Costly Grace

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, January 13, 2019

The First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord
First Lesson: Isaiah 43:1-7
Psalm 29
Second Lesson: Acts 8:14-17
Gospel: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

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.

why-was-jesus-baptizedToday is the first Sunday after the Epiphany. The seasons of Advent and Christmas have passed. We have the Feast of the Epiphany and once again heard the magnificent story of the three wise men from the East who travel to Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn King. Now the church is ready to once again hear the miraculous stories in which God’s grace was revealed to the world through his beloved son, Jesus Christ. This will be the focus of our lectionary readings from now until the end of this liturgical season, leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

In all three years of our Sunday lectionary, the first Sunday after the Epiphany is when we remember the Baptism of our Lord by John the Baptizer at the River Jordan.  As we heard in today’s lesson from the Gospel of Luke, John says to crowd gathered at the river, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”The baptismal narrative in Luke’s Gospel concludes with a voice from heaven proclaiming to Jesus after his baptism, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Continue reading

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A Sermon for the First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ + January 7, 2018

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, January 8, 2018

The First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord
First Lesson: Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Second Lesson: Acts 19:1-7
Gospel: Mark 1:4-11

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.

26694861_1598507506907166_745071654_nLately, I’ve been reading a wonderful book by an author named Rachel Held Evans, who is probably most known for her blog posts and Christian-related articles. She posts a lot of her material on Facebook and Twitter, which is where I first learned about her. The title of the book that I’ve been reading is, “Searching for Sunday.” In it, Rachel writes candidly about her rocky relationship with the Church, beginning with childhood and continuing through college and young adulthood. She writes about the struggles and the frustrations of growing up in a tradition that had no tolerance for people who asked questions or expressed their concerns or doubt. She writes about the fear and disappointment of eventually leaving Church altogether and the hope of one day finding a way back.

Rachel’s story is not uncommon. I’m convinced that many young adults her age (and my age) end up leaving Church, not because they’re heathens who don’t care about having a relationship with God or serving those in need, but because they’re common perception of the Church is one of hypocrisy and intolerance. They see a Church that is more concerned with keeping certain people out than bringing people together, a Church that is more concerned with keeping its doors open than reaching out to those on the margins of society. This self-serving image of the Church is what so many people have come to associate with modern-day Christianity, and because of this, they’ve become apathetic. In other words, they could take it or leave it. They certainly have better things to do with their time off on Sunday mornings than to be told what to think and how to believe. Who can really blame them for their apathy if they think that, in order to be part of a church, they have to be willing to give up the ability to think for themselves and sacrifice what they know to be true in their hearts. 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

A Sermon for the First Sunday after the Epiphany

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, January 8, 2017

The First Sunday after the Epiphany + Year A
First Lesson: Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Second Lesson: Acts 10:34-43
Gospel: Matthew 3:13-17

+ Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak through 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.

fig-13I’d like to begin my sermon this morning by taking just a few moments to thank you all for the warmth and hospitality that you’ve shown toward me and my family over the last several weeks. When we first received the call to come to Chelsea in November, our first reaction pure joy! We were so excited to be called back home to Alabama. But, then we quickly realized that a lot needed to happen between the end of November and the beginning of January in order to get us here. Not to mention that it was only a few weeks before Christmas! As you can imagine, it was quite overwhelming at times, but what made it all worthwhile was knowing that we would soon be welcomed with open arms into our new home here at St. Catherine’s. We can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done for us- everything from helping us move here to bringing us meals- you’ve gone above and beyond what we could’ve hoped for, and for that, we are truly grateful.

A little over thirty years ago, a council within the Anglican Communion began developing a statement that would eventually be used to express the Anglican Communion’s understanding of God’s mission in the world and the Church’s commitment to that mission. Over the course of six years, between 1984 and 1990, the council worked to develop what we now call the “Five Marks of Mission.” Continue reading

A Sermon for the Sunday after All Saints’ Day

The Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest
Abilene, Texas
Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Sunday after All Saint’s Day + Year C
First Lesson: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Psalm 149
Second Lesson: Ephesians 1:11-23
Gospel: Luke 6:20-31

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

hamiltonFor a little over a year now, the world of musical theater has been shaken up and given new life by what some people are calling one of the greatest musicals ever written. Of course, I’m talking about the Tony Award-winning musical, Hamilton, written and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the musical, Hamilton chronicles the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of our country, the first Secretary of the Treasury, and the creator of our banking system. The narrative begins with Hamilton’s arrival in the British colonies only a few years before the start of the Revolutionary War and spans his entire life, culminating in that famous duel between himself and Aaron Burr.

Now, I haven’t seen the show. Relatively speaking, not many people have. It’s very hard to get tickets, and the show has only played so far in New York City and Chicago. But, if you listen to the cast recording of Hamilton, you’ll quickly notice that it’s very unique and unlike any other musical that you might have heard. The story is told not only through dialogue but also through a stylistic combination of hip-hop and rap and various other styles of music, making it accessible and entertaining to a wide variety of people. Continue reading

A Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

The Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest
Abilene, Texas
Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost + Year C
First Lesson: II Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
Second Lesson: Galatians 6:1-16
Gospel: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

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

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Quote above the main entrance to the Immanuel Chapel at Virginia Seminary.

It is a tradition at the Virginia Theological Seminary 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 is 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. Continue reading