Come Back Home

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18C)
September 8, 2019

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 1
Philemon 1-21
Luke 14:25-33

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

10001841_H11907626-600x350In September of 2016, a video was released on the Episcopal Church’s website featuring our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. Of course, this was before the world knew him as the charismatic bishop who preached at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In the video, Bishop Curry talks about the Jesus Movement. Now, this should come as no surprise to any of you who have heard our Presiding Bishop speak or deliver a sermon. He loves to talk about the Jesus Movement! Everyone in the Episcopal Church has been talking about it. In fact, the phrase has become so popular among Episcopalians over the past four years that it’s even shown up in our merchandise. Yes! You, too, can buy a bumper sticker that says, “We are the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.” 

But what, exactly, is the Jesus Movement? We use that phase a lot, but I think it’s important that we talk about what it really means. In Bishop Curry’s video, he paints us a picture of the Jesus Movement by reflecting on a pivotal moment that occurs every week in our worship when we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Slowly walking in the midst of the noise and commotion of Manhattan, the Bishop describes that moment in our liturgy when we stand and sing praises to God as we prepare our hearts and minds to receive God’s Word through the reading of the Gospel. We stand, and we sing. The Gospel Book is held high as the procession moves from the Altar to the center of the Nave where the words and teachings of Jesus will be read in the midst of the people. And, as all of this is happening, everyone in the congregation re-orients themselves in order to see the place where the Gospel will be proclaimed. Quite literally, we turn toward Jesus, and in that moment, according to Bishop Curry, “the Church has become the Jesus Movement, with life re-oriented around the teachings of Jesus and around his very spirit— teachings and a spirit that embody the love of God in our lives and in this world.” Continue reading

Jesus Is Already There

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16C)
August 25, 2019

Isaiah 58:9b-14
Psalm 103:1-8
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

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

bigstock-hands-begging-on-a-brown-backg-80780228I’m a huge fan of Brené Brown. If you’ve never heard of Brené, do yourself a favor. Go home, and look her up on the internet. You’ll come to discover that Brené is a well-known author and public speaker. An added bonus is that she also happens to be an Episcopalian, but you may not find that by doing a simple, Google search. Brené and her family live in Texas where she works as a professor at the University of Houston. Perhaps the most important thing that you should know about Brené is that she has spent a significant amount of her life and career as a researcher and storyteller. Her research has led her to collect data and conduct interviews in the areas of vulnerability, courage, shame, and authenticity. You might recognize her name from one of the books that she’s written or from her appearances on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. Or, perhaps you’ve seen one of the videos floating around on YouTube featuring one of her TED Talks. I haven’t seen it yet, but most recently, she did a one-hour special on Netflix entitled “The Call to Courage.” She’s remarkably tuned in to so many of the destructive feelings that we, as a society, suffer from on a daily basis- feelings like shame, fear, and insecurity- and she’s inspired countless people with her healing and uplifting words of encouragement. Continue reading

The Marvelous Peace of God

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15C)
August 18, 2019

Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

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

180809-ex-kkk-ken-parker-se-258p__a48b812e269efc7d61718185d9635057.nbcnews-fp-1200-630In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus says to the crowd, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

This doesn’t sound like something Jesus would say, does it?

To me, it sounds more like something we might hear from the villain in a movie or television show. It certainly doesn’t sound like the Jesus I know, the one whom we often refer to as “Prince of Peace.” After all, this is the same Jesus who came to live and die as one of us to show us how to love each other as God loves us, the same Jesus who came to restore God’s creation and open for us the way to everlasting life. This is the same Jesus who said to his disciples after he was raised from the dead, “Peace be with you.” The Gospels are filled with many examples of Jesus and his message of peace. So, the last thing we would expect to hear in our Gospel lesson for today is that Jesus has come to bring division to the earth. It just doesn’t fit with what we know to be true about who Jesus is and what he came to do during his time on earth. Continue reading

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

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