This morning we hear an important letter from Paul to the Ephesians. It is a letter of Spiritual direction, encouragement and guidance on how to live in the world as Christians. Paul writes that we ought to:
Put away falsehood
Speak truth to our neighbors
Be angry, but do not let the sun go down on our our anger
Make no room for the devil
Work honestly and share our wealth
We are to let no evil talk come out of our mouths, but only what is useful for building up, we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, and we must put away all bitterness, and wrath and wrangling and slander
Paul’s letter is written to an early, emerging Christian Community in Ephesus who are learning how to live as followers of Jesus in a particular political, social and cultural context. The Greek city of Ephesus was very prosperous, located near a natural harbor it was a hub of commerce and trade routes. It is also a center of political and philosophical thought.
Even during Roman Rule, Ephesians retained their wealth and prestige. In fact, because of their wealth, and the tax revenue that wealth generated for the Roman Empire, Ephesians enjoyed more rights and freedoms than less wealthy communities under Roman Rule.
So, Ephesus is a wealthy, political, intellectual, privileged, Greek community. And this is the context in which Ephesian Christians receive Paul’s letter.
This is Holy Trinity Sunday--the first Sunday after Pentecost in the church year--Trinity Sunday is a Feast Day to name, celebrate, and remember the mystery of the Holy Trinity:
The Creator, The Redeemer and The Sustainer. The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.
Three mysteries: one in three and three in one. each a unique representation of the holy: separate, but whole. Holy and Undivided. Eternally bound together in relationship.
The Holy Trinity is one of the most accessible and recognizable symbols of the Christian faith.
Happy Second Sunday of Easter.
Today’s gospel is one of my favorite stories of the entire church year.
I love Thomas. Poor, sweet, holy, Doubting Thomas.
I am so glad that Doubt is a part of our Easter story.
And I love that this story of doubt is the first Sunday Gospel lesson we hear after Easter Sunday.
On Easter Sunday, we were singing out with confidence: Death is No More! Christ is Risen Indeed!
But the earliest disciples greeted the empty tomb quite differently.
The first night of the Triduum--the three Holy Days of the church year that make up one liturgy -- beginning tonight and ending with the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.
There will be no dismissal from tonight’s liturgy--we are not sent out to love and serve the Lord--
not yet--instead we move together, as one body in Christ, the world over
from a last supper with friends to a table stripped bare of its bread and wine, its candles and linens--
from the intimacy of Jesus bending down to wash the feet of his beloveds, and asking them (and us) to do the same, to the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus suffers in agony, alone--forsaken.
We won’t be sent out into the world rejoicing in the spirit--not tonight and not tomorrow--
we’ll carry on from the garden to the cross to the tomb--
and then we wait--
So, the Arizona Legislature has us squabbling over vouchers. Again. The system is working exactly as designed: Dividing parents like me, and teachers, and community leaders, one against the other on the issue of vouchers.
This morning, four days after the violent and deadly siege of The United States Capitol, we celebrate the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by his cousin, John the Baptist.
The siege was led by our fellow Americans who acted at the direction of the President of the United States.
I prayed with this Gospel passage while the details of Wednesday’s attack unfolded in real time.
The image of Jesus plunging down into the waters of the Jordan River and emerging into the light of day juxtaposed against confederate flags waving in the Rotunda of the Capitol.
God’s voice in the Gospel proclaiming “You Are My Beloved, With Whom I am Well Pleased”
Clashing with the sounds of an angry mob.
The dissonance between the Gospel and the current state of our democratic life together overwhelms.
What does it even mean to be a baptized Christian in America today?
As we listen to the story of the wise and unwise—patient and impatient—prepared and unprepared bridesmaids, I think it’s helpful to place these readings in the context of our liturgical calendar.
Believe it or not, we are only two Sundays away from Christ the King Sunday—the last Sunday of the liturgical year--
It is a celebration of the true identity and nature of Christ as one who will lead all of humanity to seek the “peace of Christ” in the “Kingdom of Christ.”
Christ the King Sunday celebrates the long-awaited return of Jesus: The Christ— Our hope. Our peace. Our light. And our redeemer.
Christ the King Sunday is the end of our liturgical year and the very next Sunday is the beginning of a new liturgical year: Advent.
If it weren’t for COVID, on this most joyous feast day many, many Episcopal choirs would gleefully be leading us in the hymn: “I sing a song of the saints of God.”
Does anyone remember it?
“I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor (St. Luke), and one was a queen (St. Margaret), and one was a shepherdess on the green (St. Joan of Arc): they were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping, to be one too…"
Oh, how I wish we could sing this hymn together this morning.
Yes, I know it’s a tad too cute and sweet for some.
And while it is sweet and cute. It’s also good theology.
Below, a sermon preached on June 20th, 2015 in the wake of the Charleston AME church massacre. The call on white Christians to respond to violence rooted in white supremacy and systemic racism remains urgent and necessary. We cannot be silent. We cannot look away. To respond to white supremacy and systemic racism is required of Christian discipleship. Take heart friends, and be of good courage. As St. Paul advises, we are called to respond to chaos and fear with genuine love, truthful speech and endurance. Show Up. Speak Truth. Amplify the voices, stories, and experiences of Black Vocies. Be a co-conspirator for racial reconiliation and justice.
Sometimes I ask my husband Matt, “What do you need to hear in a sermon this week?”
He replies the same way each time: “I need to be consoled, encouraged, and challenged.”
But this week he added, “Maybe leave out the challenge this time.”
There is just Too Much challenge in our lives right now:
Financial insecurity. COVID. Civil unrest.
Too Much challenge right now: for every action taken in the name of justice, racial equity, and democracy, it seems that an equal and increasingly violent reaction is returned.
Including here at home: the violent destruction Friday night of the Maricopa County Democratic offices.
No people were injured or killed in the attack. But for many the loss of this space is the loss of hours and years and decades of participating in the “little d” Democratic process--the kind of active participation in our democracy that defines our shared national life together.
“My eyes shed streams of tears,” the psalmist writes, “because people do not keep your law.”
Many of us have shred streams of tears this year.
Which is why I am grateful this morning for Paul’s letter to the Romans. It is a letter of consolationand encouragement. And, wait for it, challenge. Sorry, Matt.
Let’s look at each in this order: consolation, encouragement and challenge.
My Sermons (and other thoughts)
a sampling of sermons preached in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona and a sprinkling of other writings