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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

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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

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

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