Come Back Home

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

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

The Good Samaritan

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10C)
July 14, 2019

Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Psalm 25:1-9
Colossians 1:1-4
Luke 10:25-36

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

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 10.54.16 AMOne of my favorite television sitcoms growing up was Seinfeld. If you never watched the show, it was basically a show about nothing. There were no ongoing plots or recurring themes. You could easily pick up in the middle of a season and completely understand what was going on. There were four main characters in the show: Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer, and each week, audiences would watch as this group of friends somehow became involved in the funniest and most preposterous situations that you could imagine.

The show’s series finale aired on May 14, 1998. In the finale, Jerry and George are getting ready to produce their own television show with the NBC network. Jerry is given access to the network’s private plane to fly from New York to California to begin working on the show, but before leaving, the four friends decide to fly to Paris for one last celebration together. During the flight, Kramer starts jumping up and down on the plane in order to get water out of his ears (I told you it’s a show about nothing), and when he does, he accidentally falls into the cockpit of the plane, causing the pilots to lose control and forcing them to make an emergency landing. Continue reading

Sent Forth

Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit
Alabaster, Alabama
The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9C)
July 7, 2019

Isaiah 66:1-14
Psalm 66:1-8
Galatians 6:1-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

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

rosary-3It’s a tradition at my seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, 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’s 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.

The Service for the Mission of the Church and the end of seminary is a powerful and moving experience for graduating seniors and their families. In many ways, it’s the culmination of years worth of hard work, commitment, and the willingness to answer a call to ministry that began long before the students ever arrived at the seminary. As exciting as it is, it can also be an unsettling time for graduating seniors and their families as the thought of leaving quickly turns into reality. Without much preparation at all, close friends and classmates are saying their “goodbyes” and getting ready to go their separate ways into the world to serve Christ and the Church. All of a sudden, it’s time to pack up and move to a new home with the uncertainty of not knowing what lies ahead. This is certainly what my family and I experienced as we prepared to leave the seminary community, and I suppose this is what it’s like for most people who are preparing to begin a new journey, people like the disciples in our Gospel lesson for this morning. Continue reading

New Life is Always Possible

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Feast of the Resurrection: Easter Day
First Lesson: Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Gospel: Luke 24:1-12

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.

notre-dame-crossThe heavenly messengers in our Gospel lesson for this morning said to the women at the tomb of Jesus, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

On Monday morning, the world watched in shock and bewilderment as the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was engulfed in flames. A beautiful symbol of our Christian faith, ancient and revered, was suddenly taken from us without any warning. My immediate thought, after seeing the initial news reports was, “Oh, Lord, please don’t tell me someone did this on purpose.” After further investigation, it was reported that the fire was likely caused by a chemical reaction during the process of renovating and restoring the eight hundred year old cathedral.

Nine hours after the fire began, it was finally extinguished, and what remained of the cathedral was a smoldering shell of its former glory. The building had suffered colossal damage. The spire above the cathedral had collapsed. Parts of the roof and all of the wooden architecture on the inside of the church had been reduced to embers and ash. Continue reading

A Wideness in God’s Mercy

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Fourth Sunday in Lent
First Lesson: Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

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.

300px-Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_ProjectOne of my absolute favorite hymns that we sing in the Episcopal Church is the one that we sang just a few moments ago before the reading of the Gospel, “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,” which was based on a poem by the nineteenth-century poet, Frederick William Faber. The hymn begins with the words, “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in his justice, which is more than liberty.” The hymn continues on and speaks of “welcome for the sinner” and “mercy with the Savior.” It speaks of “plentiful redemption” and “the goodness of the Lord.” The version of the hymn that we sing in our hymnal includes many of the stanzas from the original poem, but if you were to read the original, you would notice that the final two were left out.

If we were to sing them, it would sound something like this:

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own. 

Was there ever kinder shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Savior who would have us
Come and gather at his feet? Continue reading

The Wilderness

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, March 10, 2019

The First Sunday in Lent
First Lesson: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Second Lesson: Romans 10:8b-13
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13

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.

judean-desert_dsc04153lmauldin-copy-1-760x428I have a confession to make. I have a love/hate relationship with the season of Lent. I love it because I know it’s good for me. Lent is a special time in the life of the Church, a period of forty days and forty nights (not including Sundays) set apart for the sole purpose of working on our relationship with God. It’s a period of time that we’re given each year to be intentional about falling back in love with God, to reconnect with the one who formed us from the dust of the earth. This leads me to the reason why I also don’t really care that much for Lent. In order to reconnect with God, I know that I have to be willing to make some changes in my life. I know that I have to be willing to let go of my selfish need for control and my belief that I can do everything on my own.

In the days and weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, we’re encouraged to think about what our Lenten disciplines are going to be. We ask ourselves, “What am I going to give up during Lent this year? Will it be chocolate? Will it be coffee? Will it be some other indulgence that I normally enjoy?” Or, we might ask ourselves, “What new spiritual practice will I take on during Lent? Will it be spending more time each day in private prayer? Will it be volunteering more of my time at church? Will it be reading a book of daily devotions each day during Lent or some other practice that goes beyond my normal routine?” Continue reading