Maximizing the Middle Ring

October 8, 2017

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC
Proper 22, Year A
Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

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As most of you know, September 10th was my first Sunday at Church of the Servant. It was a festive day, with worship returning to its school-year schedule, including the Family service and Sunday school for all ages. All that plus a beautiful reception of welcome, made it a truly joy-filled day!

During the week that followed, as I was catching up with Barbara on administrative stuff, she mentioned that she had created an “overflow” mail slot for me, since my other mail slot was already very full. I have to admit, I hadn’t even thought about having a mail slot, let alone that anything would be in it after just one week!

So a bit later, I decided I better go through it. Amid the non-profit newsletters, fundraiser promotions, and liturgical supply catalogues, was a small cream-colored envelope, addressed by hand to The Rev. Jody Greenwood – finally, something to me! I guessed it was probably a welcome note, yet when I opened the card, the salutation was to me and the Vestry – piquing my curiosity further. It turned out to be an apology letter from one of our youth (who will remain nameless). It seems that on my first Sunday, during all the excitement, one able-bodied teen took their enthusiasm to new heights, literally, and got on the roof. Read the rest of this entry »

Generosity: All Day Long

September 24, 2017

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC
Proper 20, Year A
Jonah 3:10-4:11; Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 20:1-16

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How’s everybody doing?

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a rough few weeks for me. I’m not talking about my start here at Church of the Servant and the move to Wilmington. That’s going great, unpacked boxes notwithstanding. I did finally take some time to go through the wonderful “gifts of Wilmington” y’all so generously left for me and Alice. We appreciate your kindness and your welcome!

The rough part has been all the images of destruction from the one-after-another natural disasters hitting our shores, as well as our neighbors in the Caribbean and Mexico. While the winds, waves, and tremors have caused havoc, taken lives, and left so many without power or shelter, the images relayed day after day on our tv’s and mobile devices have done their own share of beating-down our psyches.

And if that’s not enough, we have the anxiety producing rhetoric of world leaders threatening to destroy one another, a resurgence of unrest and racial tensions in St. Louis, and the very real fear of young Hispanic Dreamers whose future is now unclear with the repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. It’s no surprise that tears welled-up in my eyes time and again as I watched the news this week. It’s just so much. Too much to take-in sometimes.  Read the rest of this entry »

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

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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 »

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