The Gift of Advent

December 10, 2017

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B
Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

Listen here:

 

Gospel Text: Read the rest of this entry »

The Value(s) of Joseph

December 18, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
4th Sunday of Advent – Year A
Isaiah 7:10-16; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25

(Gospel Text provided below)

When I was 24 years old, after a couple of years at one of the Big-8 Accounting firms (now it’s the Big 4), I was hired to be the supervisor of a Commercial Loan Accounting department at First City Bank in Houston. In this role, I’d manage a staff of eight people, all of whom were older than me.

My experience as an auditor was with Oil & Gas clients and a few hospitals. I knew nothing about banking, aside from having a checking account, and even that was fairly new to me. I’d never been a supervisor in a work-setting – so needless to say, being hired into this role was a bit daunting. I joked that the real reason I was hired was because Mary, the department manager, wanted me to play on her inter-bank softball team! But, it’s more likely that Mary hired me, at some level, because of my father.

Now, a few years earlier this would have been a problem. When I trying to get my first job after college, I wanted desperately to be hired independent of my family. My dad was a prominent Houston City Councilman, even a potential contender for Mayor. dad-collage-2 I love my dad, and he’s a huge part of my life, but I really wanted to “make it on my own” like the Mary Tyler Moore theme song!

Yet here I was, just a couple of years later, being hired into a job with no proven experience, and if I’m honest, softball team notwithstanding, it was probably based on my boss’s knowledge of my father. Now, she didn’t know him personally, but what she did know about him, she liked and respected. So, despite all I didn’t bring to the table, Mary took a chance on me – which began my twenty-year career in bank operations. Read the rest of this entry »

Wilderness-Tending Time

December 4, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
2nd Sunday in Advent – Year A
Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

(Gospel Text provided below)

Bugle blast – 3 times

Sing Godspell intro:

gospell-albumPrepare ye the way of the Lord.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

This is how the 1970’s Broadway musical, Godspell, begins. Then comes the booming drum fill with crashing cymbals ripping through the silence, enlivening the procession as the tempo takes flight!

When I was in Junior High School, my youth group enacted a version of Godspell at our 9am Sunday worship service. As the bugle and soloist gave way to the drums and cymbals, the pantomime cast, including me, dressed in colorful clothes and clown make -up, careened through the aisles of the church. This high-velocity, energetic entrance was quite a shock for the mostly buttoned-up, unsuspecting, stoic congregation.

1976 Godspell_049McC

I always think of our Godspell production when I hear today’s gospel story. As startling as the bugle blast you just heard, we find John the Baptist in the wilderness crying out, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Now, it is only Matthew’s version of this story that includes the detail that John was wearing camel hair and a leather belt. You see, Matthew’s gospel was written for a mostly Hebrew audience and intends to show how Jesus is the fulfillment of the ancient Hebrew prophesies. So, to these early listeners, this image of John would harken back to the prophet Elijah, described in 2 Kings as “A hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist.” (2 Kg 1:8).

In our Old Testament reading today, we heard from another prophet, Isaiah:

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding… (Is 11:1-2a)

This is the foretelling of Jesus. Jesus is the “shoot (or descendant) from Jesse,” who was King David’s father. It is in Matthew’s gospel that we hear again and again, as stories of Jesus are told, that “this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophets.”

In the same way, the crying out by John the Baptist is likened to another passage from Isaiah. The gospel version says that John the Baptist’s cry for repentance is:

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” 

But the actual passage in Isaiah is worded this way:

A voice cries out:  

In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Is 40:3)

So, in Isaiah, the wilderness isn’t the place the voice is coming from, instead, the wilderness is where we are to prepare the way of the Lord. Read the rest of this entry »

With Arms Wide Open

December 20, 2015

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
The 4th Sunday in Advent 
Micah 5:2-5a; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-55

(Gospel text is provided at the bottom of this post)

photo 1 - cropThree years ago I preached on this same passage from Luke’s gospel. I had just been ordained to the Transitional Diaconate a week earlier, and was back in Houston for Christmas break. I had been invited to serve as Deacon – for the first time – at St. Andrew’s, the parish that helped me on my vocational journey. I was a bit nervous and also thrilled to finally be doing what God had called me to do.

That day three years ago had begun three years before that. That’s when I made the decision to leave all that was familiar; to leave mother and father, brother and sisters and the rest of my family and friends. I left places of comfort, including the parish of St. Andrews, to embark on a new thing, in an unfamiliar place, where “what’s next” couldn’t be fully grasped.

St. Andrew's Episcopal

St. Andrew’s Episcopal

So, to return to a familiar place after being ordained, surrounded by loved ones, those who supported me from afar, and to serve at that familiar altar – it was pretty surreal. I’m guessing Gretchen has some of these same feelings today, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for her.

Read the rest of this entry »

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