A Necessary Journey

August 18, 2017

I’m at a time of transition. In preparation for the next page in my vocational journal, between packing boxes, and embarking on an interstate move, I carved out time to steal away, up a mountain, to pray. A cabin amid the treetops of north Georgia, near water, and mid-week calm. A Quiet Retreat for restoration and renewal.

Yet, in light of the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the intention of this time shifted in me. It became, instead, a “DisQuieting Retreat. A time to discern my response to the reality of escalating racial unrest in our time.

It can’t be denied – the demonstrations and violence by white supremacists carrying torches, shouting slurs, and inciting fear, even bodily harm and death, make denial impossible and reprehensible.

So what am I, a person of privilege, to do?

What am I, a follower of Jesus, to do?

What I am, a teacher, preacher, and pastor, to do?

First, I have to embrace the truth that I have my own work to do, to better understand the reality at hand, and what has caused it. So, I took a few books with me for this time of learning. Books I’ve been accumulating, but not reading. Books written by folks who look different than me; who’ve lived a different experience than I have; who reveal more clearly the impact of privilege and White American’s obliviousness to it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Proper 9 Year A
Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Listen here, or read below:

A couple of months ago I preached a sermon about the importance of not avoiding things that are complex just because they are complex. Jesus certainly didn’t avoid difficult topics or situations – he faced them head-on.

In Matthew’s gospel we see many occasions of Jesus challenging the scribes and Pharisees. He points out that although they followed the letter of the Hebrew law, they were missing the underlying intention of the law. Love of God and love of one’s neighbor were the most important things. Jesus demonstrated that love by healing the blind man, even though it was done on the Sabbath. By doing this, he was showing that it’s more important to have compassion than to follow the rigid rules of the religious tradition.

There are lots of examples of Jesus confronting things that would have been more easily avoided. And today I’m faced with a similar dilemma. Not that I’m comparing myself to Jesus – on that I’d fall well-short – yet, his is the example we’re called to emulate as his followers.

Now, when I preached that sermon in May, I should’ve guessed it wouldn’t be long before I was faced with a lectionary text that would make me literally practice what I preached! Today I’ve found that in Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Read the rest of this entry »

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Proper 8 Year A 

Genesis 22:1-14
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Listen here:

Gospel Text:

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple– truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” (Mt 12:40-42)

Resurrected Hope

April 30, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
3rd Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a,36-41; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

This Sunday I got a bit out of my comfort zone and preached without a manuscript. A couple of years ago, a parishioner of my church encouraged me to do this, but my anxiety has been an impediment. Then, this past Tuesday I had a bit of time with my bishop, Rob Wright. In our carefree conversation about this Sunday’s gospel text from Luke, he asked, “Are you going to preach from a manuscript?” I said I was and he challenged me not to. Nudged might be a better word. He didn’t push hard, but he assured me that “you’ve got this.” My wife, Alice also bolstered my confidence. I talk about scripture passages and sermon ideas with her all the time, off the cuff, so she knows I can do it. So I decided that I’d give it a try.

Now, to be clear, preaching without a manuscript isn’t the same thing as preaching extemporaneously, which is with little preparation. I did prepare. But as someone who has always relied heavily on my carefully crafted, tightly worded, sermon in print in front of me, to instead walk into church on Sunday morning with no paper in hand, no saved document to pull up on a screen, it was odd. To move out from behind the pulpit, standing at the top of the chancel steps, with nothing between me and the congregation, I was exposed.

Photo by Bruce Halliburton, 2014.

My only safety net was the Bible given to me by that same bishop on the day of my ordination. It sat on the altar rail, just a few feet away, providing assurance that if I needed to, I could turn to the text, or peek at the squirreled away 4×6 inch index card with bullet points tucked inside.

The safety net was not necessary. As expected, the Holy Spirit had my back as I shared God’s word and the story of resurrected hope found in Luke’s Easter message.The audio file isn’t as crisp as I’d like, but thanks to iPhone technology and recording apps, I captured it and share it with you here.

Happy Easter! Go try something new!

 

 

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