September 24, 2023
All are welcome!
What are parables meant to illustrate? Generally speaking, parables are simple, understandable fictitious tales that illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus’s parables were not as transparent as he thought they were, given the need for him to explain them in scripture, to the disciples, to the 1st century hearer, and often to us 21st century readers. Sometimes the purpose was lost in translation, or the meaning was misunderstood after so many years and centuries. However, the ancients and we likely would agree on the meaning of this Sunday’s parable about the owner of the vineyard paying “what was right” to all the daily workers. We all would be shocked that what Jesus meant was right was to pay the same wages to workers that came early in the morning, and some who arrived at 9 in the morning, and those who came at noon, and the ones who came at 3 in the afternoon, and at 5 in the early evening. Yes, we all have heard Jesus often that the first will be last and the last will be first.
Jesus had preached and taught and lived justice, justice, justice, and this is a teaching on justice. So what is right? What is fair? Justice here would mean equal. But is justice always about equality? Perhaps not in the Kingdom of God.
My women peers in ministry are of two camps. God is always about justice. Some of them pride themselves in how many times they have been arrested for a just cause. But this woman priest believes that God is always about love. Love can lead to justice, but always the love comes first. Surely those workers that came later or even as it was almost dark were not going to be paid the same as those who came at daybreak! Well, Jesus said that the landowner could pay them what he thought was right. And so he paid them all the same regardless of when they started work. What we do not fully understand is God’s generosity. In God’s Kingdom the worker who woke before dawn and the one who slept in and arrived at the 11th hour are loved exactly the same.
Today’s parable is not so much about justice. It is about God’s graciousness, God’s generosity. We pray for our daily bread, enough for today, not for bread enough for the month or even the week. And we often are not satisfied that we didn’t get the whole loaf, especially if our neighbor has two loaves in the oven. We smell that bread baking, and we get angry or jealous because we don’t have two, when we cannot possibly eat two loaves of bread today. Could it be that the one who has two is meant to share it with someone who has none? That is how we are all fed, is it not? In the Kingdom of God, all are fed. Again in Jesus’s parable he has turned what we think of as the norm upside down. This parable of the workers in the vineyard only appears in the Gospel according to Matthew. In writing to the Jewish Christians and the Gentiles – those who came later to the Christian community – are the same. And applying that interpretation now shows us that all are welcome – those who have an established claim as old members of the church and new members as well. We are not all the same. We are not all equal, we do not all have the same gifts or the same portion of gifts. But we all have gifts to share. God welcomes all to the table, and so must we. It is how our generous, gracious, loving God would have us live! All are welcome!
September 10, 2023
10 Books we Episcopalians should read
Most of us have heard the wonderful, colorful, and reassuring stories of God and God’s people, Bible stories that have the power to settle disputes…to calm storms…to convert hearts. So, of course, #1 is the Bible. Read Holy Scripture. Choose whatever translation of the Bible you like best. But read it. The New Revised Standard Version is closest to the original Greek and the translation from which we read during service every week, stories from the Old Testament books, the Book of Psalms, the New Testament, and the Gospel. Use the NRSV New Interpreters Study Bible as a study Bible. I encourage us to use two different ones – one with annotations that you agree with. And the second study Bible should be one that stretches you and invites you to think hard with the Lord – which is what praying really is – thinking hard with the Lord. Pray as you read, and let the Holy Spirit guide your reading.
#2 – From 1936 to 1950 a young French woman – a mystic – had conversations with Jesus. He asked Gabriel de Bossis to write his words down, and she did, in a lovely little book “Lui et Moi.” Translated from French He and I has been read all over the world in dozens of languages. Jim and I read excerpts every day calling these readings “a word from our sponsor.”
#3 – The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. As a young Lutheran pastor Bonhoeffer joined the underground to work for Hitler’s defeat because it was his Christian duty. He was arrested, imprisoned and sent to concentration camps where he ministered to the sick and his fellow prisoners, but also to the guards, who smuggled out his poems and papers which were published as Letters and Papers from Prison which along with The Cost of Discipleship are two of the best examples of what a modern Christian must be in our world.
#4 – C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters which is a cleverly written satirical communication between the imaginary Screwtape – a highly placed assistant to the devil – and his nephew Wormwood who was to tempt (and damn) an ordinary young man. Mere Christianity is another masterpiece of Lewis’s that is possibly the best apologetic book on why we should be Christians. But I commend any and all of C.S. Lewis’s writings – especially The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and all the Narnia series – for children and adults. And he also wrote The Space Trilogy which is some of the best science fiction there is.
#5 – New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton is superb, but then I used to have all of Merton’s writings. New Seeds is accessible and can be read in snippets. I have even used it to enter into contemplative prayer.
#6 – The Heart of Christianity – Rediscovering a Life of Faith is one of my favorites written by Marcus Borg. I also commend to you Meeting Jesus again for the First Time and Reading the Bible again for the First Time. But then I love most anything he wrote himself or in any and all of his collaborations with Dom Crossan, Walter Wink, Jack Spong, and other progressive thinkers and even the book he coauthored with the very orthodox N.T. Wright (The Meaning of Jesus).
#7 – N.T. Wright’s After you Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. All of Bishop Wright’s books are well written and scholarly, but also very accessible. In After You Believe the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England addresses questions like “what is our purpose?” and “how do we live in the here and now?” A good read and can be transformative.
When we were packing up to go to seminary, we had the children bring U-Haul trucks to take away furniture and things that they could use. Sara stood in the huge dining room, that sat up to 20 people, and she actually petted the furniture. I went up from behind and held her in my arms. She asked with tears in her eyes – “So, you and Papa don’t want to live the ‘good life’ anymore?” We thought that was exactly what we were about to embark upon –a The Good Life. And that is the title of #8 – by Peter Gomes, the late chaplain of Harvard University. The Good Life: Truths That Last in Times of Need that followed his extraordinary The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart. Peter Gomes is an artist. He paints with words. AND his books are all indexed really well – a big plus in my book (Pun intended.).
The Night Trilogy is #9 and is Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiezel’s collection – a memoir and two novels: Night, Dawn, and Day. Night is based on his experiences as a Holocaust survivor. He is the author of 57 books that speak of peace, atonement, and human dignity. In an interview with US News & World Report (27 October 1986) he said: “Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil…. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.”
#10 is my favorite 21st century theologian and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ Being Christian; Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer. He has written more than 3 dozen books, and hundreds of poems. Unlike most theologians, he says what needs to be said not in 500 words but 50. To me he is the most brilliant of all these writers. He says that he really didn’t want to be Archbishop. Now away from the pressures of Lambeth Palace, he is back to writing poetry and is a man transformed. Now he is just a priest with his eyes glinting under those famous eyebrows as he walks a bit taller on the grounds of Magdalene College at Cambridge.
Of course, there are some Honorable Mentions – 21st century books that deal with the church of the future. So I give a nod to:
1) Brian McLaren’s The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything (His A New Kind of Christian is also a winner.)
2) Diana Butler Bass’s Christianity for the Rest of Us,
3) Phyllis Tickle’s Emergent Church, and
4) everything that my favorite preacher and author Barbara Brown Taylor has written, but most especially An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith.
I encourage us to make our own list.
And I ask you to pray for those who have never heard the powerful Old Testament stories of the Passover or Paul’s advice to the church in Rome as to how to keep the commandments of God and Peter and the twelve learning in the Gospel according to Matthew, that when two or three are gathered in his name, then Christ is right there among them, as he is with us.
August 27, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
Do we need a Sabbath?
In creation, God created a time of rest. The Sabbath was created as a time to rest and reconnect with the one who made us. Two of our grandchildren were born in Los Angeles at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center that sits in an area that has a large population of Orthodox Jews. From Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset, the elevators automatically stop at every floor, so that an Orthodox Jew does not violate the proscription of work on the Sabbath.
I wonder how we observe the Sabbath. Can we create a time of Sabbath rest simply by putting down our cellphones or not answering emails for the day? Do we take advantage of the respite made just for us? Do we leave a day – whatever day is our Sabbath – just for rest and prayerful reflection? Do we? If we cannot make it to church on Sunday, do we make a Sabbath for ourselves and observe the spiritual discipline that we may have adopted as our own practice?
Our Bishop Russell Kendrick took a short Sabbatical – a Sabbath of 3 months. When he returned he wrote to the clergy saying. “The time away was all that I had hoped for.” He returned to us excited about his ministry. You see, Sabbath rest is not a place to merely escape our daily lives, but a place to renew us to go back to our callings with new strength and enthusiasm. Jim and I took the week of August 20th through 26th as a vacation. We did not go visit family, though I briefly was tempted. We took too many books, non-theological ones. We carried one of our Home Pods with Pandora or Apple Music to groove to our music. We listened to the gulf waves and watched sunrises and sunsets. We ate really good meals that we did not have to prepare or clean up after. We did not work. (Indeed I am writing this bon mot and Jim is writing his sermon for this Sunday two weeks ahead.) I pray that our spiritual disciplines are not forgotten, as they are life-giving for us.
I know that my prayers will unceasingly be for you all and our outreach ministries. But also my prayers for healing for the people and lands of Hawai’i will be foremost in my mind. I invite you to adopt the following from Bishop Bob Fitzpatrick of Hawai’i as part of your prayer life:
O God, our refuge and strength, our help in times of trouble:
Have mercy on the lands damaged by fires;
Have mercy on the lands where the weather has destroyed livelihoods;
Protect those who evacuate houses, and strengthen those who rebuild hope
so that entire communities may face the future without fear. Amen.
I would add “Guard the first responders that they not be overwhelmed by despair.” Lahaina is a town of 13,000, like us in Destin. Let us rest in that knowledge for a moment. I am devastated at the news that of the nearly 100 people found dead there, so far from the fires, only 2 people have been identified. For us, it is reminiscent of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when many hundreds of bodies went unclaimed and unidentified. (In October of 2005 right after the storm they froze the number at 1833 persons who had died, even though they did not begin to look for bodies in homes until January of 2006. Millions were left homeless, including us, so our home was empty.) No, I am not suffering PTSD again. But, I pray that when (not if) this disaster in Hawai’i is over, that those who are searching for people and instead finding horrific devastation of life may find time for Sabbath rest in the restorative loving arms of the Lord.
August 13, 2023
Are the Gospels God’s little instruction book? No indeed! Too often we reduce the power of familiar Gospel stories to words of advice. Is today’s reading just a chapter in Chicken Soup for the Soul? We hear “Keep your eye on Jesus, Peter, and you won’t sink into the angry sea.” There were dangerous storms on the lake that Matthew calls the Sea of Galilee (1). The lake is about 60 miles from Jerusalem and at one time was 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. It is 700 feet below sea level, 150 feet deep at its lowest point. The Jordon River flows through it. This fresh water lake is the source of drinking water for many towns on its northern and western shores. There are hot springs along the western shores. The eastern shore rises high above the surface of the lake. The high hills and the low level of the lake combined with abrupt temperature changes make for sudden and violent storms.
The storms that the disciples encountered – like the life events that cause stormy times in our lives – could they be tests of our faith? Are we to interpret this reading as a challenge to simply keep our eye on the Lord – keep strong in our faith, and we can conquer our fears?
Does today’s reading from the Gospel according to Matthew meant to teach us how to live in faith rather than fear? The Gospels are much more powerful than that. Jesus is not just our life coach. He is not merely our guide on our journeys. The authors of the Gospels tell of his extraordinary life, death, and resurrection, but they do not paint Jesus just as our spiritual guru. Of course, Jesus is all that, but Jesus the Christ is much much more. He is our Savior.
As Peter faltered, he called out: “Lord, save me!” Save me! And Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him (2). Are we to take Peter’s walk of faith on the water, his sinking faith, and his slipping beneath the waters of the Sea of Galilee as a teaching moment for us and our failing faith? Why, if we just had sufficient faith, could we overcome all our problems in spectacular ways? Could we walk on water? To identify faith with exceptional exceptions to the norm – even the norms of physics and biology – what would that accomplish, except maybe a special tent in the sideshow of the circus? I think it would be dangerous to our souls to fantasize that the reality of our everyday lives that often are interrupted by accidents and disease and aging could and should be changed if we just had enough faith. We all want that miracle in our lives. We want to step out on the water. But that would put the guilt of sinking on us.
Our Lord reached out his hand and caught Peter. He saved Peter. And he has saved us. And he still reaches out his hand to us. We all need to be saved. We all need to be rescued from the storms of our lives from time to time. Like Peter, all we need to do is say “Lord, save me.” But really we already are saved by Christ Jesus – by his saving act of love for us and all people.
(1) The Hebrews named it the Sea of Chinneroth, because it is shaped like a harp. Luke referred to it as Lake Gennesaret for the plains that surround it. And in the Gospel according to John it is Lake Tiberius.
(2) Likely we have all had an experience of another pedestrian taking our hand or reaching around us to pull us out of the way of an out-of-control car – either as the one who needed saving or the savior. I have been pulled back onto the sidewalk more than once – out of the way of an oncoming bus once in Washington, DC. And Jim has taken my hand and caught me many times before I stepped into harm’s way
July 30, 2023
The Kingdom of God is like…
In the author of Matthew’s time, the Jewish Christians could teach with the Torah in one hand and what would become the Gospel in the other. Jesus’s disciples had learned about the Kingdom of God from the Son of God himself. Often our Lord taught using parables. The meaning of parables may be lost to some 21st century hearers, but not to the disciples. While they were not farmers, and they may have only watched as their mother or grandmother or wife made bread, but they knew how many a loaf of bread would feed. They may never have won the lottery, tripping over treasure when they least expected it. They may have never held a precious pearl in their hands. But they knew fishing. They said, “Yes, Lord, we understand.” Then our Lord told his own that they were like the scribes who had been trained for the Kingdom of Heaven. Scribes taught God’s law and wisdom, but they knew them first hand.
Now the mustard seed is very very small. Mustard seeds blow about and plant themselves wherever they fall. In much of the South mustard is so ubiquitous that if you break the ground, mustard will grow and cover the field with bright yellow blooms that then makes more seed that the wind will plant someplace else. Can faith in our day propagate as easily as Southern mustard? In Palestine mustard could grow to be a shrub, perhaps even as large as a small tree. The disciples’ faith, the faith of the early Jewish Christian church, and our faith should grow as strong as a tree so that it could support the Kingdom of God and all those who come to live in it.
In the short parable of the yeast, God’s Kingdom should grow from small beginnings to a significant size. In 1st century terms, bread was made from three measures of flour that would feed not just the family, but as many as 100 people? Jesus’s message of yeast could – and should – affect the lives of many by transforming them, as it did in the context of his immediate followers, those later in the 1st century, and it can transform us today.
As for the one who stumbled over hidden treasure and then acquired the legal title to the property by selling all that he owned to buy the field, that is the value of belonging to the Kingdom of God. The merchant valued God’s Kingdom – the pearl – over all else.
And on the Sea of Galilee, where many of Jesus’s disciples had fished, the net of God’s Kingdom gathered fish that were edible and fish that had to be discarded. The fishermen turned disciples of Jesus still had the calluses on their hands from hauling in nets. They knew which fish were so full of bones that they were inedible. And they knew that there had to be a sorting out of the good from the bad at the end of the day.
We too are called to usher in the Kingdom of God – to transform our culture to reflect what God wants – to experience Heaven in the here and now. May we give the Kingdom of God room to grow – to grow strong enough to support new nests here. May we mix in yeast to expand in us and become bread enough to feed hundreds. May we notice the treasure we trip over and find that thing of great value that the Kingdom of God is – to us and so many others. May our fishing nets be so sturdy that they can gather in more and more. We too need to understand Jesus’s parables because it is up to us to usher in the Kingdom of God.
July 16, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
The Parable of the Soil
The Parable of the Sower could – and should, I think – be called the Parable of the Soil. We are the soil, but are we the soil of the path that cannot even allow seeds to germinate, or are we rocky soil where good works begin to take root but the roots cannot be sustained, and the Word falls away, or are we like thorny soil, where the Word is sown but the “cares and occupations of the world” – that golden rope – chokes the new seedlings? Surely we all would want to be good soil, where the Word of God has been planted. If we hear and heed the Word planted in us and the good soil sustains us, then we bear good fruit, much good fruit.
So, how do we become good soil? Who tilled the soil where we would eventually be planted? Looking back at my life, I know who prepared the soil that is my being – my grandmother, my Sunday School teachers, youth ministers, camp counselors, and priests who served in my home church until I was ready to be planted, and bishops who trusted in my calling to Holy Orders.
Each night we pray the Order of Compline, and we pray for our children, and grandchildren, and Godchildren, asking the Lord to make us worthy teachers of them. All we can do is till the soil, and water and weed what is sowed.
Our twin Godsons are named for Archbishops: Oscar William and Rowan Kirkpatrick. Oscar is named for Oscar Romero and William Laud; both were martyred. Oscar Romero the Archbishop of San Salvador championed democracy and was assassinated for his political activism. He was shot through his heart while celebrating Communion at a chapel located in a hospital. The day before, he had called on Salvadoran soldiers to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. He was elevating the chalice when he was shot; his blood spilled over the altar along with the wine.
William Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury during the time of civil unrest with many clashes between Puritans and Anglicans. We can thank him for many of our traditions, particularly of how we worship today. Many were not so impressed with his liturgical changes, but it was likely his role as judge that cost the Archbishop his life. He administered justice with equality as he did pastoral care – without regard for the status of the one in need. He was imprisoned, then tried and convicted of treason for his part in the civil unrest in England. He was beheaded.
Archbishop Rowan William was not martyred. But he left service as the Archbishop of Canterbury to return to academic life, writing and teaching and tilling the soil of future ministers, preparing the soil of many to hear and understand the Word.
Here is a prayer poem attributed to Oscar Romero that I have shared before, but it bears reading again in the context of seed planting in good soil.
It helps, now and then, to step back. And take the long view.
The kingdom is not beyond our efforts. It is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about: We only plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water the seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything. And there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something and to do it well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
An opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
But that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
Ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
We who are blessed to serve in ministry just work the soil. We may never see the end results, but we trust in the future promise of what well prepared soil can yield.
July 2, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
Welcoming Boo Radley
We watched To Kill a Mockingbird a week ago. While I would love to see the stage play version of Harper Lee’s book in Monroeville, Alabama, where the novelist lived, I cannot imagine Atticus Finch being played by anyone but Gregory Peck, who could out-act anyone and even effectively deliver a line with his back to the camera. The book came out at the height of the civil rights movement. Setting aside the issue of book banning (which is hard to do in today’s climate), the subject matter involved rape and racial injustice, But what is meaningful today is the notion of being welcoming as expressed in today’s Gospel reading: “whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous…”Atticus had two children who vacillated between taunting the curiously challenged man next door and trying to welcome him into their world.
The outcast Arthur “Boo” Radley had never been welcomed into society. He was a lost person hidden away because he was so very different from anyone else in his family and in that southern town. He frightened most of the children (and adults) in the small southern town where Atticus defended Tom Robinson, the black man accused of assaulting a young impressionable white woman who had lied about the assault and whose father actually had beaten his own daughter. Boo saved the son Jem Finch from the rage of that father. Scout escaped and came home to find Jem unconscious in his own bed and Boo behind the door. Now Boo had left handmade figures and other odd gifts for the two children, but his greatest gift was Jem’s life.
“When Boo Radley was ready to go home, [Scout said:] ‘I led him to the front porch where his uneasy steps halted. He was still holding my hand and gave no sign of letting me go. “Will you take me home?” He almost whispered it, in the voice of a child afraid of the dark. I put my foot on the top step and stopped. I would lead him through our house, but I would never lead him home. “Mister Arthur, bend your arm down here, like that. That’s right, sir.” I slipped my hand into the crook of his arm… Radley escorted me down the sidewalk as any gentleman would do….
Boo and I walked up the steps to his porch. His fingers found the front doorknob. He gently released my hand, opened the door, went inside, and shut the door behind him. I never saw him again.
Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return…’ ”
That day Scout welcomed her neighbor Boo Radley into society of a southern town broken by bias. Inequality was not entirely healed in the book. Tom Robertson was not welcomed, but Boo was. I believe that Harper Lee intended Boo to be an angel who was welcomed unaware.
Early on in the book the title is explained. It was a sin to kill a mockingbird because:
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy…but sing their hearts out for us.”
When asked about why she was so welcoming to Boo Radley, Scout explained that hurting their reclusive neighbor Boo Radley would be “sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird.”
June 18, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
The Hospitality of Abraham
St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea has been known for her hospitality for more than two decades. I wonder if we have been entertaining angels unaware. Most assuredly we have, though we do not always recognize angels in our midst. At first Abraham did not know that the three persons who had sought him out were indeed angel messengers of God if not God. He was sitting in the opening of his tent when three men approached him; he received them as guests, had their feet washed as was the courtesy offered to travelers, and then he offered hospitality and a meal. It was God that Abraham entertained, represented as three angels or men who spoke as one in unison. Before God left them he made them a promise, that they would have a son. This was to happen before God would come to them again. And indeed, it came to pass that Abraham and Sarah in their old age did have a child.
This event has been depicted most memorably in Russian iconography by the 15th century artist Roublev. An earlier version showed Abraham on one side and Sarah on the other with the table looking much more like an altar with the slave killing the fatted calf for their meal at the bottom. What is remarkable to me in the Russian icons, and the later Greek ones, is that the table itself always appears to have room for others, there always being room at the table. And indeed there does always seem to be room at our table here at the church for all comers.
Often when we pray over the food at our table, we say only a blessing and thanks. But a grace over our food offering should really be better expressed as an invitation for God to join us. We might say: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed.” As people known for our hospitality what do we do now? What are we being called to do as we live into this third century after being redefined as THE Episcopal Church in Destin, Florida?
If you talk to any of the generous and gifted chefs who cook three hot meals each week for our unhoused clients at the Blue Door, you will see a commonality that is unmistakable – joy. The joy they take in planning and shopping, the joy of the actual cooking, the joy they share with others in the kitchen and at the tables, and the joy they share in eating with our friends who live without a table to share with others.
My prayer is that it may always be so. That we continue to show God’s love in entertaining strangers and angels and friends at our Sunday fellowship tables and lunch tables here at the church. How can you help? Offer your time as you are able. Offer food as you are able. And pray.
Pray for God to join us at the table.
June 4, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
The Trinity: Unity in Diversity
The concept of the Holy Trinity is hard for even the most academic of theologians, but this simple priest does love a challenge. Actually, the best expression I have ever done was with the help of 12 Sunday School children who made a circle that was constantly moving that broke up into three smaller circles and then made the larger circle again and then became three again but with different children in the smaller ones, all while constantly moving in relationship with one another. They were brilliant.
The church fathers took several centuries to work out a “reasonable acceptable” way to express the complex relation of Father, Son, and Spirit. The almost complete concept of the Trinity was announced in the year 381 in Constantinople. God is one being in three equal and consubstantial persons. That must have been hard for the 1st century Jewish Christians who had struggled to accept an uncompromising monotheistic God. Later Christians worshiped – as we worship – one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity. The term Trinity is from the Latin tri, “three,” and unitas, “unity.” Tertullian devised the term to express the mystery of the unity-in-diversity…
We still baptize in the name of the Trinity, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We cannot see the Trinity without seeing all three persons of God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is three in one. There are not three Gods, but different forms of the same thing. The three persons are not the same. And yet God is fully present in each of the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
We acknowledge the Trinity when we affirm out faith using the words of the Nicene Creed. We believe in One God, the Father, the Almighty… We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God… We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified … How we understand the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son is a newish way of expressing the Spirit.
I think the children had it right! The Holy Trinity is all about relationships – the relationship of the three persons of God that are all actively moving and working together to accomplish God’s work. The Trinity unites us in the work we do. As the community of St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea we come from different places with different points of view. And from our different perspectives we have forged a church with a nearly laser focused outreach ministry. Is working in the Blue Door for everyone? Hardly. There are many other ministries that keep this church alive. Together we make our church work, not in spite of our differences but because of them. The Trinity unites us in all our beautiful diversity to be the hands of the Trinitarian God.
 As the Episcopal Church glossary defines the Holy Trinity. See https://www.episcopalchurch.org/glossary/trinity.
 Tertullian was a prolific early Christian author (155 – 220 AD) from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He was the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature.
May 21, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
When we see someone waiting for the Lord, praying to the Lord, giving God that precious moment, do we think that they are just wasting time? The remaining eleven disciples and the other followers – which included many women – went back to the upper room to wait as Jesus had told them. They waited and prayed and experienced true joy. They were still. They did not argue, they did not pour over the details of the last week, they did not cry, they did not lose patience, they simply waited as Jesus had told them. They waited for power to come upon them. They prepared for that power – for the Holy Spirit – to come.
There is a time to wait on God and a time to work for God. The waiting is a time of preparation to be able to do God’s work. Without preparation, our work will fail. Often we are overwhelmed as we wait, like the mother that poet Fay Inchfawn writes about:
I wrestle–how I wrestle!–through the hours.
Nay, not with principalities and powers–
Dark spiritual foes of God’s and man’s–
But with antagonistic pots and pans;
With footmarks on the hall,
With smears upon the wall,
With doubtful ears and small unwashen hands,
And with a babe’s innumerable demands.
And then this mother lays aside her work to just to be with God. She gives God her time.
With leisured feet and idle hands, I sat.
I, foolish, fussy, blind as any bat,
Sat down to listen, and to learn. And lo,
My thousand tasks were done the better so.
So we wait, we wait for Jesus to come, where Mrs. Ward suggests we wait not just for him in church, in the communion bread, but at home where he is a guest at our table:
Sometimes, when everything goes wrong;
When days are short and nights are long;
When wash-day brings so dull a sky
That not a single thing will dry.
And when the kitchen chimney smokes,…
When friends deplore my faded youth,
And when the baby cuts a tooth….
And butcher’s man forgets to come.
Sometimes I say on days like these,
I get a sudden gleam of bliss.
Not on some sunny day of ease,
He’ll come … but on a day like this!
, 2, 3 Inspired by William Barclay on Luke 24, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsh/
luke 24.html and his favorite poet Fay Inchfawn ( the pen name of Mrs Elizabeth Rebecca Ward, the late 19th century British author and poet who was called “The Poet Laureate of the Home”)
April 16, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
We are resurrection people, and yet I invite us all to doubt – and to doubt boldly! Disbelief and doubt are part of the Easter experience. Yes, we celebrate and embrace Easter with joy, and we hope for the resurrection we have been assured of by our Lord Jesus’s putting an end to death. We trust the promise of eternal life by Jesus being raised from the dead. But we must also doubt; we must embrace our disbelief. Easter holds life and death in one hand. And if we are honest, we hold the mystery of the resurrection – the doubt or disbelief – along with the joy of our Lord’s return. I am certain that the disciples doubted – and not just Thomas. Jesus did not condemn his disciples and followers for doubting.
Have you ever wondered why no one – not one of the disciples – said to our Lord: “Welcome back – welcome home!” or “Jesus, you came back as promised!”? Have any of us wondered why none of them rejoiced with an “Alleluia! Woo Hoo, he did it!” None of Jesus’s followers were reported to have said: “We knew it all along.” My friends, I think that they were all doubters. If they were honest they might have expressed their fears and doubts. Could it be that Thomas was just the most honest of all the disciples? Thomas was not there when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples. Could it be that he was the only one brave enough to go out to get provisions – to get food – for his friends? And yet Thomas was expected to believe without having seen. And he demanded: “Show me the evidence!” So the next week when the community of Jesus’s followers were still gathered in a room all to themselves, our Lord appeared again and encouraged Thomas saying: “Do not doubt but believe.” And upon seeing, Thomas then made the most complete affirmation of faith of anyone in the gospel: “My Lord and my God!” Since Thomas’s declaration, the faith of all Christians –in all ages – has rested on the testimony of the first believers. Thomas’s eyewitness account and his expression of faith was intended to help those who were not witnesses of Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension– and to help us – to “come to believe” and thus “have life in Jesus’s name” – have eternal life.
Our Lord said: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” This was not so much a rebuke of Thomas as it was a confirmation of Thomas’s faith. Jesus spoke these words in the Gospel according to John to the community of believers who – just like us – were doubters. This was a blessing to all who had come – and all who in the centuries since have come – to believe even though they had not had the benefit of direct experience being with Jesus after he was raised from the dead. Yes, seeing is believing. But blessed are those who believe even though they had not seen. This blessing transcends the generations from John’s community to our time.
I find it liberating that we don’t have to have all the answers to be faithful – we can have doubts and still come to church and worship God. Doubting allows us to explore what we believe. Aren’t we all trying to figure out what it is we believe? Well, together we can come to a better understanding of our faith. We can hold the joy and triumph of Easter in a delicate balance with our fear and our unbelief. And as resurrection people let us bear our doubts lightly as we share our faith with others.
March 19, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
The fourth Sunday of Lent is unique; it is a break in an otherwise penitential season. The vestments for this day can be rose, just as they are on the third Sunday in Advent. Today we have flowers instead of dried arrangements draped with Spanish moss (Thank you, Jim Cooper!). Today is called Laetare Sunday (meaning Sunday of joy) or Rose Sunday or Refreshment Sunday. In Great Britain the 4th Sunday of Lent is also called Mothering Sunday.
In the secular world in the United Kingdom and many other countries this Sunday is a celebration of motherhood. It is synonymous with our Mother’s Day. In Roman times there was a festival held in honor of the mother goddess Cybele. When the Roman Empire and Europe converted to Christianity, this celebration became part of the liturgical calendar as Laetare Sunday. So the 4th Sunday in Lent came to be a time to honor the Virgin Mary and the mother church. In times past young women who had left home would get the day off so that they could return to their family, to their mother. And in the church British people would return to their church home, to their mother church. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those who have left the parish and gone to take jobs elsewhere or moved away or just left for any reason – if they would return on Mothering Sunday? Many churches have reunion Sundays. A perfect day to plan such an event would be Mothering Sunday, maybe next year. For today let’s go
“a-mothering.” I particularly like Mothering Sunday, not because I have ties to England – that would be my husband Jim, descended from Sir John Popham of Littlecote, Lord Chief Justice of England. No, my fondness comes from the inclusiveness of Mothering Sunday. I have been mothered not just by my mother. ‘Mothering’ comes from caregivers, husbands and wives, nurses and doctors, parents, aunts and uncles, even from parishioners – all those who provide loving, nurturing care as if they were our mothers. These are the people we should remember today, people like my grandmother Jesse who mothered me, reading me the great stories of the Bible and my father who taught me by example that on Sundays we visited people who could not get out to church. Today let us remember someone who has cared for an injured or elderly person, those people who have needed mothering in its truest sense. And let us remember the best mother-er of all, our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a prayer for this Sunday: Laetare Jerusalem! Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all who love freedom. Rejoice, we who have been in sorrow, may we be filled with consolation. May your Holy Scriptures enlighten us and enliven our lives. May we see where our story connects with the great story of the Bible told to us by one who mothered us. And may we mother others using your Holy Word. Amen.
February 19, 2023
a bon mot from jo+
This Sunday we again hear of our Lord Jesus Christ being transformed up on the mountain with some of his closest friends standing in awe. Jesus was transformed; God-light shone through him. Peter (and James and John) did not want that moment to end; they wanted to be with Jesus in that dazzling moment forever. Peter wanted to build three dwellings for the great prophets, Moses and Elijah and Jesus. Peter would have made booths for them to live in on that mountain. Peter (and the Zebedee brothers) wanted to put Jesus in a box.
Do we want to put God in a box? Wouldn’t it be easier to have God be here in a box at church for us to visit once a week each Sunday? Or do we want to be transformed so that we can take Jesus, take God, with us to help transform the world outside our doors?
This week we must come down from the mountain. In our liturgical calendar this Wednesday we will enter the desert. We will be transformed from being filled with the light of Epiphany season to wearing ashes as we begin our journey through Lent. But we can take the transfiguration with us on the path, walking together. As we travel, we have the opportunity to reveal God to others just as Jesus did. We repent of our sins and short-comings, yes, but we can model repentance to one another and people outside our “box.” In so doing we can help heal our little corner of the world as Jesus did. God can and will transform us all.
February 5, 2023
Salt and light transform our world in many ways. In the Gospel according to Matthew we hear that we are salt and light, and we all seek transformation through them. But more importantly, we are to be salt and light to our world and to be a transforming force for others. When people see St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea, when others encounter us –they should catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. They should see how the world might be transformed by our faith here in this particular corner of the world. Our mission is not to be a blessing to just our family, or our fellow parishioners here in this place, or be a blessing to the people of Destin. Rather we are called to be salt and light to the ends of the earth.
We are salt. We are light. We are called to give the world flavor – to bring out God flavors in the world. And we are called to be windows to allow God’s light to shine through us. We are to be faithful to living our mission to evangelize. Yes, we all are human, and we make missteps. But being faithful in this life is more about trying than about being successful. Yes, we sometimes get frustrated and become discontented. But it is our failures and our discontent that keeps us from being stuck in one place – that keep us seeking a remedy to our problems. Our discontent can be a powerful engine for transformation, so that through us the world can be transformed – one person at a time.
Do you know who Albert McMakin was? Would you be surprised to know that he was one of the most influential people in Christianity in the 20th century? Through the salt and light of Albert, literally millions of people have heard the good news of Christ all across the world. In 1934, in Charlotte, NC, there was a 17-year-old boy who’d been invited to a local revival by a friend of his. This boy resisted invitation after invitation, and finally agreed to attend, but only if his friend would let him drive his new truck. The friend agreed, so this boy drove the truck to the next meeting. When he got there, he stood in the back of the revival tent, listening to what the preacher was saying. And he was spellbound. Night after night, he went back to that revival and listened, until the last night, when that 17-year-old boy decided to give his life to serving Christ. That boy went on to speak in person – to be salt and light – to over 2 hundred million people telling them what Christ had done in his life.
That 17-year-old boy was Billy Graham. We all have heard of Billy Graham. But who’s heard of Albert McMakin? Well, Albert was the friend who extended invitation after invitation to Billy Graham, and let Billy drive his truck, so that Billy could hear God’s word for the first time. If it hadn’t been for Albert’s persistence, and patience – and his generosity with the keys to his truck – if it hadn’t been for Albert’s salt and light – Billy Graham may have never become a Christian.
We can’t all be Billy Grahams. But we can be Albert McMakins. Most of us arrived at our faith because someone told someone who told someone who told us? That’s the way it’s been working for 2000 years, and now we are bearers of the light who pass it on to others – now we are the salt that makes others thirsty for the Word of God as revealed in Jesus the Christ. Now we are to be faithful and live into who Jesus says we already are – the transforming salt of the earth and light of the world starting right now, right here – and reaching out to the world.
January 22, 2023
Years ago I got a phone call from Stacy, our first child, the first to go off to college. We spoke nearly every day that first semester, and one night she talked about her faith in a conversation I have never forgotten. She said, ‘You know, Mom, my new friends here in the dorm are away from home, away from family and friends, most of them for the first time in their lives, and they don’t know that God loves them. They don’t know the light of Christ. They are all alone here at school.’ She could not imagine not knowing that she was loved, by family and friends, and by God. She could not imagine being that lost, not knowing God’s love, not knowing the power of God’s love.
Is there anything more powerful than light breaking through the darkness?
Isaiah prophesied to those who had suffered oppression during the Assyrian invasion. They were in a state of deep darkness, and Isaiah promised that they would see a great light, that light would shine on them. people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. And in the Gospel according to Matthew, here came Jesus, walking the road that ran from Damascas to the Mediterranean Sea that passed Sea of Galilee – the very same route that the Jewish exiles had taken after being conquered by the Assyrians. The light of the world came walking down this same road and called fishermen to fish for people. Andrew and Peter and the Zebedee brother, James and John knew they were hooked from the moment that Jesus called them; they knew the power of God’s love by the light of Jesus.
The Gospel according to Matthew has always been thought to be written almost entirely to the Jewish Christians. However, when it was written half the people of Galilee were Gentile. They were bilingual, speaking both Greek and Aramaic. So Jesus’s ministry to bring God’s people from darkness to light was foretold not only by the Prophet but also by Matthew. Indeed, Jesus’s ministry initially was to Jews. Were we to finish reading the last two verses of chapter four, we would hear that Jesus’s light spread throughout all of Syria and he taught and cured from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (The Decapolis was a federation of ten cities of Hellenistic culture, nine of them east of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. They were Damascus, Philadelphia, Raphana, Scythopolis, Gadera, Hippos, Dion, Gerasa, and Canatha.) They were all attracted by God’s power of love through the light of the man Jesus.
At the time that Stacy went off to college and called to express her concern about her peers not knowing the power of God’s love, our family (from the 90+ year old in our household down to the youngest of our five) played Trivial Pursuit. The movie Back to the Future had made Huey Lewis and the News’ song “The Power of Love” popular. Til now if I don’t know the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question I give my stock answer: “Huey Lewis and the News.”
The power of love is a curious thing
makes one man weep, makes another man sing
Changes a hawk to a little white dove
…that’s the power of love.
The four fishermen were drawn by the power of God’s love they knew through Jesus, a love that still can make us weep, can make us sing. It can change a hawk into a dove. That is the power of love, the power of God’s love as revealed by the light of Christ.
January 8, 2023
Just a few days after Christmas and the sleigh being pulled by porpoises and another led by flamingoes have been packed away until next year. Our favorite Santa dancing in a hula skirt is gone. Mary and Joseph have taken baby Jesus to the synagogue by now even though several manger scenes are still lighted, but for how long? The extended Christmas shopping season that began last October is long over since many have already exchanged the gifts received for something more suitable. Usually, we Episcopalians live into the 12 days of Christmas and hold off stripping the church and our homes of the visible signs of Christmas. But what of our hearts?
For many years I had a lovely reproduction of a colonial Christmas poem that I would display prominently somewhere in our home. It read:
When New Year’s Day is past and gone;
Christmas is with some people gone;
But further some will it extend,
And at Twelfth Day their Christmas end.
Some people stretch it further yet,
At Candlemas they finish it.
The Gentry carry it further still
And finish it just when they will;
They drink good wine and eat good Cheer
And keep their Christmas all the year.
Howard Thurman’s poem is better yet:
When the song of the angel is still,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their sheep,
The work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among people,
to make music in the heart.
Howard Thurman was an honorary Canon of the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City and Dean of Theology and Chaplain at Howard University and Boston University for two decades. He traveled the globe as a Christian missionary and met with world leaders. When he met with Gandhi and asked him what message he should take back to North America, Gandhi said that he regretted not having made nonviolence more visible as a practice worldwide and suggested some American black men would succeed where he had failed. Dr. Thurman served as spiritual director for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
December 11, 2022
The Message Bible is a unique translation by Eugene Peterson, a well-known academic and respected theologian whose commentaries are very useful, particularly in that they set the common vernacular of our times. When using his Bible for study we need to remember that it is his perspective and his alone that is reflected in The Message Bible.
The Magnificat is Mary’s words said when visiting her cousin Elizabeth. Imagine with me a very young woman who has answered God’s calling to bear God’s son. Mary described her predicament to Elizabeth. She had had a few months to live into what God was doing through her.
The Magnificat is used as a responsive canticle in the daily offices of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. Often it is sung lyrically in plainsong. The canticle is directly out of the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 1, verses 46-55.
And Mary said,
I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, her cousin and dearest friend Elizabeth was six months pregnant with a son, John the Baptist. Immediately after Mary said yes, she would do as God asked of her, she went to see Elizabeth. And as Mary entered her home Elizabeth’s baby leapt in her womb. She recognized how blessed Mary was. They both were blessed and full of grace. And that is when Mary spoke the words that Peterson translated as: “I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.” In our New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Mary says: “My souls magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
Indeed the two dear friends spent three months rejoicing at their good fortune of carrying baby boys. They rejoiced and praised God. They knew their babies were especially blessed, but they could not have known that their sons would be such profound instruments of salvation!
November 27, 2022
The annual visitation of Bishop Russell is the highlight of the celebration of our patronal feast at St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea this first Sunday of Advent. This Sunday is the confluence of many other reasons to celebrate. It is the first Sunday of the new Church year, the first Sunday of Advent, the first rite of Reception and Reaffirmation since Jim and I came to be your priests, the first Sunday after the conclusion of our “More Than Enough” stewardship program for the Year of the Lord 2023, and colloquial birthday celebration of all November birthdays, and the day we remember St. Andrew’s Day which is November 30th.
Most biographical notes on this Apostle begin “Andrew was Simon Peter’s brother” as he is described in the Gospels. Identifying Andrew as Peter’s brother makes it easy to know who he is, but it also makes it easy to overlook the fact of Andrew’s special gift to the company of Christ’s followers. The Gospel according to John tells how Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, was one of two disciples who followed Jesus after the Baptizer had pointed him out, saying of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Andrew and the other disciple went with Jesus and stayed with him. Andrew’s first act afterward was to find his brother and bring him to Jesus. We might call Andrew the first missionary in the company of disciples.
I have always seen Andrew as the youngest of the closest of Jesus’s disciples. He epitomizes the definition of an apostle, as one who is sent. He was sent to gather more fishermen to be taught how to fish for people to follow Jesus. He was sent to go to find food among the thousands gathered to hear our Lord. Andrew found the boy with the two fishes and five small loaves of bread. And after Jesus took and blessed and broke the bread, Andrew helped with the sharing with the multitude. He helped distribute food to the hungry crowd. In my sanctified imagination, I see I see him encouraging those in the crowd to add their lunch to the basket, with the result being that all were fed well and many baskets of food being leftovers.
Though Andrew was not a part of the inner circle of disciples (Peter, James, and John), he is always named in the list of disciples, and appears prominently in several incidents. Andrew and Peter were fishermen, and Matthew’s Gospel records Jesus calling them from their work in their boat and their immediate response to his call. We hear little of Andrew as a prominent leader; he seems always to be in the shadow of Peter. Eusebius, the Church historian, records his going to Scythia, but there is no reliable information about the end of his life. Tradition has it that he was fastened to an X-shaped cross and suffered death at the hands of angry pagans.
Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. November 30th is the day the church commemorates Saint Andrew, our patron saint. You may notice that my stole for this Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, is a traditional blue plaid; this particular one is the tartan of the Lord of St. Andrew in Scotland. I ordered a number of yards of the wool from Scotland years ago while serving at my first church, St. Andrew’s in Calgary, Alberta, in Canada. I made three stoles of that lovely wool plaid, one for the church, one for the retired priest there, and one for me. I am proud to wear it this Sunday to honor Saint Andrew. To be good stewards of time this Sunday, we are not doing the “Kirkin’ of the Tartans” (Blessing of the Tartans), and we have no bagpipes. Sigh.
November 6, 2022
On All Saints a few years ago on the occasion of the Installation our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who often calls us the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement, reminded us that in the midst of struggles and confusion that “God has not given up on the world, and God isn’t finished with The Episcopal Church yet. We are the Jesus Movement. So don’t worry; be happy!” as jazz musician Bobby McFerrin and reggae Bob Marley both sang.
Jim and I were blessed to be there at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on that momentous day. We all had such hope that we were on the precipice of a new world.
We may be discouraged and disappointed and down-right apprehensive about our country these days, but we need to remember The Beatitudes that are always read for the Feast of All Saints. What the world called pitiful, Jesus called blessed, turning conventional wisdom upside down. He was always turning 1st century world and lives – even our lives in this 21st century – upside down, which is really right side up. And that should give us hope this November.
The Reading from the New Testament that All Saints Day was from the Revelation to John:
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.
Bishop Curry reminded us that we need to envision a world where there would be:
No more war.
No more suffering.
No more injustice.
No more bigotry.
No more violence.
No more hatred.
Instead the world would be governed by:
The rule of love.
The way of God.
The Kingdom of God.
The realm of God.
The great Shalom.
The dream of God for us and all people is that love – the love of God and the love of neighbor – will conquer all. Everything hangs on those two realities. We have hope because the Jesus Movement is alive. And we are the Episcopal branch of that movement.
God has not given up on the world.
And God is not finished with the Episcopal Church.
Don’t worry. Be happy.
(Many thanks to the PB for inspiration this All Saints Day and every day.)
October 23, 2022
The Feast of St. Luke was last Tuesday, October 18th. A young man of 17 [David Schwab] spoke of the of the miracles of modern medical technology “Computers, Mom, they’re doing God’s work! They’re not Jesus, Mom, but they’re doing God’s work.” In response, his mom [Betty Lynn Schwab] wrote this:
“Healing in Our Computer Age”
Surprising, life-giving God,
when Jesus walked among us
he cured the lame
made the blind to see
healed the wounded
and ended epileptic seizures in the young.
Today in Britain, a brilliant physicist writes and talks with a speech synthesizer.
Today in America a computer bypasses the optic nerve and eye and a blind teenager sees.
Today in Canada microsurgery repairs a fetal hernia before a baby boy’s birth into our world.
Today around the world focused radiation shrinks tumors
medical imaging reveals it’s just a cyst
an implanted electrode enables the brain-injured to walk
and delicate robotic surgery repairs an elderly man’s heart
with a piece of vein from his own leg.
Ours is not a perfect world.
Risk is part of every choice and act.
Not all tumors shrink.
A solution is found too late.
Life support must be shut off.
Unforeseen damage comes.
Yet we have much for which to give you thanks and praise:
our growing knowledge of the human body,
computer technology increasingly able to restore and give back life,
medical science pushing back frontiers of disease,
new medical procedures,
successful new drugs,
dedicated nurses, technicians, and doctors,
patients willing to try,
people living in hope,
people working hard.
Like Lazarus and the kneeling leper,
like the centurion’s servant and Tabitha,
we bow in gratitude before you.
Surprising, life-giving God, we pray for your Wisdom and your help:
help us in our sickness and our health,
in our living and our dying;
inspire those working on our frontiers.
Guide us all in all our hopes and fears.
May your vision of a healing world be born.
In the name of the One who healed
And whose Spirit heals today, Jesus Christ.
October 9, 2022
I carry a spent red plastic 12 gauge shotgun shell in the console of our RAV4. I picked it up from the ground right under my brother’s deer stand in Louisiana. It was from the last deer he shot the hunting season before he died. Sonny had a rare disease that caused disfigurement of his face. The tumor invaded all of his head, and, in spite of treatments and surgery we knew that eventually critical nerves and blood supply would be compromised and that would cause his death. Sitting in his yard talking about his boys, about our dad, about life and death, he told me that he had stopped going to church. Sonny was a strong Christian. He believed in miracles. He knew that he was being healed, just in a different way than we all wanted. Sonny stopped going to church not because of a crisis of faith, but because he was afraid his appearance would scare the children. He became a self-imposed social outcast.
In ancient times leprosy could cover all sorts of skin afflictions including seriously disfiguring disorders and simple psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, not only what we today call leprosy or Hansen’s disease. But those who had what was originally called leprosy were outcasts, unclean, those who wore bells to alert people to keep their distance, people on the margins, the ones who begged for help – but always just out of reach – and out of mind – of those who entered the beautiful gates of the holy city of Jerusalem.
Hawai’i established isolation settlements as early as 1865 in an attempt to control the spread of leprosy. People were relocated to Moloka’i. They became lost; many still suffer broken connections with their families and communities. In 1894 the Louisiana Leper Home was established in an abandoned sugar plantation on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River in Carrville, Louisiana. Many entered the gates under mandatory quarantine and never left the hospital again. Effective medications existed since the 1940’s, so isolating people with this disease in “leper colonies” is not needed. But some people who suffered from leprosy choose not to return to society. There are a few elderly former leprosy patients who remain in the leper colonies in Hawaii. The facility in Carrville, Louisiana, is still open for patients who want to remain even though mandatory quarantine ceased to be law in the late 1950’s
With proper diagnosis Hansen’s disease – leprosy – can be cured. And with early treatment it is not even contagious, although real leprosy never was highly contagious. 95% of people are naturally immune to leprosy. And on average, the cost to bring about the cure and the necessary after-cure treatment to one person affected by leprosy is only $350. This covers education, distribution of medication, ongoing support, including necessary surgery, rehabilitation, vocational training and assistance in community reintegration. But reintegration into society is not always possible. Once a person has been marked a social outcast, how can he or she again become part of a community that rejected them? Just by interacting with the ten lepers Jesus risked making himself ritually impure. Yet Jesus chose to become like the leper. He chose to be part of the socially outcast. He chose to be like my brother Sonny. Jesus can and does take on all our maladies, all of our sins, and he cures us. But we have to humble ourselves. We have to reach out and ask. Can we figuratively kneel before Jesus and beg to be healed? Do we even want to be healed?
September 25, 2022
Remember the story of the widow who was gathering wood to cook the last bit of her stores for herself and her son before they were going to lie down and die of starvation? Elijah happens upon her and asks her to cook him some bread. He gives her the promise of never-empty jars of oil and flour. But first the widow must take the risk. (See I Kings 17:10-16.)
When faced with diminished resources (like after damage from a hurricane or the restrictions of COVID) what do we at St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea do? We get creative. We roll up our sleeves and get to work. We stretch our funds to sustain our services and outreach ministries to feed and clothe the hungry and provide bikes for those without transportation and keep up the air conditioners and pay our staff and our bills, all with Vestry approval. Our Vestry has taken necessary steps so that we had enough. Indeed, we have had more than enough. Our Blue Door Ministry has expanded reaching more and more clients in the last two years and recently has added more care for our brothers and sisters. During COVID our Bike Ministry was able to provide for the needs of so many with what we had and could repair. God has been good to us. We have seen an abundance of goods and volunteers, enough to sustain the church and her ministries, and more than enough to share. But first we had to take a risk. We had to trust God to provide enough. And God has given us more than enough!
Trusting in God to continue to bless us, where do we go from here? The first draft of the 2023 Budget is being prepared. It will be approved by the Vestry and presented to the congregation at our Annual Meeting of the Parish on December 11th. Our “Next Steps” that came out of 20 weeks of intentional listening to the Holy Spirit and each other during the “Listen and Hear. Hear and Listen” discernment. The “Next Steps” that came directly from all of us, have been shared with the entire congregation twice recently, but I include them again here:
- The vestry will provide a detailed financial report to the parish twice a year.
- Provide a report to the parish on the cost of operating and maintaining our facilities, including the anticipated cost of unanticipated problems (e.g., failure of another air conditioning unit).
- The vestry, with the advice of the development task force and the consent of the rectors, will appoint a “property working group” to review and recommend workable options for management and possible disposition of one or more of our four plots encompassed in our property.
- The vestry will direct the property working group to evaluate and make recommendations to the vestry, parish, rectors, and bishop, prior to the next annual meeting.
- Clean out all buildings and dispose of unused and unnecessary items
- Finish painting the outside of the church
- Replace our antiquated sound system with a modest state-of-the art audiovisual system that will work both in the sanctuary and for streaming.
- Reformat the parish hall with round tables for fellowship (if the old sanctuary is used for Sunday services).
- In preparation of the 2023 budget, the vestry will consider
- establishing an endowment fund to be used for specified purposes
- conducting a capital campaign to fund renovations and maintenance of our facilities
- expanding our stewardship program
- Expand the development task force and task it to
- Orchestrate performing arts and other fundraising events in our sanctuary.
- Renew our efforts to gain media coverage of our ministries and activities
- Expand our coordination with other churches in providing for the needy
- Initiate discussions with other churches concerning providing housing and/or shelter for the homeless.
- Re-instate greeters for Sunday morning services
- Revise and reinvigorate use of name tags
- Task the development committee and ministry leaders with developing strategies to increase the number of committed volunteers at the Blue Door and Bike Hop.
- Offer an educational series on the liturgy and history of the Anglican/Episcopal Church.
- Have an “instructed Eucharist” occasionally
- Conduct our Sunday service in the old sanctuary (parlor) on a quarterly basis.
In March and September, we will review our progress and a report to the congregation after six months and then again after a year. At each review, we will discover which steps we have taken, which were, perhaps, unrealistic, and which should be modified or supplemented to conform to the new circumstances.
During our “More Than Enough” stewardship program, Don, our director of music will teach us a new theme hymn for our stewardship program that we will sing every Sunday for the month leading up to our dedication or commitment Sunday. We all will hear from our priests, then from the wardens, and finally from our stewardship committee with pledge cards, a copy of our budget, and our “Next Steps.” Our pledges – our promises to God and St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea – will be collected on Christ the King Sunday, which is the last Sunday of this church year, Sunday, November 20th. There will be a celebration after service that day in the parlor; it will be live and virtual. So let us mark our calendars and plan to come and thank everyone for pledging to support the church and the community, celebrating that we really do have more than enough.
September 11, 2022
While studying the Gospel for this Sunday, I was introduced to a new religious order, the Oratory of the Good Shepherd (OGS) that is a dispersed community of Anglicans, ordained and lay, bound by a common rule of celibate chastity, responsible spending, and direction of life. Daily they pray the Divine Office, attend Mass, and spend an hour in private prayer. There is an association of “companions” of OGS who support their aims and live by a simplified version of the Rule. There also are Sisters of the Good Shepherd (SGS), priests and lay people living in dispersion under religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
The Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas includes 23 Religious Orders and Christian Communities in the worldwide Anglican (Episcopal) Communion including the National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities organized under the Canons of The Episcopal Church. The worship practices and standards of living are quite diverse, but all embrace celibacy, community of goods, and obedience to a Rule and Constitution.
Communities of Women include:
Community of St. Francis
Community of St. Mary, Southern Province
Community of the Sisters of the Church
Communities of Men
The Society of St. Paul (SSP)
Communities of Men and Women
Canonically recognized ommunities
Companions of St. Luke (Benedictine)
Third Order Society of St. Francis, Province of the Americas
Associates include those seeking canonical recognition
The Community of the Mother of Jesus
August 28, 2022
August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed aloud of a day when “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus shared his dream of a time when a person’s worth would not be defined by status in this mortal world. He dreamt of a place where the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind would all sit at table together with him that day – and with us – because they are our brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God.
I was at the Library of Congress doing research for my then employer CBS who had made the very first and only recording of the “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., at what was unmistakably the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Dr. King had delivered that speech many times with subtle and not so subtle changes. One copy is under glass in the main hallway of the Library of Congress. After I filled out the exhaustive request form (where I promised my first-born if I walked away with the document I was asking to study, but never to copy) the staff went into the vault, and then they handed me a legal file folder with pages of a yellow legal pad written in Dr. King’s own hand with marginal notes he had made for the August 28th march for freedom. I was afraid to touch the paper. I asked for gloves. Then I read the words that we all recall as a turning point in our lives in this country.
When the word of the Lord is read, I often get the same feeling of wonder and awe as I did at the Library of Congress that day so many years ago. Clearly in the Gospel according to Luke Jesus was speaking of radical hospitality when he spoke up at that dinner party, the sort of hospitality that defines all Christian virtues that the Letter to the Hebrews addresses. Jesus instructed the Pharisees – and us – to invite all people to the table where he presides as the host and head of the table. Jesus took his own commandment to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” one step further; he treated others better than himself. That is what radical hospitality means. The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia, which literally means “love of the strange” that is love of those who are strange to us for whatever reason. Many ancients rarely strayed far from their places of birth. “Life was hard and mobility was limited. One way the world became “larger” was to open one’s home (however poor) to those that came from “outside.” (Commentary on Hebrews by Eric M. Heen, PhD) Hospitality was provided then, by those who had “love of the strange,” because they were more than curious about the wider world. And in caring for them, both the hosts and the guests were fed. So it is in the church. When we show love to others that we encounter Christ. Hospitality nourishes us as well as our guests, perhaps more.
A confluence of articles moved me to write about radical hospitality: the Gospel of the day and the Letter to the Hebrews, yes, but also articles that parishioners have shared with me this week, an article in the Friday, August 19th Destin Log about the New Life Church that began in the pastors home five years ago and then grew into a local warehouse (They move into their newly constructed church building at the beginning of 2023.) and the instructive bulletin from a mission church in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, Saint Elizabeth’s that welcomes all people – “single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds, if you sing like Andrea Bocelli or sound like Texas grackles, if you are “church shopping”, if you just woke up, or if you just got out of jail, whether you are more Catholic than the Pope or haven’t been to church since Joey’s baptism. They welcome crying newborns, squirmy toddlers, those who are over 60 but are not grown up yet, and teenagers growing up too fast… soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, veterans, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-foodies, those in recovery, folks who are still addicted… whether you are down in the dumps or don’t like organized religion… we welcome those blew all your offering money at the track… those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or just came because Grandma is in town…those who could use some prayers… those who are inked, pierced or both… those who have had religion shoved down their throats or who just got lost and ended up here by mistake… tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts, and you.”
Our bulletin reads “all are welcome wherever you are on your journey of faith.”
Our Lord said that the Pharisees were to treat others, even the despised in their society, not only as they would themselves, but better than they would treat one of their own. I wonder, would we have belonged to that large class of people who would have been excluded from the Pharisee’s banquet? Are we the poor? the crippled? the lame? the blind? When have I been poor in spirit? I have been, often. Is my faith crippled? Sometimes, yes! And am I lame, unable to get where I want in life? Recently, yes. And where is my blindness? To whom have I been blind? All in all, I am rather certain I would not have made it onto the invitation list for the Pharisee’s dinner.
Jesus teaches that all are welcome in the Kingdom of God, for surely the Pharisee’s dinner party is an allegory for the Lord’s heavenly banquet. In spite of our crippled faith and our blindness to the needs of others, we are welcome. All are invited – all those who are welcomed at Saint Elizabeth’s and at the New Life pastors’ home. But, I wonder if we might be surprised at who will be sitting at table with us in God’s house. I think we will see all “sorts and conditions” of people at the Lord’s table. And the Kingdom of God must be a place where the sons of former slaves and the daughters of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the Lord’s table. Dreams do come true. They do. But we have to make them come true.