Generosity: All Day Long

September 24, 2017

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC
Proper 20, Year A
Jonah 3:10-4:11; Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 20:1-16

Listen here, or read below:

How’s everybody doing?

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a rough few weeks for me. I’m not talking about my start here at Church of the Servant and the move to Wilmington. That’s going great, unpacked boxes notwithstanding. I did finally take some time to go through the wonderful “gifts of Wilmington” y’all so generously left for me and Alice. We appreciate your kindness and your welcome!

The rough part has been all the images of destruction from the one-after-another natural disasters hitting our shores, as well as our neighbors in the Caribbean and Mexico. While the winds, waves, and tremors have caused havoc, taken lives, and left so many without power or shelter, the images relayed day after day on our tv’s and mobile devices have done their own share of beating-down our psyches.

And if that’s not enough, we have the anxiety producing rhetoric of world leaders threatening to destroy one another, a resurgence of unrest and racial tensions in St. Louis, and the very real fear of young Hispanic Dreamers whose future is now unclear with the repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. It’s no surprise that tears welled-up in my eyes time and again as I watched the news this week. It’s just so much. Too much to take-in sometimes.  Read the rest of this entry »

Pulling Together

September 10, 2017

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC
Proper 18, Year A
Exodus 12:1-14; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20

Listen here, or read below:

One of the things I love about the Episcopal Church is our use of the 3-year lectionary. Each Sunday it provides the scripture readings that will be heard across all Episcopal churches and the preacher, ideally, is supposed to preach on one or more of these texts. It keeps us in line, I guess.

What I’ve found remarkable is how often, when something momentous happens in our world, that at least one of the passages seems to fit perfectly. Like after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in 2012 – it was during Lent, Year B – and John’s gospel lesson included the verse “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” What an amazing invitation to preach about not letting this one soul die in vain, but for his death to serve a greater purpose for change.

Or after the horrific event in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine were shot during their Bible study at a Black church in June of 2015. The gospel lesson was the story of the frantic disciples and a sleeping Jesus on a boat in a storm. Most versions of this story have the disciples waking Jesus so he could save them, but the lectionary provided for that Sunday, had Mark’s version of the story. This is the one where the disciples cry out, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” echoing the current-day frustration of our Black brothers and sisters, asking their White neighbors to wake up to what’s going on around them. 

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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.

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Resurrected Hope

April 30, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
3rd Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a,36-41; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

This Sunday I got a bit out of my comfort zone and preached without a manuscript. A couple of years ago, a parishioner of my church encouraged me to do this, but my anxiety has been an impediment. Then, this past Tuesday I had a bit of time with my bishop, Rob Wright. In our carefree conversation about this Sunday’s gospel text from Luke, he asked, “Are you going to preach from a manuscript?” I said I was and he challenged me not to. Nudged might be a better word. He didn’t push hard, but he assured me that “you’ve got this.” My wife, Alice also bolstered my confidence. I talk about scripture passages and sermon ideas with her all the time, off the cuff, so she knows I can do it. So I decided that I’d give it a try.

Now, to be clear, preaching without a manuscript isn’t the same thing as preaching extemporaneously, which is with little preparation. I did prepare. But as someone who has always relied heavily on my carefully crafted, tightly worded, sermon in print in front of me, to instead walk into church on Sunday morning with no paper in hand, no saved document to pull up on a screen, it was odd. To move out from behind the pulpit, standing at the top of the chancel steps, with nothing between me and the congregation, I was exposed.

Photo by Bruce Halliburton, 2014.

My only safety net was the Bible given to me by that same bishop on the day of my ordination. It sat on the altar rail, just a few feet away, providing assurance that if I needed to, I could turn to the text, or peek at the squirreled away 4×6 inch index card with bullet points tucked inside.

The safety net was not necessary. As expected, the Holy Spirit had my back as I shared God’s word and the story of resurrected hope found in Luke’s Easter message.The audio file isn’t as crisp as I’d like, but thanks to iPhone technology and recording apps, I captured it and share it with you here.

Happy Easter! Go try something new!

 

 

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