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

Choose Joy

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
The Fifth Sunday of Easter + Year C
May 19, 2019

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

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.

newbornbaby-parentHenri Nouwen once wrote, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us.”

I’ve decided that joy is a spiritual discipline.

It’s not something that happens to us in an instant in the same way that we experience happiness.  Happiness comes and goes. We can be happy one minute and sad the next, and often, our degree of happiness depends on forces that are beyond our control. Continue reading

God is Always Near

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
The Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year C)
May 12, 2019

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

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.

southern-grits-recipeSeveral years ago, before going to seminary, Chelsea and I were members of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Dothan, Alabama. One Sunday, our priest at the time, Mother Ede, preached a sermon that’s stuck with me for a long time. In her sermon, she shared with us a story that she had once heard from another priest. The story goes like this.

“Once upon a time, in the Deep South, a hungry man was having breakfast at a diner. A waitress took his order, and he asked for bacon and eggs with coffee. She brought the coffee right away, and then, a while later, came back with a heaping plate of food. He looked down, and–to his surprise–next to the bacon and eggs he’d ordered he also noticed a strange lump of runny, white porridge. ‘What’s this?’ he thought. When he spoke up to complain, the waitress shook her head and got a funny look on her face. ‘Honey,’ she said, ‘those is grits. You don’t order grits. Grits just comes.’” Continue reading

The Way of the Cross

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday
First Lesson: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 22:1-21
Second Lesson: Hebrews 10:16-25
Gospel: John 18:1-19:42

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.

E20B6481-6AA0-4A57-A05E-B8248AF5D382“So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.”

In a meditation on Good Friday, the Rev’d Martin Smith once wrote, “He was numbered with the transgressors, crucified between the thieves. We will not find him in our hearts except in the same company. For each Good Friday to be good the Spirit must take us by the hand and re-establish our contact with that inmost core of recalcitrant evil, enmity and impotence where we are sisters and brothers of the most depraved and lost. That is where Christ is, clasping them with his pierced hands.” Continue reading

Extravagant Love

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Fifth Sunday in Lent
First Lesson: Isaiah 43:16-21
Psalm 126
Second Lesson: Philippians 3:4b-14
Gospel: John 12:1-8

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.

1351-f9d833c2-5563-44ea-b16c-3c1e08c3d081If you spend any time on Facebook, you might’ve come across a page called “Episcopal Church Memes.” A “meme,” in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, is basically an image or a video that’s shared with a lot of people on social media, usually referencing something they find humorous or entertaining. To give you an example, there’s this famous meme called “Grumpy Cat, “featuring a brown and white cat with squinty eyes and a frown on his face. “Grumpy Cat” says lots of funny things, such as, “I had fun once. It was awful.” Or, “If I had a dollar for every time I thought of you, I would be broke.” It never ceases to amaze me how creative people get with the memes they post on Facebook.

Most of the images posted on the “Episcopal Church Memes” page are harmless enough, but occasionally, there’s one that gets pretty controversial, one that stirs up lots of different emotions and opinions. Continue reading

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

A Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16B) + August 26, 2018

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16B)
First Lesson: Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
Psalm 34:15-22
Second Lesson: Ephesians 6:10-20
Gospel: John 6:56-69

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.

tumblr_n1ofcjZ4KV1sanzo7o1_1280Have you ever noticed how some people use the phrase, “No offense,” right before they say something really offensive?

Do you know what I’m talking about?

For example, let’s say someone walked up to me one morning after church and said, “No offense, Father Eric, but that wasn’t your best sermon.” I would be very offended by that! Just because that person said, “No offense,” right before criticizing me doesn’t mean that I would be any less offended. By the way, that’s never happened to me, but I suppose there’s a first time for everything!

Has this ever happened to you? Has anyone ever come up to you and said, “No offense, but…” Fill in the blank. Or, perhaps, you were the one who said it to someone else. Continue reading