The Love of God

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
First Lesson: Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Gospel: Luke 4:21-30

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.

holy-crossHave you ever seen those short, black and white, “Coffee with Jesus” comic strips on Facebook? Do you know the ones I’m talking about? If you’re on Facebook regularly and you’re friends with at least a few other Episcopalians, you might’ve come across these at some point. They feature a modern-day Jesus with dark, long hair and a beard. He’s usually pictured wearing some sort of business suit and holding a cup of coffee while he has a casual conversation with one or two other characters.

These “Coffee with Jesus” comic strips are usually light-hearted and funny, but they also tend to be very thought-provoking, using humor and sarcasm to illustrate deep, theological points about God and our relationship with God. Continue reading

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The Hospitality of Jesus

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
First Lesson: Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 36:5-10
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Gospel: John 2:1-11

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.

wine-2Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to help plan a wedding.

It takes a lot of work, doesn’t it? Chelsea and I have been married for almost thirteen years, and I still remember how stressful it was to plan all of the details for our big day- everything from the save-the-date cards to the reception after the ceremony. Ours was a relatively small affair. So, I can’t even begin to imagine how stressful it must be for those who choose to have larger, more elaborate weddings.

There are so many details to consider when planning a wedding. There’s the guest list, which might change at any moment. There’s the location for the rehearsal dinner, which of course has to be reserved months in advance. There’s the ceremony itself, which has to be beautiful and memorable but definitely not too long. There’s the photography session after the service, which may or may not be held outside depending on the weather. There’s the menu for the reception, which has to include food and drinks that everyone will enjoy. So many details and so many things that can go wrong at a moment’s notice. They say, “the devil is in the details,” and I think that’s right, especially when it comes to weddings. Continue reading

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

The Greatest Gifts

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ
First Lesson: Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Second Lesson: Ephesians 3:1-12
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12

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.

magithreegiftsIt’s normally a strict rule in the Mancil household each year that no Christmas presents may be opened until Christmas morning, and with a couple of exceptions, we’ve stuck pretty close to that rule. You can ask Sophie and Jude if you don’t believe me. However, we decided this year to let that rule slide just a little bit.

A few months ago, I discovered a new children’s book that I really wanted to give to Sophie and Jude on Christmas Eve night, a book by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Brown Taylor. If you’ve heard me preach at least a few times, you’ve probably heard me use a quote from Barbara Brown Taylor, whether it was from a sermon that she once wrote or from one of her many outstanding books. Continue reading

We Are Not Alone

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, December 24, 2018

The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ
First Lesson: Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Second Lesson: Titus 2:11-14
Gospel: Luke 2:1-20

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.

dr._seuss_the_grinch_stillA few days after Thanksgiving, Chelsea and I took the kids to the movie theater to see “The Grinch,” a modern-day, retelling of the classic Dr. Seuss book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly recommend it. The creators of this modern spin on the classic, Christmas tale did a wonderful job expanding upon the story of the Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small,” and offering viewers a glimpse into the Grinch’s past, helping to explain why he’s so bitter and why he has such a strong hatred for Christmas in the first place. All of the major plot points from the original story are still there. The Whos down in Whoville are making their final preparations for Christmas, and they’re filled with more Christmas joy than Santa’s elves on Christmas Eve. This is all too much for the Grinch to bear, and he finally decides that he must do something to prevent Christmas from happening. So, he comes up with a devilish plan. He’ll disguise himself as Santa Claus, sneak into the homes of the Whos on Christmas Eve night, and steal from them everything having to do with Christmas- everything from the gifts under their Christmas trees to the beautiful lights and decorations on their homes. And, once he’s completed his mission, he’ll take all of their beloved gifts and decorations to the top of Mount Crumpit and dump them over the ledge. Continue reading

The Prophet Mary

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year C)
First Lesson: Micah 5:2-5a
Canticle 15: The Song of Mary
Second Lesson: Hebrews 10:5-10
Gospel: Luke 1:39-55

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.

mary as prophet, detailIf you’ll indulge me this morning, I’d like to begin my sermon by sharing with you a poem by one of my favorite contemporary poets, Malcolm Guite, who also serves as a priest in the Church of England. The title of this poem is “The Visitation.”

Here is a meeting made of hidden joys,
Of lightenings cloistered in a narrow place,
From quiet hearts the sudden flame of praise
And in the womb the quickening kick of grace.
Two women on the very edge of things
Unnoticed and unknown to men of power,
But in their flesh the hidden Spirit sings
And in their lives the buds of blessing flower
And Mary stands with all we call ‘too young’,
Elizabeth with all called ‘past their prime’.
They sing today for all the great unsung,
Women who turned eternity to time,
Favoured of heaven, outcast on the earth,
Prophets who bring the best in us to birth. Continue reading

Every Christmas is Perfect

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Third Sunday of Advent (Year C)
First Lesson: Zephaniah 3:14-20
Canticle 9: The First Song of Isaiah
Second Lesson: Philippians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 3:7-18

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.

mangerToday is the Third Sunday of Advent, which means that, after today, there’s only one Sunday left before Christmas. It seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? This season goes by so fast, which is probably one of the reasons why we’re encouraged to try and slow down in the midst of it all, to take a deep breath and to spend some time reflecting on what this season is really about.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

If you’re like me, the laundry list of things that have to get “checked off” before December 24th keeps getting longer and longer, and it feels like there will never be enough time to get it all done. During the holidays, we put so much pressure on ourselves to have the “perfect” Christmas-

  • to find the most beautiful Christmas tree;
  • to get all of the decorations put up on time;
  • to bake all of the special treats that we want to share with friends and family;
  • to purchase just the right gifts for our loved ones;
  • and the list goes on and on.

Why is it that we put so much pressure on ourselves during this time of year? When we know that Advent is a time for stillness and contemplation, why is it that we load ourselves down with so many extra things to do? Continue reading

Waiting for Jesus

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, December 2, 2018

The First Sunday of Advent (Year C)
First Lesson: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-9
Second Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Gospel: Luke 21:25-36

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.

160825084841_1_540x360A few days ago, I came across an article on social media from the Episcopal Café, an independent website that publishes news and articles having to do with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition. Knowing that the First Sunday of Advent was quickly approaching, the title of the article immediately caught my attention. It was entitled, “The Waiting,” and it was written by a priest from the Diocese of Missouri named Leslie Scoopmire.

In the article, Leslie describes an experience that she recently had while waiting in traffic for fifteen minutes in order to get to a meeting at her church. She describes those same feelings of frustration and impatience that we all get while waiting in the car to get to our desired location. As I was reading about her experience, I could actually feel myself tensing up and getting anxious as if I was in the car with her. Those of us who have lived in the Birmingham area for even a short while know exactly what I’m talking about. Continue reading

There’s Only One God

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28B)
First Lesson: Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16
Second Lesson: Hebrews 10:11-25
Gospel: Mark 13:1-8

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.

ThorDarkWorld_2194942100-TDW0NNG1._V362444527_RI_SX940_Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.”

Anyone who knows me knows that I love superheroes.

It’s true. I love superheroes and stories about superheroes. I’ve loved them ever since I was a young child when I would beg my father to make me a Batman costume after watching the classic Batman television series from the 1960s, starring Adam West. Continue reading

A Living Sacrifice

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27B)
First Lesson: 1 Kings 17:8-16
Psalm 146
Second Lesson: Hebrews 9:24-28
Gospel: Mark 12:38-44

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.

45702861_10156419538850845_6461514487055777792_nOn Election Day this past Tuesday, I saw a picture on social media that was posted by the Equal Justice Initiative (also known as EJI), a non-profit organization based in Montgomery that helps provide legal representation to prisoners in Alabama who may have been wrongfully convicted or denied a fair trial because of racial discrimination and other forms of inequality. They also work very closely with prisoners on death row. The picture was of a man named Anthony Ray Hinton, who in 1985 was accused and wrongfully convicted of murdering two restaurant managers in the Birmingham area. Mr. Hinton was sentenced to death for crimes that he didn’t commit, and he sat waiting on death row for almost thirty years, stripped of all his rights, before he was finally released in April of 2015.

This past Tuesday, he voted in the mid-term elections as a free man. The smile on his face in the picture that I saw was priceless. It filled my heart with joy to know that he was so happy. Continue reading