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