Acts 2:14a, 36-41
1 Peter 1-17-23
Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17
The Christian “Holy Land” within the modern State of Israel and the Palestinian territories has rightly been dubbed the “Fifth Gospel” because it testifies so dramatically and so eloquently to the reality of the resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ. The site of this morning’s reading from the Gospel according to Saint Luke is no exception, and a journey to that place is often the last stop on the itinerary of every Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land. And for many Christian pilgrims over the centuries, it has served as a capstone experience of the continuing “Real Presence” of Jesus Christ in his Church and, especially, in the Holy Eucharist. Continue reading →
In the old Prayer Book today’s feast, the Feast of the Holy Name, was called the Feast of the Circumcision. In the Roman church the first Sunday after Christmas is usually the Feast of the Holy Family. The three are basically the same Feast with basically the same readings that provide further occasion to drive home messages of Incarnation: Jesus is one of us, Jesus is part of God’s plan for salvation, God placed Jesus within a particular people and within a particular family. And it’s this last that I want to talk about this morning – families. Continue reading →
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15
One of the first questions that Roman Catholic friends often ask me about the Anglican Communion is whether or not we have “Confession” in the Episcopal Church. They—along with many Episcopalians—are quite surprised when I tell them that we do indeed have sacramental “Confession,” otherwise known as the “Reconciliation of a Penitent.” It is one of the many rites included in our Book of Common Prayer in both Rite 1 & 2. And while there are no traditional “confessionals” in our churches these days —those fabled, purple-curtained boxes for the confession of sins—we do have the opportunity, at any time, to avail ourselves of this individual, sacramental act. The rule in the Episcopal Church concerning “Confession” is that “all may; some should; but none must.” In other words, the “Reconciliation of a Penitent” is an option for those times in the spiritual journey when we feel called to unburden a heart broken open by sorrow and guilt over sin, and when we long to experience the overwhelming gift of God’s real forgiveness and offer of a new beginning. And while we may no longer recognize a distinction between so-called venial and mortal sins, there are times in the spiritual journey when we urgently need godly counsel spoken in the name of Christ and his Church. The “Reconciliation of a Penitent” is an exchange between God and us sinners in which we renew our covenantal relationship with God, broken through our blindness and failure “to love God with our whole heart,” and “to love our neighbors as ourselves.” (BCP) And so, it’s not at all uncommon for a penitent to feel an enormous sense of relief and joy and gratitude over the repair of this primary and cherished covenantal relationship with God. These emotions signal the true gift of a new beginning made possible by the grace of our God of steadfast love and mercy. The ancient rabbis taught that God gave the Torah to humans, not to angels, and that the greatest name of God is “mercy”!
The joy of forgiveness and thanksgiving for reconciliation are poignantly illustrated by the extravagant gestures of the forgiven woman in this morning’s episode from Saint Luke’s Gospel, together with Jesus’ parable of the forgiven debtors. Continue reading →
“That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in my and I am in you, may they also be in us… so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.”
As convoluted as today’s gospel may sound, some say that John chapter 17 – from which today’s gospel is taken – is the most important passage, not only in John, but in the entire New Testament. Some say that John 17 is the most important passage in the entire New Testament because John 17 – in particular the portion of it read today – tells us that the point of Jesus’ life, the whole reason the Son became incarnate, is to make us one. One with each other, one with the Father, one with the whole world: “That they all may be one.” Continue reading →
Blessed art thou, O Lord God, and blessed be thy holy Name for ever, who hast now vouchsafed to feed me with the Bread of Life, and hast given me to drink the Cup of Eternity, the holy and heavenly Mysteries of the Body and Blood of my Saviour; thereby assuring my Soul of thy Favour and Goodness towards me, for the increase of my Faith, for the Pardon of my Sins, for obtaining of my Peace, and all other Benefits of Christ’s blessed Passion.
I now most humbly beseech thee to assist me with thy heavenly Grace, that I may continue thine for ever, and be made a Temple of the Holy Spirit; and that having now Christ dwelling in me by Faith, I may accomplish the rest of my Life in Repentance and Godly Fear, in mortifying my own sinful desires, and in keeping thy holy Commandments; for which end, guide me with thy Power, enlighten me with thy Word, quicken me with thy Spirit, elevate my Senses, compose my Memory, and order my Conversation aright; for thou art able to do abundantly above what I can ask or think; by which thy great and bountiful Goodness towards me, thou wilt glorify thy Name in me, and bring me at last to thine eternal Kingdom of Glory, through him who is the King of Glory, my blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Resume your journey…”
NRSV, Deut 1:6
Or, as Newton resident Everett Fox’s translation reads, “Enough for you, staying at this mountain! Face about, march on…”
In this passage, the opening of Moses’s speech to the people as they are about to leave Mt. Sinai and journey to the Promised Land, Moses speaks to a dynamic that I suspect all of us have experienced: as much as we may have liked this “mountain,” as much as we may have made our home in a place, sometimes the call comes to “face about” and “march on.” Continue reading →
John’s Gospel is so very different from the other three. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, for example, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem only once; in John, Jesus visits Jerusalem three times. In Matthew, Mark and Luke they’re called “miracles;” in John, they’re “signs.” In Matthew, Marks and Luke’s Jesus tends to speak in short bursts; In John, Jesus speaks in long discourses.
One of the curious differences in John is John’s placement of language about the Eucharistic. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus institutes the Eucharist at the Last Supper. In John, Jesus teaches about the Eucharist during the feeding of the 5,000, from which this morning’s gospel lesson is taken.
Because John’s gospel is so different than the others, John has the potential to teach us a lot, for he comes to the same story or the same teaching but from a different angle. John’s unusual and unique placement of the Eucharist within the feeding of the 5,000 tells us several things about the Eucharist: Continue reading →
“The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart.”
In 1976, 19 year-old Susan Lefevre was arrested in suburban Michigan for doing heroin. She didn’t sell. She had no previous convictions. “I thought I was experimenting. I was trying things out,” she said, “what… everybody was doing.” Her attorney recommended that she plead “guilty” to hopefully receive only probation. Instead, the judge sentenced her to ten to twenty years in prison! After 14 months in prison and feeling suicidal, Susan decided to escape. Susan scaled a 20-foot fence, dashed through the woods and met her grandfather, who was waiting in his Oldsmobile Cutlass. Her grandparents gave her several hundred dollars in cash and sent her on a bus out west, where somewhere west of the Rockies she became Marie. She eventually met the man who became her husband and with whom she had three children. Her name was now Marie Walsh, and she lived in beautiful home in a cul-de-sac in Southern California. But in 2008 – twenty two years later – a detective posing as a lawn-care worker asked her to come outside, wondering if, in taking care of the neighbor’s trees, he had mistakenly cut branches from one of hers. “Are you Susan Lefevre?” he asked. She admitted that she was, was arrested and taken back to Michigan to prison, where after 13 months the parole board released her.
Susan, and her husband and three now-grown children, were interviewed on Oprah about what her double life was like. She kept in touch with her parents. She was frank with her husband about drugs in her past. But she never let herself get comfortable, and she never anybody the whole story. “So I had these two worlds,” she said. “This terrible, terrible, destructive world, corrupting world of this prison and then this idyllic world,” she says. “When [the detective] showed me these pictures and said, ‘Susan LeFevre,’ it was like I knew that finally they had collided.” Continue reading →
I remember the first time my parents met our kids. Shaw was six, maybe eight, weeks old and was asleep. My parents entered quietly, tiptoed up the stairs and gently opened the door. Then – never mind that he was asleep – my mother couldn’t help herself. She leaned over the crib and scooped him up. It had been over twenty years since she’d held an infant with any regularity, but she hadn’t forgotten the moves; she held him like an old pro. Olivia met my parents at their home. They came out when we pulled in the driveway. Ashley eased Olivia out of her car carrier and passed her to my mother, who held her close and futzed over her with grandmotherly cooing. Since she’s my mother, I could see in her eyes and hear in her voice the love she had for my kids. If infants could talk, I bet my kids would have said how wonderful it was to meet their grandparents, how much they loved being held, and how much they loved being loved. Continue reading →