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 »

Let’s Grow

February 28, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
3rd Sunday in Lent 
Exodus 3:1-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9

IMG_4036Today we heard the familiar story of Moses and the burning bush. The burning bush has become the quintessential symbol of God’s call to do God’s work in the world. In the story, we’re told that Moses is tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro. He’s just doing an ordinary thing on an ordinary day. He’s taken the flock beyond the wilderness and finds himself at Horeb, the mountain of God. Then Moses sees something that catches his eye… a bush on fire, yet not being consumed. And what does Moses do?

He doesn’t run away. He doesn’t ignore it and return to his flock. Instead, he says “I must turn aside and look at this great sight…” Moses TURNS and takes a closer look.

[Quick Sidebar: Remember that the root of the word repentance is μετανοέω (metanoeó) – to change direction, to TURN toward God. We are in the season of Lent, so the theme of repentance, of turning toward God, is everywhere! Even in this burning bush story!]

Read the rest of this entry »

Preparing to Bloom

February 10, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Ash Wednesday  
Isaiah 58:1-12; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

As many of you know, I lived in Houston, Texas most of my life. As with any city or town, Houston has its own unique rhythms, customs and colloquialisms that aren’t readily understood by outsiders. Not surprisingly, Atlanta and Georgia have their own, too, so when I moved here 6 years ago, I had a bit of a learning curve.

One of the things that I quickly discovered is that Liquor Stores are called Package Stores, but I didn’t know why. The name seemed so vague to me. So, one day I asked the guy behind the counter, “Why do they call this a Package Store, and not a Liquor Store?” lsHe explained that in Georgia, liquor laws differentiate sales based on whether it is bought by the drink (by the glass) or by the package (by the bottle). Thus, the Package Store.

Since then, I’ve shared this tid-bit of knowledge with others. For many, even life-long Georgians, this was a revelation. They had no clue where the term Package Store came from, and frankly, never even thought about it. And that’s okay. There’s no requirement to know. It doesn’t change anything, really.

But, in the same way, many of us who grew up in the church, certainly in the Episcopal tradition, have encountered and lived with words and practices that we don’t really know the context for, we just do them. Lent can be one of those times.   Read the rest of this entry »

Do you not care?

June 21, 2015

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

The 4th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 7 
Samuel 17:32-49; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

Last week was Sandwich Sunday, so after the 8:00 am service, a bunch of folks gathered in the Parish Hall with loaves of bread, peanut butter & jelly and ham & cheese ready to get to work. As usual, there was the obligatory search for the plastic gloves… my Achilles heel. We had enough to get everyone started, but I decided I’d run up to Target and get a full box and some more bread.

As I was headed back to church I sat at the traffic light and thought to myself, “I love this job.” In my twenty years in banking I know there were times when I liked what I was doing, and certainly who I was working with. I know I was good at my job, but I’m not sure I could ever truthfully say “I love this job.”

I continued to hold onto that feeling of love for this job as the new work-week began. On Monday, I popped in on Mary and her team of helpers at the Norcross Co-op Vacation Bible School. Then headed over to the church with Rita and Ken to map out the new Four-square and Basketball design on the back parking lot. The love continued as I made final adjustments to the Celtic liturgy, not to mention the fun of the Vestry meeting on Monday night!

On Tuesday, my love continued in the midst of conversations about an updated sound system planned for the sanctuary, followed by productive staff and warden’s meetings. And these feeling of love carried over to Wednesday, even as I hauled water hoses under the blazing sun to get things ready for a Wild & Wacky night with the kids.

I went to bed Wednesday night weary from a physically challenging day – earning over 13,000 steps for my effort – and the payoff was an evening filled with smiling kids and teens pelting each other with water balloons and careening across a three-lane slip and slide. I mean, what’s NOT to love about this job! Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: