Costly Grace

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, January 13, 2018

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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The Greatest Gifts

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, January 6, 2018

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

A Sermon for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany + February 11, 2018

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

The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
First Lesson: 2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Gospel: Mark 9:2-9

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.

27939340_1633849510039632_1598304361_nThirteen years ago, during my last semester at Auburn University, I was invited by my college priest to attend a weekend retreat in the Diocese of Alabama called Vocaré. Being new to the Episcopal Church at the time, I had no idea what to expect when I was first invited. I was simply told that Vocaré was a great opportunity for college students and young adults to explore how God might be calling to them in their lives, and after talking with friends who had already been to Vocaré, I decided that it might also be a wonderful way to grow in my relationship with God and to meet new people from around the diocese.

So, in February of 2005, I made the journey from Auburn to Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama, and I spent three days listening to fellow pilgrims share their stories about how God was at work in their lives. During our time at camp, we were invited and encouraged to explore our own sense of vocation and to ask ourselves important questions about who we are as disciples of Jesus. We spent time sitting by crackling fires in the dining hall at Camp McDowell playing games and singing cheesy camp songs. We shared meals and intimate conversations with each other, and we were comforted and surrounded by members of the staff who were there to care for us and to lift us up in their prayers during our journey. In short, I would describe Vocaré as a “mountain-top” experience, a moment in my life when time seemed to stand still and the cares and worries of the world seemed to melt away. Continue reading

A Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany + January 14, 2018

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
First Lesson: I Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
Second Lesson: I Corinthians 6:12-20
Gospel: John 1:43-51

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.

26943567_1605250556232861_988909064_n“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” I love this question that Nathanael asks Philip in today’s Gospel lesson soon after Philip tells him that he’s discovered the Messiah. To me, there’s something so human about it, something so relatable. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” This question makes me ponder the number of times in my life when I probably asked a similar question, a question based on my own skepticism or prejudice toward a particular person, place, or group of people before actually taking the time to get to know them. I think this is something that most of us wrestle with pretty frequently. We have preconceived notions about people that we don’t know and places that we’ve never been, and to our detriment, we let those preconceived ideas cloud our judgments and opinions. We let fear of the unknown control our thoughts and actions, and we let it get in the way of our ability to trust others and to love as Christ has called us to love. Continue reading

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