Monday, February 25, 2008

Sermon Year A Lent 3

Living Water

Last week we were with Nicodemus
as he was puzzling and confused over Jesus’ telling him
that he needed to be born again.

This week we are at the well with a woman
who is also puzzling and confused.

She is puzzled because here is this man, this stranger, this Jew, this Jesus--
and he is speaking to her, a woman, a stranger, a Samaritan.
This is just not the protocol.

The woman’s puzzlement does not become less before it increases.
This man Jesus is telling her
that he can show her the way to “living water.”
That she will never be thirsty again.

For a woman of this region and this time period,
the prospect of not having to make all those trips
to and from the village well,
to never again have to lug those heavy buckets of water,
or never worry about the well will go dry--
this deep well of living water that Jesus speaks of
sounds like a dream come true.

The woman’s puzzlement turns to surprise
when Jesus knows about the history of her matrimonial relationships.

Jesus is not judgmental.
Jesus is just telling her what is true about her life.
A truth that others might never say—at least not to her face.

The most amazing thing about this story is that the woman is not afraid of Jesus.
She does not slip away in the night like Nicodemus.
She does not depart from him sadly like the rich young man.

But she does not run away—
she runs toward something that Jesus has awakened in her.
She runs to tell others the good news.
She runs to share the gospel—
for gospel is just a word that means “good news.”
She leaves behind her bucket of ordinary well water
and dashes back to her village
to tell others about the “living water” she has found.

The Samaritan woman has escaped her prison of acedia.

Acedia. That’s A-C-E-D-I-A.
It’s not a word we use much in our daily conversation,
but it is definitely a state of mind that we see a lot these days,
in others and in ourselves.

Acedia is sometimes equated with sloth or laziness.
But it’s different than being a couch potato
or one who never gets around to vacuuming the whole house
or getting the oil changed in the car.

Acedia is apathy
The early Christian fathers called it “life robbing dreariness or sadness”

Acedia is a “couldn’t care less” attitude.
It’s the shrugging your shoulders and saying, Whatever.

I read that acedia is definied by theologians
as an unpardonable sin entailing a total loss of grace.

That was shocking to me.
Having a “whatever” attitude is considered an unpardonable sin?

We so often think of sin as being things we do that we shouldn’t do.
But sin can also be things we do not do when we really should.
Things done and left undone.
Sin can also be just not caring whether something is done or undone.

God did not create us to not care.
God created us to care deeply and compassionately—
for one another and for God.

God created us to be like the woman at the well—
Perhaps a bit skeptical at times, owners of a bit of a ragged history,
but once we experience living water—
through baptism, through Eucharist,
through worship, through mission or outreach—
the expectation is that we will run
and tell everyone we meet.
With great joy!
The expectation is that our lives will overflow its banks
with the love of God.

Living water does not come in individual, pop-top cans.
Living water comes as a wide free-flowing river
of God’s grace and God’s love and God’s peace.
It is that river of God that feeds deep wells and sparkling streams.

God’s river has room for everyone.
Even a Samaritan woman. Even you and me.

Jump in! shouts the Samaritan woman.
Drink! invites Jesus.
On occasion when we are just too weary to swim,
God says, just come on in, honey,
Lay back and float.
God will hold us up.

Whom do we know that needs to know about the river of God?
We are called to go home and make a phone call. Today.
Invite someone to come with us to church next week
or just call and say hello. How are you?
You have been on my heart and in my prayers.
I care about you.

When was the last time we ourselves jumped in that river?
The season of Lent is not about staying dry sitting up on the shore.
What desert places in our lives need to be refreshed by living water?
The best cure for acedia is to stop thinking about ourselves
and to think about someone else.

The best cure for acedia is to help someone else.
It can be a random act of kindness
or it can be an intentional act of reaching out with compassion.

The call to all of us this third Sunday of Lent
is to run from this place !
Go into the community—our village.
Go out into the world---our bigger village--
and share the good news.

We are called to share the good news in Word
and to share the good news in deed.
We are called to drink deeply
And to offer others to drink with us.

If we accept that challenge,
if we replace “I couldn’t care less”
with “I can always care more”
the world will not die of thirst.
and neither will we.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sermon Year A Lent 2

Do we dare?

We are doing a study of the film Chocolat
as our Adult Sunday School class during Lent.

Sometimes seeing things visually
in a contemporary modern setting
opens our eyes in new ways to hear scripture texts
and to reveal the gospel in our own lives.

Last week we watched the opening scene of the film—
set in a small town in France.
The village is gathering for worship in the parish church
and suddenly the wind begins to blow.
Really blow.
The huge, heavy wooden church doors are forced open by the wind
and the wind forcefully blows into and around the congregation.
It is not a wind one can ignore.

The mayor of the town gets up from his pew near the front of the congregation,
walks to the back of the church
and with great effort, and even greater determination,
closes the doors shut again.

The wind is kept out of the church.
Everything can now continue undisturbed.
And continue it does---grey and dull and lifeless as usual.

After all, who wants the Holy Spirit blowing around a church?
That would mean change.
That would mean letting God stir things up in the congregation.

That might mean God will stir things up in the people, too.

Opening the doors to the ruach—the holy breath—of God
means transformation—
following God in new ways, to new places, to new creations.
No wonder the mayor slammed those doors shut!

Do we dare let the Holy Spirit come inside?
Inside our church?
Inside our very selves?

Abram would say YES.

That is the story from Genesis that we hear today:

The Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing…
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him….

God calls Abram to leave everything that is safe and secure.
God calls Abram to set out on a journey into the unknown.
God calls and Abram goes.
Abram is obedient and faithful and trusting.

Trusting that God will be true to God’s word,
that all shall be well and all shall be well and all shall be well.
That God’s blessing is important enough to risk everything.

We marvel at Abram’s courage, his chutzpah to leave all.
He is leaving both his past and his present.
He turns his face and heart to the future
and puts it all
in God’s hands.
Abram opens the doors and says to the Holy Spirit—
Come in! Come in! I am ready. Send me.
Do we dare follow in those footsteps?

In our gospel reading today, we meet Nicodemus.
Most of us have a lot more in common with Nicodemus
than we do with Abram.

Nicodemus is too afraid to come and meet with Jesus in the daylight.
He doesn’t want his friends and colleagues to know.
He sneaks around in the darkness and comes in secret.

Nicodemus is one who is curious--
but is also careful and cautious and fearful.

He longs to be part of this new thing that God is doing
but Nicodemus is afraid.
Nicodemus is confused.

His friends the Pharisees are shaking their heads and warning,
Don’t get messed up with this Jesus mess.
Things are fine just the way they are.
Who says we need to change,
Who says we need to be any different than we are right now?

But Nicodemus hears a call to go and find out for him self.
Can this be right, he questions? Can this be true?
Nicodemus wants to follow his heart
but he is so afraid.

Nicodemus struggles with this God who wants to overwhelm us with love.
Nicodemus is much more comfortable with a God that judges,
condemns, knocks us down.

Jesus tells him,
You’ve got it wrong, Nicodemus.
God is love.
Believe it. Trust it.
God’s love is not finite or limited—it is not love in the past tense—
It is love—infinite, forever, without boundaries.

Trust in the goodness of God.

We, too, are scared of the unconditional love of God.
We try to freeze God in place, safely in the past.
We try to bind God to our favorite pew—
the one we head straight to every time we come to worship—
and make God just stay put.
Sit still, God. You’re going to rock the house
if you keep letting that Holy Spirit blow through the doors.

In the C.S. Lewis books The Chronicles of Narnia,
we are reminded that God is at work in the world
when we hear the words,
Aslan is on the move.
On the move.
God is always on the move. Always.

And God does not like to travel alone.
God invites Abram.
God encourages Nicodemus.
God invites us on the journey--
over and over.
persistent as the wind.

The mayor of the little French town in the film Chocolat
has decided that things are fine just as they are.
He has appointed himself as the spokesperson for the town
And he says:
Thank you, no, God, Keep your Holy Spirit out of here.
We dislike change.
We like safety.
We are suspicious of the different, the new.
The old ways were good enough for our ancestors
and they are good enough for us.

God whispers,
Do you not hear me calling you to new life? Now!

And things do not change until others in that village find their own voice.
Until others dare to speak up.

Lent is a time of “Do we dare?”
Do we dare trust God?
Do we dare risk change?
Do we dare open the doors to the Holy Spirit?
Do we dare risk opening our hearts
to embracing life in all its God-given abundance?
Do we dare find our own voice to speak up?

If our answer is yes,
then we can open the doors and open them widely.
If our answer is yes,
then we, like Abram, can take a walk on the wild side with God.
If our answer is yes,
then we, too, have realized that God’s blessing is everything.
Absolutely everything.

Bible Dudes: Great website!

My BibleDudes Quiz Score: 10 our of 10

I promise, it's not just because I made it into the Bible Dudes' Hall of Fame...this really is a terrific and fun website. Check it out.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sermon Year A Lent 1

Fasting and Feasting

Our gospel reading today takes us with Jesus
As he is led into the wilderness and is confronted by the devil
And faces temptation.

As Episcopalians we don’t focus much on the devil or Satan--
but we must not fool ourselves that we have drawn
some kind of special “get out of jail free” card
that protects us from temptation.

Without a doubt, temptation is alive and well in 2008
even in our little corner of the world here in Western North Carolina.

What does temptation look like?
Let me tell you a story.

I have an older sister and a younger brother.
I am the middle child.
We each had our own interests and certainly our own friends
and we certainly had our share of spats and disagreements,
growing up and occasionally even fully grown.

But even as children, occasionally we were able to function as a team.
to rally and work together.
for better or worse I might add.

This is the true story of a chocolate cake.
My mother—as was my grandmother—was a great cook.
She made a chocolate cake that was to die for.

Now my mother worked full time once we were all in upper elementary school.
So we would get home from school
and were on our own for a few hours
until our mother got home
(she only worked ½ block away so she could be home FAST!)

One afternoon the three of us kids
were scrounging about the kitchen after school
looking for something to eat.

At the same moment,
all our eyes—simultaneously—caught sight of
the shiny aluminum cake box—
sitting way, way up on top of the high kitchen cabinet.

What that meant was DO NOT EAT what is in this cake box for a snack.
But there it was.
Calling all our names.

I think it would be okay to just have a sliver of cake, one of us said.
Sure, a sliver would be okay.
Mother wouldn’t care if we each just take a sliver. Just a taste.

So my brother and I held the chair as my sister, the tallest,
climbed up and brought the cake box down to the counter.

We lifted the lid and there it was—
exactly HALF of a chocolate cake.
Not good.
How do you eat a sliver that won’t be missed
when there is exactly half a cake left?

I don’t know who came up with it,
but it was suggested that if we just cut the sliver
all the way across the cake, it would never be missed.
Great idea!
So my sister took the knife and cut just a tiny sliver
all the way across and divided it into three pieces.
Oh, it was so delicious!

As with all temptations,
if we could have just stopped with that one sliver…
but we didn’t.

We cut another sliver cut all the way across.
And another
And another.

Until all that stood on the cake plate
was a tiny half moon piece of that cake.
Uh oh.

There was only one thing to do.
Eat the rest.

The cake box—the EMPTY cake box-- was carefully replaced
to the top of the cabinet
and the three of us all left the kitchen
and immediately became very busy with our chores and homework.
Oh yes! We were such GOOD children!!

After supper that night my mother says,
So who would like some cake?
Oh, not me, said my sister, I have a ton of homework.
Nope, I’ll pass on cake tonight, said my brother.
I’m completely full. Dinner was delicious, Mommy, I piped in.

But then my father said, I’d love a piece of cake.

So my mother reaches up, grabs the now quite light cake box
and brings it down--
only to discover, there is no cake.

My mother was surprised, puzzled.
That’s strange she said. I was sure we had cake.
I thought we had at least half of a cake left.

We were quiet. Absolutely silent.
Then off we rushed to do homework and to disappear.

It was only a few years ago, about 3 years before our mother died,
that we told her the truth about the cake.
Of course we were adults by the time we confessed,
making a big joke about it.
But my mother remembered that empty cake box and she said,
I knew I had half a cake in that cake box!

She knew.
Just as God knows the truth about each of us.
We may be able to fool our neighbors, our friends, our families,
even our mothers on occasion,
that we are without sin, that we are blameless.
But that is a joke my friends
and the joke is on us.

Because God knows what we have done
and God knows what we have left undone.

Indeed there are sins far more serious than scheming with your brother and sister
to eat cake and then through silence, lie.
But most of our sins do start with just a “sliver”—
A harmless little sliver.

That brings us to Lent.
This time of year when we are called to self-examination—
to honest, thorough, truthful self-examination.

We are called to look at ourselves and our lives,
our relationship with God
and our relationship with others--
and there is nothing easy about it.

Lent calls us to line up those “slivers” that seem so minor to us,
and to see them for what they really are.
And to change.

Temptation for us in the 21st century
does not come in the form of being asked to turn stones into bread
or to jump off the Temple walls to prove that angels will catch us.
We are not the Son of God.

Temptation for us is likely to come in the shape of a sliver—
a little, tiny lie—
Aalittle lie just lying in wait to grow and build and spread
into a much larger lie.

Temptation comes in the shape of “taking care of number one”—
which is the antithesis of everything Jesus teaches us about
loving one another
and caring first for those who are the least and the last.
All we have to do is examine our checkbooks
and we can see a vast disproportion
in what we spend to take care of ourselves
and what we spend to take care of the widows, the orphans,
the poor and the needy.

Temptation comes in the shape of gossip, criticism, complaining—
a deadly boomerang that is guaranteed to hurt and wound
and then come back and knock us to the ground in the end.

Years ago I came across something in my church newsletter
that remains for me the essence of Lent.
It is my map in the wilderness.
It is my touch stone to lead me away from temptation.

Even though I have carried it in my wallet for years,
I still need to return to this short piece of writing every year in Lent.
In truth, I need to turn to it every day.

Lent is a season of fasting and feasting.

Fast from discontent—
Feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger—
Feast on patience.

Fast from bitterness—
Feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern—
Feast on compassion for others.

Fast from discouragement—
Feast on hope.

Fast from laziness—
Feast on commitment.

Fast from suspicion—
Feast on truth.

Fast from guilt—
Feast on the mercy of God.

Lent is a time for such feasting and fasting.

Lent is a time.
The time is now.

+ + +

Note: I used this story about the chocolate cake (it really is true) in another sermon I preached years ago at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church during a summer internship. The context of the sermon was different but obviously this story from my childhood must be an important one for me since I have used it again. I guess gluttony AND lying to one's mother tends to be something you don't forget! I think it's interesting how some of our sins come back to haunt us--and transform us.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ash Wednesday Sermon

Rattle the door latch of my slumbering heart

Come, O Life-giving Creator,
and rattle the door latch
of my slumbering heart.

So begins a prayer—Lenten Psalm of Awakening—
written by Catholic priest and writer Edward Hays.

Today is Ash Wednesday.
This day marks our gateway into Lent.
Lent is the season in our church year
when we are called to take back our time.
We are called to take back the time we so generously give away
to things that matter so little,
to activities and habits that are destructive or empty.
Lent calls us to return that time to God.

Awaken me as you breathe upon
a winter-wrapped earth,
gently calling to life virgin Spring.

Even though our winter weather offers us warm days on occasion,
there is no forgetting this cold season that wraps the earth--
the dry rustling leaves on the ground,
the grass which is more brown than green,
coats and hats and gloves that dress our daily errands.

Yet spring is just over the horizon.
The word lent
comes from the Middle English word lente
which means springtime.
We have this season to give us hope that spring will come.

We have this season in our church year to remind us
that we must pass through this season of self-examination--
self-examination that can chill us to the bone if we are honest--
We must go through the desert wilderness of Lent
before we arrive at Easter resurrection.

Awaken in these fortified days
of Lenten prayer and discipline
my youthful dream of holiness

Lent calls us to take back our time
so that we have time to offer to God,
so that we have time to remember not only who we are
but whose we are.

Call me forth from the prison camp
of my numerous past defeats
and my narrow patterns of being
to make my ordinary life extra-ordinarily alive,
through the passion of my love.

We all live in some type of prison
God longs for us to be free.
Yet repeatedly we too often choose death over life.
God calls us to step beyond our past defeats,
our past failures,
and turn our faces not just towards Jerusalem,
but far beyond.

Denial and fear
do not kindle love or life.
Lent calls us to stare down our defeats, our failures, our weaknesses,
to let go of the past
and to act in ways that shout out:
Yes, love IS stronger than death!

Show me during these Lenten days
how to take the daily things of life
and by submerging them in the sacred,
to infuse them with a great love
for you, O God, and for others.

Lent is a time of prayer and self-discipline for a reason.
We will not get from here to where we long to be,
to whom we long to become
if we just wander aimlessly in the desert
or kneel on our pew cushion and wait for God to make it happen.
God gives us free will.
God gives us choices.
WE make the choices.

Change, especially changing ourselves--
which is indeed the only hope of change we can make--
change is hard work.
There is nothing magical or instant about it.

Self-examination and repentance.
Prayer, fasting, self-denial.
Reading and meditating on God’s holy word.

Hard work. There are always obstacles.
Yet if the mountain was smooth, we couldn’t climb it at all.
But climb we can—if we choose.

Guide me to perform simple acts of love and prayer,
the real works of reform and renewal
of this overture to the spring of the Spirit.

Lenten self-examination and self-discipline
leads us to see the great and gaping whole in our lives, in our world.
Those God-shaped holes that can only be filled with love.

Ash Wednesday says to us: What are you waiting for?
Ash Wednesday reminds us: You don’t have all the time in the world.
Ash Wednesday urges us: Now. Right now. Now is the time
To change, to repent,
to turn our life around.

O Father of Jesus, Mother of Christ,
help me not to waste these precious Lenten days
of my soul’s spiritual springtime.

Lent is about not wasting our precious time.

The ashes placed on our forehead today are an ancient symbol
reminding us of the frailty and uncertainty of human life.

Remember that you are dust
and to dust you shall return.

We pray for forgiveness.
We pray for the strength to change, to turn our lives around.
We pray for the courage to face our personal demons.
We pray for guidance to lead us out of the wilderness.
We pray for love to overwhelm our hearts, our souls, our minds.

Today we pray
that God will rattle the door latches
of our slumbering hearts.

+ + +

(This sermon uses verses--in italics in my sermon--from Edward Hays' beautiful LENTEN PSALM OF AWAKENING. I owe Edward Hays many debts for the inspiration of his wisdom words.)

Epiphany Last Blessing

On the last Sunday of Epiphany I used this blessing which I adapted from a prayer by John Claypool.

Go now, go with God and be not afraid. Let God go before you and guide you. Let God go behind you and protect you. Let God go beneath you and hold you up. Let God go beside you to be your friend. Go now, go with God and be not afraid.

Sermon for the Epiphany Last

Get up and do not be afraid

Get up and do not be afraid.
This is what Jesus says to his disciples up on the mountain.
Peter and James and John have just seen a sight
that they cannot even begin to comprehend.
Jesus’ face shines like the sun
and his clothes are a dazzling white.
This is not your everyday hike up the mountain for a picnic lunch.
And if Jesus’ transfiguration is not enough,
then suddenly,
there are Moses and Elijah standing on that mountain also.

Peter--dear Peter—
Peter is the friend that when things get extremely quiet or tense or uncomfortable--
Peter will say something, anything.
Okay, Lord. We’re happy to be here. It’s fine.
How about we just get busy and build you and Moses and Elijah
three little houses up here.
Peter is of the don’t just stand there do something school.
Peter is the person who tries to FIX things when they seem uncomfortable,
pretending that things really aren’t so bad,
so off the chart weird and unusual.

But then comes a cloud with a booming voice and the words,
This is my Son, my beloved…listen to him!

That is the last straw.
Even for Peter.
The disciples all fall to the ground and shake with fear.

But Jesus comes.
Jesus comes and touches them,
and says,
Get up and do not be afraid.

Get up and do not be afraid.
This is exactly what Jesus says to us, too,
when we feel knocked down by life
or are just plain weary
or when we are not sure which direction we need to go in our life
or when something just feels missing, absent, wrong.

Get up. Go on. Do not be afraid.

It is not said as a command or a criticism.
It is said with gentleness.
Get up. It’s okay.
Do not be afraid. God is always with you.

But after we get up,
We are often challenged to go a different direction,
To reach out and to reach inside of ourselves
in new ways.

Our son who will soon be thirty years old
went to a camp in Colorado starting when he was in the 6th grade.
He went there every summer after that.
After attending a year of college at Warren Wilson
he returned to work at that same camp for several years.

When he first started as a camper
all he wanted to do was ride horses.
He had been an animal lover since he was a little boy,
and to him, horses were a great big animal
just waiting to be loved!

Each week of camp the campers could sign up for their activities.
Our son Jody always signed up for horseback riding.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…well you get the idea.
Horseback riding.
He had never ridden a horse before he went to camp (well, maybe once)--
but he found what he liked and he learned to do it well.
Occasionally he might do a morning of archery or maybe even a hike
but horses were number one.

Then one summer they had a different camp unit director
who challenged the campers.
Step out of your box.
Try something new.
Try something that you don’t do well.
Try something that scares you to death.

And our son—and I think almost all the other campers-- did just that.
Our son went on an all day mountain bike expedition.
He did rock climbing.
He hiked.
He went on 4 and 5 day backpacks.
He climbed Meeker and Long’s Peak.
He even did arts and crafts!
Our son stepped out of the comfortable place he had found for himself at camp
and stepped out of his safety box.
By the end of camp that summer, he was not afraid.
He was not afraid to leave what was safe
and try something new.
He saw new possibilities and opportunities.
He discovered the world did not fall apart if you did not succeed on the first try.
He learned that an open heart—believing it was possible-- and perseverance—
to get up a rock cliff or a high mountain—
counted for a lot.

Get up. Do not be afraid.

Today we are celebrating two ministries in the Episcopal Church.
This is a national celebration.

These two ministries we celebrate are theological education and world mission.
They may not seem related
but I believe that theological education
(that is the ministry I see that helps us get up,
stand on our feet and believe anything is possible with God)--
I believe that theological education
often prepares us and inspires us for world mission.

Our celebration of theological education is why you have
a brochure from Virginia Seminary in your bulletin today.
Virginia Seminary, where I attended (hmmm..yes, I am just a bit prejudiced!)
is one of 11 Episcopal seminaries.

As Episcopalians we need to be aware that all those who are ordained
go through a period of study.
For deacons in this Diocese it is a two year program of study.
For priests in this Dioecese,
we attend an Episcopal Seminary for a three year program of study
Thus, earning a Master in Divinity degree
and then must pass four days of General Ordination Exams.

The Episcopal Church is serious about theological education.

And so is this parish.
Theological education is not just about forming priests for the church.
It is about forming all of us
so that we might live out our Baptismal Covenant to the fullest.

Theological education is what happens in Sunday School.
Karen and Tom Smith put more energy than we can imagine
into their Sunday School for our children and youth.
(Not to mention feeding them breakfast
so that their minds can be on the day’s lesson
instead of their growling stomachs!)

We have adult Sunday School every Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m.
There’s a good group that gathers.
Know that you are invited. All are welcome.
because theological education is for everyone, not just a select group.

During Lent we are going to do a study using the film Chocolat
and Hillary Brand’s excellent book Chocolate for Lent
as the basis for our study.
I invite you—I personally invite you—to come and give it a try.
Get up just a little earlier.
You can have that Sunday afternoon nap but come join us at 9:30
starting next Sunday.

There are other opportunities as well—
There are program days and retreat days offered throughout our Diocese.
There is a monthly morning ECW Bible study going on.
There is the Lenten Walk series coming up on Sunday evenings.
There is always our magnificent Book of Common Prayer to explore.
There are books to read, though I encourage you to be part of a communal study.
It is all too easy to stay in our little circle of safety when we stay apart.
Notice that Jesus goes up the mountain with Peter and James and John.
Jesus doesn’t go by himself.

Theological education deepens our relationship with God.
it expands our understanding of our faith.
Theological education strengthens us to be disciples.
Theological education gives us courage to get up and to not be afraid.

Today is also World Mission Sunday.
Extending God’s grace to everyone, everywhere.
World Mission calls us to reach beyond ourselves,
beyond our immediate communities--
to seek to serve Christ in all persons,
to strive for justice and peace among all people.

Jesus tells his disciples Peter and James and John
that they are going to have to get up and to not be afraid
if they are going to go out into the world and share the good news.
Think of all these three people have already sacrificed to be on that mountain
With Jesus.

Then imagine selling all that you own,
to go off to Panama to do medical mission work as JoEllen Nutter
who was with us a few months ago has done and is doing.

Imagine leaving your cozy little cottage in charming Blowing Rock and your retirement years
to go and work with the poor in India.
as Lynn Coulthard has done in our comapanion diocese of Durgapur.

Imagine being a newly graduated college or seminary student
and instead of going after that first job and first real salary,
you join the Young Adult Service Corps of our national church
and volunteer to spend a year in South Africa
as Stephen Mazingo from Wilmington, NC—
whom I knew as a student at App State and
who graduated from Virginia Seminary last May
and now, yes, is in South Africa.

You may say well, that’s fine for some but I just can’t do that.
And that may be the realistic truth of your life.

But what you and I can do is pray for our missionaries.
What you and I can do is put international mission work in our budget
as we have done with our support of the Millenium Development Goals.
What you and I can do is go on a short term mission trip
like the one to Panama that this parish is planning for August.
Get up. Do not be afraid.

All of us are called to open our own eyes.
To see how God is being revealed to us on the mountain.

God is always right there in front of us.
But sometimes we are so afraid to leave our circle of comfort
that we fall to the ground and squench our eyes tightly shut.

The truth is there is a great deal that can frighten us in this world.
But we must not let fear be our dictator.

Jesus calls us to see things differently.
We are called to a new vision.
Your vestry has just returned from a retreat
Where they worked hard to envision St. John’s for the future.
You will hear more about this in the near future
And you will be asked to be involved.

We all may be asked to engage in some new ways,
to step outside our box and not be afraid.

As Christians we are all called to spread the good news
that has been shared with us:
We are all God’s dearly beloved children.
Our challenge is how we live our lives, how we are Church together,
in ways that show our love for God,
our love for one another,
our love for all God’s people.
How do we live our lives so that it shows how much God loves us?

Last Sunday we had a glorious celebration—
Bishop Taylor was here with us to baptize, to confirm, to receive,
to consecrate our new altar and retable,
to bless our new altar hangings.

Our brother in Christ Bob Carver was baptized
And, as we do at each baptism,
a candle was given to Bob after his baptism
as a symbol of his new journey as one marked
as Christ’s own forever:
Take this candle and be a light in a world that is too often filled with darkness.

Get up. Do not be afraid.
We step outside our box by letting our little light shine.
Theological education deepens our relationship with God and with others
so that we have courage to make that first step and follow the way.
Mission starts with our own little candle in the darkness.

Get up. Do not be afraid.
Go and let your little light shine.