Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

The Fourth Sunday in Lent – Year A RCL

1 Samuel 16:1-13, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41


Last year, as part of my World Religion class at seminary we went to the Al-Farooq Mosque, on 14th Street in Midtown Atlanta, for Friday afternoon prayers. One of our guides was an active lay-minister and often preached the English-language sermon on Friday’s, which he did that day.

At one point he mentioned that whatever condition a person is born into, whether into poverty or into wealth, for example, it has its own burden to navigate. It is incumbent on each person to spend their life in prayer to God, seeking the proper use of their wealth, or seeking a way to overcome or endure their poverty.

In this same way, I believe, we are each born into circumstances of life that we must navigate. For the man in today’s gospel reading, he was born blind. Others, like my friend Claire, have been born deaf; still others are born with a predisposition for addiction; others with chemical imbalances in the brain that cause depression or anxiety; some with learning challenges, like dyslexia; and the list goes on and on.

In ancient times, being born with blindness or other debilitating conditions was believed to be a judgment by God for having sinned. But, we see in his conversation with the disciples, that Jesus dispels this notion.

I contend that in the same way that these physical conditions aren’t caused by sin, sin also doesn’t cause someone to be born into poverty any more than a lack of sin causes someone to be born into wealth. And while both have their challenges, if given the choice, I’m sure we’d much rather struggle with the burden of WEALTH.

But returning to the story of the man born blind, Jesus says that he “was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Similarly, each condition into which we are born can also provide an opportunity for God’s work to be revealed in us.

But, just as with this man, it isn’t automatic, and it isn’t without risk and consequence.

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Rebirth of Understanding

March 16, 2014

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

The Second Sunday in Lent – Year A RCL

Genesis 12:1-4a; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17

Nicodemus at NightIn today’s gospel we hear the familiar story of Nicodemus, a leader in the Jewish tradition; a Pharisee. During the night, under the cover of darkness, Nicodemus comes to Jesus. Having seen the signs that Jesus has done, he affirms that Jesus must be a teacher who comes from God, because surely these signs wouldn’t be possible without God’s presence.

And instead of accepting this affirmation from Nicodemus, it says, “Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’”

Nicodemus is confused by this. He likes things to be straight-forward. He’s used to abiding by the letter of the law, carrying out the commandments that God has set forth. So now, he hears Jesus saying that one has to be “born from above” and Nicodemus’ literal nature responds in a literal way: “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

But Jesus isn’t talking about an earthly birth, one based in flesh, but instead, he talks of being born of the Spirit. Being born into the person God calls us to be; not the image that the world has for us.

So what is this rebirth? What does it look like?

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Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

The Last Sunday after Epiphany – Year A RCL

Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9

Peter, John and James go up the mountain with Jesus and Jesus is transfigured. His face beams like the sun and his clothes are dazzling white. In Luke’s version, this transfiguration occurs while Jesus is praying, but today’s reading from Matthew doesn’t provide any context for the change, it just happens.

And when it happens, and Elijah and Moses appear there with Jesus, this doesn’t seem to frighten the disciples in any way. Peter actually wants to set up camp for them. He offers to build three dwellings, one for each of them. This is a glorious event, and although he doesn’t fully understand what’s happening, Peter’s instinct, probably not unlike our own, is to hold onto it as long as he can!

It reminds me of a conversation I had with Bob Rea a few months ago. You never have to wonder if Bob is listening during a sermon because after the service he always shares some thought or insight about what he heard. It’s really quite refreshing, even if what he shares challenges me from time to time.

I had just preached a sermon, and in it I talked about the Sirius XM radio subscription that came with my new car. I confessed that I had found a Contemporary Christian music station that I actually liked, explaining how uplifting the music was for me.

After the service, Bob came up to me and conveyed a cautionary note – explaining quite seriously, that while this kind of music can be inspiring, it can also be quite addictive! If we listen to is all the time, it’s intoxicating in its own way, not unlike setting up tents on the mountain top. Read the rest of this entry »

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