God with Mary; God with Us!

December 21, 2014

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

Advent 4– RCL Year B
2 Samuel 7:1-11; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

Although the Advent wreath prayers today were focused on Joseph, the text from Luke’s gospel is centered on Mary; specifically, the visit that she received from God’s messenger, Gabriel.

From out of the blue Gabriel appears to Mary saying, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Luke’s gospel gains immediate credibility for me when it tells us that Mary is confused by this greeting. Here she is, a young woman, probably in her early teens, most likely living a very ordinary life. As a girl, she wouldn’t have much influence on what would happen in her life. Her father had already decided who she would marry, which we know was Joseph.

From there, after their marriage, Mary would dutifully carry out the tasks of tending to the household. She doesn’t study or read scripture, but instead prepares the daily meals, carefully adhering to the dietary rules of the Jewish tradition. She makes sure that her husband’s needs are attended to, and there would certainly be an expectation that Mary would have children – hopefully male children, to carry on the family line.

And while all of these things are essential and good, they would not likely earn the greeting bestowed upon Mary this day, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.” So, Mary is perplexed. Read the rest of this entry »

A Flip of the Coin

October 19, 2014

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

Proper 24– RCL Year A
Exodus 33:12-23; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Matthew’s gospel is tough. It was written for a particular audience at a particular time in history. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have something to say to us today, but before we can attempt to understand how it might speak to us, we first have to do the work of understanding what it meant THEN, to THAT audience.

Most of us don’t take time for that kind of work. We hear today’s gospel and interpret it simply to mean that we should pay our taxes, give to Caesar what is Caesars’s, and get on with it. But, it’s not that simple. It’s Matthew’s gospel, so there’s work to do.

But, don’t be afraid, I’m here to help.

Matthew’s gospel is big on RULES and AUTHORITY.

We continually hear stories where the Pharisees challenge Jesus or his disciples about the Sabbath because they are healing people or taking corn from the fields and no one’s supposed to be working. And, a couple of weeks ago we heard the Pharisees asking Jesus, by whose authority John was baptizing people.

For all you rule-breakers out there, we like it when Jesus stirs things up! When he goes against the tradition and challenges the status quo.

And when we hear that the Pharisees are trying to trick Jesus with a question, we love it when Jesus turns the tables on them, and they are dumbfounded! Read the rest of this entry »

From Anguish to Alleluia!

August 17, 2014

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

Proper 15 – RCL Year A
Genesis 45:1-15; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus left Gennesaret and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Mt 15:21-28)

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been overwhelmed by the onslaught of tragic stories in the news. For the last several months there has been an increase of unrest, or at least that’s the way it feels. At first this seemed to be concentrated in the usual areas far away – the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Ukraine to name a few.

We’ve been hearing more and more about about the escalating attacks and death-counts in Gaza. Then, on July 17th we were stunned to learn that a commercial jetliner had been shot down over Ukraine, killing almost three hundred innocent victims. And all the while the Ebola virus has been spreading deeper and deeper across West Africa.

Immigration protesters on both sides of the debate staged rallies at a California Border Patrol station last week, in response to the child migrant crisis. Photo: Sandy Huffaker /Getty

And lest we think all the hardships are in far-off lands, we have our own issues to deal with. There are constant reminders of the young children seeking refuge in the U.S., fleeing their homeland due to violence and danger. This crisis has been met with mixed feelings and angry voices on both sides of the issue. Add to that the random shootings in offices and shopping malls, not to mention the endless bickering of a divided Congress, where finger-pointing rules the day. Read the rest of this entry »

Still We Rise!

June 1, 2014

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

7th Sunday of Easter – RCL Year A
Acts 1:6-14; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

photo (8)“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” This Henry David Thoreau quote confronts me each time I open the refrigerator door. It sits as a framed, limited edition work of art, created by my niece, Kayanne. The card arrived in my mailbox four years ago announcing that she would be graduating from college with a degree in Graphic Design.

Although I’ve never asked, I’d like to think that Kayanne’s connection with this quote may have been partially inspired by a time she and I spent together just four years earlier, at the time of her high school graduation. As a graduation present, I got tickets for Kayanne and me to hear Dr. Maya Angelou when she came to Houston. Angelou had been a favorite of my older sister, Kathy, Kayanne’s mom, who had died a couple of years earlier. So, sharing this experience with Kayanne was one way of bringing her mom into the celebration with us.

During the evening we were captivated by the inspiring and poignant words of Angelou. Her message was optimistic while she encouraged each of us to share our unique gifts with the world. She attributed each person’s unique strengths to their ability to rise above the struggles in life, and she assured us that “each of us has the power to change someone’s life,” saying, “Sometimes if you just speak to someone it can change their whole day.” (1) Read the rest of this entry »

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