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.
A guest post from my dear friend Shannon: Shannon Vanderpol Hennessey, a graduate in Systematic Theology, is currently the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Woodside Priory, a Benedictine school in the Bay Area. She lives in Oakland with her wife and 3 beautiful girls.
White politeness is killing Black people.
Embedded into the fabric of white supremacy are the intersecting threads of power, complicity, and silencing. We, I, have been socialized to please others; to uphold the status quo at all costs. By its very nature, whiteness does not tell the truth. It conspires, avoids, diminishes, shames, mocks…it trades on the currency of secret-keeping.
How are we this morning?
Here we are again, gathered together in the time of COVID:
Eight weeks of school closures (nine if you count spring break—but who’s counting!).
Seven Sunday services livestreamed.
One million Zoom meetings.
And, importantly, the sixth Sunday of Easter.
Good Friday. At it's best, Christianity does not, or ought not, seek to explain the "why" of death and suffering and cruelty and brokeness. Christianity can instead be, or ought to be, a response to death and suffering and cruelty and the brokeness of humanity. A response of Love. Tenderness. Presence. Hope. Light. Incense. Candles. Mirth. Music. Prayers. Action. Community. Bread. Wine.
Tonight, Christians the world over look directly into the heart of death and suffering and sit with the reality of evil in our world. And the question before us is not why it all went down the way it did--but how we ought to respond to the cruelty and sickness and suffering and death and evil that persists in our world.
So here we are. Good Friday. We sit in the darkness and wonder how in the world we ought to
Good Morning, St. Augustine’s.
What a strange, new way to be connected to one another.
Thank you for being here, together/apart—apart/together.
This Sunday marks the final week of lent.
Next Sunday begins Holy Week with Palm Sunday, continuing through Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and culminating with the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.
Our lessons this morning are whispers of the story and rituals and mysteries that are to come during Holy Week:
My Sermons (and other thoughts)
a sampling of sermons preached in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona and a sprinkling of other writings