Friday, January 28, 2011

Jesus, dwell in our hearts - forever!

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

God loves you
God LOVES you
GOD loves you
God loves YOU

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: grant us your servants so to follow you that we may always find you and rejoice in you as the source of life, here and everlasting. Amen.

Jesus went up the mountain – like Moses. What he encountered there – who he encountered there – was not a distant, clockmaker, vengeful deity but the love at the source of all being, who gave him not judgment to render but good news to preach.

And Jesus preached. At the synagogue in Nazareth he took up the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and found his place – and began to read:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (Isaiah 61:1-2a)

John the Baptizer sent word to him from prison. Are you the Messiah we’ve been looking for? Should we be looking for somebody else? What are you doing, cousin J?

And Jesus sent word back, by way of John’s own disciples: You go and tell John what you have seen and you have heard. The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead rise, prisoners hear glad news of freedom and lepers are cleansed. What was he expecting?

What John might have been hoping for was a savior of the military kind – a champion who would grab up the jawbone of an ass, or a sling and five small stones, or just grow out his hair and get busy, like one of the heroes of old – and knock Herod off his throne and send the Roman legions packing. Someone who would declare the day of vengeance of our God – as they say in the movies:

And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them. (Ezekiel 25:17)

But that is not what he got.

Let this be written above my throne:

My mercy always prevails over my anger.

For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime.

Weeping may linger for the night; but joy comes in the morning.

We know that weeping – and we know that compassion.

For in Christ God has become incarnate – has taken on flesh and dwelt among us, as a human being among human beings. He suffered as we have, loved as we have, wept as we have, and – finally – when they thought it was all over, rejoiced as we have.

Darkness is conquered by light; the night passes into everlasting dawning.

Jesus gave his life for us – not just his death; his whole life, a witness to the truth, truth of God’s mercy and love, compassion and justice. Jesus gave his life – but that is not the end of the story. By his death he defeated death. And he arose.

He arose to new life – and victory. He calls us into new life – but not to wait. Not to wait – to take on that new life of Christ, to take on his legacy, now – and begin to live it out.

Begin to be the people who bring the good news of Christ to the world.

Proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind. Bind up the broken-hearted.

Yearn for justice, and be blessed with peace.

Act with compassion, and delight in his mercy.

Work for peace, and let God gather you to him as his own children.

Be pure in heart – cast away the gloom and darkness – and become children of the day.

Live the truth of God’s love – and rejoice: for this is God’s day, and it is meant for joy.

We know that our Redeemer lives – and that we will receive mercy through him.

We know that death is swallowed up in the Victory of the Cross – and we exult in peace.

We know that with Chuck and all the saints, we will be welcomed in the heavenly home.

We know that heaven is doing all right – but there is work to be done on earth.

We know that we are called to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world.

Let’s let that light shine – let’s not hide it; let’s be a city on a hill, a sanctuary and a light.

Let our hearts be places of God’s abiding. Abide in us, Jesus, that we, following in your footsteps, may bring the joy and good news of the reign of God into the world. Amen.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

From gloom to glory: light and life in the joy of Christ

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.

From life on the bondage of sin to life in the freedom of the Spirit
From the darkness of chaos to the light of Christ
From gloom to glory
From judgment to redemption
From death, shame, sin and trouble, to life, glory, righteousness and joy

Lead us O Christ into your Kingdom.

When I worked in New York in the office of a venerable publisher we had a venerable slogan – from the venerable institution, Oxford University, of which we were a part.

In the office one day my boss’s secretary turned to me and whispered, “Do you know what this means?”

She pointed to the Latin motto on our seal, our corporate logo: Dominus illuminatio mea

Which I read as Dominus illumina tio mea ... thinking of what it could possibly mean, using my high-school Spanish.

And responded, “God illumines my aunt.”

Lydia laughed; she knew about my aunt.

Well of course it means more than that: Dominus illuminatio mea – the motto of Oxford University and of Oxford University Press – is the beginning of the 27th Psalm, and it means

God is my light

So in that light we go on in the sure and certain knowledge, that dispels all fear, quells all chaos, answers all anxiety:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?

This is the light that enlightens the nations, the light that came to the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, the light that Christ brings with him into the world, the light that he asks us to share in rekindling, reflecting his glory in our lives and our life together.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul exhorts Christians to be united – to have the same mind and the same purpose. We are to proclaim the Gospel, and the cross of Christ; to tell the good news, the message about the Cross, which to those who believe is the power of God. Unity in Christ: in mind and purpose, thought and deed.

Our common life is to show God’s glory – to shine his light in a still-darkened, sin-gloomy, world.

In the gospel we have an extraordinary story – at an extraordinary time. Jesus has just learned that the baptizer, John, has been imprisoned. How does he react? Does he run away, go on the lam, seek shelter, and take the story underground?

No. From this time forward – this time, a time of darkness, chaos, gloom, despair, uncertainty and danger – from this time, Jesus begins to proclaim the coming of the glory of the Lord. The kingdom of heaven is at hand – is right here!

He embodies the good news Isaiah had so long ago proclaimed, and brings it forward into the present moment.

Jesus begins to call people individually and to gather them into his fellowship. He calls us from darkness and death to light dawning, the kingdom of heaven right here among us.

Freedom comes with the call to discipleship.

Jesus calls people into obedience and into life in the spirit, life together in Christ himself.

He calls us into common life, under a common Lord. He calls us into common prayer and common purpose.

Our Father – he teaches us to pray – ours, not just theirs or yours or his or mine: ours, together.

Thy kingdom come – in us, around us, with us. Make us your helping hands. Make us reflectors of your glory. Make us shine with your light. Make us instruments of your peace – your peace – that we may show the world your kingdom is here.

Jesus began to proclaim the good news. He began to walk among the people. Along the lakeshore he walked. And he came to the fishermen at their nets, in the midst of their daily occupation, and said to them, “Follow me. I will make you fishers of men – I will transform your good work into the transforming power of God in the world. Proclaim with me the good news.”

The fishermen left their nets, followed him, and became disciples of Jesus. So may we. So may we.

“Drop what you’re doing!” it sounds like something out of a Laurel and Hardy movie. But that is what they do.

They put aside all other tasks as secondary to the one true thing that matters: following Jesus where he leads, and going where he sends.

Together, Jesus and the newly called disciples went through the region of Galilee, the one they knew so well, and the began the work:

Teaching, in the places of prayer, where people went to perform their religion in pious gathering, where now they would encounter the living God.

Proclaiming, the good news of God.

Curing and healing the sick, showing and embodying the truth of the good news that they brought with them.

In word and deed, the disciples and Jesus showed the good news of the kingdom, showed forth the light and life of God.

What had come before was simply preparation, prologue. What was beginning now was a new order of the ages.

God has come to us and is revealed to us in his Son: Emmanuel, God is with us.

God is with us. How do we see it? How do we respond, to this good news?

Before it may have seemed that God and religion and grace were simply to be consumer goods, something passively to be received. Now with Jesus in their midst (and ours) the message of the coming Kingdom requires an active faith.

Immediately they dropped their nets and followed him – and began to fish for people.

Once, back in New York, I went shopping for some cheese and some bread – pumpernickel, at Zabar’s Deli. The place was full, and the cashiers had long lines ahead of them. So over the loudspeakers came an announcement and an invitation: there are more cash registers upstairs. Never been up there. It’s where the kitchenware and pots and pans were. Downstairs you could buy stuff you could simply take home and begin to consume. What was upstairs – the tools for cooking – required an action on your part. You had to begin to act, to cook –

Up I went. Halfway up the stairs, I saw someone (who loved the place) showing a guy around her favorite deli. I heard her say, as they gained the top landing, this is where the fun really begins.

This is where the fun really begins. Where we become not just passive recipients of the largesse of God, consumers of bread, but active participants in the preparation of the life-giving sustenance of God for his people, and for the world.

We become in Christ the bread the world needs. We become bread for the world. But only as we are broken with Christ, shared with Christ, given with Christ, to the world he has come to redeem. For that is the work he has called us to do – and that is the work we are doing, when we answer the call of discipleship: to become the good news of Christ to the people of the world among whom we find ourselves. How we do this – in Edmonds, in our lives, in our life together – is up to us, and the spirit in us.

“He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old by the lakeside He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word, ‘Follow thou me,’ and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands, and to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship; and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.” (Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 1906)

He comes to us as of old by the lakeshore he came to the first disciples; and he calls to us: Follow me.

And we shall learn who he is – and who we are, as we follow him.

May we…


Friday, January 14, 2011

Life together in Christ

Life together in Christ means commitment to the One who has already given his All.

Christians are indistinguishable from other people by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. . . . They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. . . . In short, what the soul is to the body the Christian is to the world. . . . God has appointed them to this great calling, and it would be wrong for them to decline it.

From the Epistle to Diognetus, ca. 124 A.D., quoted by John Pritchard, Living Jesus (SPCK, 2010) p. 52. (see also

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and call upon his name. (Psalm 100:3)

Let us go forth into the world, to love and serve the Lord. Amen.

Between gathering and going forth, jubilant and joyful, comes our liturgy (literally “the work of the people”).

We gather to hear the Word of God and respond in creed, prayer, confession, forgiveness and peace. We offer our gifts at the holy table of the Eucharist. We offer our selves, our lives, our souls: the best and worst of who we are. We offer and hand over to God where we were, what we have been; and we pray that what we are becoming will be the best of who we are made to be. Reconciled in Christ we approach the holy table in his name. When we go forth from worship may we carry forward the good news of God in Christ, the news of salvation, redemption, justice, true repentance and therefore real forgiveness. Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit we go forth serving the world in his name. To God be the glory.

In work and worship, gathered and scattered, now and always, God is with us.

Jonathan Myers (bE.kON) writes: “Epiphany is a season of searching in some ways. The Christ child is both the Incarnation of God and the Epiphany of imagination, but it is the journey that might mark Epiphany for us this season. Stargazers saw something unique and followed their intuition to a baby in exile, cradled amid dung and hay. As we begin to gaze into our common life together, where are we going?”

This is a challenge to us:

How are we to live out the good news, now, in this season of the year, and of the life of our congregation and the community around us?

What sets us apart? What would people remember us by if we were to leave this community?

How do we best prepare the way for others to enter God’s courts with praise? How best can we send forth God’s people, refreshed, renewed, and ready, to love and serve him in the world?

Love - yes - the warm welcome, the young people and elders, newly among us or old friends. Beyond that - beyond the threshold of our faith - what do we do to embody God’s good news in the world?

These are challenges we face, as all congregations must do.

We are asking ourselves, at this season, five questions:

How are we equipping the saints to do their work in the world? Who are sick or hungry in our community in either body or soul and how shall we tend and nourish them? How are we treating each other, together as the Body of Christ? How are we continuing in the Apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers? How do we seek reconciliation with each other and God when we fail to live up to our promises?

We celebrate what we do well: how the Word is preached and heard, our sacramental life together. We visit shut-ins with the Eucharist and prayers, we support ministries that reach out to others.

We note that we have work to do on how we resolve conflict, and seek to make good small group fellowship even better.

And we look forward to a future with hope, building on the strengths and gifts of the past, and learning to (in the words of Barry Beisner): Focus on the mission; stay together; keep moving forward in the name of Christ.

Father of all holiness, guide our hearts to you. Keep us in the light of your truth; help us share that light in the world. In the name of Christ, light to the nations; our Savior and Lord. Amen. JRL+

For the Gospel Grapevine (February 2011) parish newsletter of St. Alban's, Edmonds, WA.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

In Christ who set us free

Sunday, January 9, 2011

At his Baptism Jesus put behind him every thing but following God. And because he did this, he was able to face what was to come – his service, his witness, his death, - and beyond hope his resurrection. Jesus, because he took on himself the Cross, because he accepted the end of life for himself, as he did in baptism – and its death to self – he was able to lead us out of fear to freedom, out of tragedy to hope, out of sorrow to joy. Sorrow, fear, and tragedy are real; hope, joy, and freedom are more real still.

In Baptism we begin to put on the mind of Christ. We begin to clothe ourselves in his righteousness, having realized we have none in ourselves. Because he led the way, through the waters of baptism, the sojourn in the wilderness, the way of the cross, we too have the hope of the risen life – in him, in Christ, we are set free. We are set free – to live life not for ourselves, under our own power, but in Christ and with Christ, under Christ and for Christ. It is in baptism that we are set free to really live, and truly love.

Knowing that Christ has gone before us, through death – death on the cross – to resurrection, we are set free to love, live, and serve God – in each other and in the world. It is not a friendly world – those Jordan waters in which Jesus immersed himself were muddy and cold; but precisely because he let that dirt cling to him we are made clean.

Our sorrows, griefs, dashed hopes, false loves, unkept promises, our need, our desire – all are taken up in him.

What comes down from heaven is assurance: this is my Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him. And Jesus says,


In Christ who set us free
In Christ who shows us the way
In Christ who calls us to follow


The Lessons Appointed for Use on the First Sunday after the Epiphany
The Baptism of our Lord
Year A, RCL

Acts 10:34-43, AEpiphany1, Baptism of Jesus, Isaiah 25:6-9, Isaiah 42:1-9, John 11:21-27,

Matthew 3:13-17, Psalm 23, Psalm 29

Be not afraid

Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who was crucified, God has raised from the dead. (Acts 4.10)

This is the first news you need to hear this morning. Keep it in mind as you hear the rest.

This morning we begin our service differently from what we had planned. Today especially it is time to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, who was crucified and who has risen. He is the first born of the resurrection; the rest are to follow.

Follow Jesus - follow Jesus through life, follow his Cross, follow him as he pioneers the way. He took upon himself the mortal life he lived, he took up the Cross, he took upon himself our sins, and he gave his life for us as a testimony to the truth. There is one true living God who created all things, who saves us, who loves us, who redeems us.

There are some sorrows and tragedies to tell you about. They have come upon us this week thick and fast. First we learned of the death of Bill McDonald, beloved husband of Lila, who died Monday. Then we learned Barbara Garcia was in the hospital, now in hospice care. We learned that Chuck Becker, who went through surgery successfully, then received the massive blow of a stroke. Thursday with his family I gave him last rites; Friday he died. This morning we remember Bill and Chuck and proclaim together our common faith and hope in the One who was raised, the One in whom we have eternal life, Jesus Christ.

And then this morning we heard the news that a friend of our family - and a friend of many families, in Tucson and around the world - was shot while she was going about her job as a Congresswoman, meeting with constituents. An apparently deranged individual, picking up on the violent speech of the political campaigns of last fall, moved into violent action, shooting her, critically wounding her, and killing six other people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old child. Another dozen survivors were wounded. It is a tragedy for America; a senseless slaughter; a sad sign of our times.

We need to remember that democracy requires public safety, that for us to be able to govern ourselves as a free nation we need to be able to meet freely without fear. The tragedy is that freedom has been curtailed in the name of licentious violence. We need to stop this - and we need to do our part to make sure our nation remains safe and free.

This is something Christians can do - to make witness to the justice and truth and peace we know in Christ. We are not held to a higher standard - that is not the point; the point is that we know what the standard is. The standard is shown us in the life and death and resurrection of Christ.

All people are worthy of life; all have been given the gift of life; for all Christ lived - and died - and rose again.

Be free in Christ; be loving in Christ; and in Christ work together that the world may know his peace, his freedom, his justice. Do not be afraid; he goes before you, always.


In Christ who set us free
In Christ who leads us home
In Christ who shows us the way
In Christ whom we follow home


The Lessons Appointed for Use on the First Sunday after the Epiphany
The Baptism of our Lord
Year A, RCL

Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jesus shows up

Epiphanies are showings, revelations, appearances, times God showed up - notably, in the person of Jesus. These are times the Holy Spirit revealed that God is present in Christ. These are the ‘God sightings’, the times God shows up and transforms lives among us.

The season of Epiphany, or Epiphanies if you will, begins with a visit from magi - wise people from the East. Three wise men, generally, are what we see in pictures: and they are visiting three ordinary-looking people, a father, a mother, and a tiny infant.

Around them may be shepherds and angels - at least in the manger scenes. The essence is three beholding three, and finding in that beholding a revelation of the mystery of Christ: that God has come down to us and become one of us, in order to bring us salvation.

The season of Epiphany ends with three beholding three again. On a mountaintop Peter, John, and James witness the meeting of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. The disciples see Jesus’ face shine: he is clothed in white, radiant, transfigured; bathed in the light of the glory of God. A voice proclaims: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I take delight: listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5) These words hearken back to the beginning of life – and call us forward to the fulfillment of time.

The next Sunday we remember and celebrate the Baptism of our Lord. When Jesus came up out of the water a voice from heaven was saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I take delight.” (Matthew 3:17) Soon Jesus himself proclaims the words of the prophet, come true: “The people that lived in darkness have seen a great light.” (Cf. Isaiah 9:1-2) It is then that he begins to call disciples to follow him. (Matthew 4:19)

In the middle of the Epiphany season there is a special celebration, which recalls our Christmas festivities. It is the feast of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple (Candlemas or Candelaria). As the Christ Child is dedicated, Anna and Simeon look on and praise God for sending salvation to his people.

In the first few weeks of Epiphany the focus of the gospel is on Jesus, and discoveries of who he is. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus himself begins to turn the camera around. He shows the people God is at work in the world around them – and, as they begin to live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, they begin to see Jesus at work in their own lives.

Somehow in the very struggle, the pain, even the persecution, that believers endure in this life, God is present - he is there, he is here, God is with us. In the middle of darkness there is a light shining that it cannot smother; in the middle of despair there is hope; in the middle of doubt, faith; in the middle of sorrow, joy. How can this be - unless God reigns?

At the last, the season of the Epiphanies comes to another mountaintop and the experience we have related above: the Transfiguration. It’s a strange, strange moment. It’s a moment when a man they thought they knew becomes, before his friend’s eyes, a living, visible revelation of God’s glory. Moses saw it; Elijah proclaimed it; Jesus - is it!

He is changed – but still their friend, he is awesome and intimate in one. No wonder they are astonished, no wonder they are afraid, no wonder they are for a moment demobilized: but Jesus comes to them, gently calling: “Stand up; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 17:7) And together they descend the mountain, to the world’s ordinary time.

Jesus exhorts us: Be that light; be the presence of God. Be the Good News of Jesus Christ - in your neighborhood, your city, and your school; in the desert or on the mountain; in your solitude and in the community. You cannot hide a city set upon a hill; let your light shine before people. Rejoice and be glad! “You are light for all the world.” (Matthew 5:14)

Let that light shine in all you do – as Jesus shone on the mountain. Don’t be afraid: God will turn fear into courage. All you can do is this: “Put first in your mind God’s kingdom and his justice; the rest will come.” (Matthew 6:33)

So we, showing Jesus in our lives, are sharing in these moments of Epiphany, these God-sightings in troubled times when God is mostly likely to show up, and come to us, gently calling, “do not be afraid”, and helping us get onto our feet again and walk with him.

Christ extends his hands to us as he did to those frightened men - and bids us rise. Let us, then, come to know and share God’s love with all people.


For the Gospel Grapevine (January 2011), parish newsletter of Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash.