Sunday, July 8, 2018

the first sending

Ite, missa est. Go, you are dismissed. Go, you are sent.

That is how the service of the Eucharist, commonly called the Mass, traditionally ended. 

Then the deacons got a hold of it, and recovered some of its original meaning. 

Not thank God that's over. Or go away! Go away!

But, go, you are sent.

As Jesus sent.

As Jesus sent forth his first disciples, this first time, in urgency, with a message that cannot wait.

A message they delivered barefoot or quickly shod, with nothing in their hands: just go!

And when they arrived, at one intermediate pony-express stop or another, they quickly moved to deliver their message, not with words only but with deeds. 

As Jesus himself had done where he found faith, they cured the sick, healed the lame, and cast out demons.

And where they and their message was well received, they stayed a little, and taught: what you see is this - the kingdom of heaven coming into being, right here in front of you. That is what is going on. 

So repent! Turn around. Turn toward the light of God that shines now from - of all places Nazareth.

And from this moment.

For God is at hand, and God's reign is at hand, and the world will not ever be the same.


Our reading today did not begin with this sense of urgency, agency, or success. Jesus shows them what to do when they fail. When they give the good news and it flops - when they are not welcome, their words are not heard, and their deeds are ignored. He goes on. And broadens the mission.

In the synagogue at Nazareth, a small but significant town, there was not a whole lot of acceptance of the message, the news, of this homegrown Messiah. They thought of him only as the carpenter's kid. What can he know?

And so it would be for his disciples, sometimes, when he sends us out. Sometimes we have spectacular results. Sometimes no one listens.

Don't be discouraged. Keep moving! Your message is too vital to quit now. 

And they went ... and we go ... and the message is proclaimed and the healing of the world begins.

But then - there are other people traveling light - with but little that they have in their hands. A staff, or no staff, sandals, or sneakers, or no shoes at all, a baseball cap with a meaningless logo, a plastic jug of water - hope, or fear - and one thing they carry with them always, each one of them, the image of God. 

People come north to Arizona for many reasons - fear of persecution or violence back home, hope to find work or a new life, love of family, and yes a few carry drugs for strangers - but all of these, even the gangsters' mules, carry with them, in them, on their face, that precious image. 

Remember Francis kissing the leper? He discarded his prejudice as extra baggage, and embraced the stranger as his brother. 

It is hard to do - this business of traveling light without extra gear, just what is needed for the mission. What we most need to give up will leave us lightened. 

It is not a matter of gear: it is a matter of Gospel.

What burden more happy to bear than the good news of Christ, the coming of the kingdom of mercy, of justice, where we walk humbly with God?

-- Ite, missa est --

And so we go, forth into God's good world, fortified for the journey with word and sacrament, two by two or many together - but nobody walks alone, for we walk with the Holy Spirit of God.

Sunday, July 8, 2018.
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
BProper 9

Track 1
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
Psalm 48
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6:1-13 

A prophet is not without honor but in his own country and among his own kin and in his own house.

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

Thomas of Celano, First Life of Saint Francis. St. Francis of Assisi: First and Second Life of St. Francis, with selections from Treatise on the Miracles of Blessed Francis, by Thomas of Celano. Translated from the Latin, with introduction and footnotes by Placid Herman, O.F.M. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1963. Chapter IX, p. 22-23, and Chapter XII, p. 28-29.

David Miliband, "Stop demonizing refugees." The New York Times, Sunday, July 8, 2018. accessed July 8, 2018.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

little house by the road

Nowadays if you go to Nazareth excited nuns will show you what they have discovered in the basement of their convent building: a house just like the one Jesus may have grown up in, with a piece of first-century Roman pavement in front of it. You can imagine the little boy growing up there, watching the soldiers march by, the merchants and slaves and townspeople passing.

And you can go to a church where down behind the altar a little stream emerges and flows - perhaps Mary his mother took her water from this very stream, long ago.

(And over here indeed is a little house preserved to remind us of the time when she discovered, that is, when the angelic messenger told her the news, that she was pregnant.)

But back then the house by the road and the spring and the creek would have said, this is an ordinary man, the carpenter's son - what's the big deal?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

contagious wholeness

It all began when a father pleaded for the health of a child, a woman slipped through a crowd to touch a man’s cloak, and a little girl got out of bed.

There was a story told centuries ago of a placid bucolic country with an ordered simple round of life - disrupted by a contagion of fear, an epidemic of anxiety, a famine of hope. I am not sure the peaceful countryside was ever as isolated as it appeared - even to the preacher’s daughter who told the story. For she wrote what she knew and described what she saw, and left to our imaginations what was going on in the wider world. That story was written in a time of war - the nearly thirty years of revolution and invasion of the era of Napoleon, and Jane Austen.

In her world things began to turn around when people who had initially regarded each other with distrust and suspicion, pride and prejudice, began to discover respect and trust, encouragement and support, and learned to love. That began between people, individually, in her story - but it begs to begin between peoples, nations - as well.

Seventy-five years ago there was an Episcopalian who knew his Prayer Book - who knew the phrase “free to worship him without fear” from the Song of Zechariah he’d have said every day in Morning Prayer, a song of redemption and hope. He drew on his Prayer Book at times of crisis - and when he wrote a speech - and he spoke of a world beyond hate and fear, anxiety and aggression, a world of hope and purpose, a world with four freedoms.

Freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world.

Freedom of worship - everywhere in the world.

Freedom from want - everywhere in the world.

Freedom from fear - everywhere in the world.

Four freedoms - not just for his own beloved country, his land of the free - but everywhere in the world.

He spoke of a vision - “the supremacy of human rights everywhere” - and asserted a power: “Our strength is our unity of purpose.”

It began simply, so imply, the in-breaking dawn of this kingdom of peace, of freedom, of justice. It began with a desperate father pleading for the life of his child, an itinerant preacher who answered his call, a woman who sought one last hope beyond the scope of her society, and a little girl who listened to a voice and got out of bed.

Darkness dispelled, anxiety relieved, hope dawned. Hearts mended. Souls healed.

Neither the women who endured 12 years of shame and isolation, nor the girl of 12 years who lay a corpse - neither was clean in their religion’s eyes. Both were unclean, contagious, in a sense unholy and so cut off from life by disease and death - and fear.

But each of them was reached - made contact with - a love stronger than death, a wholeness more contagious than disease - in the person of Jesus. He brought more than respect and trust, encouragement and support; he brought hope and love, a perfect love that casts out fear, a freedom that knows no bounds save justice, mercy, and the humility to walk with God.

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will;

Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the  nations of the earth, that in tranquility your dominion may increase until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

--from the Book of Common Prayer. page 256.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Baptism on Pentecost 2018

What does it mean to be baptized? How many of us even remember the occasion? If we don't we are blessed if there are some around us who do: who can say to us later, we remember when you were baptized and this is what we undertook. Not only to remind you of your baptism, of your Christianity, but to remind you of your humanity. Baptism is an occasion to call each one of us and all of us to our best selves - in the presence of Christ. It is a call, as we will find when we recite four baptismal promises, to become fully ourselves in several ways, not as individuals only or tribal members but as human beings. Alone and together we are all in the image of God. In baptism we are called to remember this solidarity - and this individuality. Will you - on behalf of the newly baptized and as members of the house of faith, recall the devotion expressed in the body and bread, the cup and the blood, the oil, the water, the story, and the people, that mediate grace to you - that bridge you between sacred and simple? These little things - these words, these actions, these tastes, and touches - draw us near to the holy - and nearer to being fully ourselves. So go now and prepare - for a life of joy and sorrow, of hope and faith - of hope beyond any surrender, and of faith in what is beyond imagining but abundant in each of us - the enduring presence of a gracious and faithful - and loving - God.

welcome diner

Yesterday at the Welcome Diner I sat at the counter alongside four women, all of whom had got up early to watch the royal wedding. He preached about love, they said, and he quoted Martin Luther King. Two of them introduced themselves to me as mother and daughter. What are you doing? Talking to you... and working in alumni relations at the university. The other said, I'm a labor nurse. The one said to the other, I could never do what you do. And the other said to the first, I could never do what you do. Different gifts. 

And the same spirit. 

And yes that is what Pentecost is about. A celebration of love, love of God in each other, exhibited in different gifts, all expressing one common spirit. A spirit of love. And of welcome, at a feast. 

The feast we celebrate today - what is on the menu at this place of welcome - is no less than the feast of the first Eucharist: the Thanksgiving Dinner of the Lamb of God. We welcome each other and are welcomed, we celebrate in each other our different gifts - and the one gift we all share - as we come together at the Lord's Feast. The supper of the Lamb, the Lord's supper. The Eucharist. 

And from here we go, and are sent, to spread that love. The message we preach is simple. The words may be different from the royal wedding sermon, but the lesson is the same. God loves you. Jesus proves it. Let's go live it.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

the freehearted hospitality of God

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? 
Can such faith save them? 
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food [and water]. 
If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed, [drink up!]” 
but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:14-17 [areas in brackets my own interpolations]

People leave their homes and travel north because they have to, not because they want to. 
War, civil strife, natural disaster; poverty, hunger, and fear drive them.

(In his own remarks, later in the program, the mayor pointed out that people come north 
for many reasons - but for none of them does anyone deserve to die in the desert of thirst.)

And sometimes they are welcomed home in a place they have never been before. 
We drink from others’ wells - we all do. 
Let us remember as we bless these trucks with holy water and pious words 
that they carry to others the lifegiving water for which we all share the need.

Bless the drivers; keep them safe.
Bless the trucks; keep them running.
Bless the travelers - bring them safe across the desert to a place they do [may] not know.

And to the people they may never meet, may this work today be a witness 
to the freehearted hospitality of God.


Remarks prepared for the blessing of the fleet of water trucks at Humane Borders,
Tucson, Arizona.

Humane Borders
Participants in the Blessing of the Fleet, 2018, April 15

The Rev. Dr. John Leech,
Priest of the Episcopal Church

Rev. Mateo Chavez
Pastor of Lutheran Spanish Language congregation,
San Juan Bautista

Fr. John Erickson,
Orthodox Church of America,
Professor Emeritus, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

Mayor, Jonathan Rothschild
(earlier President of Temple Emanu-el) Rabbi Aaron is in Poland.

Abbot Ajahn Sarayut Amanta
Tucson Buddhist Meditation Center and Wat Buddhametta

Dan Abbot/Norm Baker (Volunteers with Humane Borders)

Rev. Ailsa Gonzalez
First Christian Church
On whose property Humane Borders was born

Dinah Bear
Chair of Board of Directors, Humane Borders

Moderator: Rev. John Hoelter, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

parishioner portal

Parishioner Portal Login: Access Denied.

Hey there fellow pastors! Tired of those pesky people from your parish who ask questions and want to talk about God and stuff? Here's a solution. Crabbed from our fellow professionals in the medical industry: online portal communication.

Instead of returning (or God help you, initiating) telephone calls, simply refer the worried well (and the not so well) to your website, and ask them to create a login and password for their very own Parishioner Portal (TM) (R) you heard it here 1st.

Comments? Please log in to my website, on your portal page. Use the link in the email I didn't send you.