Saturday, January 20, 2007


Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and
proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole
world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your
sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

For the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Nehemiah 8:10

The day of the Lord, the day he renews his covenant, is a day of feasting and of
celebration. In Christ we can lift our heads up and be glad. God has established
his reign in the proclaiming of the good news. It has begun! These are early
days, yes, but the bud is there, the flower to follow, and the ripened fruit
will surely come. What God has put in train with this inaugural proclamation he
will see through to perfection.

When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, most of its
beneficiaries heard of it only slowly. Its effects were not immediately felt -
or were they? As word spread, rejoicing spread, and the dawn of a new
consciousness: you are no longer subject to the powers that be, the domination
system of the old world order you knew. Something new has come: and you can
start living as part of it. Live into the kingdom as if it were already here,
because in a sense, it is! It is on its way.

Over the months that followed the Emancipation Proclamation, thousands of freed
slaves made their way to Union lines, and regiment after regiment was formed of
volunteers ready for the campaign to bring freedom to the land and to their
people. It was not easy; it is not yet over; but it has begun, and it has
already gone far beyond the words of the initial proclamation that got things

Even so, Jesus laid out his program, turning water into wine, proclaiming
release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the
oppressed, and for everyone the year of Jubilee, the year of celebration, of
restoration of right relationships, between people and between God and the
people of God. Justice and peace join hands.

This is the acceptable year of the Lord.

And so today, in this present moment, you and I are confronted with a challenge,
the call indeed to radical obedience, because in this present moment is our
freedom. We receive the call to act, to declare ourselves true servants of the
reign of God.

What form this action will take varies for each of us. Each of us is called to a
different task, for each of us is given a different gift. The Spirit portions
out from the royal treasury - the royal armory - what God chooses for each of
us, giving to one the gift - and duty - of prophetic, instructional speech, to
another organizing, and another the doing of helpful deeds, to further the
kingdom of God. Some gifts are more prominent than others.

But perhaps we honor most those we least like to see, as God calls us again
through prophets, like Abraham Lincoln and like Martin Luther King, again to
renew our commitment to God's kingdom, and renew our joy, and in the joy of the
Lord renew our strength.

We may not always feel much like being together. As they wandered through the
desert, from Egypt to the Promised Land, the people of Israel surely did not all
get along. Some of us feel like leaving when things are not going well or we do
not feel recognized; when there is a mountain between us and the promised land,
or if we have run out of manna for the day, or if the other guy is getting honor
we want to deserve; we may feel it is time to cut and run.

But on this campaign we are all called, we are all on God's mission. It is his
mighty hand that renews us. He himself has taken the hard road, to lead us and
show us the way. Before us, behind us, around us, within us, shines the Spirit
of the Lord, and he will never leave us until we are home in God's Kingdom, the
kingdom of peace and justice forever. It is for each of us to act, now, as
members of that kingdom, to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance that
manifest its presence, its reality, in our world today. It is for each of us, in
our own way, with our own gifts in the Spirit, gifts given us not as rewards,
perhaps as surprises, certainly to equip us, to work together, campaign
together, for the common god and the glory of God.

Our Savior declared the good news to us,
Filled with the power of the Spirit.
It is the holy breath, the ruach, the wind of the Lord,
overwhelming, irresistible, implacable, empowering;
like a tide in the affairs of men.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

TODAY, in the present moment - the moment of FREEDOM,
This Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

"Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Today this Scripture is fulfilled in our hearing: in the words of our mouths,
the meditation of our hearts, and the actions of our lives. Amen.

CEpiphany3 BCP JRL

Nehemiah 8:2-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Luke 4:14-21
Psalm 113

January 20, 2007, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Willows California.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

gifts at Cana

First, I'd like to apologize for my wife's absence this morning; second, I'd
like to take advantage of it. Sarah could not be with us this morning because
she has duties at the cathedral today, in children's chapel and in Sunday
School. The advantage for me is that I can talk about her a little bit. We just
got married a year and a half ago, and we are still learning a lot of new things
about each other, and how to get along, every day.

Last night, for example, I was pondering over how spiritual gifts and wedding
gifts relate to each other. What do the gifts of the Spirit that Paul talks
about have to do with the wedding feast at Cana, and Jesus' miraculous
provision? So we took a break from sermon writing, and Sarah unwrapped the last
of the Christmas presents. They were a lot like our wedding gifts.

They were gifts of - and for - hospitality. There were two chafing dishes to
keep things warm, with matching Pyrex for the baking. There was an oven rack
gizmo for potlucks, and some other kitchen gadget. All of these were gifts Sarah
applauded, and was glad to have. And all of them she will use in exercising her
own gifts, of hospitality and care.

Later this week we hope to attend a special reception for Paul Kennel, the
president of World Concern, the relief agency that Sarah works for, saying
farewell and thanks after twenty-five years of service. Sarah has the gift of
showing up for these things - honoring watershed occasions in people's lives.
Indeed, that is how we met: under the eaves of St Paul's parish hall in
Healdsburg, attending the ordination of mutual friends (Roger and Libbie Weber).
So there is a connection after all between spiritual gifts and weddings.

The words from the book of the prophet Isaiah, our OT reading for this morning,
proudly proclaim that God's vindication of his holy city of Jerusalem will be
like a wedding: that the Lord will show forth his love for the city of his
kingdom, and it will be called My Delight is in Her, and its land Married. Your
God, the prophet says, will rejoice over you.

The psalm gives our response: to proclaim the good news of his salvation from
day to day, to declare his glory among the nations and his wonders among all
peoples -- for great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. Let the heavens
rejoice and the earth be glad.

Paul in writing to the church at Corinth tells them how they can all come
together as a family, bringing their various gifts to the table - to the feast
that is the church's celebration of God's. None of these gifts may make much
sense by itself; together, they build up the body of Christ.

And, as one pastor pointed out in The Christian Century, the gifts of the Spirit
and the fruits of the Spirit that we enjoy in fellowship are a lot like the
gifts we enjoy in marriage - listening to one another, interpreting what each
other is saying, hospitality, thoughtfulness - as well as particular functional
gifts, like teaching or administration. Each of our practical contributions to
the work of the people is of value. Eventually, as Paul reminds us, all will
fall away except LOVE.

And love is what Jesus is all about. He and his friends, new or old, have
arrived at a party back in his home place - and the host is running out of wine.
Big embarrassment. Didn't Jesus bring any with him? Could he take a run to the
store and bring more?

Mary puts him on the spot. He does not want to tip his hand - he doesn't think
this is the time or the place - but, just like the man in the parable who opened
his door to persistent knocking, he does respond to the request, and provides
what is needed for hospitality. He does a little more than this.

Presumably he could have gathered the lads together and gone off to buy more
wine. Or he could have made a simple, quiet effort. Instead, he takes the
occasion - and begins to shine forth, revealing who he is, and who God is.

There stand the jars for purification. It only takes a cupful of water, we are
told by William Willimon, to purify a hundred. But Jesus has the servants fill
six stone jars - with over a hundred gallons of water in total - enough to
purify the whole world. Enough to purify the whole world. And he doesn't then
recommend tee-totaling. How about some nice water instead? Nope. He provides an
overabundance of wine that is hilarious. Jesus provides enough wine, we would
think, to host a party that will last until the end of time.

And that is exactly what he is up to.

God sent the prophets, over the centuries, to his people Israel. But he saved
the best for last. The crown of the prophets, his own Son, was Jesus. Jesus, who
shows, even more than any who came before, that the steadfast love [hesed]
between God and humankind, and the love between a man and a woman in marriage,
are the same steadfast love. God is like a bridegroom, loyal and rejoicing in
his beloved, as he contemplates his people.

We his people are like a family. We are called together, to stick together,
through good times and bad. ... Even when somebody stinks up the family car with
cigar smoke, or takes out the trash a day too late. Even when somebody tells us
the truth about themselves, and makes us realize that real love involves
accepting them as they really are.

Even when we are angry with each other. We are to stay together, loving each
other, using the gifts God has given us, and most of all, rejoicing in the
celebration that began that day at Cana, and will extend into eternity. The
feast of God's presence of among us.


CEpiphany2 BCP
January 14, 2007
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Willows, California

Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 96 or 96:1-10
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11

Lawrence Wood, "Living by the Word: Wedding Gifts", The Christian Century,
January 9, 2007, page 16.

Lawrence Wood, "Living by the Word: Wedding Gifts", The Christian Century,
January 9, 2007, page 16.

William Willimon, "Some Saw Glory", sermon on John 2:1-11 preached 1/18/1998 at
Duke University Chapel.

John R. Donahue, S.J., "A Different Kind of Inauguration 1", America, Vol. 184
No. 1, January 8, 2001.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

You are my Son, my Beloved, my Delight

In the name of God, father of mercy, compassionate Son, spirit of wisdom.

I was baptized twice: the second time during college at the beach off the Santa Cruz Boardwalk – because I did not remember my first baptism, and it seemed to me to have been only a family obligation. I’ve never met my godparents, from my first baptism as an infant – though I saw their writing only last year, on a letter to my mother. Also, I thought baptism was about me – and my decision for Christ. What I’ve learned since, and been reminded of in the lessons for today – and their interpretation by Barbara Crafton, John Stendahl, Barbara Lundblad, and others – is that baptism is not about me, that my life begins and ends in a community greater than any I could see – perhaps larger than any of us understood on that cold February beach, or at the backyard family gathering in southern California when my great grandfather Harvey Leech baptized me all those years before.

In southern California, in Long Beach, in front of the high school that my mother and grandmother, and Deacon Campbell’s sisters, attended, is an archway bearing the motto, “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.” We have a similar admonition at the end of our service bulletin: “Now that the worship is over, our Christian service to the world begins.”

This is the cycle, the daily or weekly round, of Christian life, for so many of us – a weeklong striving in the world followed by refreshment in prayer and sacrament, retooling in word and worship, on Sunday. But all this takes place within a larger cycle, the cycle of life that begins with Baptism and ends when we meet our savior face to face.

(Indeed, this all takes place within a larger circle yet, the circle that will not be broken, of saint past and present and future, all in a round dance around the Deity.)

At baptism the waters close over our faces like death to the world – and we emerge to new life in the Son and Breath given by God. Before baptism is a calling – to a mission or vocation or a specific work – it is a Naming. While he was praying, Jesus heard the voice of God: “You are my Son, my Beloved, my Delight”—my Joy.

This joy of God in us remains in us throughout our lives, as we ride round those weekly wheels of work and worship—those yearly cycles of Easter and Pentecost and Christmas, till at the end all worldly toil drops away and we become once more only what we always were to God: my Joy, my Beloved, my Delight.


7 January 2007
Sacramento: Trinity Cathedral