Sunday, May 25, 2008

Little Bear and the White Robe

In the name of God, source of all being, eternal Word and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Little Bear wanted to go play in the snow. But it was cold. So he asked Mama Bear, “May I have a pair of mittens to wear so that my paws will stay warm?” She gave him the mittens and helped him put them on. Little Bear began to go outside; but it was still cold. So he asked his mother, “Mama Bear, may I have a scarf to wear around my neck while I play in the snow?” “Yes,” she said, and draped a scarf around him. Then he asked for galoshes… but before he clumped away, he turned back. “May I have a cap to wear, so that my head will stay warm?” And his mother put a cap on his head. Finally, Little Bear said to his mother, “I’m still afraid I might be cold when I go outside.” And she said, “Do you think you would like to wear a warm fur coat?” “Yes!” Little Bear. “That’s just what I need.” And Mother Bear took off his cap and his galoshes and his mittens and his earmuffs and his scarf. There was Little Bear, standing before her, and she said, “There you are, Little Bear. There’s your fur coat!” And he went outside and played and was happy.

Little Bear was worried – what did he need before he went outside to play in the snow? It turned out his Mother had given him everything he needed, long before he asked. Underneath all the special garments he put on, there was the essential thing: and when he saw that, he was okay.

He thought he needed more – he thought he needed to use a phrase, “to paint the lily.” But what he had already been given was just what he needed.

Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess. (Wm. Shakes., King John, 4. 2. 11-18)

Like Little Bear, sometimes it takes a while for us to trust what we have been given. We want to add to it, to make it safe, make ourselves secure. Pilate wanted to be secure. Jesus throws caution to the wind, the wind of the Holy Spirit, and calls for ultimate reliance on God. The providence of God is the one true security measure. And making anything less our ultimate allegiance is idolatry.

You cannot serve two masters – God and your own security, and you cannot find shelter under two roofs at once. You are called in humble trust to rely on God for what you need. “Give us this day the bread we need.” Single-hearted devotion, service, confidence, in God’s care, are what make us safe, and keep us warm in the snows of the world – however inviting they are, however threatening they seem.

Underneath all their other vestments, priests in Roman times wore the alb – a white garment, loose fitting, gathered at the waist by a cincture or rope. It was white, alba, like the white garment worn at baptism. It shows us that, underneath all the other functions a person may have, there is the fundamental identity of a person baptized into the life and death and resurrection of Christ, and the founded hope of eternal life in God’s own dwelling.

Think of us, then, as servants of Christ, having stewardship of God’s mysteries. To be judged by any human person is a very little thing; we belong to God. Let God be the judge; don’t try to forestall him. And for ourselves, stay together, focus on mission, know that God provides, and move forward in Christ.

More than Solomon in all his glory – we will be clothed as we need to be clothed, with the white garment of baptism, the white robe of the martyr – if need be. Each of us will be clothed as a child of God. In Christ is our safety and in him is our security.

There was a man in ancient times, in the third century or fourth after Christ, who lived in a Roman town in Britain, north of London. His name was Alban.

It was a time of persecution for the church. Under the emperor’s orders, priests were being hunted down and made martyrs, made witnesses who died for the faith. One such came to Alban’s door, seeking shelter. Though he was a pagan, at the time, Alban took the priest in, gave him hospitality, comfort, and sanctuary; in turn the priest gave Alban comfort, hospitality, and sanctuary: in Christ, in Christ’s identity of him first as a whole person, baptized into the life and death and resurrection of Christ, founded in hope of an everlasting home.

The soldiers came to the door. By then Alban had received what the priest had to give him, and he was ready to take on the white garment of the baptized, the white robe of the martyr – and so he did. When the door was opened, there stood a man in the cloak of the priest – and the soldiers took him away.

When they got to the judge, they demanded to know his name, his parentage, right away: “I am Alban,” he said, “and I worship the one true and living God, who made all things.” And so they led him away – toward the arena…

In his words Alban confirmed the faith he had already shown in his deeds.

Alban made his security, his home, in his identity with Christ; in God was his refuge. And in his service he found perfect freedom. The Romans could not touch him there. What happened to him then was of consequence, surely: but with him it was a very small thing to be judged by any human court. He did not even judge himself, either to acquit or to condemn. “It is the Lord who judges me.” It is the Lord who held his fate – he had put his life in God’s hands.

From God, who alone discloses the purposes of the heart, Alban would receive his commendation. And so he could proceed, without undue anxiety, on the path before him – in the keeping of God.

We have the assurance of our Lord that we are in his keeping, too: that true security lies not in the world’s goods, however much we amass – or however strongly we assert our independence. All things rightly are free under one Heaven – because all things will be drawn together under the one Christ.

For God has put all things in subjection under his feet… so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15: 27-28)

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, … so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory… May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know him, so that we may know in our inmost being the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his providence, and the greatness of his power. God put this power to work in Christ and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:17 ff., paraphrased)

Blessed are… There is nothing left for us to do but put ourselves in his hands, put our hands to his work, and put our feet on his way. As he taught his followers, so the Lord teaches us to pray: Our Father...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Our version of "Ullathorne Sports" ...?

Come one, come all to the 1st annual
St Alban's Day
Medieval Festival and Feast!
Saturday June 21st
St Albans Church
21405 82nd Pl W
Edmonds, WA 98026

Games start at 3pm
Dinner at 5pm
Fund raiser Carnival Games by the Youth Group
Bouncy Castle - check!
Activities for all ages!
Tickets must be purchased in advance
and will be collected at the door!
Adults ~ $20.00
Kids under 10 ~ $10.00
To purchase tickets please contact ~
Erin Munday
or via email at

John Leech (1817-64). 'A Nice Game for Two or More ...'
Punch, 17 August, 1861.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Among the roses of the martyrs, brightly shines Saint Alban…

"Among the roses of the martyrs, brightly shines Saint Alban…"

Long ago, two or three centuries after the first Pentecost, a man named Alban lived in the Roman town of Verulamium in the province of Britannia. He served the Emperor – Septimius Severus or possibly Diocletian – and did his duty by the pagan gods.

It was a time of persecution for the church. To Alban’s door came a Christian priest seeking sanctuary. Alban took him in, gave him shelter – and listened to his story.

When at last soldiers came to take away the guilty man, it was Alban, donning the white robe of the priest (and martyr) who gave himself up, taking the fugitive’s place.

They dragged him before the judge. Accused of Christianity, would there be enough evidence to convict him?

Soon enough, he confessed, in words that still ring true: "I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things." He was condemned out of his own mouth.

The judge sentenced him to death and the soldiers led him away to the place of execution. There he bared his neck to the sword, and died witnessing to the new faith he had learned.

He never went to church, he never owned a Bible: he never had a chance to. And yet he was a faithful servant of Christ.

The story of Alban – a story of an unwavering witness to Christ, who followed in his footsteps even to his death – still has power. By his example, he calls us from false faith to true.

What fake gods have we followed? What tricksters of glamour, of image, of ease, of wealth, of power, have gratified us with their easy answers to life? What causes us to turn from them, and seek the face of the true and living God?

Last year, preaching at the shrine of Saint Alban in England, the Venerable Mark Oakley, Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe, identified these gods for modern Romans: “Gloss”, the goddess of beautiful surfaces; “Obese”, the god of insatiable acquisition; “Instantaneous”, the goddess who says you can have it all now; and “Punch”, the god of violence, institutional and systemic, and cult-god of hate.

We might pick other gods – but should we?

Better turn to the one true and living God, source of all being, eternal Word, and holy Spirit: he who calls us out of error into truth, out of bondage to desire and appetite into the freedom of grace and gratitude, out of the death-cult of Empire into the life of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Almighty God, by the Passover of your Son you have brought us out of sin into righteousness and out of death into life: Grant to those who are sealed by your Holy Spirit the will and the power to proclaim you to all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, we thank you for this place built to your glory and in memory of Alban, Britain’s first martyr: following his example in the fellowship of the saints, may we worship and adore the true and living God, and be faithful witnesses to the Christ, who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. AMEN.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

under weigh

Pentecost 2008 – full sail

Uncle Hugo used to take us sailing. We would go down to the harbor, open up the cabin, and haul out the bags of sails. We took the covers off the winches, the tiller, and the mast. We were ready to go.

If it was a windy day, the boat shifted and rocked in its berth, straining at the moorings. But then we would push the boat away from the dock, get it out into the free water, haul on the lines, and let the wind fill our sails.

You could feel the power of the wind tugging at the moorings, but to move forward you had to cast off and let the wind fill your sails.

This church is built like the body of a ship – the nave; look up: see the beams like the ribs of a ship, and the wide boards like the planks of a ship’s hull.

Like my uncle’s boat, the Pampero, which he named after a mighty wind, to get somewhere we need to be released, set free.

When Jesus said to his disciples, receive holy spirit, what you release on earth is released, what you leave bound, stays bound, he was telling them how it is: what you are forgiven, and what you forgive, you are released from; the sin you hold onto, holds you.

The power of forgiveness, given by God in Christ Jesus, sets us free.

We are all in the same boat – we are all gathered under one roof, in one nave – and we each have jobs to do. Some of them are mundane, some extraordinary; all are needed. At times each of us sticks to our own task; at other times all hands turn out.

We are embarked together on a journey – a pilgrimage – and, as the archbishop of York said in his Easter sermon last year, “our journey is towards oneness with God. As we journey our calling is to make manifest to everyone the compassionate face of God made visible in Jesus Christ."

We begin by receiving the holy Spirit, and by using the gifts of the spirit given to us; by being forgiven, and by being forgiving; then moving forward together, released, in the power of the Spirit, on a voyage together into the open waters of the freedom of God.


Pentecost 2008

Fifty days after Easter comes the feast called Pentecost (which means 50 days). The people of Israel celebrated the harvest of grain, and the giving of the Torah, the Law, on the mountain.

Every year at the feast-time of Pentecost the followers of the king would gather together under one roof to await the arrival of a new adventure. They would take again the vows they had made on how they would treat other people, then gather at the table, but wait to sit down to eat until an adventure came to them.

[They met in a great castle in an enchanted kingdom. They were a mighty fellowship, a great group of friends, who met every year together, 50 days after Easter, on the feast day of Pentecost. There, gathered all together under one roof, they awaited and adventure. One year, a green knight rode into the midst of their banquet and challenged anyone brave enough to chop off his head with one blow. Another year, a damsel entered in tears; and the kitchen knave followed her on a quest. And there was another group of friends, followers of a king, who gathered every year at Passover and Shavuot, the harvest-festival 7 weeks later...]

One year, the king himself was not there; and they gathered in great fear, huddled together for safety. They were all together under one roof, all right, but they were worried because their king was gone – would he ever come back?

And yet -- That year the adventure was greater than ever. That was the day that the greatest adventure of all began.

Before he left them, their king had promised to send them a comforter, a counselor – a spirit like a strong wind or a powerful storm, the breath of God. That is what ‘spirit’ means – breath, or wind. (It is from the Hebrew word ‘ruach’ which means breath or spirit or wind.)

What entered the room that spring was the sound of a strong wind – like the wind that blew when Elijah was on the mountain – and a fire – like the burning bush that Moses saw on the mountain – like tongues of flame that rested on their heads.

The promise of the King had begun to come true. For soon they were no longer afraid.

Each of them found they could speak in a language they didn’t even know; but other people could understand them. They spoke boldly, of great things their Lord had done.

What they told, and what they heard, were stories of the mighty deeds of the king – their teacher, their master, and their leader, who was the Son of God.

There were people there from all around, near and far, listening – and even though the first followers of the king were all from the same country, these new people heard the stories of the great deeds of God each in their very own language. Wherever they were from, far away across the earth, suddenly they were at home, there in Jerusalem – hearing the words they’d heard back home at their own firesides. And the words were like flames, warming their hearts and brightening their eyes, until they, too, sang of the great things God had done – and was doing.

What is Pentecost? It is Shavu’ot, the Festival of Weeks, held seven weeks after Passover. It is a harvest festival for spring grain: the feast of the first fruits of the field. And it is the day the Jewish people remember the giving of the Law to Moses on the mountain. It is the feast-day 50 days after Easter Sunday – and it is the day that the followers of Jesus received, together, God’s presence in this strange, new, mighty way.

Who are the followers of Jesus? Back then they were Peter and Paul and Mary. And Persis and Salome and James. And John and Mark and Joanna … who are they today? Look around you! They have all gathered together, under one roof. They are the people in this room, and that includes you.

What do Jesus’ followers do? Back then they talked about the great things God does. They talked about the world God has made. They talked about the people he has loved. And they talked about what he has done for them. And they talked about the great things God was doing, right then and there.

And now … we talk about the same things! What a wonderful world this is, the love that Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit have for us, and how that helps us treat each other better.

And what adventures did they have back then? They spread the word of God’s love for his people through out the world.

What else do they do? Back then, the power of the Spirit came upon them – and they went out into the world, spreading the good news of the kingdom of God, and showing what it meant by how they lived. They followed what their Lord had taught them: Love God whole-heartedly, with your mind whole and your spirit strong. Love your neighbor just as you would love yourself. Love one another.

What adventures do we have now? What adventures have you had already? What adventures are waiting for us, right around the corner – or even right now, while we are all together under one roof?

What the Knights of the Round Table were charged to do, the first day they gathered at the Round Table, on Pentecost, the day they swore their oath, is very much the same as what we are called to do:

“For the glory of the realm of righteousness do not ever depart from the high virtues of the realm.

“Do no outrage nor murder nor any cruel or wicked thing; fly from treason and all untruthfulness and dishonest dealing; give mercy unto those that seek it – and always give all the help in your power” to those who require it: the weak, the poor, the powerless.

Go out to help them, right the wrongs they have suffered, and never do any ill to them or allow it to be done. Be the voice for the voiceless; speak out for righteousness, and work for justice, that peace may reign upon the earth.

O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Roger Lancelyn Green, King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table (Penguin, 1953) 63. Given me by my great aunt, Carol Mattingly: my first ‘real book’: I was about six.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


May I speak in the Name of the Son, in the Power of the Holy Spirit, to the Glory of God the Father. AMEN.

Many sermons end with a pastoral prayer; this sermon follows one.

Like many preachers Jesus addresses God on behalf of his congregation; at the same time, he lets us know what he has been talking about all along. And that is good news for us.

Jesus both intercedes for us and instructs us, in this one prayer.

Jesus is the good shepherd, the pastor of us all: he has made his prayer to the Father for us in the gospel of John, in the 17th chapter. And this is what he says:

He asks that God glorify his Son, that his Son may bring glory to him, and he proclaims the power of God through Christ to give eternal life to all people.

He explains that to have eternal life is to know the one true God, and his Son.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Following Jesus, we come to the Father. Believing in Jesus, we come to know God. Through Christ we receive eternal life.

Jesus continues his prayer: he has completed the work he was sent on earth to do, and now he asks God the Father to make known to the world the glory that God the Son had before the beginning of the world. It was through him that all things were made. Every thing that comes into being comes into being through him.

Everything that receives life, receives it through him. That is how it has been since the beginning of the world – since before the world began. And now we are invited to receive, refreshed and new, life in the one in whom life is made: God the Son. Christ. Jesus.

Jesus has revealed God to the ones whom he taught, his disciples and apostles. They have been faithful, and followed him, and believed in him, and known him, and through him they have come to life in the presence of God.

And they have come to know that through Jesus we receive eternal life – and that is the news that they have to share with us. For what Jesus taught, they have passed on to us, and the truth that they found in him, they have given us.

Jesus is now with the Father. His message remains. He gave it to his disciples, and they passed it on – and so it has come to us.

He prays on their behalf: to God he commends his followers as really belonging to God. These are God’s people, and in God’s care. You are God’s people, and in God’s care. And it is through them and through you that God is glorified.

Through the miracle of the church, through the joy of faith, through the presence of Christ among us in the breaking of the bread, in the prayers, in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, God is glorified – and we receive eternal life.

This is the mystery of all the ages – and it is open to us to know and to share in, freely, as God’s gift to humanity through his son Jesus Christ. Eternal life comes from the same source that is the origin of all life – from God in Christ.

This is amazing news, and blessed assurance. We belong to God, we are his; and he is the source of all life and all being, from the beginning to the end.

There is an unbroken chain of witness, of glory, from God the Father to his Son, to his disciples, to us – we are the people of God on the face of the earth today.

We are his witnesses; and to him we give glory. This we do and can do because we live in the presence and the power of God in the Spirit – and we celebrate our new life, together, every time we come together around the Lord’s Table.

As we remember Christ’s sacrifice, his offering of himself – his whole life, his witness to God the Father, his willingness to give his life to the glory of God, his resurrection to the new life and his ascension to be with God the Father – we remember and make present in our own lives the power and glory of God.

This simple act, of sharing bread and wine and the good gifts of the earth, makes present to us in our world and in our lives the practical presence of God.

It shows that God’s gifts of creation are good, and that what he has made lasts.

He has made the world, and he has made us to rejoice and be glad in it.

Let us celebrate together the life we have in Christ, received in his Name and to his glory.

Let us live together in that new life, in Christ, rejoicing in the presence of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The 7th Sunday of Easter – May 4, 2008
Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
John 17:1-11