dream of new ideas about how we can improve our ministry of evangelism and help newcomers and visitors feel welcomed into the life of the community. I can’t wait to share with you some of the things I learned and to begin implementing some of these new ideas!

While I was there, I also had the opportunity to catch up with some old friends and to enjoy the company of others who were there for the conference.

I was having a conversation at lunch one day with a friend of mine, a fellow priest from the Birmingham area. Somehow, the topic of preaching came up, and I shared with him that I was preaching this Sunday. You might guess what his first response was. “Oh, wow! This Sunday is Trinity Sunday! I’m so glad I avoided that one!” Continue reading

The Day of Pentecost

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday
June 9, 2019

Genesis 11:1-9
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
Acts 2:1-21
John 14:8-17, 25-27

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

180519074936-bishop-curry-royal-wedding-exlarge-169“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.”

These are the words of the prophet Joel, spoken by Peter on the first Day of Pentecost.

As Episcopalians, we often describe the Day of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church. Some of us celebrate each year by wearing red to our worship services. Many parishes have festive parties and decorate their parish halls with red balloons and streamers. Some even have a birthday cake decorated with tongues of fire or doves representing the Holy Spirit. I think all of these are wonderful ways to celebrate such an important day in the life of the Church! After all, the Day of Pentecost is the last day of the Easter season and one of the seven principle feasts of the Church year, ranking right up there with Christmas and Easter. For our parish, this day is especially meaningful as we celebrate the feast of our namesake. We are the Church of the Holy Spirit, and we have a special responsibility to consider what that name means for our life in Christ and how we’re being called upon as a community of faith to serve our brothers and sisters. Continue reading

The World is Waiting

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Sunday after the Ascension
June 2, 2019

Acts 16:16-34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
John 17:20-26

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

8e4c6fe2-c78c-43c3-9e57-74ddce31ab9aEarlier this week, I was having a conversation on the telephone with my priest from college. Some of you may know him. His name is Wells Warren, and up until last October, Father Wells was the priest and chaplain at St. Dunstan’s, the Episcopal campus ministry at Auburn University. He and his wife, Leigh, now live in Dillon, Montana, where Father Wells serves as the part-time priest at St. James Episcopal Church. I promise this isn’t the last time you’ll here Father Wells’s name. He’s been a close, personal friend and mentor to me for several years, and so much of who I am as a priest is because of his influence and encouragement.

In our conversation on Tuesday, we had a chance to catch up a bit, and one of the things I shared with him was my excitement about coming to Holy Spirit and beginning my time as your new rector. He shared my excitement and wished us many blessings as we begin our ministry together. Every time Father Wells and I share a conversation, he always ends our time by saying the same words. “Eric, I have such love and admiration for you and your family, and I’m so proud of the priest that you’ve become.” I have to admit that I’m at a loss for words every time he says that. I know deep in my heart that he means every word, but what I think Father Wells doesn’t fully realize is that I have the same love and admiration for him and what he’s done for me and my family in his ministry as a priest. I am who I am today because of his commitment to creating an environment of love and hospitality at St. Dunstan’s. I wouldn’t be standing here preaching to you this morning if it weren’t for his deep, abiding love for Jesus and the Episcopal Church. Continue reading

Choose Joy

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
The Fifth Sunday of Easter + Year C
May 19, 2019

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

newbornbaby-parentHenri Nouwen once wrote, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us.”

I’ve decided that joy is a spiritual discipline.

It’s not something that happens to us in an instant in the same way that we experience happiness.  Happiness comes and goes. We can be happy one minute and sad the next, and often, our degree of happiness depends on forces that are beyond our control. Continue reading

God is Always Near

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
The Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year C)
May 12, 2019

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

southern-grits-recipeSeveral years ago, before going to seminary, Chelsea and I were members of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Dothan, Alabama. One Sunday, our priest at the time, Mother Ede, preached a sermon that’s stuck with me for a long time. In her sermon, she shared with us a story that she had once heard from another priest. The story goes like this.

“Once upon a time, in the Deep South, a hungry man was having breakfast at a diner. A waitress took his order, and he asked for bacon and eggs with coffee. She brought the coffee right away, and then, a while later, came back with a heaping plate of food. He looked down, and–to his surprise–next to the bacon and eggs he’d ordered he also noticed a strange lump of runny, white porridge. ‘What’s this?’ he thought. When he spoke up to complain, the waitress shook her head and got a funny look on her face. ‘Honey,’ she said, ‘those is grits. You don’t order grits. Grits just comes.’” Continue reading

New Life is Always Possible

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Feast of the Resurrection: Easter Day
First Lesson: Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Gospel: Luke 24:1-12

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

notre-dame-crossThe heavenly messengers in our Gospel lesson for this morning said to the women at the tomb of Jesus, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

On Monday morning, the world watched in shock and bewilderment as the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was engulfed in flames. A beautiful symbol of our Christian faith, ancient and revered, was suddenly taken from us without any warning. My immediate thought, after seeing the initial news reports was, “Oh, Lord, please don’t tell me someone did this on purpose.” After further investigation, it was reported that the fire was likely caused by a chemical reaction during the process of renovating and restoring the eight hundred year old cathedral.

Nine hours after the fire began, it was finally extinguished, and what remained of the cathedral was a smoldering shell of its former glory. The building had suffered colossal damage. The spire above the cathedral had collapsed. Parts of the roof and all of the wooden architecture on the inside of the church had been reduced to embers and ash. Continue reading