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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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Sermon Video: A Fragrant Offering Unto God

Not quite sure how we got the double screen, but ...

Sermon: A Fragrant Offering unto God

A sermon preached at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill on March 13, 2016.

The 5th Sunday in Lent; Year C: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8     

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.   

           Not so long ago, that house in Bethany was filled with sadness and the sound of weeping. Friends and neighbors had gathered to mourn with Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus. With their brother dead, the two sisters were alone.

           But then Jesus arrived and changed everything. With a gesture, with tears, with a blessing, with prayer to his heavenly Father, he defeated the power of death and called Lazarus back to life.

           Now, in what seems to be just a little time later, they are all gathered again. It is a joyful reunion, but I can’t help but imagine that there is also an undercurrent of awkwardness and tension. For one thing, it must have been pretty strange to have Lazarus there. We’ve all been to funeral dinners, where family and friends gather for a meal lovingly prepared by the church community and aided by our neighbors. We fill our empty stomachs with ham, fried chicken, scalloped potatoes, dreamy bean casserole, Jell-O salad, and all sorts of cakes and pies.

           We fill our empty hearts also by reminiscing about the deceased — sharing stories about his shortcomings or laughing over her peculiarities. It’s how we cope with our grief and keep the memory of our loved ones alive.

           This scene in Bethany may well be the only funeral dinner in history where the deceased was actually present. Think of how awkward that must have been. What happens when the deceased is no longer dead? How do you feel and what do you talk about?

           Furthermore, by raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus has graduated from the category of "manageable nuisance" to "serious threat." News of the incident has sent his opponents over the top. It is time for Jesus to disappear before he leads hundreds to their deaths. His days are numbered and he knows it.

          

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THE ASSOCIATE RECTOR’S CORNER

by the Rev. David M. Crosby, March 10, 2016

One important ministry we all share as the Body of Christ is to pray for one another and others. It is part of our Baptismal Covenant promises. As we commit to “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers,” saying, “I will, with God’s help,” we are called to actively and intentionally pray for our own. I hope we each have our own personal prayer list, but we as a parish also have a corporate prayer list. The parish office and clergy learn, either directly or indirectly, through relationships and casual conversations, pastoral calls or visits, or from being alerted by others, of matters or issues that affect people of our parish in mind, body, or spirit. Here prayers may be in order. On Sundays, as part of the Prayers of the People, we name individuals of the parish by first name from a printed list in the bulletin.

In addition to those intercessions, we also collectively lift up friends, acquaintances, and members of our extended families who have any concerns as well that may be troublesome and burdening. You havemprobably heard these words, “... and we pray also for members of our extended parish family.” While the names of ‘extended parish family’ members are printed in the weekly Sunday Parish Notes, we do not speak them aloud.

You may notice that the largest group of names we have in our weekly prayers under the Pastoral Care Corner are for the extended parish family. For roughly the last five and half years, the parish office has received prayer requests for individuals who are not members of our parish church and tried to keep track of them. Our collective hope is that prayers would meet the need and eventually rotate off. However, we have only added to the list with little review or editing. A spreadsheet has tried to keep track of specific requests, when they were received, the reason(s) for prayer, and who made the request. Yet that list has grown long and is somewhat unwieldy now.

An effort is underway to reconcile names in the printed prayers against this spreadsheet. Where names are printed but not accounted for in the spreadsheet, those names are being removed. Where names and their related information do not coincide with a printed name in the bulletin, those entries are being stricken. This is an effort to wean down the prayer list and the spreadsheet.

We are called to prayer. Please understand this administrative effort is not meant to deter or restrict prayer, but rather is to ensure we understand for whom we pray, how, why, and yes, for how long. Should you realize a name you added is no longer present, it can be re-added. If you see a name that no longer needs collective prayer, please help us in this work. Your attention will help us all in our ministry to pray for one another and others.

Blessings & Peace,
David+

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