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Sermon: The Meaning of Our Lord is Love

A Sermon preached at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria, VA on May 10, 2015.

6th Sunday of Easter, Year B (RCL): Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17

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 have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete."

I love those words. For many years, "that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete" were words that epitomized the fruit of a marital relationship wedded in and through Jesus Christ. My wife Chrissie and I shared in the ministry of Episcopal Engaged Encounter for 25 years, a program endorsed by the Church for the preparation of couples wanting to be married in Holy Matrimony. This joy is not happiness. It's not a surface thing. It is something deeper. Imagine something being shared by two people as being twice the joy, and half the sorrow. Even in lament. It's a joy that manifest deep love in relationship.

Today’s image of the life that the risen Christ shares with us is the image of friendship. We are called to serve others as Jesus came to serve; but for John’s gospel, the image of servanthood is too hierarchical, too distant, to capture the essence of life with Christ. Friendship captures the love, the joy, the deep mutuality of the relationship into which Christ invites us. The Greeks believed that true friends are willing to die for each other. This is the mutual love of Christian community commanded by Christ and enabled by the Spirit.

          The Acts of the Apostles tells us Peter was sharing the good news of Jesus with a Gentile soldier and his family when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. Recognizing that the Spirit works inclusively in the lives of both the Jews and the Gentiles, Peter commands that these Gentiles also be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

          John's first epistle says that God’s children believe that Jesus is the Messiah and to love God by keeping God’s commandments. Thus the world will be conquered, not through military might, but rather, through faith and love.

          The Gospel according to John remembers the night of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus delivers a final testimony to his disciples to help them in the days ahead. Here, he repeats the most important of all his commands: that they love one another.

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Number #3: The Baptism of Emily

I had the great honor and privilege of baptizing a young infant in our congregation, who was all of 4 months and one week old.  Emily was the most precious thing and so well behaved.  Every clergyperson should have a child so meek and mild to welcome into the house of God.



If Quest Love of The Roots (the drummer in The Tonight Show featuring Jimmy Fallon band) were my bandleader for a service whenever I did a Baptism, he would've yelled Number #3 at the 11:15 a.m. service this past Sunday.

Sermon: "Abundant Life!"

A sermon preached at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria, VA on May 11, 2014

The Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A (RCL): Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

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

Last Saturday, I had the honor and privilege of assisting at memorial services for two of God’s children. One had lived a mere nine years and the other’s life had spanned almost nine decades. As I heard more about the quality of life my young friend Andrew had known, I turned to my clergy friend before her homily, and said, “A short but full life was his.” And later that day, I reflected upon the life of the older, a parishioner of Immanuel, Jean Schnedl, whose life was full of teaching, who was led by the Holy Spirit to share that same Spirit with others, and to do good works through intentional outreach. That provided me a moment of clarity to see the more true sense of ‘fullness of life.’

In the tenth verse of the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to John, Jesus said “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

So what does full or abundant life look like? The Greek word that we translate as ‘full’ or ‘abundantly’ is perissos – which means ‘more than sufficient’ or ‘over and above what is required.’ It can also mean 'out of the ordinary' or 'superior'. So the life that Jesus offers us is something totally extraordinary, quite unlike anything else we can experience. It is a life of fulfillment, completeness, and joy.

Jesus said “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” What God desires, is for his children to live a life full of happiness, peace, and a genuine friendship with God. St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, writes about the fruit of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control[1], to which we might also add purity, humility, modesty, faith, character, wisdom, enthusiasm, dignity, optimism, confidence, and honesty. This is the life that Jesus offers us. This is what it means to have life in all its fullness.

The Old Testament refers frequently to the abundance of God’s “steadfast love,” and the God of Israel is consistently described as “abounding in steadfast love.”

In the Old Testament, especially in Proverbs, an abundance of material possessions, or wealth, can be referred to as a gift from God[2], or a reward for piety[3], righteousness[4], hard work or good planning[5]. But those texts also acknowledge that an abundance of wealth could be gained through unacceptable ways[6], and the prophets regularly condemned those who had accumulated their abundance at the expense of others.

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Later today on February 14th, Valentine's Day, I am speaking bout the ministry of presence, baptismal promises, and the vocation of marriage when I advocate for marriage equality in the Commonwealth at the noonday People of Faith for Equality in Virginia event at the Alexandria City Courthouse. here's the text of my statement:

         Good afternoon. My name is David Crosby. I’m a local Episcopal priest for whom a large part of my ministry involves showing up and being present.

         So I am happy to be here today with city officials and other fellow clergy to offer my support to those in my own parish family and other same-sex couples who are in committed, monogamous, lifelong, loving relationships. They seek the very same civic right I was extended when the Heart Of My Heart and I married 33 years ago here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

         Two promises we make in the Episcopal Church when we are baptized or reaffirm our vows of Holy Baptism are worldly in scope.

         One promise is to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. As a child of God, I am called to acknowledge how grateful I am for God’s unconditional love, which has made a new way of life possible for me and all of us. So I promise to help those who reject or distort the truth about themselves to see that there is an alternative way to live by loving them, and allowing them to love themselves and another of their choosing, as God has loved all of us.

         Another promise is to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. I believe it right to acknowledge that God’s reign of justice and peace, that is, of reconciliation, is a reality. Therefore, I have promised to demonstrate in ways both great and small what it means to live together as a people restored to unity with God and one another in Christ Jesus. I am committed to honoring and respecting the uniqueness and value of all people.

         In the Church, we believe that the sacramental nature of the vocation or calling from God that marriage is, means two people living together in love: uniquely, totally, and irrevocably. We believe that this relationship is a sign of God’s love in this world and that we are called to be loving and life-giving to our partners, and to others.

  I have come to realize that the real goal of marriage is UNITY, not happiness. Unity is the idea that we are living God’s will for US, and that whatever comes, we have the strength and support in our faith and love to guide us through. Unity is not looking for what will make us happy, but how we can be strong by living for each other and by dying for each other in the spirit of compromise. Unity is about growing old together, taking time to nurture our love through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part.       

         Christian loving is not just a cozy relationship with my God. I believe that a solid relationship with my Creator is only possible when I love and respect each human being, or when I love all whom God loves. A love that draws boundaries between individuals, classes, races, nations and religions is not of God.

         I believe that my baptismal promises and my own vocation of marriage require that I stand here today with my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to support their right to be married also.     

         May the gracious and amazing God who loves us bless us all.

         Thank you.


God's Minute: September 9th

Here's today's scripture reference and prayer from "God's Minute", a book published in 1916 that contains 365 daily prayers sixty seconds long for home worship "by the most eminent preachers and laymen in the English speaking world":

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. -- Heb. 4:14-16.

        O God, our loving Father in Heaven!  We look up to Thee now with reverence and trust and love.  We thank Thee for teaching us to "come boldly unto the Throne of Grace."
        With penitence we confess our sinfulness, and ask for forgiveness.  With trust we bring our weakness to Thee, and ask for strength.  With love we bring our hearts to Thee, and ask Thee to enter and possess.  Lead us onward step by step.  Order the pathway of life for us as Thine own wisdom and love shall see to be best.  Help us to be found faithful throughout.
        Bless with us our dear ones, and all for whom we should pray.  Let Thy peace possess the world.  May Thy Kingdom come, O Christ, come quickly!  All this we ask in the name of Jesus our Saviour.  Amen.

Anson P. Atterbury, D. D.,
    New York City, N.Y.

 

It's a New Day

The Posting Priest is very happy to announce the arrival of our new rector, The Rev. J. Randolph ("Randy") Alexander, Jr., and his family to Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill. Fr. Alexander will be our celebrant and preacher this Sunday, August 25 at 8 a.m. & 10 a.m. Please come join us for this new beginning in ministry shared in this place. Church Sign Welcome

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