Leaving the Ninety-nine

September 11, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
17th Sunday After Pentecost – Proper 19
Jeremiah
 4:11-12, 22-28; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10

(Gospel Text provided below)

lost-found-woohooToday we hear the familiar parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin. In Sunday School lessons and discussion groups our conversation usually focuses on the experience of being lost and being found. We ask questions like, “Describe a time when you were lost or separated from a family member?” or “What feelings did you experience when you were found after being lost?” Or perhaps the focus is on one’s assurance that someone cares enough about them to actually look for them.

This is a very understandable inclination. We can identify with the lost sheep because sometimes we feel lost ourselves. We want a God who will come and look for us, who won’t give up on us when we go astray. And, when we are found, we like the idea that God rejoices and celebrates our return! WooHoo!!

And while all of that is well and good, and these are comforting messages, I’m not sure that’s really what these parables in Luke’s gospel are getting at. When we look at the parable and its context more closely, we see that it isn’t a story about the lost sheep or lost coin. Like most stories in the gospels, it’s actually a story about Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »

A few words from Jesus, CEO

October 27, 2013

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

Proper 25 – Year C RCL

Joel 2:23-32, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Luke 18:9-14

As many of you know, before attending seminary, I spent twenty years in the banking industry. During my last job there, I was the Business Manager for the Commercial Middle Market of the Southwest Region, working closely with the CEO of that Market. About once a quarter we’d carve out a week or two to travel to each city in our region to touch base. Each day we’d hop on a Southwest Airlines flight (“the company plane”) and head to San Antonio, or Dallas, or El Paso… you get the picture.

David, my boss, liked to use every minute possible to prepare for these meetings. He wanted them to be productive, personal and motivating. So after boarding the plane each morning around 7:00 a.m., David, the finance guy, and I would sit together, pull out a stack of spreadsheets, and begin identifying the talking points for that day’s discussion.

Since most people on the plane just want to get one more hour of sleep before reaching their destination, it’s not surprising that we were greeted with scowls from nearby passengers, but David was oblivious to that. He had a message to deliver, and he wanted to be ready. The comfort of those around him was of no concern.

During those trips, day after day over the course of the week or two, David would share his vision for the business, adding market-specific nuance to fit their needs, but the overall theme was consistent.

I think the writer of Luke’s gospel would have fit well into this corporate communication model. There’s a repetitious theme that runs through the stories, with slight variations based on the audience, not unlike David’s market visits. As I started thinking more about this, I wondered what it might look like if Jesus had crafted and delivered his message in a similar way. Read the rest of this entry »

Rooted in Faith

October 6, 2013

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

Proper 22 – Year C RCL

Lamentations 1:1-6, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10

When I began thinking about how to make today’s gospel lesson come to life in a tangible way, I thought I might have each person take a mustard seed as they entered the sanctuary this morning. Perhaps I’d put a bowl full of mustard seeds in the narthex so that each person could pick one up on the way in… or maybe the ushers would hand one little bitty mustard seed to each person, along with the service leaflet. Each little mustard seed taken would represent our Faith.

But the more I thought about it, the more I could hear the voices and thoughts of each of you as we reached this moment in the service. When I asked you to pull out your mustard seed and hold it in your hand… to show me your Faith… I kept hearing:

  • “I think it’s at the bottom of my purse… oh, there’s no way I can find it under all this”… or,
  • “I didn’t realize that was something we needed to hold on to”…
  • A few of you may have it neatly wrapped up in a handkerchief… and would prefer just to keep it tucked away for safe keeping…
  • While others would be turning to the person next to you, asking, “Have you seen mine? I could swear it was here a minute ago.”

Tricky thing that little mustard seed… and even more tricky, that thing we call Faith.

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Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA Sermon given as Deacon and Seminarian

Seventh Sunday in Easter – Year C RCL 

Acts 16:16-34, Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 & John 17:20-26

Last Sunday morning, as Ceci and I were standing in the narthex, about to process in for the 8:00 o’clock service, as usual, Jeff began playing the opening hymn. After a few notes Ceci smiled and said, “This is my favorite hymn.”

I turned and looked at her, matching her smile with my own, I said playfully, “You know you say that all the time.” And, while that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, as someone who’s served with Ceci for the past several years, believe me when I tell you, she says it A LOT!

It’s not a judgment – it just points out the fact that singing is an important part of the Episcopal liturgy. WE SING. It’s one of the things that we love to do.

If you don’t believe me, take it from Garrison Keillor, the voice of NPR’s Prairie Home Companion. In an essay about Episcopalians, after sharing a list of ways people make fun of us, he said, “But nobody sings like them.” He shared this experience:

If you were to ask an audience in Des Moines, a relatively Episcopalianless place, to sing along on the chorus of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Episcopalians, they’d smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! ….And down the road!

I like that image! 

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