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 »

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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The Gift of Lent

February 26, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
The Last Sunday after Epiphany
Exodus 24:12-18; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9

(Gospel Text provided below)

Today is the last Sunday before Lent… so live it up!

It reminds me of a t-shirt I saw on one of our family road-trips. By this time, we were in our teens, and headed to Idaho for a 6-day raft trip. One gift shop along the way had a t-shirt that read “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, for tomorrow you may be in Utah.” If you’ll allow me Episcopal license, today that shirt might read: “Eat, Drink and Be Merry, for on Wednesday we begin Lent.”

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This presumes that Lent is a time of austerity and self-denial. Yet, as a teenager, I learned that Lent can also be a time to take things on. To make a commitment to do something you’ve been putting off, or to improve your well-being, or perhaps, to serve others in a more tangible way. This approach to Lent has been helpful for me, and was especially so during my first few months in Atlanta.

I came to Atlanta from Houston seven years ago to embark on a vocational transformation. I arrived in January with snow on the ground – did I mention I came from Houston? I’d left behind all that was familiar – my family, my friends, and a budding romance. So, while I was living into this new purpose for my life, it came with some losses, some sacrifices.

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I didn’t have a job, and wasn’t planning to get one before the start of seminary in August. I moved in January to get settled-in, and start getting to know the diocese I’d call home. As an introvert, though, it would’ve been easy to stay in the warmth of my house, with my dog and cat as constant companions. And as easy as that would’ve been, I knew it wouldn’t move me toward my purpose – to get to know the diocese that had welcomed me.

Fortunately, I received a gift just a few weeks after my move – the gift of Lent. That Lent became a season of taking things on.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rules of the Road

February 12, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
The 6th Sunday after Epiphany
Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37

(Gospel Text provided below)

Most summers when I was a kid my family would pack up the station wagon and head off on a road trip. Sometimes we went to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, other times to see our cousins in Springfield, Ohio. From Houston, it usually took two days of driving to reach our destination, and with five kids and two adults, it was a very full car.

road-tripNow anyone who’s traveled in a station wagon, similar to traveling on a crowded airplane, there are “preferred seats.” As you’d expect, the window seats were first choice. And while sitting in the way-back wasn’t great, especially when the seat faced backwards (whose idea was that?) – even the way-back ranked higher than the dreaded middle seat. But the best seat was the one we called the seat-apart. It’s the one that gets pulled forward to let others into the way-back. What made it so popular was the little split that clearly designated where your seat began and where it ended. All the other seats left room for seat creep, followed by the emphatic complaint: “Mom, she’s touching me!”

Now, my mom’s a big fan of being fair – or at least trying to be fair. So, realizing she had five young children traveling in a very confined space for hour after hour, she came up with a rotation strategy. Every time we stopped for a meal or to get gas, us kids would rotate seats. This way everyone had time in the dreaded middle seat, in the way-back, and in the coveted seat-apart. She put this plan – these rules – in place, with the hope of creating harmony for our long journey together. Read the rest of this entry »

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