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              Sermon preached at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria, VA July 17, 2016
          Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; Year C (RCL): Amos 8:1-12; Psalm 52; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42.
    
          May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts,
      be always acceptable, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.
       
          Two weeks ago Tuesday, we reeled from news that a 37-year-old man named Alton Sterling had been fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge.  The shooting was caught on cell phone video by a bystander and quickly went viral on the internet.
        The next day as I drove to New Hampshire to visit my father, news broke of another fatal police-involved shooting of Philando Castille in Minneapolis.  The aftermath of a traffic stop gone bad was live-streamed through Facebook by his girlfriend sitting next to him in the car.
        Then Thursday evening, a peaceful Black Lives Matters-organized protest against the police killings of the preceding days ended abruptly when an apparent lone shooter, an Army Reserve Afghan War veteran, ambushed the police in Dallas, apparently targeting white officers.  Five were killed with nine others injured.  All of this has happened since that horrific tragedy in Orlando, where 49 innocents lost their lives.
        I expect that we’re all aware of these events because we read our newspapers, listen to the radio, watch the local and national TV news, or surf the internet and use social media.  My father had the TV on A LOT while we were there!  Memorial services were held and individual funerals have begun.  It’s hard to not see or hear something about each instance and all of it.  But that’s not all, is it? 
        This past Friday, that terrible truck attack in Nice, France on Bastille Day killed many people and injured countless more, and then a failed coup in Turkey left too many dead from the violence and way too many others wounded.  We have these terrible things piling up on top of our fears and terror.  How do we make sense of all this?  What do we need to do?
        I confess: I’d been glad to not have to preach last Sunday with the parable of the Good Samaritan confronting us with “Who is my neighbor?”  I saw it as the PERFECT question to address our domestic difficulties, but I knew it would be a hard discussion.  I’ve been told the rector’s sermon was powerful last Sunday.  We also heard a courageous sermon in New Hampshire.
        Now, we have the story of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary to try to cover all the uncertainties of this world.  I’ve been holding this lesson in my head and my heart all week.
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Sermon: Passing The Mantle

A sermon preached at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill on June 26, 2016.

6th Sunday after Pentecost; Year C: 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14; Ps. 77:1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62

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.

        I don’t expect everyone to realize this, but believe or not, I have been here with you at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill for almost four years!  It’ll be four years in three weeks.  And for those who may not know or do not remember, I was called to Immanuel during the interim following the departure of Sam Faeth, the former rector, to assist with the transition to the new rector, who isn’t so new any longer.  Fr. Randy Alexander, 10th rector of Immanuel, has been here almost three years.

          Churches go through the process of transition, when former parish leaders leave and new congregational leaders are called.  The time of interim ministry in a parish is primarily for the community to grieve the loss of a beloved pastor, or perhaps recover from a bad relationship, to gauge where you are, to ready for where God might take you, and to brace for change.  It happens everywhere.  Sometimes well, and at other times, not so well or thorough enough.  And it takes time.  God is constantly acting and the Spirit is always moving, hopefully guiding communities and relationships, vestries and committees, leaders and followers. 

          Change happens, torches get passed on, and mantles get handed off from the last to the next.  An effective way to facilitate change, even as the game moves on with the primary players remaining the same, is through succession planning.  This is something I learned through my twenty-six+ years of private sector business world experience before God laid on my heart, ‘I have plans for you.’  And in my coming to Immanuel, where “God is with us,” I started to act as a new set of eyes in an established community, asking why we did this or how do you do that? 

          Today’s readings ask us to move into new directions of faithfulness to God. They ask us to believe great things and to trust that God works creatively and redemptively in our own freedom.  They ask us to live by the Spirit and in life-giving, not legalistic or guilt-producing ways, and to expect great things from ourselves as well as from God.

          Our readings take us into the realm of the mystical, miraculous, and magical; the realm of paranormal experience.  Elijah is caught up in a whirlwind and ascends into heaven.  The prophet is delivered from mortality to dwell in the house of God.  Elisha asks for a “double portion” of his mentor’s spirit and is given a sign, and then goes forth with the same miraculous powers to shape the world.  Like Moses before them, the Divine Force is great with Elijah and Elisha, who can now part the waters, with God’s help.

         

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CALL

It is our faithfulness to God and not our station in life that honors a call.

We often find our calls in the facts, circumstances, and concrete experiences of daily life.

One sign that God may be calling is a certain restlessness, a certain dissatisfaction with things are they are ...

a sense that something is happening in one's life, that one is wrestling with an issue or decision; a sense of being in a time of transition

Call usually involves service or benefit to others.

The word OBEDIENCE derives from the Latin AUDIRE, which means "to listen"

God not only calls, but empowers

MINISTRY is the active response to God's Call.
A sermon preached at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill on May 22, 2016.
Trinity Sunday; Year C: Proverbs 8:1-4; 22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

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.

I’m a huge fan of the reality TV show, “Dancing With The Stars.” For those of you not familiar with it, celebrities partner up with professional dancers and compete against each other in weekly elimination rounds to determine a winner of the prized Mirror ball trophy. There are expert judges who critique and score the performances and the general public gets to weigh in each week by voting for their favorite couple. Now in its 22nd season, the show has participants that come from a variety of celebrity: actors, TV personalities, sports figures, and pop culture icons.

This year, one celebrity competitor who continually amazes me personally, and so many others as well, is Nyle DiMarco. Nyle is an actor, model, and spokesperson, who was born into a large multigenerational deaf family. Yes, I said DEAF. He’s an alumnus of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the only liberal arts university in the world for the deaf. Nyle was the stand out star and winner of America's Next Top Model's Cycle 22! (Perhaps the number 22 is good for him!) He has gained A LOT of attention for being the first completely deaf contestant on “Dancing With The Stars.”

Regularly relying heavily on muscle memory developed through unending rehearsals, and touch cues from his professional dance partner, Nyle added a new twist this past week to their performance: He danced a portion of their Argentine Tango blindfolded. YES, I SAID BLINDFOLDED! Try to picture the Tango, known for its close holds, walking strides and bent knees, stops and starts, quick leg flips and kicks, where posture and presence are everything. For Nyle, being challenged already, not hearing the music or even a beat, he was temporarily without any visual cues. Now, if that isn’t trust … No, rather … if that isn’t FAITH, then I don’t know what is! Nyle had to trust and have faith in his partner's touch and training, and she had to trust and have faith in his ability and muscle memory. Believe you me - watching them dance together was a powerfully moving and inspiring moment! (It's on YouTube if you missed it!)

Today is Trinity Sunday when we consider how our God, constituted by relationshipRead more...Collapse )

Co-Create & Cultivate

THE ASSOCIATE'S CORNER
By the Rev. David M. Crosby, May 19, 2016

On May 13th, I attended a Friday program at Virginia Theological Seminary led by the former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, on “Caring for Creation: Sharing in Creation.” She reminded us that as God speaks, things happen, and that God speaks of blessings and goodness that is distinct and diverse. In God’s creation, we are called to help the earth be fruitful, to yield fruit and seed for feeding.

We considered the different Creation accounts and “other” creation stories like Noah and the flood, the Exodus through the desert to Canaan, returning from exile in Babylon, and some of the prophetic visions. +Katharine said that being made in the image of God, “we are not stewards of creation; rather we are co-creators”; gardeners, housekeepers, and members of a household, that God, through the Holy Spirit, calls us to join together in the holy work of “co-creating.”

The next Sunday at the May 8th Forum kicking off our 75th Anniversary of Immanuel (“God with us”), Bishop Katharine touched the Five Marks of Mission, noting specifically the 5th Mark:
• To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom;
• To teach, baptize and nurture new believers;
• To respond to human need by loving service;
• To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and
to pursue peace and reconciliation;
• To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the
earth.

During the Friday program, I learned about a mission involving VTS students, staff, spouses, and faculty who together promote environmental and community sustainability and health, as well as social justice through gardening, activism, and sustainable practices. You can read more about it on Facebook at CultivateVTS on or at https://sites/google.com/site/CultivateVTS/.

One garden at VTS grows wheat that is ‘cultivated’ into whole wheat flour. Since the seminary recently began using gluten free bread at Eucharist, they have a much reduced need for their home-produced wheat flour. I’m wondering if able Immanuelites might like to begin baking bread for our use. VTS is happy to share their flour with us. It could be a new wonderful ministry or guild within our parish, and would give us yet another life line/tie to the seminary.

Also, if parishioners want to get involved in the CultivateVTS effort for parish/campus gardening, the seminary would be happy to work together with Immanuel. Let me know if this interests you. Thanks.

Grace & Peace,
David+

Sermon: That They All May Be One

A sermon preached at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill at 8:00 a.m. on May 8, 2016.
7th Sunday of Easter; Year C: Acts 16:16-34; Ps 97; Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21; John 17:20-26

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

I imagine all of us here at one time or another has had someone say they would pray for us -- maybe not with us, in front of us, to us, but for us at some other time. I expect that many of you have offered to pray for another in their individual time of need. Things happen so quickly so often that it’s a wonder we are not praying unceasingly. Even if it’s just the short one word prayer that Anne Lamott promotes in her book, Help. Thanks. Wow! When we need aid, when we feel grateful, and when we are amazed. Help! Thanks! Wow!

Perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to receive healing prayers with the laying on of hands and anointing with blessed oil here at Immanuel when Fr. Randy and I step to the Altar following our worship together. It is available at the end of the service the third Sunday of each month. It is a privilege to enter into your prayer requests, whether for yourself or another. Often I ask for what we are specifically praying for or about and you hear how I respond in God’s name.

Because of our Baptismal promises, and because of my ordination vows, you and I are called to pray for one another.

Today’s gospel is foremost a prayer. It is Jesus’ prayer, and we are given the privilege of listening in as he prays on behalf of his disciples and people of all times and places. Each of us hearing this prayer is given a glimpse of Jesus’ mission for the world - that all may be drawn into the life of the Triune God. On the eve of his death, Jesus entrusts this particular community of disciples - but also our communities, our lives, and our world - into the care of God. Here is the astoundingly good news: Jesus prays for you, for me, and for the communities in which we live. Jesus has entrusted the church’s life and its future to God, and we, the church, are set free to make God known in all the world.

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Restlessness

I wrote this last year (Sat, April 11, 2015), but it seems even more real now:

Lord, are you calling me into something new?
Have you readied me enough to do something different?
I know that all I do now is only possible with your grace and help.
Bless me, Lord, with clarity, integrity, and peace to go where you call and to do what you ask.

~ dmc+

The Regional Council and The Diocese

ASSOCIATE RECTOR'S CORNER
By the Rev. David M. Crosby, April 21, 2016

If you are not already aware, Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill is one of eight Episcopal churches in the City of Alexandria that is recognized by the Diocese of Virginia as Region IV. The other seven churches are:

Christ Church, Old Town
Emmanuel (on High Street)
Grace Church, Russell Road
Meade Memorial
St. Paul’s, Old Town
Church of the Resurrection
St. Clement, Quaker Lane

A Region within the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia is “a community of congregations formed to collaborate in shared ministry within a geographic area and to enhance communication between the Diocese and a congregation.” There are fifteen regions currently defined with our diocese. Each region has a clerical (ordained) Dean (appointed by the Bishop from rectors among the region’s parishes) and a lay or clerical representative to the diocesan Executive Board. I am presently the Region IV representative to Executive Board, serving my second year of a three-year appointment.

Meetings of the Regional Council occur 3-5 times a year. Per the diocesan Canons, “Regional Councils shall be responsible for seeing that the ministrations of The Episcopal Church are made available to every person living within the boundaries of such Region and shall exercise authority for the Region as a whole in safeguarding the interests and extending the ministrations of the Church throughout its borders, so that the Region may function as a unit in matters of common concern and responsibility. A Regional Council may, for these and other purposes, and subject to the approval of the Executive Board, adopt and administer a budget.”

Region IV parishes have worked together to give financial support to outreach ministries such as the West End Lazarus Ministry, Hunger Free Alexandria, the Meade Memorial Bag Lunch Program, an annual hypothermia shelter at St. Clement, the Child & Family Network , and VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement); Christian Formation & Discipleship opportunities include the Alexandria churches’ Lenten Series and a well- received Region IV Youth Event hosted by Immanuel in October 2015.

If you have questions or are interested in learning more about the work of Region IV, please see me.

Thank you and God Bless!
~ David+

Good Friday Homily

Good Friday is a hard day for many of us.  It's often difficult to think of what's "good" about it.  There are many questions that arise.

Like where do you stand on the matter of capital punishment?  Good Friday is a day when we confront it and have to face it. 

Do you think of Jesus as someone who was clearly and absolutely innocent of any offense, whether against humankind or God?  Good Friday is when we remember Jesus was executed as a traitor in a manner that some say demonstrated it was God and not just the Roman Empire that judged him. 

Do you believe that people who are good will also be successful and left at peace?  Good Friday would certainly seem to speak against all of that.

Yes, it's a hard day, and many of us only contemplate it in the context of "It's Friday ... but Sunday's comin!"  On this day, we often want to rush ahead onto Easter, because Good Friday is about pain and humiliation and desertion.  And certainly in this present time and age, with the news around the globe, it becomes far more difficult for us to be either ignorant of suffering and the denial of death. 

No, Good Friday isn't pretty.  It doesn't fit in well with the Flash-animated slideshows on many church websites that show an endless parade of mostly young and always smiling faces.  For us, Good Friday is an image problem; it’s a downer that makes us uncomfortable.

Yet I have met folks for whom Good Friday and the image of Jesus suffering on the cross is a time and an image of profound consolation.  And when I've thought about what was different between those people and communities that are consoled by Good Friday and those distressed by it, my mind keeps coming back to this:

Good Friday is a day when those who are suffering what Jesus suffered enter into the mystery: the mystery of God’s suffering with them.

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