Drawing Near to Jesus

Homily for Sunday, March 12, 2017
Second Sunday in Lent

aptopix_groundhog_day_31044-23e3bLent is a bit like the movie “Groundhog Day.”  “Groundhog Day” is about the arrogant big-city weatherman sent to small-town Pennsylvania to cover Ground Hog Day and who is rude and condescending to the locals.  Because of his attitude, he must relive February 2 until he gets it “right” – until he develops some humility and charity.  Lent is like “Groundhog Day” because every year Lent offers the same prayers, the same hymns, and – on a three-year cycle – the same Scripture readings so that we might get it “right” and develop more humility and charity.

But Lent is different from “Groundhog Day” because Lent offers a clear path as to how we can get it more “right.”  Sunday by Sunday, over the course of Lent, the Scriptures take us by the hand and lead us, step-by-step, progressively deeper into relationship with Jesus. Continue reading

Healthy and Authentic Relationships

Homily for Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Wednesday in the 22nd Week after Pentecost
Luke 11:42-44

“You tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds,
and neglect justice and the love of God.”

mint-521401_960_720Today’s gospel text is a call to authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.   “Authentic” relationship with Jesus is not about rules and regulations – it’s not about tithing “mint and rue and herbs of all kinds” – but is about doing justice and loving God.  To be sure, there are rules and regulations in the Church, as there are in any institution, and we are called to follow them as best we may.  But it is important to keep in mind that the goal of these rules, the aim of our institution, is human health and wholeness, “justice and the love of God.” Continue reading

Do Not Go Away Sad

Sermon for Sunday, October 11, 2015
Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost
Mark 10:17-31

Preached at Bethany Convent, the Order of St. Anne, Arlington

I have Leviticus on my mind.  Now before you ask, “Father, are you OK?  Are you feeling alright?” please know that I have Leviticus on my mind because at my parish a group is reading the Bible straight through from Genesis to Revelation, and this past week we discussed Leviticus.  It’s been a while since I’ve spent time in Leviticus, so I think I was able to come to it with a more-or-less fresh perspective.  What struck me most about Leviticus this last time through is that Leviticus is a book of imagination.  In Leviticus, the writer(s) imagines what it is like to be God and to be madly in love with human beings.   Leviticus imagines God desiring a relationship with us that is 1) continuous, 2) abiding, and 3) progressive.  Continuous, because Leviticus is filled with laws that help bring people to a continuous awareness of God in all aspects of life.   Abiding, because in Leviticus God wants to share life with us so much that God asks the people to carry the Tent of Meeting with them wherever they go.  And progressive, because God wants His relationship with us to become progressively more intimate, growing until God converses with us in our own “Holy of Holies,” as it were, in the innermost part of our “tent.” Continue reading

“Take these things out of here!”

Sermon for Sunday, March 8, 2015
Lent 3B
John 2:13-22

One of the reasons I love Lent is because Lent is an opportunity to “get back to the basics.” Our scriptures this morning touch on several Christian “basics.” The first lesson is the Ten Commandments – a Christian “basic” if there ever was one. The second lesson speaks about the cross – another important “basic.” But the “basic” I want to focus on this morning is one for which this morning’s Gospel story provides a good metaphor.

Jesus Purging the Temple by Giotto

The “basic” I want to talk about is…   the images we have of God. Not the stated images of God that we say we have, like “God is love.” But the operative images of God, the images that actually operate in our relationship with God – like, “God is a god of impossibly demanding expectations from which I always fall short.” We all carry images of God with us – some from an early age – and these images shape the way we relate to God in our lives. Not all of these images are helpful; some impinge on our freedom or diminish our sense of personhood or in some way are marked by coercion or passivity or cynicism, and undermine the possibility of a healthy relationship with God. From time to time in our spiritual life it helps to “Take these things out of here,” to drive out from our inner “Temple” old images of God (the “livestock” and “money changers” that have accrued there), and to make space for a God who is more “God,” more true, healthy and whole. Continue reading