A Sermon for the Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King + November 26, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King + Year A
First Lesson: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 95:1-7a
Second Lesson: Ephesians 1:15-23
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46

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.

24133440_1556888177735766_1956799327_nAbout three years ago, while I was in seminary in Alexandria, VA, and preparing for my ordination as a deacon, I had the opportunity to attend the funeral of a beloved member of our seminary community, the Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer, who was the former Bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem and professor of systematic theology and spiritual formation at the seminary. Bishop Mark was loved by many people. Throughout his ministry, he lived his life according to the Gospel of Jesus and remained committed to the mission of the Church. He was perhaps most known for his ecumenical work among Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Orthodox Christians. In his final years, even though his health began to diminish, he continued teaching classes at the seminary, and for those of us who were fortunate enough to have him as a professor before he was too sick to continue teaching, we lovingly referred to our time with the bishop as “Story Time with Bishop Mark.” Like Jesus, the bishop loved to tell stories. He especially loved telling stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary work in the building up of God’s Kingdom, people such as Mother Teresa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Telling stories was Bishop Mark’s way of illustrating for us his understanding of who God is and how God continues to be present in our lives. It was his way of saying that the Kingdom of God is not in some distant, unreachable place. The Kingdom of God is here and now, and we, as followers of Jesus, have been called to make God’s dream a reality, a dream that God has had for us since the very beginning of creation. That is the inheritance that God has prepared for us- a kingdom- one where God’s dream of reconciliation is fully realized. Continue reading

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A Sermon for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost + November 19, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost + Proper 28A
First Lesson: Zephaniah 1:7,12-18
Psalm 90:1-8
Second Lesson: I Thessalonians 5:1-11
Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

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.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my good friend and mentor, Wells Warren, who is the priest and chaplain at St. Dunstan’s, the Episcopal campus ministry at Auburn University. I’ve known Father Wells for almost thirteen years. Many of you know how incredibly dear he is to me and our entire family. He’s been present with us through so many important milestones in our lives and a constant source of comfort and support.

You can imagine, then, how shocked and worried I was to discover a few weeks ago that Father Wells had been in a serious bicycle accident during his long ride along the Natchez Trace in Mississippi. When I first heard the news, I couldn’t believe what had happened. Then, I learned that the accident was also a hit and run, and I became very angry. I asked myself, “How could someone hit a cyclist on the road and simply drive off as if nothing had happened?” Thankfully, Father Wells survived the accident, but he did suffer some pretty serious injuries. He’s back at home now, continuing to recover and gradually getting back into his work at the church. Continue reading

A Sermon for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost + November 12, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost + Proper 27A
First Lesson: Amos 5:18-24
Psalm 70
Second Lesson: I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13

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.

2924522876_f380d939ce_oLast Sunday, we had a great celebration here at St. Catherine’s during our Festival Eucharist for All Saints. We sang beautiful and uplifting hymns. We heard an inspiring anthem from our choir. Together, in communion with all the saints, we gathered at the Table to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, we welcomed two new members into the Body of Christ, Addison and Brodie Taylor. After the service, we enjoyed coffee and refreshments next door in the Annex, similar to what we do every week. I couldn’t help but leave church overjoyed and full of excitement for the future of our parish and all of the wonderful things that God is doing in our lives.

Then, I went home to discover the tragic news coming out of Texas, and my joy quickly turned into sorrow. According to news reports, a masked gunman had entered a small Baptist church in Sutherland Springs. Armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle, he shot and killed twenty-six people, including eight children, making it the worst mass shooting in Texas history. When I heard the news, my first thought was, “How could this happen?” “In a church of all places, how could this happen?” How could someone invade a house of God during worship and commit such a horrific act? My initial thoughts quickly turned into feelings of guilt and fear. I felt guilty knowing that, while we were celebrating such a wonderful day here at church, our brothers and sisters in Texas were experiencing a living nightmare, something that no one should ever have to live through. I felt afraid knowing that the same thing could easily happen in a place like St. Catherine’s, a small church in a small town, the last place where you would expect such a terrible thing to occur.  Continue reading

A Sermon for All Saints’ Sunday + November 5, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, November 5, 2017

All Saints’ Sunday + Year A
First Lesson: Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10,22
Second Lesson: I John 3:1-3
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

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.

23315810_1536736463084271_2015911344_nThis past Wednesday evening, we had a beautiful service of Evensong here at St. Catherine’s to celebrate the Feast of All Saints. In case you’re unfamiliar with what Evensong is, it’s basically our liturgy for Evening Prayer set to music. At the end of our service, we said special prayers for all of the saints- for patriarchs, martyrs, and apostles and for men and women in every generation of the Church, both known and unknown to us, who have dedicated their lives to serving God and God’s people.  We also spent some time remembering those “everyday saints” in our lives- for friends, family members, and loved ones who have died but continue to inspire us and encourage us through their dedication and commitment to the Gospel. I couldn’t help but think of our dear brother, Charlie Boone, who passed into the nearer presence of God earlier this year.

All Saints’ Day, which can also be celebrated on the following Sunday, provides us with an opportunity to remember and give thanks for those who have come before us, but it also provides us with an opportunity to contemplate how we might pattern our lives to continue their legacy so that we might also be counted among the saints in light. Continue reading