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

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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

Father, Forgive

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
First Lesson: Genesis 45:3-11, 15
Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
Gospel: Luke 6:27-38

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.

stock-photo-23785349During the evening hours of November 14, 1940, Nazi Germany sent over 500 bombers to raid the English city of Coventry. The Coventry Blitz, as it’s often called, lasted over ten hours, leaving more than 500 dead, 2,300 homes destroyed, and the town’s Gothic cathedral in ruins.

During the raid, many people in the town worked hard to try and save the cathedral from being totally lost in the flames, but they were unsuccessful. In the end, the only parts of the building still standing were the tower, the spire, and the outer wall. Everything else burned.

In the aftermath of the attack, the Provost of Coventry Cathedral, the Very Reverend Richard Howard, had two words inscribed on the wall behind the altar of the ruined building. “Father, forgive.” Notice that the inscription wasn’t “Father, forgive them.” Just “Father, forgive.” The Provost realized in that moment that the only way to break the endless cycle of violence and retribution was to choose love over hate. He realized that the only path toward peace and reconciliation is to acknowledge the fact that all of us are in need of forgiveness. All of us, no matter who we are or where we come from, need to be forgiven. Continue reading

Blessed

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
First Lesson: Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Gospel: Luke 6:17-26

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.

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“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.”
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”

Blessed. That’s a loaded word, isn’t it?

This may be surprising to hear from a priest, but I have to admit that I cringe a little bit when I hear someone use the word blessed- not because I don’t believe that God blesses us with all the gifts we’ve been given but because it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that God has rewarded us with what we’ve been given. There’s a big difference between a gift and a reward. So, it’s important that we’re careful with how we use the word “blessed.” It can easily be interpreted as a way of saying that God favors certain people over others, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. 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