Online Worship Services
June 13, 2021
Seeds and the Kingdom of God
IHow much faith do you really need? How much faith do we really have? Both of today's parables demonstrate that we only need a seed's worth of faith to get us going in life. What is the seed God wants to plant in our hearts, the seed from which abundant life will grow? The seed is the great potential we all have for love, love of God, love of ourselves as God's creation, and love of others, love in word and deed.
I remember a parishioner in Vermont recalling having charm bracelets as a young girl. One of the first charms she received from her parents for one of these charm bracelets was a clear one - and in it - you guessed it! A single mustard seed. A daily - or as often as one wore the bracelet - reminder of today's parable, which for me says, "All it takes is one tiny seed to get your faith started" - and then, it just grows and grows and grows. And all of us are here to provide the soil, the water, the love and care needed to help one another in keeping those seeds nourished for one's entire life.
June 6, 2021
What's going on here?
Today's Gospel is set with two separate groups of characters standing on opposite sides of a door: insiders and outsiders. Outside, along with the scribes from Jerusalem, stands Jesus' family. The inside is where Jesus has just retired for a meal with his newly appointed disciples and other folk crowding around Jesus so much that he cannot eat.
Jesus' family has heard that he is behaving as if he were possessed and they have come to intervene. And, scribes are claiming that Jesus casts out demons by the power of that greatest demon of all, Satan. Either uninvited or unwilling to enter, his family summons Jesus to come out to them.
Jesus responds with a sweeping gesture that takes in all those inside seated around him: "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't those who represent the two major protectors of social order-the family and the synagogue - be the insiders? With his simple gesture and words, Jesus turns their world - and ours - upside down. What is going on here the beginning of Mark's Gospel and our season of Ordinary time?
May 30, 2021
Former Christian Century publisher John Buchanan wrote in the Christian Century of a Sunday service at which he baptized a two-year-old child. He read the standard pronouncement from the prayer book in his tradition: "You are a child of God, sealed by the Spirit in your baptism, and you belong to Jesus Christ forever." Unexpectedly, the child responded, "Uh-oh." Buchanan writes: "It was an appropriate response ... a stunning theological affirmation."
Nicodemus's response to Jesus in today's Gospel about being born in water and the Spirit, "How can these things be?" could be heard as a shocked "Uh-oh." Moving politely toward Jesus with an inquiry, Nicodemus alarmingly finds Jesus moving toward him to rescue him to save him.
Nicodemus comes to Jesus showing respect. But religions, writes Stanley Fish, "don't want your respect. They want . . . your soul." Jesus doesn't want Nicodemus' respect; he wants his soul, his whole person reborn. Uh-oh.
May 23, 2021
Pentecost Sunday, Receive the Holy Spirit
In our readings this great feast day, I am struck by how the Holy Spirit makes it possible for people to do things they could not do on their own.
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the Spirit empowers the disciples to speak in languages they had never learned and gives them a boldness to do so publicly-a boldness that up to this point they had not had. In Paul's Letter to the Romans, the Spirit helps believers pray in ways that they could not pray on their own. Finally, in John's Gospel, Jesus says the Spirit will guide the disciples into all truth-truth that they "could not bear" without the Spirit's help. The Holy Spirit will reveal things to the disciples they could not discern on their own, and then give them the strength to live that truth accordingly.
Said another way, God has both knowledge and resources that we don't have. In sharing these things freely with us, God makes it possible for us to do what we cannot do alone. This sounds simple, but it raises the questions: What are we doing in our lives and Saint Ann's that takes us beyond what we could do in our own natural capacities and hesitant approaches? How can we trust more, let go and let the Spirit reign - following the example of the first Christians in their bold, fearless faith? This great day in the life of the church is the very place to recommit ourselves to such a life of living in the Spirit!
May 16, 2021
The Sunday After the Ascension
The Bible readings for today, the Sunday after the Ascension, are jam packed with important information about Jesus’ final days on earth. From Jesus’ long goodbye in John’s Gospel to Matthias’ being chosen to replace Judas as one of the 12 apostles, the apostles are getting their house in order for the promise of eternal life and the assurance that Jesus hears our prayers.
There’s a lot going on in these passages. I’d like to center all our thoughts on the central event of the Ascension and what I have come to understand about the third part of the familiar refrain: Death, Resurrection and Ascension. We are with Christ in his ascension. To know that about Jesus’ ascension is to realize that in his ascension we ascend. Christ’s ascension affirms our humanity. It sends us the message that our humanity bears within itself the potential for transformation. We will be changed.
Therefore, the Feast of the Ascension is not about Christ’s “going away” or up into the clouds, even though he does leave the disciples by ascending into heaven. Far from being left comfortless, we are strengthened by the fact that Jesus is not floating above us, but rather lifting up our own humanity. Or, in the words of today’s collect, “exalting us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before.” Come explore more about these readings and the Feast of the Ascension in our Sunday and Monday Bible Study, at 11am and 5pm, respectively, via Zoom.
May 9, 2021
This is my commandment that you love one another
As followers of Christ, love is our refrain. Again we read in today's Gospel from the "Farewell Discourse" where Jesus commands us to love one another.
Love does not begin with Jesus. Love begins with God, which Jesus, as a Jew, told his followers comes from the law of Deuteronomy 6:4 - the Shema: "To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your strength, and with all your mind" and Jesus adds in Luke's Gospel, "your neighbor as yourself." Who is my neighbor?
In word - everyone and everything is your neighbor! - the world, this fragile earth, our island home and everything in it. That simple, that hard, that demanding. On this sixth Sunday after Easter, when we celebrate the harvest, let us examine how we love all that God has given us. Come explore with me in conversation, in study, in worship and in deed, how we love all of God's creation.