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Homily preached at Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria, VA on Ash Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2019.
Ash Wednesday (RCL): Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 103:8-14; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.
I speak to you in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
        Not too long after we married, my wife Chrissie and I were in The Eternal City.  She was returning to her favorite city in the whole world and there on business while I was there to experience Rome for the very first time.
       One of the sites I had to visit, based on Chrissie’s description, was the Capuchin Crypt.  It is a small space of tiny chapels located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini.  The six chapels contain the skeletal remains of almost 3,700 bodies believed to be Capuchin friars buried by their order.  There are separate chapels arranged with skulls, pelvic bones, and leg and thigh bones all over the floors, walls, and ceilings, and there is one chapel with three skeletons dressed in monks’ habits.  The Catholic order insists that this display is not meant to be macabre, but rather that is serves as a silent reminder of the swift passage of life on Earth and our own mortality.  With the three skeletal monks, there is a sign which says, "What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be..."
      This day, Ash Wednesday, invites us into the season of Lent with a solemn call to fasting and repentance as we begin our journey to the baptismal waters of Easter.  As we hear in today’s lessons, now is the appropriate time to return to the Lord.  During Lent, the people of God reflect on the meaning of their baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection.  And the sign of ashes vividly signifies to us our human mortality and frailty.   Read more...Collapse )

Sermon: Transfiguration Sunday

A sermon preached at St. Paul’s, Piney Branch in Waldorf, MD on March 3, 2019.
Transfiguration Sunday: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-43a

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

       I don’t know if The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary, has ever come here to preach at St. Paul’s, Piney Branch.  But if he has, you would know he generally likes to offer a joke at the start of his sermon.  Usually, the joke relates somehow to his sermon or the lesson(s) read in church.  I recently received a copy of the book, Lectionary Levity: The Use of Humor in Preaching, which Ian co-authored with Samantha Gottlich, a VTS alum and now priest in the Diocese of Texas.  They suggest that “humor is intended to be a way in for the preaching of the Gospel.”  So, I’ll share their offering for this Last Sunday after the Epiphany in Year C:
       “There is a dinner party of rabbits: they are sitting around eating carrots.  Suddenly, in disguise, a hare tries to join the party.  He sneaks in, sits down, and starts to eat the carrots.  He is pretty successful, managing to stay there beyond midnight.  The hare would have stayed longer.  But the imposter was exposed.  “Get out of here,” said the other rabbits.  The hare recognizes that he must depart.  A little rabbit looks up and says,” Gosh, … hare today, gone tomorrow.”
       Today is Transfiguration Sunday, where we straddle between the end of Epiphany and the beginning of yet another church season.  Later this week, we’ll be feasting on pancakes, bacon, and sausages to celebrate Shrove Tuesday before we enter that holy and blessed penitential season of Lent.
         Today signals the transition from the Incarnational Cycle of God breaking forth into the world through the birth of Jesus to the Paschal Cycle of Christ which culminates with the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah.  We have an Epiphany hymn that I think describes this odd time and this unique event in far more lovely words than I could ever write.  So, I’ll invite you to turn in your hymnals to Hymn 137 if you want to hold that open and follow along ...
“O wondrous type, O vision fair
of glory that the church may share,
which Christ upon the mountain shows,
where brighter than the sun he glows!”

         Our lessons today from Exodus, Second Corinthians, and the Gospel according to Luke tell us that witnesses to the glory of God will be unable to avoid reflecting that glory in the world.  This is the “Glory that the Church may share.”  It was true of Moses as he came down from Mt. Sinai to renew God’s Covenant with the people of Israel.  It was undoubtedly true also for Peter, James and John when they witnessed the meeting of the Law, represented through Moses, and the Prophets represented by Elijah, with Jesus, God’s Incarnate Word in the World.          Read more...Collapse )

Sermon: Love Your Enemies

A sermon preached at Grace Episcopal Church, Alexandria, VA on February 24, 2019.
Epiphany 7: Genesis 45:3-11, 15; Psalm 37:1-12,41-42; 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50; Luke 6:27-38

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

       Enemies come in all shapes and sizes, and we all have them.
        They could be people at work or in your community; perhaps one who gossips about you or ignores you; maybe someone who stole from your business or from you personally; a competitor who doesn’t fight fair; a boss who makes your life difficult; a man or woman who abused or injured you; a colleague who turned on you.  Enemies are sometimes even those we love: family or friends who mock you for your beliefs or affiliation; a partner who left you; a parent who deserted you; siblings who no longer speak to you.
         Yes, enemies come in all shapes and sizes, and we all have them.  Enemies aren’t just soldiers on the other side of a military style war.
         Today we hear the most amazing and challenging section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain.  In Verses 27-28 of Luke’s Gospel, he says, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”  Now, that is not a quote from the Old Testament.  It might have been the local rabbis’ teaching, having interpreted scripture, but it isn’t in the Old Testament.  Instead, Jesus goes on to say that this is the true character of our God. This is the fulfillment of God’s Commandment. Jesus says, ‘I know what the world looks like and feels like.  But I say to you anyway… “Love your enemies ...”
         While I was growing up, my first reaction to an enemy was to fight back, to retaliate, to get my revenge, to hurt them in some way.  I wanted to win at almost any cost.  If that wasn’t possible, I would at least have nothing else to do with them.  I confess I was sometimes even prone to gossip to others about the people who hurt me somehow.  I hope I have, shall we say, matured somewhat since then.
         Read more...Collapse )

Sermon: Blessings & Woes

A sermon preached at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Mt. Vernon, VA on February 17, 2019.
The 6th Sunday after Epiphany: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

            I don’t know if The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary, preaches much here at St. James’, Mount Vernon.  But if he has, you know he generally likes to offer a joke at the start of his sermon.  Usually, the joke relates somehow to his sermon or the lesson(s) read in church.  I recently received a copy of the book, Lectionary Levity: The Use of Humor in Preaching, which Ian co-authored with Samantha Gottlich, a VTS alum and priest now in the Diocese of Texas.  They suggest “humor is intended to be a way in for the preaching of the Gospel.”  So, I’ll share their offering for this 6th Sunday after the Epiphany in Year C:

         “It is well known that there only two kinds of people in the world.  There are those who think there are two kinds of people … and those who don’t.”

         In the series of these Blessings and Woes that we hear from the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus gave his hearers then, and to us now, rules for living that are extraordinary, if not altogether, revolutionary!  There is something fascinating about how we react to rules.  We can resist and come to resent rules and yet, there is something about us that demands rules.  Adults pass on the rules of living to those who are younger; to children, students, or friends.  They usually meet with a good deal of resistance.  I remember overhearing a teenager saying to a clerk in a department store, “I am crazy about this outfit, but may I exchange it if my mother happens to like it?”  We all know that feeling, don’t we?  Somehow, when someone in authority wants to guide us in matters of dress or etiquette or behavior, we can be just a bit rebellious.  Our reaction to what we hear from Jesus today might cause the same reaction.
         And then there is the truth that some of us seem to have more of a need for rules than others.  I can remember in seminary how I could become frustrated because some professors were unwilling to give us concrete rules or – you could say – exact expectations.  Sometimes we want rules spelled out for us.  But I realize now that they gave me a gift because no one can give me rules to all the situations I might face in ministry.        Read more...Collapse )



[1] Varieties of Religious Experiences, p. 368.

Sermon: "Leave Me, Lord!"

A sermon preached at Grace Church, Russell Road in Alexandria, VA on February 10, 2019.
The 5th Sunday after Epiphany: Isaiah 6:1-8, [9-13]; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

           I don’t know if The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary, preaches much here at Grace Church.  If he does, you know he generally likes to offer a joke at the start of his sermon.  Usually, the joke relates somehow to his sermon or the lesson(s) read in church.  I recently received a copy of the book, Lectionary Levity: The Use of Humor in Preaching, which Ian co-authored with Samantha Gottlich, a VTS alum and priest in the Diocese of Texas.  They suggest “humor is intended to be a way in for the preaching of the Gospel.”  So, I’ll share their offering for this 5th Sunday after the Epiphany in Year C:

“An Episcopal priest parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn’t find a space with a meter.  Then he put a note under the windshield wiper that read:

Look, I have circled the block ten times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment.  Forgive us our trespasses.

When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer with this note:

I’ve circled this block for ten years.  If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll lose my job.  Lead us not into temptation.

          The Synoptic gospels of Matthew and Mark speak of Jesus’ calling the first disciples, Simon and Andrew and those twin sons of Zebedee, James and John, while walking alongside the Sea of Galilee.  But only in Luke’s gospel do we hear the story of a miraculous haul of fish after a fruitless night of casting their nets, which precedes the calling of the first disciples.
           Read more...Collapse )

Sermon: Yes, It Is Time!

A sermon preached at Grace Church, Russell Road in Alexandria, VA on January 20, 2019.
The 2nd Sunday after Epiphany: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 
        I usually warn couples during marriage preparation that things can go wrong on their wedding day.
         It may be unfortunate, like the person responsible for distributing the service bulletins to wedding guests beforehand suddenly takes ill so nothing was handed out, leaving everyone there (except for the priest and their spouse) with little to no idea as to how or even when to respond during the service.
         It might be something that few, if any, notice such as a diamond chip falling out of the groom's ring that is found by the Altar Guild just as those outward and visible symbols of vows exchanged are prayed over and blessed (that was Chrissie's and my wedding thirty-eight years ago with our initial wedding bands). Thank you, Grace Church Altar Guild!
         Or perhaps it is something all too obvious as when weather intrudes upon an outdoor wedding venue.  The service had concluded and no sooner than the bridal party and I had processed out of the outdoor chapel and were under cover, the skies opened, unleashing a deluge, leaving wedding guests tossing chairs about and scrambling for cover!
         But weddings are fun.  I love doing weddings because the occasions are so joyous and because I truly value the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  Yes, couples may be stressed, but by the time the reception begins, they are finally married and have moved beyond all the details into that sweet “whatever will happen, will happen” kind of mindset.
         Read more...Collapse )



[1] "Cana - an Unexpected Time," Bite in the Apple, 2013.

Holy Name Sermon: What's In a Name?

Sermon preached at 12:00 Noon at Grace Church, Russell Road in Alexandria, VA on January 1, 2019
1 Christmas-The Holy Name; Year A (RCL): Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:15-21.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So, what’s in a Name?
         In this life that I share with Chrissie, my wife, she is Chris-Miss, but perhaps more importantly, she is Heart Of My Heart (which comes from the final verse of Hymn 488, “Be Thou My Vision”).  And I am, to Chrissie, her Beloved, for that is the etymology of my name David; the purpose which I am called to share with her.
         In the Book of Genesis, and throughout the rest of Scripture, names have been changed to reflect new identities and purposes.  Abram became Abraham and Sarai, Sarah.  Jacob became Israel, ‘one who struggled with God,’ after his wrestling match at the River Jabbok with the holy stranger.  In the New Testament, Saul, persecutor of the fledgling Christian movement, is knocked from his horse and blinded on the road to Damascus; he became Paul, an advocate for the risen Christ.  Simon became Peter, the Rock upon which the Church is built. 
         From the beginning of creation, names have been given the highest importance.  They are more than just words.  For us, they often convey a person’s place and purpose in the world.
         Even as Chrissie and I grow in our marriage which celebrates 38 years tomorrow (I love you, sweetheart!), bringing forth no children of our own, we are accustomed to welcoming four-legged animals to fill our home and warm our hearts.  And when we began, for the most part, we developed our own tradition of “claiming and renaming” through adoption:
   · Valentine became Lazarus (revived when he didn’t go to a different home)
   · Dilly became Gili (which in Hebrew means, ‘my joy, my happiness’)
         Read more...Collapse )
Sermon preached at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Falls Church, VA December 24, 2018.
Christmas Eve, Year C (RCL Christmas Day III): Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4; John 1:1-14

Alleluia! To us a child is born: Come let us adore him. Alleluia!

For much of Christmas, what we see and hear is the Holy Family in Bethlehem. If you came for that tonight, I’m sorry. It is the readings prescribed for Christmas Day I or II that are full of things making Christmas the season that it is. Both Matthew and Luke give us Nativity accounts from an earthly perspective: the way Mary and Joseph and the shepherds in their fields saw what happened.
     Tonight, we hear John’s telling of Christmas, not an earthly account, but from a heavenly perspective, for those with eyes of faith that see. This is the way the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven would have told the Love story of the Incarnation had John not been commissioned to tell it. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1-2, 14)
     Eugene Peterson, the American Presbyterian clergyman, scholar, theologian, author, and poet who died earlier this year, in his interpretation of Scripture called The Message, writes: “The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. ... The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”
     By Word through Flesh, God is in the neighborhood.Read more...Collapse )

The sermon preached at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Falls Church, VA on December 23, 2018.

The 4th Sunday of Advent: Micah 5:2-5a; Psalm 80:1-7; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

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.

        The readings on this Fourth Sunday of Advent move us from the time of preparation and anticipation to a place where the cradle and cross are inextricably connected. Between a lovely tribute to the little town of Bethlehem and the Blessed Virgin Mary's magnificent song of praise, the letter to the Hebrews reminds us in no uncertain terms that Christ’s advent is for “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” It is this kind of tension in which the church always lives as when in the Holy Eucharist – with high delight – “we proclaim the Lord’s death.”

        The eighth-century prophet Micah was one whose prophecies were intended to call the Kingdom back to its common core values of righteousness and justice, especially for the poor. This prophet, having pronounced God's judgment upon Judah, speaks of a future shepherd-king who, like David, will come from the small town of Bethlehem. This king will restore Israel and bring peace. And while this passage is not a prediction of the birth of Jesus, New Testament writers often interpret it as such.

        The imagery language "when she who is in labor has brought forth" might be related to Mary, however the language in the original Hebrew is ambiguous, and the "she" could refer to the nation or to something else. Micah the prophet is concerned with political history and its future, and how God will deliver God's people; Micah is not necessarily prophesying about a Messiah.

        The significant message of Micah is that amid turmoil for a nation that has lost its bearings, God's plan will continue to be revealed and will involve leadership that ushers in a reign of peace. This is a message of hope needed in any time, especially in our own day now.

        "Restore us, O God of hosts; show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved." The psalmist today picks up this sense of longing for restoration and leads us forward into the reading from Hebrews.

Read more...Collapse )

Sermon: God & Jesus Rested; We Should Also

A Sermon preached at Church of St. Andrew’s in Arlington, VA on July 22, 2018
9 Pentecost, Year B (RCL): Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

I speak to you in the Name of God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

         Jesus said to his disciples, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while."
         I don't know if we value rest and relaxation enough.  Rather, we seem to make a virtue of unceasing labor; we boast about how busy we are, as if the hectic pace of our lives is proof that we're important and significant.  We feel guilty when we're not working, and maybe even envious of those able to step away from the grindstone.
         I say this to highlight the way we approach work and leisure.  Because God is quite interested in the matter of rest.  To God, rest is not just wasted time when we could be doing something useful and productive.  No, rest properly understood has value, worth and purpose.  It's essential to our physical, mental and spiritual well-being.  I hope we all will examine the balance of work and rest in our lives; and not only the quantity, but the quality of our rest, to see if it's what we need.  And perhaps more importantly, if the balance of work and rest we experience in our lives is pleasing and acceptable to God.
         First, let's establish that the Lord God rests.  Anything that God does is a good thing.  We hear that again and again in the creation account in the Book of Genesis.  No one would accuse God of being lazy or unproductive.  Yet the Bible tells us clearly that both God the Creator and Christ the Redeemer regularly took time for rest.
         Why does the Bible tell us this?  Because the balance of work and rest that we see in God's creative activity is intended to be a model for us.  Whether or not you believe we should set aside the seventh day of each week as a formal day of rest, Scripture tells us we should follow a regular pattern of ceasing from our labors.  It tells us a lifestyle of uninterrupted labor, day after day, is not good for us, nor is it pleasing to the Lord.  In other words, if God chose to rest, then we should also.  We should strive to follow God's good example.
         In the same way, we see that Jesus rested also. Read more...Collapse )

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