Called to be Saints

Homily for Sunday, November 6, 2016
All Saints’ Day

This morning I am going to preach two homilies – don’t worry, both short.  On this All Saints’ Day I want to say something about saints, how we are all called to be saints.  And then I want to say something about our country’s forthcoming election.

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First, about saints.  In September I attended a panel discussion at Boston College for the new movie, “Ignacio de Loyola:  Soldier, Sinner, Saint,” about Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.  Taking part in the panel discussion were the lead actor who played Ignatius, Andreas Munoz, and also the associate director, Catherine Azanza.  Both Andreas and Catherine said some insightful things about saints. Continue reading

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Solitude and Communion

He who is ‘in Christ,’ is never solitary in the sense of being isolated from others. . . . He cannot be unalive to that ultimate, triumphant sense of unity with his brother whom he sees in the place where every man stands before God. He can have no sense of antagonism or indifference towards any human being, for though there are those who are not yet reborn, yet he sees in every man a potential child of God, a potential brother in Christ, a potential member of the same heavenly family in union with which he rejoices. Those who love solitude rejoice in it, rejoice in that condition which alone can make them conscious of the ‘great multitude which no man can number of every nation and kindred and tongue which stand before the throne and before the Lamb.’

– From letters of Shirley Carter Hughson, OHC (1867-1949)

The End Is Where We Start From

Sermon for Sunday, November 1, 2015
All Saints’ Day
Preached at the Parish of the Messiah, Auburndale

There is something about buildings that were formerly churches that always catches me. In Iceland, for example, there is a monastery so ruined that, in the nearly 500 years since it closed, all save the largest stones had been removed and repurposed by the local farmers, and yet – the site still feels to me like holy ground. In the Loire Valley, the magnificent Fontevraud Abbey has been beautifully restored and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Yet as sterile and museum-like as the French authorities have made it, when I walk into its soaring Gothic chapel, I can still feel the nearly 700 years worth of prayers that were offered there. And here in Newton, whenever I go past the old Methodist Episcopal Church at the base of Centre St. – just south of the light at Church St. – I wonder if those who live in its condos can sense what once went on there. I wonder if the residents ever think about, for example, how their kitchen occupies the place of the pew where several generations of a family worshiped, or that their dining room marks the exact spot where couples once stood and exchanged marriage vows, or that the walls of their living room once echoed with hymns. For me, walking into a former church is never “business as usual.” When I walk into a place where once prayer has been offered, there is something that – as T.S. Eliot puts it – causes my “soul’s gap to quiver.” There is something about those places – to continue to borrow from Eliot – that “when I come this way” makes me want to “kneel” because they are places “where prayer has been valid.” Continue reading

The Power of Praying for Others

Sermon for Sunday, October 19, 2014
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
I Thessalonians 1:1-10

“We always give thanks to God for all of you
and mention you in our prayers…”  I Thess 1:2a

As he does in today’s lesson from 1 Thessalonians, Paul begins several of his letters by mentioning his prayer for people:

For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers. – Romans 1:9

I thank God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you.  – Philippians 1:4

When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith towards the Lord Jesus. – Philemon 4

It seems that Paul is constantly praying for his converts and congregations.  Shortly, I will invite us to consider the role that praying for others – the kind of prayer called intercessory prayer – might play in our lives.  But first, I want to take a detour to Harry Potter. Continue reading