Monday, December 24, 2012

What am I if not a child of God?

What am I if not a child of God? We all have our identities that we cling to – roles, positions, authorities, relationships – that seem to tell us who we are. But every Christmas we can come home to a sense of our true selves, our true identity – as child of God. I am beloved and you are beloved. There is no question whom God loves best: he loves, you and me, all of us, beyond comparison.

What are we to do with this knowledge? Knowing that we are loved, we can carry a light – it may be small, but it is the light of the world – the beginning of faith, of trust in God and God’s love, renewed this year at Christmas. Love came down and dwells among us.

We cannot offer perfection: we can only offer ourselves, knowing that God will make even our imperfections a way for the light of Christ to enter into our lives.

Welcome beloved Child of God. Welcome all. Welcome to the household of God. Welcome to the church of Saint Alban. You are always welcome here.

What am I if not a child of God? I know that I am a child of God because I know that He is the Son of God.

Jesus, Lord at his birth, the one we celebrate this evening – the Nativity, the Incarnation, of God’s own Son, the one who brings into our world light and life, hope and love.

Through him we receive life. In him we live life to the full. Because this Child was born we know we are in God’s hands.

This Christmas Eve we are drawn together by one simple hope, one simple promise: that the love of God has shone into the world, and through this little Child, the abstract becomes real, the divine, incarnate.

The love of God becomes personal.

Because he is the Beloved Child of God, we know that we are God’s beloved children – all of us – and that is a rock-bottom identity that no one can take away from us.

God loves the world so much and the people in it so much that God freely chose to become human – to be born among us as one of us – and live in the universe, fully human and fully divine. Because God became incarnate in Jesus all creation is made holy.

Knowing Jesus is God with us, in the flesh, we know that we matter – eternally – and that what God made when God made human beings is good – good enough to be born into, good enough to live in, suffer in, and to die for; good enough to make, redeem, and make holy.

This good world was made by God, redeemed by God, and sanctified by God – made holy by God – the God whom Jesus taught us to call Abba, Our Father.

This night may we live into the mystery of the Christ Child and the joy of Christmas, knowing that we are his beloved children.

So tonight bring your gifts – the joys of your hearts, the fullness of your sorrows, the fruits of your labors, and lay them all at Jesus’ feet, and know that he will bless them and bless you – as you take up your lives again – and bless others through you as you share the love of him with them.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

And blessed is she that believed

Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
 (Revelation 19: 6)

The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord,
and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.
 (Revelation 11: 15)

King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
 (Revelation 19: 16)


Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

Two women meet in a hill town. One is old. One is young. Both, improbably, are pregnant.

Outside this room it may be noisy, with premature, superficial celebration, but inside this room, in quiet triumph, anticipation and hope, two women meet: one old, one young. One is past the age to bear a child. One for whom it would be physically impossible. Yet – here they are. And they know the promise of God.

The word of God runs strong in their family, their tribe, their nation – and their world.

Two women.

Two babies.

And the world changes.

Not just for these women. Or these two boys. For us, for our salvation.

Not just this change, but also a transformation of time.

The crucial event of world history is coming – and they welcome it: the promise of ages they help to bring into being.

Two obscure women in a hill town in Palestine, at the center of the world.

Faith completed, hope fulfilled, and gratefulness offered.

Having received grace upon grace, Mary could say, I am become an instrument of peace.

Having received from his fullness grace upon grace (John 1:16), we can say: let us become instruments of his peace.

The kingdom of God is being born within us, as we bear Christ into the world.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God is at work, reconciling all things to himself. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Hope confirmed. Promise fulfilled. And together, the two women celebrate.

What Mary knows, Elizabeth proclaims: Mary’s blessing begins with Mary’s believing.

Blessed is she who believed that God’s word would be fulfilled in her.

Mary put full confidence in God’s promise. Her reliance upon it was total and complete.

The blessing begins with faith. Mary kept faith her whole life – even up to and through the crucifixion of her son – that somehow this all had meaning and purpose, that it was within the will of God.

God has done – is doing – will always do – great things; God is holy; God is merciful.

Listen to The Song of Miriam – celebrating the deliverance of Israel from Pharaoh:

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them:

‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’                                     (Exodus 15:20-21)

Are these women powerless and marginal? No longer. The triumph of God is upon them.

The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of the Lord, and of his Christ.

The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord,
and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.  (Revelation 11: 15)

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15: 57)

This victory is not his alone: for all people who hold him in awe, all who ‘fear him’, shall share in the promise. The question is: how shall we share in the victory?

If God be for us, who can be against us?  (Romans 8: 31)    

How shall we share in the victory?

Look again at Mary, and her cousin Elizabeth. Obedience, openness to God’s word, faithful waiting, and willingness to accept God’s plan and trust him to carry it out.

Not knowing the details, not asking for guarantees, they are not merely passive recipients but active partners in the fulfillment of God’s plan, the action of his mercy.

They have known, their people have known for centuries, that God’s salvation was coming. In this obscure corner of the hills, they kept hope alive.

Messiah would come – and he has!

With the certainty of a done deal, Mary proclaims God’s triumph as past action. He has done what he promised.

And so … it would be … and is, now, when we open ourselves in trust to the coming of God’s word among us.

It may mean waiting through a dark night – or a Son’s death.

It will mean obedience – perseverance, patience, faithfulness –
and true glory.

How shall we share in the victory?

How do we help God’s kingdom of justice and peace to become established among all people? We might start by:

Doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.

Keeping faith that what the future may bring, God will bring.

And he is good.

Behold thy servants, Lord: let it be unto us according to thy word.


CAdvent4, Fourth Sunday of Advent, Micah 5:2-5a, Canticle 15,  Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-45, (46-55), Magnificat,

Robert Fuller, Homilies from the Heart, Year C, St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church, Tucson, Ariz. (

Br. Abraham, "Leonard, Sheldon, and Penny Discuss the Implications of the Incarnation," Abbey Letter No. 252, Christmas 2012, St. Gregory's Abbey, Three Rivers, Mich. ( 

Martin Luther's Christmas Book, Roland H. Bainton, ed. (Augsburg Fortress, 1950)

2012 December 23, for Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash.

Trustees of the Future

A generation ago the sociologist Peter Laslett reported to a committee of Parliament on the concerns and needs and challenges facing a cohort of British subjects: those approaching, reaching, or living in retirement. Based on extensive research he identified a new “Third Age” of life: after childhood and youth, younger adulthood, and before old age. (Awkward terminology is a sign of the freshness of his ideas.) These older adults he called, in their potential, “trustees of the future.”

What he saw was an era of, potentially, personal fulfillment, after the work of earlier adulthood – its responsibilities, demands, and rewards – a time of freedom to pursue goals broader in scope and longer in vision than the immediate tasks of career and household.

Older adults, especially those in retirement, gain perspective based on not only longer experience of the past, but on the possibilities of the future. They may have the ability to contribute uniquely to a vision of a hopeful future. That is the challenge of a generation.

As we all affirm, children are the future. How to make that the best future possible is the job of all of us, the whole family, the whole community, and, the whole people of God.

Indeed, we will be welcoming two young new members into the household of God, when we celebrate the sacrament of baptism on the feast of the Baptism of our Lord, January 13, 2013. 

When we affirm, at Baptism, that we will do all in our power to support these persons in their life in Christ, we are taking on this task, as a community, in the power of God.

We cannot affirm, without God’s help, that we will be able to see this through. But with God’s blessing upon us and the presence of the Holy Spirit among us, we should be able to take on this challenge.

This is one, concrete, immediate way that we the people of God can respond to the calling to act, think, and pray as “trustees of the future.”

As we move into a new year in the secular calendar and in the life of the church, let us also move forward into a new sense of our unity in faith and action, our common mission.

The mission of the Church is the mission of Christ: to restore all people to unity with God and each other – and to aid all people in living into the fullness of life in abundance.

Peter Laslett, A Fresh Map of Life: The Emergence of the Third Age  (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991) 7, 196.

For the Gospel Grapevine, parish newsletter of Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash. (Epiphany 2013)


Saturday, December 15, 2012

What then shall we do?

Third Sunday of Advent,
Zephaniah 3:14-20,
Canticle 9,
Philippians 4:4-7,
Luke 3:7-18,

If there is no forgiveness in us,
            there is no cause for celebration.”
– Ann Weems, “The Cross in the Manger”, Kneeling in Bethlehem, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980) 77.

Near the end of the gospel of Luke we come across the story of a pair of disciples who are refugees from disaster. After the trauma, loss and grief of Holy Week in Jerusalem, they set out for a village seven miles away from the city. On the way they cannot help but talk over everything that has happened. They look sad. And then they meet a stranger on the road.

What are you talking about?
Don’t you know? Are you the only one who hasn’t heard about what’s been happening?

What about?
About Jesus, they say: Jesus of Nazareth.

We really thought he was the One. That he would be the one to lead us – to redeem us – to be our savior.

We thought everything was going to be all right. This was going to be a peaceful place, free from danger and trouble.

And yet he stepped into the thick of it – and was crucified for his pains. And now we hear they cannot even find his body.

O my dear friends. Your minds have been darkened by grief. Haven’t you been paying attention to what is really going on?

Didn’t you know that Christ had to go through suffering and death, that the road of Jesus leads to the Cross – and only then to glory?

God made us mortal
         because he loves us
         because he loves us
God became one of us
         in Christ Jesus
he shared our nature
         our sorrows, our grief, our joys –
and he is with you now!
         walking beside you
though you may not know it
         or see that it is he
until you share
in the brokenness
and the outpouring of compassion
that is his supper
that is the supper he presides over
a thanksgiving and a memorial meal

This is my body, broken for you. This is my blood, poured out for you.

All this he spoke: good news
to two people attempting to flee from the wrath that had come.

Afraid, alone, discouraged, in despair
 – but they had been baptized –
and so their eyes are opened
and they turn
         toward home
to spread the news.

The people who went out to John in the wilderness:
why did they go?

To be baptized, sure, to see a miracle, maybe,
and maybe to buy some fire insurance.

They could see bad times coming.

But why did they stay?

John offered no spiritual anesthesia.

Why did they say, “What then shall we do?”

These are the people who respond to the call to conversion.

What then shall we do? they ask –
if coming for a magic baptism is not it,
what are we supposed to do?

How are we to live?

John says it begins with honesty.

Be satisfied with your wages. Treat people fairly.

It begins simply,
with small actions
day to day
that turn you
into the right road.

And it continues in transformation –
which is painful: preparation for the new life to come.

In the midst of disaster – and these people knew disaster – these, newly baptized, would become the ones to bring hope and peace to a traumatized world, comfort to the people.

The first people to read this gospel of Luke were people who knew tragedy and disaster: the death of Jesus, the destruction of the Temple, the reduction of the holy city to rubble.

And yet, there was hope – not despite of, or in avoidance of, the pain of the world, but in sure knowledge that God is present with us in suffering and even in the midst of tragedy he is victorious. In the midst of it God is with us. 

O come Emmanuel – GOD WITH US – comfort your people. Build our strength.

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that plenteously bearing the fruit of good works
they may herald the coming of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Serene Jones, Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009) 23-42.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

future and hope

Sky fall. Earth quake. Sea rise. Land crumble. All portents, all signs of the end. The end of the world as we know it.

We should be afraid – we should be consumed with anxiety – we should look to ourselves. And we should be ashamed.

Or – we should square our shoulders and hold our heads high. Await the fulfillment of time in joyful expectation.

As the people of God – as the ones who follow the Son of Man – should we not be ready to welcome his coming?

The signs of the times – they are full of upheaval, stirrings of the spirit, flames of the fanatical: rage, worry, and fear.

They are enough to make a person repent – and get ready.

Prepare ourselves for what – and who – is coming.

But we should anticipate the coming time not in fear, not in humiliation, not in sorrow or the abjection of self-contempt.

We are the people of the Savior. That is who is on his way.

We should get ready to greet his coming in joy and hope.

What Jesus holds out for us – in this in-between time between his First Coming and the consummation of all the promise of Heaven - what he holds out for us is hope.

Hope in a future made whole by the establishment of justice and made secure by the reign of peace. Hope in the divine power that makes us alive in this world (Jürgen Moltmann) and alive to his presence in it.

For God is at work in his world, already: it is his world. The God who made us is the God who redeems us, who makes us ready to greet him in the fullness and fulfillment of time.

Of course it helps to cooperate. Not such a shock that way.

Begin to enjoy the first signs of the coming summer. Jesus asks his disciples to contemplate the first leaves of the trees, the promise of ripening fruit to arrive in due season.

Go ahead. Look around. Perhaps what you are seeing is not the end of the world – but the coming to full term of what has been waiting to be born. A new way of being, a future with hope. A future for all of us, who believe and follow.

Follow the way. The way of justice, of forgiveness, of peace. The way of joyful anticipation of a future and hope.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast even in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5, KJV)

How do you get ready? How are we to live, now, in the in-between time between the already and the not-yet of God's kingdom?

Knowing that God’s self-sacrificing love is the basis for all human hope (Fred Burnham) we move

·     From personal faith, that is, grasping for our selves the fact of our redemption –
·     Into obedience expressed in action in this world we live in, and
·     On toward hope in the resurrection of the body and the transformation of the whole world into the peaceable kingdom of God’s reign. (Jürgen Moltmann)

In other words, we live now in faith, knowing we are saved by grace, in confidence in God’s love for us.

We seek to express that love in loving action, seeking and serving Christ in others.

And, through all our actions, we anticipate the completion of God’s plan – his mercy and compassion made manifest and established as the rule of life for all creation.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11)

And hope does not disappoint us, because
God has poured out his love into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us
(Romans 5:5)

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done: on earth as it already is in heaven.

CAdvent1, Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36, Romans 5:1-5, Jeremiah 29:11. 

Frederic B. Burnham, et al., eds., Love: the foundation of hope: the theology of Jürgen Moltmann and Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988. esp. p. x, p. 3-6.


Christmas Letter 2012

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  
Luke 2:11

A town torn by war. Occupied for much of its history by one power or another, contending for hegemony over the nearby city, the "key to peace". Loud reverberations shock the streets and squares of the town. Rubble falls from buildings. Daily disaster - catastrophe imminent - and yet: daily prayer, for an immanent God. In the midst of it a cradle, improvised from a feed trough.

And in the manger-turned-crib, a baby. The warring sides are silent. For one night peace reigns.

For one small family, a few herdsmen, and some wandering stargazers, this quiet moment is filled with a strange and holy awe.

For unto them - and unto you - is born, this silent night, in the little town of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And so eternal light comes into the world. And brings with it good news - a future with hope.

The new possibility opened to us by this little baby's birth is overwhelming in scope and significance.

All the world is to be saved through ... this simple gift, this quiet offering, this one small child.

Come with us to remember this special night, and, remembering, to make it real in our own lives.

Come to church this Christmas eve. Let the carols and candlelight guide your way.

And let your communion with us and with all Christians this good night be a sign of hope to you - and of a future filled with grace.

Amen. Alleluia.

~ ~ ~

We will begin celebrating Christmas together at five o'clock on Christmas Eve.

Yes! there will be CAROLING
Yes! there will be COMMUNION
Yes! there will be CANDLELIGHT

We are looking forward to our community joining together in the celebration of the Nativity of our Lord.

The evening service in the sanctuary will conclude with "Silent Night" sung by candlelight.

If there are carols left to be sung or wassail yet to be toasted, we may stick around for a little while...

The next service will be on the morning of Christmas Day at 10:30am - a quiet Communion.


December 2012

St. Alban's Episcopal Church
21405 - 82nd Place West
Edmonds, WA  98026

Monday, November 26, 2012

the big parade

Okay, I admit it – I am not waiting for Christmas Eve. I am already listening to Christmas music, and specifically to “Messiah”, the oratorio by George Frideric Handel. Because after the overture the singing starts with some of the very scriptures we are hearing today.

Over the weekend, Eric Hanson was meditating on the meaning of Handel’s “Messiah”, and, being a music professor, on its style of composition. He recognized something: that Handel, who had the habit of opening his operas and oratorios with an overture in the Italian style, here began his oratorio with a French overture. Why French instead?

Because a French overture is meant to accompany the appearance of royalty, the entrance of a king. At the opera house in Paris, the music would be heralding the entrance, in all his pomp and glory, of the Sun King, Louis XIV.

For the London premiere of Messiah, the story goes, a king would be present: the king of England. But of course that is not all – a greater king than George II would be introduced by this music. Indeed, at one point in the performance the king in the theatre stood up – and the audience stood with him – acknowledging the superordinate majesty of the one being proclaimed: Jesus of Nazareth, son of the most high God.

Our gospel reading today begins with a grand-sounding procession, a parade of powerful names: the emperor of Rome, Tiberius, takes first place, followed by his servant on the spot, the man he sent to take over a rough place and straighten it out: procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. And other kings are there, two brothers among them, sons of Herod the Great who rebuilt the Temple. The high priests are there too – ones we will meet again.

It is a procession of grandeur. More than oriental splendor - the power of Rome, the piety of Jerusalem – line up in powerful array. But the whole thing is shown up as a Doctor Seuss procession when an incongruous figure is introduced.

John. There he is. No regal model he. Not by the standards of those or any days. He looks about as pompous as the bag lady that used to sleep in front of the White House gates. Yet somehow he makes all that pomp seem foolish. Absurd. Small.

This is the desert rat. John is the man out of the wilderness who calls – shouts – to the whole world – clean it up and clear the way. Get ready – open the path. Be baptized – repent! Be cleansed of your sin – get rid of it! Straighten the way.

All the high places will be thrown down and the lowly exalted. What is out of true will be made straight and level. The road will be clear – for the one is coming who was promised. The savior! God is sending his salvation. So get ready. Prepare.

And how prepare? Prepare your hearts – make room in there. Clear away the obstacles that would block his progress. Banish curves and abolish detours. He is coming – and he is coming straight in. The roundabout runaround routes, the sophisticated excuses, the diversions and distractions, the out-and-out obstacles to his coming: clear them away!

And rejoice! For God will lead us, his people, with joy.

Our sorrow, our affliction that we wear like weedy garments, our mourning, our sadness and poverty of soul – set that all aside.

Put off the garments of bereavement and mourning. You need not sing a sad song one more time. It is time to rejoice – and put on Christ, the glory from God and his mercy and righteousness.

It is as if you have dressed for a funeral and find yourself at a wedding. It is not time to mourn – it is time to celebrate.

We are being redeemed, set free to live now the joyous lives of God’s own people.


If we clear the way.

What do you need to do to make straight the road to your heart?

I invite you to join me in asking the question.

What blocks, distracts, discourages, obstructs, or prevents you, from opening the way?

Have you got something that you are holding back, holding dear, grasping onto and not letting go, that keeps you from living a life of rejoicing, and keeps you from the King?

Are you letting something take you off course, down a side road, something pleasant perhaps, but enticing you away from paying attention to what really matters in your life?

Is there something you just need to get out of the way – you know it’s wrong and it has to go – if you are to be ready to receive Jesus with joy instead of sorrow?

It is time to get ready.

What do you need to do to clear the road?

For he is coming: he is already on the way.

Let every heart prepare Him room, Let earth receive her King. Amen.


CAdvent2, Second Sunday of Advent, Baruch 5:1-9, Canticle 16, Philippians 1:3-11, Luke 3:1-6, Benedictus Dominus Deus, Luke 1:68-79, The Song of Zechariah, tveucharist, John the Baptist, Eric Hanson, Handel, Messiah, Handel's Messiah, 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

entrusted with a stewardship


May God bless us today as we consider his handiworks, the glory of creation, and the reign of his peace.

Jesus is Lord. Christ is King. Our God reigns. We say it in various ways.

What are we saying? What are we doing? How are we showing – the reign of Christ?

Let’s imagine this church as a big old friendly house, dedicated to holy purpose.

What is it like to arrive here? Can we imagine it – coming here for the first time, perhaps the only time, to hear God’s word, to rest for awhile, to find community – or a little peace.

Walking from the bus stop on the corner, or parking on the grass, gravel, or asphalt of the parking lot, we come in through a low narrow veranda under a big brown roof. In the door we find:

A welcome. We hope. A greeting. A brochure. Perhaps a few people gathered in the doorway, talking together. We get through. Where is the sanctuary? Where do I hang my coat? Where are the restrooms? Where is the nursery? Will there be coffee hour?

This is Christ’s home. It is the house of God. He is welcome here and he is the host.

We see him – in the familiar faces and the strangers. We see him in the sacraments. Perhaps, too, we see him in the candle burning by the altar-side. We see him in the Cross.

Walking in the door of the sanctuary, we are confronted by – a font, a basin on a stand.

It is water – water for baptism, water for renewal of baptism, water for taking a blessing. In the name of Christ, who is our guide, we walk further in.

There are people here, spread about. We look for a place to sit.

About us are other people. Why are they here? Is this their first time too?

Up front there is a table raised on a couple of steps. Over and behind it hangs a symbol of a cross. Behind and to the sides, we see shelves on one hand, and a small cabinet on the other. In front of it and between the table and us there is a railing and a place to kneel.

Music begins. We sing, or search for a hymnal, or a song sheet. Or we stay silent.

Then we are standing. With others we sing a song of praise. 
And we pray. And we hear the word of God. And we confess our sins, receive reconciliation and share the peace of Christ.

Offering of our gifts – money, bread, wine, perhaps a prayer card – we gather for celebration. There is a meal, a symbolic meal, and together with all those who came in the door and past the baptismal font, we share in the community of the saints of God.

In all humility, who are we to do this? Who are we to say we are the people of God? We are sinners! But – we are baptized! We are baptized into the life of Christ, by his grace. And we believe that through his grace we, and all the people of the world, are saved.

The world.

But there is an objection. It comes from Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of Judea.

The world that Pilate serves, that he wields power in, is not the world from which Christ comes. He holds his power from a worldly system that does not even recognize God’s reign.

The world – the ‘cosmos’ – the system – the order of all things and all ages: whose is it?

Whose world is this? Whose church is this? Is it yours? Is it his? Or does it belong to someone else?

Our Lord proclaims:

My kingdom is not from the system of this world. I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth. And all those who belonging to the truth hear my voice come unto me.

I am their shepherd. I am their king.

Not you, Pilate. Not Caesar. Not anyone else.

What kind of king is this? One who says he has nothing of his own, but what his father gives him. One who gives all of himself, that we may share in the abundance of his reign.

One who, giving all of himself, asks also of us that we give our all to him, that we, with nothing of our own, as he has nothing of his own, may receive all things through him.

And return them, into his hands, at his feet, in praise.

All that we have is thine, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.

You know who said that first? David. King of Judah. As he dedicated the site of the Temple at the end of his reign. He was king of the Jews – and he knew his Master.

He knew his Maker. He knew his Lord.

Do we know ours?

All that we have, all that we are, possessions, personality, prayer; we receive from God and give to God again. We are entrusted with a stewardship. (1 Corinthians 9:7, ASV)

We belong to God; therefore we should do God’s work.

(Cf. Ralph S. Cushman, I Have a Stewardship, Abingdon, 1939)

Every one is wholly God’s own by title of creation – so all our labors and all our powers and faculties must be wholly employed in the service of God, and even all the days of our life, that this life being ended we may live with him forever.

(Cf. Jeremy Taylor)

As we leave this temple, this place of salvation proclaimed and blessing received, as we venture out into the world – with its own system, pulling on us, to make us one of its own again – do we remember who our Lord is?

Do we show it? Do we live it? Do we make it real?

As we go back to the car, or the bus stop, or the pathway home, how shall we carry that kingdom within us that is the true kingdom after all? How shall we live our lives, in line at the grocery store? At the traffic light (C’mon, buddy! Get moving!)? At the office? At home? The channel changer – when we surf the system, whose system are we serving?

When we come to the end of our day, when we say goodnight and our prayers, whom have we been serving? What gospel have we proclaimed, what good news have we shared?

Think of it. Count your blessings. Think of the moments you have experienced grace. Or given it – and so received it again. And again, given it away, as blessed gift and offering.

In those small ways, in these days, we have seen God at work … in our world, in our lives, in our hearts.

Make our hearts your home, O Lord. Make our lives bear witness to your Truth. Make our souls show that Christ is king: that our God reigns. That Jesus is Lord. In this world – as in heaven – may his kingdom come. Amen.

The Sunday before Advent:  The Kingship of Christ

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord,
the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
Keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that plenteously bearing  the fruit of good works
they may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Book of Common Prayer, Church of Ireland, 2004)

Paul Mitchell, pastor of Snoqualmie United Methodist Church, pointed out that the word in the Greek text commonly translated into English as "world" is cosmos - or system.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I can hardly wait for Christmas … but I’ll try.

I can hardly wait for it, for all it means to me: festivities, family, friends, now and remembered, here and far away. I want Christmas morning to arrive. But – it is not here yet; I am still waiting, waiting for more than Christmas presents can provide, more than wassail or caroling.

I am eager in anticipation for something greater than these – deliverance (and not just from holiday sales and canned Santa songs). Deliverance into the new kingdom Jesus comes to begin – the new order of the ages John told us was just around the corner.

I want to hear the story of our savior. The one of whom the prophets sang. The one “Messiah” is all about – wonderful, counselor, almighty God, prince of peace – though I know this is only Part One and we will not get to the end of the story until after Holy Week, after Easter, after Ascension, after Pentecost…

I can hardly wait for the celebrations, the holly, the ivy, (the mistletoe), the wassail, the carols, and the candlelight. I want to walk up the path to church between luminaria and into the hall for song and into the sanctuary for communion and into the stillness of night, stars, hidden or shining, waiting above, signaling…

I would like to see the world released from darkness. I would like to see the dawning of the light. And so I can hardly wait to see the beginning of his promised peace.

Still I eagerly await the coming of the King born at Christmas – because with joyful anticipation I prepare my heart. There is certainly room, if I let him in. And so—

I can hardly wait for Christmas … but I’ll try.

Christmas Season at St. Alban’s

The celebration begins at 5 o’clock on Christmas Eve, just after dark – we couldn’t imagine waiting any longer – with caroling, communion, and, yes, candlelight.

The next service is the next morning, Christmas Day, at 10:30 a.m.

We will have the Eucharist at the usual times (8 & 10:30am) on the First Sunday after Christmas.

The twelve days of Christmas season continue until the Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany – Twelfth Night.

Come join us in celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord – and the birth of the new possibility we find in following the way of Jesus.


For the Gospel Grapevine (December 2012), parish newsletter of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, WA.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


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

Lord, what is man, that Thou hast
       regard for him?
Or the son of man, that Thou takest
       account of him?

       Man is like a breath,
       His days are as a fleeting shadow.

In the morning he flourishes and grows up
       like grass,
In the evening he is cut down and withers.

       So teach us to number our days,
       That we may get us a heart of wisdom.

This prayer, read at funerals, is adapted from Psalms 144 and 90.

(Barbara Myerhoff, Number Our Days, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1978, xiv.)

So teach us to number our days, says the Psalmist, and when we try, we find we cannot, not to the end— no one knows it. So we learn: we can accept the gifts our days offer, and to receive those gifts in both hands, with delicate reverence, and in our hearts, with joyful fullness.

The people we love, the place we know, the times we live in, and the blessings we receive, large and small: treasured moments, new friends, and old movies…

We cannot number our days, not to the end, but we can treasure them—
and release them at last, trusting in the hope of resurrection, knowing that our God loves us and death is not the end. We do not see beyond it but we know we shall be united in the presence of a living God.

Living in hope — as we are living now, between the already and the not-yet of God —
is about expectation;
is about assurance;
is about yearning for the end of the world — not to stop the pain of present existence but to begin the new life now!

Living in hope is about the already-but-not-yet reign of our Savior. It is the hope of eternal life, of the resurrection.

Beyond that, it is the hope of the beginning of the larger drama of which resurrection is a part: the inevitable triumph of God’s justice and righteousness in a transformation of all things. In the consummation of time, God will make all things new. 

(Fred B. Craddock et al., Preaching Through the Lectionary, Year B, Harrisburg PA: Trinity Press International, 471)

And so our hope is found in faith, in confidence in God our resurrection as part of the fate of the people of God: the hungry and thirsty, the sick and the lame, the naked, the captive, the sorrowful; all those to whom Jesus proclaims the acceptable year of the Lord.

We live with that hope, in confidence and trust, knowing the light of Christ shines already – and darkness cannot put it out.

God of all power and might, give us grace to trust you in the darkness as well as the light. In the face of danger and adversity, sorrow and loneliness, be our strength and hope, so that we may live and work to your praise and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever.

(David Adam, Traces of Glory, London: SPCK, 146-147)

Forgiven and accepted by God, in the confidence of new life,

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

(Hebrews 10:23-25)

May God, who gives grace to us, give us grace to give others; may God, who is merciful to us and kind, bring kindness and generosity into our lives; that we may share the abundant love of Christ with those around us.

May we, seeking to do your will, find it in serving you; in seeking you to serve you; and find you in the face of others, friend and stranger.

May we, serving you in others, find ourselves at home; and find our home in you, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

BProper28, Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Daniel 12:1-3, Psalm 16, Hebrews 10:11-25, Mark 13:1-8,

O Lord, what are we that you should care for us?*
       mere mortals that you should think of us?
We are like a puff of wind;*
       our days are like a passing shadow.

You sweep us away like a dream;*
       we fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes;*
       in the evening it is dried up and withered.

So teach us to number our days*
       that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. 

(The Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 144: 3-4, Psalm 90:5-6, 12)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

All Saints 2012

The Burial office in the Book of Common Prayer includes these words:

In the midst of life we are in death; of whom may we seek for succor, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? 

Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, 
O holy and most merciful Savior, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death. 

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, 
O holy and merciful Savior, thou most worthy Judge eternal. Suffer us not, at our last hour, through any pains of death, to fall from thee.


All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

He that raised up Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in us. 
Wherefore my heart is glad, and my spirit rejoiceth; 
my flesh also shall rest in hope. 
Thou shalt show me the path of life; in thy presence is the fullness of joy, and at thy right hand there is pleasure for evermore. 

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 484 - 485)

In the name of God, merciful Father, compassionate Son, Spirit of wisdom. Amen.

Jesus said to her,  
Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? 
 (John 11:40)

Martha and Mary’s brother was restored to life: was yours?
Marriages have been rescued from the rocks: was yours?
Children have been saved from car wrecks: was yours? Was your neighbor’s?
How about those we cannot see, do not know?  Is there glory there?

Yes, but it is the glory of the perseverance of the saints, of the faithfulness of God’s people through the ages, who abide with him in love, even should disaster strike.

Some of us have been through earthquakes, fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, blizzards; others have been through war time or famine; and private bereavements come to us all, friend or family – or stranger, or neighbor down the road.

We share in the grief of others. Because we believe in God, a God who is with us in Christ, we, as the Body of Christ, share in the grief of others, in our church, our town, and our world.

This past Sunday our sister church St. Hilda – St. Patrick suffered the loss of its pastor Cynthia’s husband. Bob Espeseth was killed in a traffic accident in Portland. Cynthia was in a rowing competition and Bob was on a bridge looking down on the race.  As Cynthia's boat went under the bridge, Bob crossed the road to see her on the other side.  When he did, a car on the bridge struck him, and he died instantly. A pastor is left without a husband, the children’s father is taken from them, and a church – not just one congregation – grieves for the loss.

Hurricane Sandy strikes the Caribbean. Cuba, Haiti, and other island peoples, suffer. Then it travels north to clobber the east coast of the North American mainland. Forty or more people die in New York and elsewhere along the Eastern seaboard.

May be there was something that could be done; may be there is something that can be done before next time – but the hurt remains.

And the faith remains; the faith that gives the courage to clean up, move forward, carry on; to comfort the downhearted, to begin to rebuild.

St. Paul’s churchyard, in downtown Manhattan, witness to so many disasters, epicenter of devotion after September 11th. Centuries old, it witnesses another bereavement – this storm – and remains faithful, mute witness to the saints who have gone before, endured trials in their time – petty trials or savage. Slave or free, subject to the Crown or new citizens of a new Republic, those buried in that ancient yard testify of God’s presence. These are saints among us: the first witnesses, the ongoing witnesses, the witnesses yet to come, all witness to the glory of God: because they know in Christ victory over death.

Death is not the end; it does not have the last word. We even laugh at death: mock it with ghostly costumes on the eve of All Saints – we call it Halloween.

Because Christ is risen, because he is raised, and we are called to him, we are alive in Christ. Death is not the end. But what happens after that is in the hands and heart of God.

What we know, now, we the living, is that we have a mission to carry on, to carry forward, and it is not our own plan, our own agenda. Our true gift to the future is our legacy of hope – hope in the resurrection – and joy in the life lived to God’s glory.

May we as we conduct ourselves with others, those near us, and those we know only through the news, begin in charity and complete humility, as we approach the Table of our Lord, knowing that his throne is not far away, and that we have his assurance, that his mercy always overcomes his wrath.

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
                  slow to anger and of great kindness.
The Lord is loving to everyone
                  and his compassion is over all his works. (Psalm 145:8-9)

May the judge of the world, judge us in the light of Christ. May we his servants serve him in the world. In the hungry, to give them food; the thirsty, drink; the naked, clothing; the homeless, shelter; those in prison or sick or lonely, in visiting; those in terror of judgment, assurance mercy; in the hope of glory, may we find joy.

The Lord bless 
you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you 
and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up his countenance upon 
you and give you peace. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 501)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Celebrating with all the saints

This coming Sunday we gather to celebrate All Saints’ Sunday

Of course the celebrations began last night on All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween)….

Last night as we returned home from some “reverse trick-or-treating” – visiting our neighbors with some gifts of candy and candles – some friends bid us goodnight, with the words celebrating with all the saints who are to come. 

Celebrating the feast of All Saints, we remember those who have come before us; we celebrate with those among us; we give thanks for those far away who are yet in the company of Christ with us: let us also think with joy of those believers whose lives and witnesses are yet in the future, but already in God’s eye our fellow saints. What a gift! We are part of this great company, past and present, anticipating a future with hope.

Tonight, like others, you may choose to remember the saints who have gone before us, in prayer, perhaps lighting a candle to remind you of their presence with the Lord.

The people of St. Hilda – St. Patrick Church are gathering tonight at 6:30 for an All Saints service, grieving the loss of their pastor Cynthia’s husband. Bob Espeseth was killed last Sunday in a traffic accident in Portland. Please keep them in your prayers. Bishop Rickel has announced that the Celebration of the Life of Bob Espeseth will be held Saturday, November 17th, at 11 a.m. at St. Mark's Cathedral.

Should Christians celebrate Halloween? Yes! Bishop Shannon Johnston of Virgina wrote:


The most important thing to remember is this: Halloween is the time when Christians proclaim and celebrate the fact that Satan and the occult have no power over us and cannot disrupt our relationship with our Lord and Redeemer, as long as we live faithfully to Christ. We show this by making fun of such pretenders, lampooning them in their face. This is why our costumes and decorations certainly should be witches, devils, and ghosts. In the victory of Christ, Christians are privileged to do this and we must not be timid about it!

Ours is not a fearful faith, cowering from the prospect of falling unawares into Satan’s grasp. In God’s grace and your faithfulness, you are Christ’s own forever. Nothing supersedes that fact. Halloween is therefore one of the boldest Christian witnesses, precisely because of its highly public, graphic, and lampooning nature. Personally, I suspect that those who cannot embrace this are living a fear-driven and even insecure faith. If so, they have bigger problems than the high jinks of Halloween.