Saturday, July 21, 2012

that all your people may be gathered

In the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” Arthur King of the Britons goes around on his mock horse, clip-clop, clip-clop, announcing “I am Arthur King of the Britons” –  it’s blatant self-heralding.

What a way to build a kingdom. What a way to gather a people.

It doesn’t work of course. Most people respond something like

[jeering] “Oh yeah?”

And one group goes so far as to respond to his announcement in an even more subversive manner…

“I am Arthur, King of the Britons.”

“I don’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.”

Jesus was not a self-heralding king. In fact, by some accounts, he shushed up all business about himself as much as he could.

But the word got out.

The kingdom, that is, the reign, of God, is at hand. It’s time to get ready.

That kingdom is shalom, the peace of God.

What would it be like to live in peace, God’s peace? How would you get there? What would it look like?

To reach God’s shalom,
         justice and righteousness must be established.
To live in safety,
         the fear of death must be removed.

As a shepherd,
         beholding lost sheep, scattered over distant hills, 
Jesus regards with compassion
         the people who have come out to seek him
         in a deserted place
Powered by faith alone.

Send them away, the disciples said,
         so they can buy for themselves
         something to eat.
No, you feed them.

How shall we feed so many?

He had them group themselves for the meal
         organized like Moses’ flock into hundreds and fifties
         into impromptu households
                  like the people fleeing Pharaoh on that first Passover
Giving thanks
         he broke the bread
         telling them
                  this is my own body

Giving thanks – but who has seen him?

When you fed me, gave me drink, clothed me, visited me,
         then you saw me

And so John can testify
         we proclaim to you
         what we have heard,
         what we have seen with our eyes,
         what we have looked at
         and touched with our hands,
(1 John 1:1)

So Jesus host of the sacred meal
         gives thanks
         as Israel always had
                  Blessed be thou O Lord our God,
                  king of the universe,
                  who brings forth bread from the earth
From the earth
         he feeds God’s people
Taking up the resources of creation
         what they had
         what they brought
         blessing it
         revealing its transformative power

When shared
         no longer victims
         they are God’s people once again set free

Like the first Passover
Like the bread in the wilderness, bread from heaven,
once again God feeds them
         with the food he provides
once again
         as with the binding of Isaac
         God himself provides the offering

         like a shepherd
         feeds his people
         calms their fears
and goes on
         moving among the people

Our shepherd
         gathers us in
         transforms us with his word
                  and his self-gift of the meal
         sends us out again
                  as his messengers
                  his disciples
         to bear Jesus
                  his word
         into the world.

Jeremiah assures the people of Israel that their true shepherds are coming, sent by the Lord. The word to the unfaithful shepherds, leaders who have failed to look after the people and be their guides: you will be called to account.

To the people God’s assurance:
         I will gather, I will bring back, my people
         They will be well and increase
         I will give them shepherds
                  true leaders
         they shall be safe
                  and not afraid

The letter to the Ephesians proclaims that
         we will all become one flock under one shepherd.
         Hostility between peoples is broken down.
         All are gathered around God’s table.
         Nobody is left out, any more.

We are reconciled in Christ
         and through his cross
we are made one people
         in him.

We are all members of his household.
There is a banquet
         not like the dinner party Herod threw for his own birthday
         a heaven-sent banquet
                  not just for the prominent or the select
         all are at the table
                  this time
         the table that is the kingdom feast of God.

But can we do enough?
Are the resources we have enough for God to work with?
And who will come,
         if we extend the invitation? God knows!
When you open the doors,
         who knows who will come in,
         who God will send.

We find out, a bit, simply enough:
         God keeps sending us people,
         like the people of Edmonds,
                  Mountlake Terrace, North Seattle, …
God keeps sending us the
         familiar stranger
as well as the
         heroically Other.

Whoever God sends us,
         God calls us to be faithful
         in serving
                  as his messengers, his disciples, his friends.
We are no longer strangers – but remember (God says),
         you were a stranger once;
         know you who are a member of the household,
         a citizen numbered with the saints,
know to be prepared
         to become one great people of glory
         to be built into a dwelling place
         for – not ourselves –
         for God.

Risen Christ,
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.

Closing prayer from Common Worship (
Notes for a sermon to be given Sunday 22 July 2012 at Saint Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash. (
Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-34, Mark 6:53-56, BProper11, Shepherd, Shepherd King, JRL+

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Heart of Wisdom

Our elders are growing in numbers. In the United States and other developed countries, the population is aging. In the 2010 U.S. Census, the number of people age 65 and over was 40.3 million persons (13.0 %) and grew at a faster rate (15.1 %) than the population under age 45. In 2010, the median age increased to a new high of 37.2 years, from 35.3 years in 2000, with the proportion of the population at the older ages increasing similarly. The population is growing at a faster rate in the older ages than in the younger ages.

In southwestern Snohomish County, the average age has increased from 36.1 in 2000 to 38.6 in 2011, with a projected increase to 39.8 in 2016.

Aging and caring for the aged is a growing concern for all Americans. For the churches the problem is not simply ministry to aging persons – it is ministry of and with our elders.

The future of the church is not just with the young - indeed as the population of America gains in elders we will be given the gift of many years of wisdom, experience, and care.

And so we seek insight into the spiritual issues and gifts connected with aging and later life – the later stages of the human life cycle. We want to help each other find the blessing – to come to a truthful understanding of what we are receiving – as we experience aging.

Among the joys of life in a multi-generational congregation is the mutual enjoyment of people of different ages and backgrounds. One of the things that we all enjoy is the presence of children and young adults in the congregation. Another is the presence of our elders.

What is the difference between just getting old and being an elder?
I asked a mentor of mine.

His prompt reply: An elder sees a vocation.

Among the challenges of life is finding a calling for the changing circumstances we face over the years. Even in the gentlest of retirements or other life shifts, there is a faith shift to accompany it.

A new understanding of God may come with a change in one's place in life. Something new may be calling us; something old may be affirmed.

One thing we know: God is our companion and guide on the way, on the journey of life, through pain and plenty, sorrow and joy.

So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90:12)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

two households

 Two households, not alike in dignity,
 In far Tiberias, where we lay our scene,
 From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
 Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
(Romeo and Juliet, Ii, 1-4, alt.)

A birthday party. A banquet. A feast. Everybody there you want to impress: sophisticated, urbane, and powerful. Prominent citizens of Galilee, military heroes, court officials: they’re all there. And the evening is going well…

It’s a bit of a bacchanalia, it seems; at least a symposium (Greco-Roman drinking party). An evening of worldly entertainment. And wine. And women! The queen’s daughter herself comes in dancing. (Who sent her in?)

But the light of the party turns dark…

“Give me the head on a platter of John the Baptist.”

And, so: he does.

And so doing he eliminates a dangerous enemy, a fascinating threat.

Only to face in Jesus the equivalent of John come back alive. For his message is not dead. And the repentance, and forgiveness, and righteousness, and the kingdom, that he proclaimed, seems more sure than ever to come.

Word has spread. Jesus – John’s cousin – and his disciples are going about the towns, preaching repentance, healing the sick – casting out demons!

Turn from your sins, O people of God. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

(Herod remembers. John said: Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; (Matthew 3:10/Luke 3:9) Perhaps he was right!)

The signs are there. And it is not Herod’s kingdom that will come in.

Ten years later in exile in Gaul, how will Herod be doing? Will it have been worth it? The wife – the daughter – the head??

In opposition to the kingdom and family of Herod is another family, another king.

Not another king like Caesar; the king of heaven. Not just any family; the family of God.

And so the opposite forces gather.

Two kingdoms. Two families. Not alike.

This is not the first betrayal of a prophet, of a messenger bearing the word of God. Amos went to the disobedient king Jeroboam of Israel, as Elijah would have done; he gave his message and was chastised for it.

Go earn your bread in Judah, go away from this king, he was told.

But he replied. I am no professional, no bearer of the words that kings want to hear; I was an arborist and a shepherd.

The Lord chose me, showed me a vision, and sent me.

This message I have given – this vision – will come to pass.

Not popular words. Not shaped to be popular.

And so Amos delivered the message, as John would, as Jesus would, as his disciples do. The judgment is coming.

The true king is on his way. He is sending out his messengers. Though the powers of the world may oppose them, as they did before – as they opposed Amos, Elijah, John, Jesus, and all the holy martyrs – God promises his people that the Word of the Lord effects what it promises.

And that’s what they are afraid of… that is what the kings like Herod and Jeroboam fear: that the word of the Lord will come true.

The kingdom of the times is powerful, even attractive.

But we belong to another family, another kingdom.

Our brothers and sisters, all over the world, are those whom God has chosen, blessed, destined, redeemed, enlightened, inspired, made heirs, sealed as his own.

The letter to the Ephesians tells us: We are the people of God’s own choosing, not ours; of his calling, his blessing, his redeeming, his inspiring; of his legacy.

There is much to rejoice in – in Christ. We are blessed.

This is the day the Lord has made – has made us his own.

You are in his family, his kingdom; you are his people forever. Have a blessed day.

Almighty God,
send down upon your Church
the riches of your Spirit,
and kindle in all who bear the good news
your countless gifts of grace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(A collect for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Common Worship, Church of England.

BProper10, Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85:8-13, Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29,

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Getting Ready for the Journey

 Loving God,
open our ears to hear your word
and draw us closer to you,
that the whole world may be one with you
as you are one with us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.*

Getting Ready for the Journey

When we were kids we would go to visit my cousins once a year. It was an all-day drive. We got ready by packing our own gear – clothes, toothbrush, et cetera – whatever et cetera was at that age. We would then, sometimes, tromp around in our bathrobes and slippers on the front lawn, killing slugs with our feet (hence the slippers) and there a bye being helpfully out of the way while the car warmed up and my parents finished loading. We would head down the highway, stop for pancakes at the Busy Bee, plea for pea soup at Buellton, and arrive in the evening. We were assured of a welcome on our arrival, food and a place to sleep – and a greeting from cousins full of plans for our entertainment during our week’s visit. A neighbor would even loan us her bike so we could ride to the park together.

That is how we got ready for the journey – and what we knew to expect on our arrival.

What would it look like if you prepared the way Jesus had his disciples prepare, and go without knowing quite what to expect at the end of your journey?

What would it look like to travel light? for you?

This is beyond Rick Steves’ one carry-on – or the Sierra Club handbook for hikers, Traveling Light with Backpack or Burro

Here’s the packing list: take staff, sandals, and tunic (1). You are ready for the journey. No bread, no bag, no money in your belt.

Ah! One item more: the holy spirit, the gift of God, the empowering call of Jesus Christ, the authority over unclean spirits – and the message to proclaim: Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Now we are ready for our journey.

To travel as one called, empowered – equipped and inspired, sent: to be a messenger and a guest, not a host, dependent on the hospitality of those to whom you bring the message.

It is an urgent message, good news, important news, news that cannot wait: and so you go to deliver it – and whether they hear or refuse to hear, they shall know that the Word of God has been among them.

They will know it through the Spirit, through you exercising your duty and your call as disciples. Go!

What does it look like if you try to do this? Saint Francis of Assisi, and his companions, tried to find out. Francis made for them a rule of life, pretty much straight out of gospel lessons like this, and it said:

From the Rule of St. Francis of AssisiThe brothers should appropriate neither house, nor place, nor anything for themselves; and they should go confidently after alms, serving God in poverty and humility, as pilgrims and strangers in this world. Nor should they feel ashamed, for God made himself poor in this world for us. This is that peak of the highest poverty which has made you, my dearest brothers, heirs and kings of the kingdom of heaven, poor in things but rich in virtues. Let this be your portion. It leads into the land of the living and, adhering totally to it, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ wish never to have anything else in this world, beloved brothers.**

It’s that extra gift – the one that won’t fit in your travel kit, the one that keeps popping out and surprising you - that makes this journey possible. What is that gift? The word of God, which does what he sends it forth to accomplish; the word that he sent among us.

The ultimate “equipment” is this: God loves us as a loving father loves his children; so we are to act in the certainty of this love, and in imitation of it. The ultimate equipment is the certainty of God’s love; the ultimate commission is the urgency of sharing it.

The word among us – that is what the spirit means to accomplish, to make present in you and through the good and joyful news of the coming of the kingdom of God, the reign of heaven, God’s shalom.

And so the disciples, and the church, began, as Jesus had begun: baptized and in the spirit sent, leaving behind, casting aside, all earthly impediments, in the urgency of his message.

                  what is this message—
                                                      to you?

What could be so important that you would lose your life for it? What but life itself – true, abundant, free, eternal life – life as it is meant to be lived, as we were created to enjoy it, as we were redeemed to bear it, as we were empowered to share it?

Wisdom and deeds of power: that is what Jesus is doing. That is what he calls the twelve into, as his partners in evangelism and mission.

That is what he does for us,
as we gather,
proclaim and
celebrate the transforming word and deed of our Lord, and
are sent –

we go forth,
in the power of the spirit,

to bring that good message of the kingdom
to the world
in our own words, and in our own lives,
in what we do and what we say,

sometimes systematically, sometimes accidentally,
always faithfully,
caring, showing, sharing, doing
God’s gracious will for us:

so that all may share in the kingdom of peace and abundance –
the abundance of God’s love for all of humankind.

God calls us – we respond, willingly; God equips us, inspires and empowers us. We are dependent on God’s mercy, not on our own particular resources. And we are called to support the work of the church with our own resources, for this ministry is, after all, a treasure, a gift that we have in common. We cannot boast in our own strength, Paul leads us in knowing, but we can boast in God’s grace.***

May we be open to God’s word, calling us;
may we be open to God’s spirit, equipping us.

God of grace and powerful weakness,
at times your projects were ignored, rejected, belittled, and unwelcome.
Trusting that we, too, are called to be prophets,
fill us with your Spirit,
and support us by your gentle hands,
that we may persevere in speaking your word
and living our faith. Amen.*

BProper9, Ezekiel 2:1-5, Psalm 123, 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13,

* Prayers from the Church of England, Common Worship 
( accessed 7 July 2012)

** The Rule of Saint Francis ( accessed July 7, 2012.)

*** Lance Ousley, Stewards' Stirrings: Pentecost 6 Proper 9B in the Diocese of Olympia



Sunday, July 1, 2012

flocked again

We got flocked. Again. The second time this month. This time we were at the zoo. When we came home – we saw some real, live Chilean flamingos – there was a flock on our lawn – of pink plastic flamingos. There was a note by the door: “You’ve been flocked!” — by Abby and Ben, from Greater Edmonds Young Life! A request for a contribution was with the note. Since I first really heard the good news of Jesus through a Young Life club I am a good candidate for a flocking.

The first time we were flocked I caught them in the act. I looked out the window one misty evening and there was my friend Joe running by the window. And there were girls in the trees, placing flamingos among the branches. Eventually they all climbed into the tree house next door, while we talked with Joe’s mom.

Sharing the gospel requires a couple of things – and some of them may seem like crazy pranks. One is to take a risk and reach out – and let your neighbors know about Jesus. Another is to help share in the cost of discipleship – the cost of evangelism and the cost of teaching about the good news, and what it means to us. So both those things were happening, that night. Take a risk and reach out – and give to support our common goal.

Our common goal is no less than the kingdom of God – the reign of God made real, on earth as in heaven, not only in our imaginings but in our lives.

I saw this earlier in the week – last Sunday evening, in fact: Meredith Bee was at Camp Huston. We were there to see her confirmed – her family, her friends, including Verity, and her community. We celebrated this moment together – when a bishop in a long line of bishops laid hands on her, with us beside him, and prayed for her. As she affirmed her faith in Christ we undertook to support her in that faith. And we gave thanks to God in Christ as we made our great thanksgiving together – the Eucharist, the Holy Communion.

No less than the kingdom – the kingdom, here on earth as it is in heaven. That’s our goal.

Paul writes to the Christians at Corinth. They are still new to this good news, still figuring it out. What it means for them. What it means for us. And so Paul reminds them: when they give, when they contribute to the mission of the church, they do so not out of guilty compliance with a past promise, but out of gratefulness – and out of common purpose.

Our real security does not lie in worldly wealth. It rests in the hands of God. That is the message we get from the gospel. The woman who had suffered for twelve years, the twelve year old who had suffered death, both were in need of the healing grace of Christ. And Jesus came to them – and they (or in the girl’s case, her father) put their trust in him.

He did not fail them. He came in time, and he healed. He healed – that is, he made whole, what was broken, what was faulty, what was in need of completion. It was more than physical healing that the woman needed. As she had been stricken down with physical illness, the very symptoms made her ritually unclean. And so nobody would touch her.

Nobody would risk it; nobody would get near her. They tried to stay clean. Nobody, that is, except Jesus. He sought her out, asked her: was it you? – addressed her as Daughter, daughter of Abraham – and assured her that her faith had made her well; had restored her. And then he said, peace, go your way with blessing: you are restored to the community.

Peace! Shalom. It is more than just a word. It means wholeness, life in abundance, and life in community, in relationship. The relationship with God that Jesus establishes allows us to reach out to each other in fellowship in a new way.

We are all in this together now; this life we have we have in God and we are called to relate to each other in this light.

And so Paul says to the people at Corinth, you are part of something larger than yourselves. You are part of a worldwide community, a new fellowship of love that knows no boundaries or barriers that cannot be overcome, and you are bearers of the message, that the offering of God’s healing and restoring grace is for everybody, everywhere.How God acts in Christ toward us is how we should act toward all people.

How God acts in Christ is this: that one who was born into untold wealth, the ultimate richness that is one-ness with God, was willing to share in the life of the world that we, impoverished in the absence of that God-fellowship, might come to share it through him.

All we who were in desperate need – substantial members of the community like Jairus, the father of the twelve year old girl; or marginal and poor and outcast, like the woman with the twelve years’ hemorrhage – found our salvation in one who was rich, one who is life in abundance, who came to us, broke down all the barriers, to bring healing to all.

And so we are called, to share in that life, that abundance in grace. We do so when we share with each other in the joy and gratitude that we express in the holy meal at the Lord’s Table, and we share that life when we go forth in peace, to bring peace to the world. Shalom!

Do not fear; only believe.

Let's close with some prayers from Christine Sine's blog GODSPACE:

Jesus you say
Peace, rest in me,
Peace, hold firm to me,
Peace, trust in me.
You are the way the truth and the life,
May we trust in you and never be afraid.
God of love and compassion,
God of hope and promise,
God of faithfulness and truth,
May we in all things see your face today,
That we might trust and obey

Life is a gift from God,
Let us cherish it
Love is the language of God’s kingdom,
Let us practice it,
Jesus is the way to God’s heart,
Let us follow him.

 —Christine Sine

BProper 8 - July 1st, 2012 - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24 
Lamentations 3:21-33
2 Corinthians 8:7-15 
Mark 5:21-43

Flamingo (Chilean) - Woodland Park Zoo Seattle WA