Shining Light on Suicide

March 26, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
The 4th Sunday in Lent
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41; Psalm 23

When I was growing up my twin sister and I often had slumber parties to celebrate our birthday. One of these in particular stands out in my memory – the summer we turned 13.

After playing games and eating dinner and cake, it came time for lights-out, though that never meant eyes-closed. When the room got dark, the real stuff began, you know, ghost stories, séances, and in my day, the ever popular “light as a feather, stiff as a board.” This is when the whole group gathered around one willing party-goer who laid in the center, as we called upon spirits from beyond to assist us to lift her using only two fingers.

That year, in the wee hours of the morning, amid these mystical endeavors, the phone rang. One of our friends had a premonition that it was probably bad news… not really a stretch in hindsight, but at the time we gave her full creds as the enlightened one.

Sure enough, the next morning my parents called me and my siblings into their room. Their somber expressions caused me to wonder if my Grandma Caldwell had died. She was elderly and had already had several heart attacks. So, you can imagine my surprise when they shared that our cousin Carl was the one who had died. He was in training with the Air Force. His roommate had found him, seemingly asleep on the sofa, in their base-camp apartment. Carl was one day shy of his 19th birthday, and in two weeks he was supposed to get married. Read the rest of this entry »

A Lenten Mitzvah

March 12, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
The 2nd Sunday in Lent
Genesis 12:1-4a; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17

(Gospel Text provided below)

Thursday a week ago I received a Facebook message from a former co-worker. In it, and the ensuing phone conversation, I learned that one of the sons of a close friend in Houston had died. Jonathan was twenty-seven. His death was tragic.

Since the family is Jewish, I knew the funeral would be quick, so within an hour I had a plane ticket and began rearranging my schedule for the weekend. I landed in Houston by mid-morning on Friday, and arrived at the graveside by 2pm. Standing in the bright sunlight, feeling the cool spring breeze, I held tightly to the yarmulke I received fourteen years earlier at Jonathan, and his twin sister, Robin’s, b’nai mitzvah.

After reflections about Jonathan’s life were shared by the rabbi, we recited Psalm 23 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me. We were then all invited to help shovel dirt on the plain-wood coffin that had been lowered into the ground – I went for the big shovel. By 3pm, Jonathan was laid to rest, entombed by the earth and sealed with the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish.

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Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:1-2,12-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

(Gospel Text provided below)

In a few minutes, as part of this Ash Wednesday liturgy, I will extend an Invitation to the observance of a Holy Lent. This invitation says in part:

I invite you… to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

ashwednesday-251x300We’ll then say a prayer of preparation, remembering that we have been created out of the dust of the earth. We’ll ask that the ashes placed on our foreheads be a sign of our mortality and penitence. This is often the focal point on this solemn day. A day we are called to begin a season of introspection, repentance, and self-denial.

Yet, I want to point out that in that prayer there is one additional component…

… that we may remember that it is only by [God’s] gracious gift that we are given everlasting life…

I believe that the remembrance of this gracious gift is also an integral part of the day. Today’s gospel passage from Matthew calls us to lean into this gracious gift. It invites us to embrace the special connection we each have with God, and amplifies the realization that everything we have and who we are is GIFT.    Read the rest of this entry »

Discern Care – Fully

March 13, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
5th Sunday in Lent 
Isaiah 43:16-21; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8

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

Have you ever been out to dinner with a group of friends you’ve known for a long time, or with family, and someone starts telling a story about a shared experience that happened years earlier? You get excited because it was such a special adventure that you’ll never forget! Story sequenceThen, as the story unfolds, there are variations in the storyteller’s version that don’t quite match your memory of what happened. Some of the details seem okay, but other aspects, like who actually did or said certain things, or when it happened in relation to other life-events, seem out of line. And while it isn’t exactly how you remember it, the teller is so sure of their version that there’s really no use in arguing about it. It’s their reality, after all.

We see those same kinds of variations in Biblical stories, including today’s gospel reading from John. While this story about the anointing of Jesus appears in each of the four gospels, they don’t all match up. For many people it can be confusing to have these different versions of the same story. When there are inconsistencies, it can create doubt about the validity of any of it!

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