A Questioning Authority

October 1, 2017

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC
Proper 21, Year A
Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-32; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32

Listen here, or read below:

Today’s gospel reading begins with Jesus in the temple. The chief priests and the elders came to him and asked, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Before we dive into that riveting question, let’s step back a minute.

Last we saw Jesus, he was on the road to Jerusalem, using parables to teach about the kingdom of heaven. Yet here we are today, with Jesus in Jerusalem teaching in the temple. Our lectionary has jumped over an important piece of the story. And it skipped a couple of our favorite scenes. We missed the Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem – disciples untying the donkey, the crowd waving branches and crying Hosannas as Jesus rides in. And then, even better, overturning the tables in the temple market. Jesus gets mad – we love that part!

Then it goes on to say, “The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them.” (Mt 21:14). And he begins teaching and the people are crying out, in the temple, “Hosanna to the son of David.”

The chief priests and scribes – those who are the ones in authority in the temple – see all this and wonder what the heck is going on. They’re angry and ask Jesus what he has to say for himself. And Jesus responds by quoting words of the prophets of old. “My house should be called a house of prayer” and “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself.” And, as if that settles it, we’re told “He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.” 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 »

The Face of Change

August 6, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Feast of the Transfiguration
Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Peter 1:13-21; Luke 9:28-36

Listen here, or read below:

This past Monday my parents and I visited the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. [Check that off my Atlanta bucket list!] It’s interesting to see what’s chosen to depict someone’s life. In the childhood section, among other household items, one display box held a pair of crystal salt and pepper shakers. This seemed an odd contrast to the images, on the opposite wall, of little Jimmy’s playmates, the African American children of peanut-farm workers.

An exhibit highlighting the Camp David Peace Accords revealed the careful and persistent mediation Carter provided to guide the unlikely peace agreement between the leaders of Egypt and Israel. I wondered if he didn’t first develop these negotiation skills at his family dinner table. You see, his father was a staunch segregationist, while his mother, a trained nurse, didn’t hesitate to cross segregation lines in the 1920s to provide health care counseling to poor African American women. Navigating the complexity of diverse views, even within our own families, continues still. So, while Carter inherited the infamous peanut farm from his father, he undoubtedly adopted the social consciousness of his mother.  Read the rest of this entry »

Bearing Fruit

July 23, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Proper 11 Year A 

Genesis 28:10-19a; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Listen here:

Gospel Text: 

Jesus put before the crowd another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!” (Mt 13:24-30, 36-43)

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