A Sermon preached at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, Alexandria, VA on Sunday, May 19, 2013.
Pentecost Sunday; Year C (RCL): Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17, (25-27)
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth Your Spirit, and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.
Who am I? Who. Am. I?
The question of identity will preoccupy us at some point, and very likely more than once at different times throughout our lives. Younger ones start to wonder what to make of who they are or will become. Will I be a fireman, or a police officer, an astronaut, or perhaps the first female President of the United States? Courtship, marriage and parenthood can prompt a reassessment of who we are. Does he love me? Will she marry me? How far are we willing to go with the infertility work-up? How many children can we parent well? Empty-nesters start to ponder how to fill time and space as their grown children vacate the premises and busy homes give way to silence and stillness. The recently retired must find an entirely new rhythm for their days to stay active, interested and practical. Those who grieve must struggle with the emptiness of loss, and how to live with life without the other. All of these different situations prompt us to reflect upon our identity.
When we ask that question, “Who am I?” we begin to consider the network of relationships that we share. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a godfather to some, and an uncle to many more. We also think about our various roles in a broader community, whether it is occupational or otherwise. I am a friend, a pastor, a preacher, a colleague, and a citizen. Finally, we also may reflect upon our various attributes: I am middle-aged, middle-class, and mostly politically moderate.
Closely connected to questions of identity is the sense of meaning we desire for our lives. We hope our personalities facilitate happy, healthy relationships. We wish for success in our occupational endeavors. We aspire to achieve something substantial, to leave a legacy, or to make a positive mark in our community.
As Christians, our identity and meaning are bound up in a story: the story of loving sacrifice, with the giving and receiving of gifts; a story of immense power and glorious possibilities that ushers in hope and peace, and maybe some anxiety.
Today, we celebrate Pentecost, the occasion when the Holy Spirit descended upon the first followers of Jesus in a unique and powerful way, enabling them to exercise a ministry that has irrevocably altered many lives and the world in which we live, and how we look at both. This event was the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that he would not abandon us. Even though he went to Calvary to die on the cross, Jesus rose again, and although he ascended into heaven to return to the Father, his presence remained, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, embodied in his disciples, then and now.
Homily preached at 8:00 a.m. at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria, VA on May 5, 2013.
Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C (RCL): Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10, 22:1-5; John 14:23-29.
In the name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Perhaps you know the quote from American human rights activist Dorothy Thomas, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.”
I’ve been thinking about Jason Collins, the African-American NBA player who this week became the first openly gay athlete in a major American team sport. His exclusive testimony in the recent Sports Illustrated offers a picture of a quiet soul, a reluctant prophet, yet a proud individual. He said, “Imagine you’re in the oven, baking. Some of us know and accept our sexuality right away and some need more time to cook. Collins added, “I should know – I baked for 33 years.”
Most responses since his declaration have been positive and supportive from current and former teammates, and competitors around the league and throughout the sporting world. But not all reaction has been kind or warm. There are those who openly condemn Collins for speaking about being raised with Christian values when some fundamental interpretation of the Bible can be wagged in his face, at his choice, with his decision. I have wondered about the peace Jason Collins is coming to embrace, if it is indeed peace; that inward-dwelling peace that can come from knowing who he is so he can be true to himself.
Today’s reading from the Farewell Discourse of Jesus in the Fourteenth Chapter of John provide us a wealth of themes, including the love and loyalty required of His disciples, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Yet, from a purely pastoral sense, even more central to John’s message is the theme of peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Of all the things we seek in life, peace is likely the dearest, but hardest to find. From the perspective of comfort and well-being, many of us believe peace is the ultimate answer to the pervasive anxiety of existence. Many of us may feel this stress. Whether anxious about the departure of an able, loving interim priest; or the call of the next rector to serve and lead this congregation; or decisions relating to housing and skilled nursing care required for a grieving loved one who lost her spouse of 61+ years; or unexpected renovation surprises from an older house that can literally drain finances, we all seek, need and want peace. Peace of mind. Peace between individuals. Peace in this world.
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for the Life of my father-in-law, The Rev. Grafton Ridout McFadden, Commander, USN (Ret)
"In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." ~ John 14: 2-3
It is accomplished. We have done all there is and was to do for Grafton. We remembered his life in Jacksonville. We have rendered military honors due for his service to our country. We have laid him to rest. And we gather now to celebrate his life once more. His care is complete. He was always cared for, as are we, but here we all are now, left to trust in that comfortable rest that he knows and for which we all hope.
When Grafton died early Thursday morning, December 27, none of us, even me, would have been expected to stop and remember that that day, in the life of the Church, was the Feast Day of St. John. John, an Apostle of Jesus Christ who, as an Evangelist, spreads the Good News. Called from the sea and the trade of fishing, John, the son of Zebedee and his brother James, left their nets and boats behind to become Disciples of Christ and 'fishers of people.'
But with time to reflect upon it, the lives of the 'Beloved Disciple' and our beloved Grafton have parallels.
Grafton had his own life on the seas of the world and in the Navy. His military service included command of two ships and different ports of call in Japan, California, Italy and Washington, D.C. His background in oceanography, the study of porpoises, and work as a geophysical officer naturally drew him to the sea.
Our friend, The Rev. Carrie English (at Resurrection Episcopal Church, Jacksonville) reminded us in Florida that Grafton was a man of calls, much like John. He was called to serve in the Unites States Navy. Grafton was called in love to marry Elesa. And in 1974, he was called to Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria for education and formation for ordained ministry to serve God's people in the Episcopal Church. It was there the McFaddens and Crosbys quickly forged a strong friendship which later grew into a family bond through marriage.
Grafton was a humble man who may have never fully understood the impact he had on others, whether it be in the Navy, to his family and friends, or in the Church.
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Baptism Sermon for Easter Sunday at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, Alexandria, VA on Mar 31, 2013.
Easter Sunday, Year C (RCL): Acts 10:34-43; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Let’s look closely at that first Easter morning experience from Luke’s Gospel. First, the women were the first to learn about the resurrection. How remarkable that was in a time when women were less than second-class citizens that the first people to whom Jesus’ resurrection was revealed were faithful and devout women. They had come to the tomb to embalm the body of Christ. They came without hope, resigned sadly to His death. The terror of Good Friday was over. The grief of Saturday was still with them and they came mourning, to prepare His body for the long journey into decay and decomposition. They came, absent of any faith that anything would change after what had happened.
Coming into the cemetery, with no faith and no expectations, the women are met by two angels. They first asked the women why they were there. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Next, the angels remind them of Jesus’ own prophecy that on the third day He would be raised from the dead. Hearing this, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women rushed off to tell the apostles.
And yet, wonder of wonders, these women who also had walked the Way with Jesus, the most faithful and reliable of witnesses, were not believed. The apostles, those who had spent intimate three years with Jesus, who had trusted their lives to Him, simply dismissed the witness of these women for “these words seemed to them an idle tale.”
One of my favorite resources to turn to for inspiration while crafting a sermon is WorkingPreacher.org, which is associated with Luther Seminary, and offers podcast reflections on the weekly lectionary readings. They also have brief Preaching Moments where adjunct faculty focuses on a part of scripture.
Regarding the reference “Idle tale,” Anna Carter Florence, an associate professor of homiletics at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA, gets to the root of the word, which in the Greek is lairos, which means garbage, drivel, nonsense; in fact, literally … it means crap. And while Luke does not tell us exactly what the women said, if we turn to John’s Gospel, we hear Mary Magdalene announce to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” But still there is rejection. There is resistance. This is garbage.
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Homily preached at the Easter Vigil at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, Alexandria on March 30, 2013.
Easter Vigil Year A, B, C (RCL): Gen 1:1-2:2; Exodus 14:10-31, 15:20-21; Ezekiel 37:1-14 (Baptism)
This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life. This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave. Amen.
The Great Vigil of Easter that brings us together this night calls us to remember the salvific work of the Lord our God throughout the history of the world. This is the night when we participate in the dying and rising again of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is the center of our Christian faith and life together.
This Vigil marks not only our movement from the season of Lent into Easter, but represents Christ’s Passover from death to life in the resurrection and our participation in it. It is by hearing the “Word” and participating in the “Sacraments” of Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist that we come to share in the Paschal Mystery.
The lighting of a new fire as we moved from the darkness is a symbol of the new life in Christ which the resurrection proclaims and welcomes in. We are moving from that strange and sacred absence during these Three Holy Days into the wonderful and glorious fulfillment of God’s Promise to us.
The Paschal themes, the Good News of Easter, are illustrated in the Exsultet that we heard. They were amplified in our readings, hymns and canticles, and prayers. These are “the record of God’s saving deeds in history.”
But not all of them. We heard the Story of Creation from Genesis, and Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea, and the Valley of the Dry Bones.
Look in the Book of Common Prayer and you will see that we omitted The Flood account and Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac from Genesis; God’s Presence in a renewed Israel and how Salvation was offered freely to all, both from Isaiah; the lesson about a new heart and a new spirit from Ezekiel; and the gathering of God’s people from Zephaniah. Mary and I were good to you this night for we could be here until the morning. But it is important that you know these stories because they are our stories also.( Read more...Collapse )
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The name Tenebrae, from Latin for "darkness" or "shadows," has f...or centuries been applied to the ancient monastic night and early morning services (Matins and Lauds) of the last three days of Holy Week, which in medieval times came to be celebrated on the preceding evenings.
Apart from the reading of Lamentations, the most conspicuous feature of Tenebrae is the gradual extinguishing of 14 candles and other lights in the church until a single candle, representing the Light of Christ, remains. Toward the end of the service this last candle is hidden, typifying the apparent victory of the forces of evil. But, at the very end, a loud noise sybolizing the earthquake at the time of resurrection (Matt 28:2) ushers the hidden candle back to its rightful place, and by its light all depart in silence.
This is the candle hearse for Tenebrae. We are all set for tonight.
Wishing any and all a blessed Holy Week.
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This is my 2nd time through (at 9:15 a.m) on March 17, 2013 for Lent V. We were offering healing prayers with the Laying On of Hands and anointing with holy oil. The story of Mary anointing Jesus' feet and wiping them with her hair to too powerful to tackle Paul in Philippians.
Though watching this does thrust me back into my Homiletics classes.
It'll be good to have a catalog for future ministry opportunities, although I have no intention of leaving ICOH before my time.
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Preached at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, Alexandria, VA March 17, 2013 for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C (RCL): isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by that same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise, and ever enjoy its consolations, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.”
Kings were anointed as a consecration of their kingship. Priests also of their priesthood.
The dead were also anointed for burial.
The sick are anointed in a ritual of healing such as we do here today at all services.
As Jewish pilgrims were in Jerusalem making preparations for the Passover, Jesus arrived in Bethany, where a supper was given in his honor at which Martha served and Lazarus sat with Jesus as a fellow guest. At this supper Mary, who had knelt at Jesus’ feet in tears, began to anoint his feet with a very expensive perfume, an oil of pure nard, and then wiped his feet with her hair.
In Mark’s account of what appears to be the same incident, it is an unnamed woman who anoints the head of Jesus. Readers are left to infer that she anoints Jesus as a king, yet as a king who would soon lying in a tomb, before entering fully into his heavenly kingdom.
The action of that woman who anoints Jesus, revealing a great moment of sympathetic insight in Mark, is clearly contrasted with the treachery of Judas Iscariot in John’s Gospel. Mary is pictured as consecrating her Lord for death and burial, though it is his feet over which she pours her perfume; and Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, who is destined to betray him and so bring about that death, voices the disapproval of her extravagance.
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I think these anointing accounts tells us something about what true discipleship really looks like. It shows us what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We come to understand more of what it is to be a believer in Christ. For in these stories, we see examples of abundant love, the kind of love that Jesus has shown his disciples all along.
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The Lord has done great things for us!
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