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Bulletin

Homily – 11/12/17

Posted November 20, 2017

A wedding.  Everyone has their own interpretation of what a wedding is, or at least what it should be.  Your own, your friends, your children’s and perhaps even your parents.  A wedding is a celebration of life, a union of two people in love who pledge their lives to one another.  A wedding is a binding contract tying two people together.  In the church we consider it to be one of the sacraments as we see it as far more than simply a civil contract, but as a gift from God and a pledge of obedience to each other and to God.  It is also often a huge event!  It is a time for celebration with family and friends, a time to eat, drink and be merry.  A time to connect with people you don’t see often and to renew bonds of friendship and family.

In the ancient world, weddings had some of the same character, but there were some very distinct differences.  It is these differences that make today’s passage from Matthew a bit hard to understand.

Today we think of a wedding in basically two parts; the engagement and the ceremony.  Whether in a church in front of a priest, at city hall in front of a justice of the peace, or in a wedding chapel in front of Elvis, the ceremony marks the beginning of the union.  An engagement is an agreement to be married, but it is not until the ceremony that a binding contract is established between the two people.

In ancient days things were different.  The wedding was actually in three parts.  The first was the betrothal.  This was what we would consider the engagement where an offer of marriage was made and accepted.  It was not typically made by the couple, but by their families.  Arranged marriages were common and were much more about joining of families for economic reasons than for anything as silly as love.  But, unlike our concept of engagement, the betrothal was a binding agreement and the couple were considered to be married at that point, even though they would still live apart.  In some cases, this was because the couple were children and had to wait to move forward until they had come of age, while in other cases it was to allow the groom time to earn the dowry called the Mohar that had to be paid to the bride’s family.  Remember the story of the Virgin Mary and her betrothal to Joseph?  Each advent I get asked why Mary would be traveling with him if they were not yet married.  Now you understand that as they were betrothed they were in fact considered to be married.

When the time came for the second part of the wedding, the families would agree on an approximate time, but it was not a fixed point in time. The second part is what we would think of as the consummation of the marriage.  Remember that the couple was already considered to be legally married, but the consummation would establish the virginity of the bride and the commencement of their life together.  It was largely up to the groom to determine the exact date and time.  The bride was expected to make herself ready for the groom, attended by her bridesmaids.  The bridesmaids would prepare her for the arrival of her husband, but since they did not know when he was coming, they were with her morning, noon and night.  Only once the groom had arrived and the marriage had been consummated would the third part of the wedding begin; the celebration.

Remember that we are not talking about a time and place with 9 channels of HBO and a 4G WiFi connection.  These were small rural villages in Palestine with extremely little in the way of entertainment.  Every wedding in the village was a huge event and all of the family and friends would take part in the celebration; a celebration by the way that would last an entire week.  A wedding was the event of the year and after all, who doesn’t want to be part of a week-long party? But there was of course a catch.  You had to be there when the party started.  If you were not, then you were quite literally shut out.  So it was important to be sure you were ready when the groom arrived because you clearly did not want to miss out on the event.

Which brings us to the story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids.  Those who were wise had planned ahead and brought enough oil for their lamps, while the foolish had not.  I imagine they were very excited for their friend, were flattered to have been chosen to take part in this momentous occasion in her life, and were very much looking forward to the feasting and dancing at the wedding banquet.  But in their enthusiasm for the moment, they had let their concern for the present come before their hope for the future; and in so doing they sacrificed their ability to share in the wonder of the event that was to come.

Now I think we are starting to get a taste of the meaning of the gospel.  The bridesmaids were called to wait with the bride for the coming of her groom; for the commencement of the life that meant, and the celebration that they had long looked forward to.  But they were either too excited about the event to properly prepare themselves for their task, or they were too caught up in their own lives and problems to invest the effort and energy needed for the task at hand.  The wise had been just as excited or just as preoccupied, but in their wisdom they knew the importance of preparing for what was to come.

The Wisdom of Solomon tells us “Wisdom is radiant and unfading and is found by those who seek her.”  If you seek wisdom, we are told, you will have no difficulty in finding her as she waits for us, graciously appearing in our paths and meeting us in every thought.  But that is the catch isn’t it?  For while wisdom is always ready for us, we must want to find it in the first place.  We must seek wisdom; we must place a value on wisdom and want to open ourselves to what we can learn from it.

If we don’t value wisdom, or if we aren’t willing to accept that we have things we can learn and be willing to invest the time and the energy, then wisdom will elude us.  The foolish bridesmaids saw no value in wisdom and found themselves on the outside looking in, but the wise were able to accomplish their task and enjoy the rewards.

But there is another point to be made.  This is not just about the good maids vs. the bad or the wise vs. the foolish.  For what happened when the foolish asked the wise for some oil?  They didn’t tell them, tough luck you should have planned ahead.  No, they told them we don’t have enough, but you should go and buy some and return.  Instead of deriding them for their lack of preparation, they gave them a helpful suggestion and a path to the wisdom that had eluded them.

If you are not actively seeking wisdom, now would be a good time to consider it.  For as Jesus says, you know neither the time nor the hour when the groom will come.  If you are wise and are preparing for the coming of the bridegroom, good for you.  But remember not to be smug about your preparation.  Remember also to offer help to those who need it so that we all may attend the bridegroom when he returns.  For the bride is the church and the bridegroom is Jesus Christ the Lord.  We know not the day nor the hour when he will return to take possession of his world.  But if that day were today, which of the bridesmaids would you be?

 

Bulletin

Bulletin Announcements – November 12th

Posted November 10, 2017

Announcements

Holiday FairThis Saturday November 18 from 9AM to 2PM. We will feature a wide range of local artists offering crafts and gifts, as well as refreshments and free pictures with Santa! This is a great opportunity to get started on your shopping with unique gifts.

Volunteers will be needed to help in a number of areas. Please see Heather B. if you can help!

HOLIDAY FAIR NEEDS YOU!

Bake your goodies for our Welcome Table and deliver to church Friday, Nov. 17 between 1-5pm.

Thanksgiving Service – We will celebrate a Thanksgiving Eucharist service on Wednesday November 22 at 6:00 PM. Please join us!

The Redemption of Scrooge – Our advent study will be based upon “A Christmas Carol” and will take place Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM, beginning on December 3.

There is a signup sheet on the narthex wall for Advent Candles and/or Advent wreath kits.

Ministers in Today’s Service

Presider: The Rev. Charles Sakin

Preacher: The Rev Rick O’Brien

Deacon: The Rev Sam Morford

Pianist/Organist: Kathy S

Altar Guild: Jim G

Eucharistic Ministers: 8 AM: Kris K 10 AM Judy F, Cindy B

Acolyte: 8 AM: Kris K 10 AM Lexi R, Ripper R

Readers: 8 AM: Kris K 10 AM Cindy B, Jim G

Greeters: 8 AM: Bobbi P 10 AM Rosalie M, Laura C

Usher: Peter V

Nursery: Trish G

Coffee Hour: Mary V

Bulletin

Homily – 10/29/17

Posted October 31, 2017

Last week’s gospel was an interesting one and it brought up a number of good questions.  Many of you had good points in Father Nicholas’s interactive sermon.  The best reaction to the gospel, in my opinion, was this one.  “Jesus told them that money was a human creation and not God’s, so money remains in the human realm and I don’t need to give any to the church.”  I don’t think this is what the vestry wants to hear.

Many of you come from different faith traditions and may not understand how the Episcopal church is funded.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to clear up a few myths that people have about money and the church.

Myth #1 – our parish does not need money from us since funding comes to us from the diocese or the national church.  This is false.  In fact, it is actually the other way around.  A percentage of what we give here at Epiphany goes to fund the operation and ministries of the diocese.  In turn, a percentage of the diocesan funding goes to the national church to support its’ ministries.  So rather than have our funding come down from the top, it actually is built up from the bottom.

Myth #2 – church should be free.  Well, that one is partly true.  Church IS free.  We don’t charge admission.  We don’t take tickets at the door.  Unlike the casinos on the strip, we don’t even charge for parking.  But operating our church does cost money.  And while the church is free to all, it is only free because some of us believe so strongly in the mission and our call to spread the gospel, that we pledge financial support to fund the church.  It is this pledging that covers the expenses of the church and ensures that it is free to all.

Myth #3 – I don’t need to pledge; I put some money in the plate when I am here and that is good enough.  That one is also false.  While the church is not a business, it does need to operate like one in some ways.  We need to develop a budget that will support our expenses and to do that we need to have an idea of what funding we can expect.  That is what makes pledging so important to the church; it allows us to build a realistic plan to fund our operation.

Now, if you are like me, you are probably a bit uncomfortable right about now.  I always used to get uncomfortable when our priest would talk about money.  Money is a funny subject as people take it enormously seriously and are often quite private about the concept.  Others of you may be sitting there wondering to yourselves if this sermon is not just a bit self-serving on my part as I am actually paid by the church.  On that part you are correct, so let me address that.  For the first time in my life I now earn my living as a priest and I am the first full time employee Epiphany has ever had.  Through your pledging I am paid a salary of $80,000, which to some of you may seem like a lot and to others may seem like a little.  Our household budget is not unlike yours I imagine.  Being a priest does not exempt me from having bills to pay.  The largest expense in our home is the mortgage, which is probably true of many of you as well.  The second largest is our pledge to the church.

You see we sat through many sermons like this one, and when the part about tithing came around I started to roll my eyes.  10% of my income to the church?  Impossible!  We have bills and expenses that they didn’t have back in Jesus’ time.  Jesus didn’t have a cable bill or a cell phone plan.  But as time went on, Jen and I talked more about our giving and embarked on a plan to give proportionally and keep increasing until we achieved the goal.  When I took this job, we agreed that this was the time to make the leap and give the full 10%.  Now I am not telling you this because we want any praise, but rather to share with you something important.  It wasn’t until our giving became sacrificial that it really became important to us.

Sacrificial giving means that you need to sacrifice in other areas of your life in order to give.  I am not talking about skipping the occasional Starbucks, but a real change in lifestyle.  Tithing for us has brought about such a lifestyle change.  Gone are fancy dinners on the strip.  They have been replaced by more simple things.  Did you know for instance that Ikea has a really good cafeteria and two people can eat there for about $17?

We didn’t do it for this purpose, but we have found that living into the tithe has brought us to a new appreciation of giving back to God.  For what we have does not come from us, but from God.  And only by giving something back, by sacrificing for God, do we have an understanding of how important that relationship is.

Which brings me to myth #4.  Stewardship is about the church’s need to receive.  This is also false.  Yes, your money is needed to fund the mission, but stewardship is not about the needs of the church.  It is really about our need to give.  Let me say that again.  Stewardship is not about the church’s need to receive; it is about our need to give.  Think of it this way.  When are you happier, when you get a gift or when you give one?  Have you had that Christmas morning experience of waiting for a loved one to open that “perfect” gift you got them?  As Christians we are about giving not receiving.  Stewardship then is a way for us to recognize the gifts that God has given us in life; our skills, our experiences, the opportunities to create the life we have.

Now there is always one lectionary fanatic in the congregation who measures the value of the sermon by how it relates to the lessons of the day.  That person (and you know who you are), is probably saying to them self, “he is talking about last week’s gospel but hasn’t mentioned this week’s yet.”  But fear not, for this week’s gospel too is relevant to a conversation on stewardship.  When asked by the Pharisees about the greatest commandment, Jesus replies; “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Through stewardship we show our love for God and for our neighbor in the mission and the ministry of the church.  Remember the words of St Teresa of Avilla who said, “Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.”

 

Bulletin

Bulletin Announcements – Oct 29th

Posted October 27, 2017

Ministers in Today’s Service

Presider: The Rev. Nicholas Neubauer

Preacher: The Rev. Rick O’Brien

Deacon: The Rev Rick O’Brien

Pianist/Organist: Kathi C

Altar Guild: Ginny G

Eucharistic Ministers: 8 AM: Teddie B 10 AM Ginny G, Judy K

Acolyte: 8 AM: Teddie B 10 AM Ripper R, Emilie C

Readers: 8 AM: Teddie B 10 AM Paul D, Kelly M

Greeters: 8 AM: Bobbi P 10 AM Martha P, Phil B

Usher: Roger C

Nursery: Mike S

Coffee Hour: Kelly M

Announcements

Planned Giving Workshop – Saturday, November 4 from 9 AM to Noon.

The Committee on Gratitude is sponsoring a Planned Giving workshop at Epiphany on November 4 from 9 AM to Noon. All are welcome to attend!

Preparing a will is a loving and responsible act for the sake of your family and for others who are important to you.

Beer and Theology – Saturday evening November 4 from 7 to 9 PM.

Our brew master has been putting together an exciting new concoction, and there will be a number of thought provoking discussion questions to ponder. Please plan to join us!

Outreach Ministry – We are looking for some folks who would be interested in helping with this important ministry. Fr. Nicholas will soon be holding an organizational meeting, so please let him know if you feel called to help in any way.

Holiday Fair – Saturday November 18 from 9AM to 2PM. We will feature a wide range of local artists offering crafts and gifts, as well as refreshments and free pictures with Santa! This is a great opportunity to get started on your shopping with unique gifts.

Bulletin

Homily – 10-15-17

Posted October 16, 2017

Oh, those darn Israelites!  They are at it again.  We have seen time after time that they turn away from God, seemingly at the drop of a hat.  The God who led them out of bondage in Egypt.  The God who parted the Red Sea for them.  The God who fed them manna in the wilderness.  Apparently that was not enough.  For no sooner does Moses climb the mountain to speak with God, then they are ready to bolt once again.  “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

So Aaron makes a golden calf and they begin to worship it.  This is expressly against what God has commanded them.  And God says to Moses, “Your people have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it.”  God is angry, for no matter what He does for them, the people continue to take him for granted and turn away at the first chance they get.

We sit here this morning many generations removed from the story.  And let’s be honest, we sit here in judgement of the Israelites.  We ask ourselves, how could these people have been so faithless?  How could they abandon God’s ways when he has done so much for them?  And we look down on them, partly in pity, but also partly in contempt.

But before we judge them too hastily, there is something we should consider.  Have we done the same thing that they did?

We tell ourselves, no, we haven’t abandoned God’s ways. We haven’t built a golden idol and paid homage to it.  But then a tragedy like last week happens, and we are forced to reexamine that statement.  Have we truly embraced God’s ways?  Are we living as God wants us to live?  I don’t think that we are.  I think we have built a golden calf of our own, an idol that we have allowed to replace God in our minds.  That idol is violence.

We live in a culture that venerates violence.  Violence seems to be everywhere that we look.  Movies, television, music, video games, they all feature violent images.  And it seems that the more violent they are, the more popular they become.  Violence has become the norm, and it is insidious.  Since it is everywhere in our culture, we have become immune to it.  We don’t even notice it, any more than a fish notices the water in which it lives.  And then real-life violence intrudes into our lives, and we are forced to face the fact that we have been complicit in allowing it to become our culture.

Don’t misunderstand me.  None of us wanted a tragedy like the one we have just witnessed.  It was an evil and terrible thing and the repercussions will be with the victims for the rest of their lives.  But while none of us would cause such an evil, we must accept some responsibility for allowing our culture to become so obsessed with violence.  So much so, that an act like this could become commonplace.  For, I am sorry to say, that is what it is.

I was very disturbed when I spoke with my 20-year-old son about the shooting.  He was deeply affected, as we all were, by the fact that it would happen here in our own town.  The loss of so many, and the callous disregard shown for human life by the shooter was jarring, and magnified by the fact that we know the area so well and most of us have at least some connection to one or more of the victims.  But as we talked, it became clear to me that he saw this, not as an isolated incident, not as some abomination that came at us from nowhere, but rather as a normal event.  And then it dawned on me.  My son does not have the same life experience I have.  I was raised in a world where an act such as this was nearly unthinkable. A tragedy like this was not part of our worldview.  In school, the only thing we had to deal with was the annual fire drill.

But my sons are growing up in a world where acts like this not only take place, but they occur regularly.  These kids have been raised in a world where the phrase “shelter in place” is part of their lexicon.  Where all schools have emergency response plans in case someone enters the building with a gun.  Whether you live in Las Vegas, or Orlando, or Sandy Hook, or Columbine, senseless acts of violence are the norm for this generation.

I don’t know about you, but I found this shocking.  And it became clear to me that we have a choice.  We can either accept this, or we can work to change the culture.  I vote that we change the world.  For I am not ready to accept that violence is here to stay and we must simply accept the world we have made.  I say we must change the culture.

Don’t misunderstand me; this is not an easy proposition.  It is not about changing a gun law or two, though that is something we should be looking at.  It is not about a quick fix, for we swim in violence as a fish swims in water.  But it is a challenge that we must accept.  It starts with each one of us.  We must become aware of the violence that surrounds us and we must reject it.  Stop buying tickets to movies that glorify violence, stop buying games that do, stop supporting violence on television.  If we stop offering our money to companies that produce violence, I assure you they will notice.

But acting on our own is not enough.  For one of us cannot change the culture alone.  But together we can make a start.  Epiphany is a member of Nevadans for the Common Good, an organization of religious communities that come together to advocate for social change.  This is a good place to start.  NCG is embarking on a house meeting program where hundreds of people from the member churches will come together to share stories of the things that impact their lives.  We will be having several of these meetings here.  The feedback from these meetings will fuel the agenda for the group for the years to come.  I urge you to participate; to bring to the conversation your own stories.

Now you may be sitting there saying, sure I would like to see change, but it is too late.  Violence has been with us forever and we cannot make the changes we need.  To that I would remind you that 200 years ago black people were thought of as property without the same rights as whites.  In 2008 Barack Obama, a black man, was elected President of the United States.  100 years ago, women were not thought to be intelligent enough to vote.  Today women run multinational companies, sit on the Supreme Court and in Congress, and are one of the most influential voting blocks in the nation.

We CAN change our culture.  It is not easy, and it takes a great deal of work and pain.  But if enough of us are willing to put forth the effort, if enough of us are ready to say “no more”, then we can begin to return our world to God’s path.  We can put away the golden idol of violence and live as Jesus commanded us, not harming but loving one another.

Bulletin

Homily – 9/24/17

Posted September 26, 2017

Matthew 20

Four million dollars.  That is my number.  I have given this a great deal of thought and I think that is the right number.  You see, I am in my early fifties and hope to live for another 40 years.  Four million divided by 40 would give me an income of $100K a year, before Uncle Sam takes his portion.  I think that will do nicely.  My wife and I live a fairly simple life, but like everyone we have bills to pay.  Four million dollars would pay off our mortgage and leave more than enough for us to drive fancy new cars.

But I don’t want to give you the wrong impression.  It’s not only about us.  We would like to be able to give more money to the church and to other worthy causes.  We would like to take some mission trips to other parts of the world.  I wonder if Royal Caribbean cruises to such places?  OK, I guess I have to admit that it is mostly about us.  And, I suspect if you are honest, it is mostly about you too.  Who here has not had that fantasy of winning the lottery or hitting the big jackpot down on the strip?  We all want more than we have.  I think that is part of the human condition, to always want more.  At least when it comes to money.

Matthew’s Gospel today is a favorite of mine.  It is the type of story that can make you want to pull your hair out.  I have heard passionate debates among clergy and scholars railing against the sheer unfairness of the landowner in this story.  No matter the group, this story is certain to provoke heated conversation and often leads to a discussion of today’s political arena.  Now before you start squirming in your seats, I am not going to turn this sermon into a political discussion.  A wise priest once told me that sermons are far too important for that.

But I am going to see if we can make some sense of this story.  On its face it does appear to be unfair.  Why should those who work all day get the same as those who just showed up?  Shouldn’t some get more and others get less?

I think the problem we have with this story is that it is about money.  We take money far too personally.  It is fine to talk about God and faith and service, but when the conversation turns to money, it is as if we have crossed a line and are now in very personal territory.  So let’s turn the parable around a bit.  I think we can agree that the landowner in the story is God.  God goes to the marketplace, finds people, and puts them to work in his fields.  This happens again, and again and again throughout the day.  And when the work is done, all of the workers stand before God for their wages.  And God gives them their pay.  Eternal Life with Him in heaven.

This story is not about money at all.  It is not even about the work.  It is about God loving us so much that he will bring us home to be with him when our time on Earth is done.  It matters not whether we have worked our entire lives for him or if we were baptized on our death bed.  We all get the same reward.  He can’t give some more than others because this is one-size fits all gift.  There is no greater hope for us than to be with God for eternity and there is nothing we can do to earn it.  Jesus paid the entry fee for each and every one of us.

So why then should we labor in the fields for the Lord?  Why not just sit back and wait for the good things to come?  Because that is not what God wants us to do.  We are commanded to work for the Lord, not because it will earn our way into heaven, but because we know that our life is better by having God in it.  Walking with Jesus in our lives is a miraculous gift and we would be selfish if we did not share that with other people, so that they may have the same joy that we have.  Spreading the love of God does not dilute His love, for that is impossible.  So how can we not share this amazing love with others?

Did you wonder in this gospel story why some folks were ready to work at dawn while others trickled in over the course of the day?  Some were not ready to work because they were too caught up in their own lives.  Some were not ready because they were too busy complaining that they didn’t have everything they wanted, that they didn’t have their $4M.  Others were not ready to work because they didn’t know that they already had the skills to do the work.

Let’s work together to be satisfied with the blessings we have and discover ways to use the gifts we have been given to bring others to God.  That is our mission.  That is evangelism.  That is how we are the people of God.

But before we leave this story, there is another point that bears examination.  Looked at from the perspective we have just discussed, hopefully the story makes a bit more sense.  God is giving us the greatest of gifts; eternal life.  That makes the story sit better with us, as it removes the perceived unfairness from it.  But why does this make it easier?  Why are we more comfortable with people being given eternal life than we are with people being given money?

What is it about money that makes us take things so personally?  It is easy to rail at the apparent unfairness of the landowner when we think the story is about money.  But when we separate money from the story, we feel it is less unfair.  What is behind that?

I think it has to do with our relationship with money.  We look at money as something that we earn, something that gives us the things we need in life, but also as a way of keeping score.  Are you familiar with the phrase “whoever dies with the most toys wins?”  Our culture is obsessed with wealth and money and it pervades everything that we do.

Think about this; which is it easier to go a whole day without thinking about, God or money?  If you said God, you are a better person than I.  For we spend our lives thinking about money; how much we have, how much we spend, how we can get more, how I can get my $4 million dollars.  We do this so much that God can get crowded out of our thinking.  And then we run across a story like today’s gospel and God and Money come together and it rocks our world.

But what if we focused less on how money can be ours and more on how money can help us further God’s kingdom?  Funding the mission of the church, donating to the hurricane relief efforts or the earthquake victims in Mexico, helping our poorer brothers and sisters who are hungry or homeless.  These are ways the we can use money, rather than let money use us.

Looked at from this perspective, I guess I don’t really need $4 Million dollars.  For what I have is enough; enough for us and enough to share.  Enough to help build the kingdom and to love others as we are called to do.

 

Bulletin

Homily – 9/17/18

Posted September 18, 2017

Epiphany Episcopal Church

15th Sunday after Pentecost

 

Opening:

 

Let the words of my mouth…

 

And the meditations of my heart…

 

Be always acceptable in thy sight…

 

O’ Lord…

 

My strength and my redeemer…

 

Amen…

 

Introduction:

 

“I forgive you…”

 

“I forgive you…”

 

If anything was ever easier…

 

Easier said than done…

 

To forgive has most certainly been a struggle in my life…

 

My inability…

 

My inability to genuinely forgive…

 

You see…

 

With every good intention…

 

I have forgiven persons in my life…

 

Those who remain in…

 

Those who remain out…

 

I have forgiven myself…

 

Yes…

 

I have forgiven all those who have harmed me…

 

In some instances…

 

In word only…

 

I have not…

 

I have not forgiven them in my heart…

 

In my heart…

 

As I reflect on what lies beneath…

 

When I search those deeper…

 

Darker spaces of my heart…

 

I have found…

 

I have found greater understanding as to the layers of my stubbornness…

 

My unwillingness to forgive…

 

In those deeper darker spaces…

 

What lies beneath???

 

What lies beneath is hurt…

 

What lies beneath is pain…

 

And sometimes…

 

When I visit those spaces…

 

I too…

 

I too find anger in my vulnerability…

 

I too…

 

I too find betrayal in my trust…

 

I find…

 

I find fear in my peace…

 

All reinforcing my stubbornness…

 

My unwillingness…

 

To forgive…

 

Now…

 

As I meditated in that space with this week’s Gospel…

 

I came to the realization…

 

The realization that I have much work before me…

 

That time…

 

Time does not heal all wounds…

 

Healing…

 

It is a process…

 

Forgiveness…

 

It is process…

 

And…

 

As much as I realized the work before me…

 

I too realized…

 

I realized that in some cases…

 

In some cases, I am still not ready…

 

Not ready to forgive…

 

That I am not healed…

 

That I…

 

That I am still in process…

 

Body One:

 

Forgive in word…

 

Why???

 

Because it is the polite thing to do???

 

It is the Christian thing to do???

 

Forgive in word…

 

Why???

 

To relieve the awkwardness???

 

To allow a relationship or circumstance to move forward???

 

Forgive in word…

 

Why???

 

Perhaps it is in the hope…

 

In the hope that if we say it…

 

That maybe…

 

Just maybe, we will believe it…

 

Yes…

 

Maybe we will believe it and we will no longer have to endure our suffering…

 

Forgive in word…

 

It is not the polite thing to do…

 

Two wrongs do not make a right…

 

Forgive in word…

 

It is not the Christian thing to do…

 

It is the dishonest thing to do…

 

Forgiven in word…

 

Does it really relieve the awkwardness???

 

Or does it only veil it…

 

Does a relationship or circumstance???

 

Does it really move forward???

 

Or does it spin off…

 

Spin off onto a new disingenuous path???

 

A path leading back only to its place of origin…

 

Forgiven in word…

 

Have you ever said it???

 

“I forgive you…”

 

Have you ever said it and instantaneously been absolved of your pain???

 

Of your hurt???

 

I didn’t think so…

 

Body Two:

 

Forgive in word…

 

But who???

 

Just exactly who is the beneficiary???

 

Is it the one who caused the harm???

 

If so…

 

Just what have they gained???

 

A false sense of security???

 

That they are indeed forgiven???

 

Surely, they will know that they are not…

 

The one who is hurt will demonstrate that through their actions…

 

Did they learn???

 

Did they have an opportunity to understand the hurt???

 

The pain they may have caused…

 

What they did…

 

Why they did…

 

How to not do it again…

 

Were they enabled???

 

Having earned what is not rightfully theirs…

 

Trading only the vacant words of “I am sorry…”

 

In the exchange for “I forgive you…”

 

Who is the beneficiary???

 

Is it the one who has hurt???

 

Forgive and forget…

 

God knows…

 

God knows I would like to…

 

To forget…

 

I imagine I have wished…

 

I have prayed…

 

I have wished and prayed as much for certain experiences to have never have happened…

 

Just as much as I have wished and prayed that I can just forget them…

 

Those wishes…

 

They have never come true…

 

Those prayers…

 

They remain unanswered…

 

They happened…

 

And…

 

I remember…

 

Forgive in word…

 

We can be childishly naïve…

 

Naïve in our thinking as to what lies beneath…

 

That it indeed…

 

That it simply lies…

 

In our attempt to not feel…

 

In our attempt to not feel we fail to recognize…

 

We fail to recognize that what lies beneath is far from idle…

 

(pause)

 

But just how active…

 

How active the hurt…

 

The pain…

 

The anger, the vulnerability…

 

The fear, the mistrust…

 

Just how active they are…

 

How much they shape and influence us…

 

How it can consume us…

 

Our thinking…

 

Our feeling…

 

Our behavior…

 

How what lies beneath…

 

What lies beneath is really what is active on the surface…

 

How it leads us to self-medicate…

 

How the anger leads us to hurt others…

 

How the vulnerability leads us develop sharp edges…

 

How the fear leads us close ourselves off…

 

How the mistrust leads us to isolation…

 

Body Three:

 

Forgive in word…

 

A fallacy…

 

Genuine forgiveness…

 

Cannot…

 

Cannot be delivered from our lips…

 

It must…

 

It must be delivered from our hearts…

 

Forgiveness is the actualization…

 

The actualization of catharsis of that hurt and that pain…

 

It is the release…

 

The release of the emotions…

 

The trauma…

 

The setting free and letting go of what it is we house in those…

 

Those deeper darker spaces…

 

Healing…

 

It is a process…

 

Forgiveness…

 

It is a process…

 

It is a process of understanding…

 

Of understanding that we too cause hurt…

 

That we cause pain…

 

It is a process of seeking…

 

Seeking those emotions housed in those deep dark spaces…

 

Identifying those feelings…

 

And allowing ourselves to feel them…

 

It is a process of discernment…

 

Discerning that forgiving…

 

That forgiving does not mean forgetting…

 

Our forgiveness may very well be solely to set ourselves free…

 

Setting ourselves free while binding the other to the caution necessary to protect ourselves…

 

Closing:

 

“I forgive you…”

 

If anything…

 

was ever easier…

 

Easier said than done…

 

I ask you…

 

What is in your heart???

 

In those???

 

Those deeper???

 

Those darker spaces???

 

What lies beneath???

 

Just what???

 

Just how has does it shape you???

 

Who???

 

Who do you have to forgive???

 

What???

 

What do you have to forgive???

 

Where are you???

 

Where are you in your process???

 

Are you ready???

 

Healing is a process…

 

Forgiveness is a process…

 

I pray…

 

I pray you heal…

 

I pray you understand…

 

That you seek…

 

That you feel…

 

That you discern…

 

I pray…

 

I pray that in your own time…

 

That in your own time you may forgive beyond word…

 

I pray that you heal…

 

That you forgive…

 

Forgive from your heart…

 

And that from your heart…

 

You…

 

You are set free…

 

Amen…

 

 

Bulletin

Homily – 8/20/17

Posted August 23, 2017

Opening Prayer:

 

I speak to you in the name of God…

 

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…

 

Amen…

 

Introduction:

 

“No one is born hating another person…”

 

“Because of the color of his skin…”

 

“Or his background…”

 

“Or his religion…”

 

“People must learn to hate…”

 

“And…”

 

“If they can learn to hate…”

 

“They can be taught to love…”

 

“For love comes more naturally to the human heart…”

 

“Than it’s opposite…”

 

Nelson Mandela…

 

A quote that had recently been “tweeted” by Former President Obama…

 

Quickly surging to become the most “liked tweet” in Twitter history…

 

I find comfort in that…

 

The response…

 

Well…

 

Well, I had a homily that I had got a jump on…

 

Nearly completed ahead schedule in preparation for today…

 

And then…

 

And then Charlottesville happened…

 

It was a funny one too…

 

I thought so anyway…

 

Yes…

 

Charlottesville happened…

 

A gathering of various hate groups…

 

White supremacists…

 

Neo-Nazis…

 

White nationalists…

 

A veritable crucible of hate…

 

Of evil…

 

And in their ignorance…

 

From that crucible…

 

From that crucible violence bubbled over…

 

It poured over…

 

Body One:

 

I have little doubt…

 

Little doubt that it was not…

 

That it was not exactly what was intended…

 

I myself have participated in several marches and demonstrations through the years…

 

And not once did myself…

 

Or any of the other participants arrive with shields…

 

With sticks, batons, bats…

 

Projectiles…

 

With high-powered semi-automatic rifles on display…

 

No…

 

No, I would imagine that if you show up with such items…

 

There must be some intent for their use…

 

Especially…

 

Especially if you are seeking to be insightful…

 

Donning Nazi memorabilia…

 

Chanting anti-sematic…

 

Anti-black…

 

Anti-Muslim…

 

Anti-LBGTQ…

 

Anti-Immigrant slogans…

 

And…

 

And when the situation went as according to plan…

 

When that crucible poured over…

 

Three souls lost their lives…

 

Heather Heyer…

 

Whose parents have been inspirational in their loss…

 

 

Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen…

 

And…

 

Trooper Berke Bates…

 

The two law enforcement gentlemen each left behind a wife and two children…

 

Physically…

 

Physically many more were injured…

 

The images have been tough to see…

 

The accounts hard to hear…

 

Emotionally…

 

Mentally…

 

Our nation…

 

All of us…

 

We all have been injured…

 

Injured by the ignorance…

 

The hate…

 

The evil…

 

Injured by the realization…

 

The realization that these vessels of ignorance…

 

Of hate…

 

Of evil…

 

That these vessels do not only exist within the fringes of our society…

 

But evidently…

 

Substantially throughout the fabric of it…

 

Now…

 

Prior to last weekend…

 

Prior to last weekend I do not think us naïve enough…

 

Naïve enough to have collectively believed that such hate had ceased to exist…

 

I think we are aware of how it presents itself in our culture…

 

The subtle…

 

The overt…

 

The systemic…

 

However…

 

However, I do believe that actions in Charlottesville…

 

The actions caught us off guard…

 

The sheer spectacle of it…

 

Caught us off guard and allowed us to see just what had been standing before us all along…

 

We learned something last weekend…

 

Through hundreds of torches marching through the night…

 

We learned something…

 

Through shields…

 

Through sticks, batons, and bats…

 

Through a speeding vehicle…

 

We learned something…

 

We learned…

 

We learned that we…

 

That we have so much to learn…

 

That so many…

 

So many have so much to learn…

 

Body Two:

 

“No one is born hating another person…”

 

“Because of the color of his skin…”

 

“Or his background…”

 

“Or his religion…”

 

“People must learn to hate…”

 

“And…”

 

“If they can learn to hate…”

 

“They can be taught to love…”

 

“For love comes more naturally to the human heart…”

 

“Than it’s opposite…”

 

As the Gospels tend to be…

 

This week’s is right on time…

 

And not for the lesson in persistence of faith…

 

But because…

 

But because Jesus…

 

Jesus in his ignoring of…

 

His belittling of…

 

His hurting of the Canaanite woman…

 

He learned…

 

He was “taught to love…”

 

Having previously withheld his compassion for her as she was not a “lost sheep of Israel…”

 

She taught him…

 

She taught him how to love…

 

Opening his compassion and care…

 

His love…

 

His love was open to all peoples…

 

Profoundly changing his ministry from that moment on…

 

Body Three:

 

“No one is born hating another person…”

 

“People must learn to hate…”

 

“No one is born hating another person…”

 

“People must learn to hate…”

 

Learn hate…

 

Where do we learn to hate???

 

We learn to hate from our parents…

 

Our families…

 

Our peers…

 

We learn to hate from history…

 

From media…

 

Perpetuated false stereotypes and generalizations…

 

We learn to hate from misguided belief systems…

 

That somehow our color, our culture, our nation, our God…

 

That we…

 

That we are superior…

 

And the other…

 

The other is inferior…

 

We learn to hate from our fears

 

Afraid of the unknown…

 

Of not being dominant…

 

Of not being superior…

 

We learn to hate from our own disappointments and short comings…

 

Blaming others for why we did not…

 

Why we cannot achieve…

 

Making others responsible for our lot…

 

Sources of hate…

 

They surround us…

 

It is in that space…

 

In being surrounded…

 

That is for us…

 

That it is for us to be mindful as to our teachers influence…

 

That we do not allow those teachers to indoctrinate us with ignorance…

 

That we do not take on their hate…

 

That we are not infected by that evil…

 

It is for us…

 

It is for us to question what we have been told…

 

What we supposedly know…

 

Our values…

 

Even if…

 

Even if they had been handed down to us by those that we admire…

 

Those who love us…

 

And that we love the most…

 

It is for us…

 

It is for us to question information…

 

Our sources…

 

To challenge stereotypes…

 

To challenge generalizations…

 

It is for us…

 

It is for us to examine our belief systems…

 

It is for us…

 

It is for us to find comfort in our fears…

 

It is for us…

 

It is for us to take responsibility for our own lot…

 

It is for us…

 

It is for us to learn…

 

To learn about ourselves…

 

To learn about ourselves just as Jesus did…

 

Closing:

 

“If they can learn to hate…”

 

“They can be taught to love…”

 

“For love comes more naturally to the human heart…”

 

“Than it’s opposite…”

 

If they can learn to hate…

 

They can be taught…

 

They can be taught to love…

 

And here it is…

 

Our mission…

 

Our response to Charlottesville…

 

Those that hate…

 

They can be taught to love…

 

They can be taught by surrounding…

 

By surrounding those same sources of hate…

 

Surrounding them with love…

 

The love of not accepting a racist joke…

 

The love of denouncing a slur…

 

The love of not perpetuating stereotypes…

 

The love of offering comfort to fear…

 

The love of personal responsibility…

 

The love of seeking tolerance in bigotry…

 

The love of enlightening ignorance…

 

The love of calling out…

 

The love of not validating racism, prejudice, or hatred…

 

This morning…

 

This morning I pray…

 

I pray that through the tragedy in Charlottesville…

 

That we…

 

Like Jesus…

 

That we learn…

 

That our compassion and care…

 

Our love…

 

Our love is open to all peoples…

 

I pray that our ministries are profoundly changed from this moment on…

 

I pray that we are teachers of love…

 

I pray that loves surrounds hate…

 

I pray for Helen Heyer…

 

For Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen…

 

For Trooper Berke Bates…

 

For their families and all those who mourn them…

 

I pray for our nation…

 

“No one is born hating another person…”

 

“Because of the color of his skin…”

 

“Or his background…”

 

“Or his religion…”

 

“People must learn to hate…”

 

“And…”

 

“If they can learn to hate…”

 

“They can be taught to love…”

 

“For love comes more naturally to the human heart…”

 

“Than it’s opposite…”

 

The most “liked tweet” in Twitter history…

 

I find comfort in that…

 

The response…

 

Amen…

 

Bulletin

Irv Cousins Eulogy – 8/12/17

Posted August 19, 2017

Burial Rite for Irv Cousins

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3: 26

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

 

What we believe about death and what comes after death makes all the difference for what we believe about life. It’s a kind of vantage point from which we look at life.

 

Buddhism and Christianity take starkly different views on this. Most of you know, I respect Buddhism and believe we could learn a thing or two from our Buddhist friends. But there is this basic difference.

 

Buddhism doesn’t believe in the soul, but it does teach reincarnation. This was confusing to one young American student. So, he asked his teacher, “If there is no soul, what is reincarnated?”  The teacher answered, “It is your bad habits.” The idea of reincarnation is that we need to scrub away all our faults and that takes more than one lifetime.  But eventually, once we have scrubbed away our faults, there is nothing of us left; so, we just cease to be.  Non-existence is as good as it gets because there is nothing in us worth saving.

 

Christianity takes the opposite view.  We say God is a vast immensity of love,  that we are created by God’s love sustained by God’s love, and that makes us good. God says we are good.

 

We may get twisted a bit, we may go off course, but our soul, the core of who we are is fundamentally good.  We come from the heart of God, we return to the heart of God, and we are never cut off from the heart of God. God does not forget the goodness he has made. Nothing good dies forever.  It all lives on in the heart of God and will manifest again in God’s time and in God’s way.

 

That is a general truth for all humanity. But God’s love for us isn’t just a general attitude. God doesn’t just love all of us in general.  God loves each of us particularly for being the unique person that each of us is.   Theologian Karl Rahner said, Each of us is a unique irreplaceable word of God

 

That means there are not just four gospels.  Every human life is a gospel. Irv Cousin’s life was a gospel, so what does it say?

 

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.  Irv was a quiet man, a private man.  As an only child, he spent a lot of time alone reading and he kept that practice up all his life.  Growing up in a military family, he didn’t have a chance to be part of the school cliques.  He learned to keep his own counsel and enjoy his own company.

 

John Milton said, Solitude is sometimes the best society. Thoreau said, I love to be alone.  I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. Lord Byron wrote, Then stirs the feeling infinite so felt In solitude where we are least alone.  Or in the language of our day, punk singer Henry Rollins said,

                                                                 Loneliness adds beauty to life.

It puts a special burn on sunsets

and makes night air smell better.

 

In Irv’s privacy, something precious grew.  It was a profound dignity.  Our collect for the 2nd Sunday in Christmas says that, God . . . wonderfully created and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature . . .. In our Baptismal Covenant, we vow to respect the dignity of every human being.

 

In our time, dignity is hard to find.  In an era of reality television sapheads and buffoons posing as political pundits, we long for someone we can respect.  Irv Cousins was easy to respect. He showed us what human dignity looks like.  He showed us what graciousness looked like.  These are not just manners and style.  Dignity is something good that God created and reveals to us through people like Irv to show us a piece of what we are called to become.  Human dignity is part and parcel of the gospel.

 

Irv was a private man, but he was not an island.  He connected with others by serving them.  He served his church in Maryland as their Treasurer. Then he served our diocese as Treasurer and Finance Officer

for 18 years, across the tenures of three bishops.   While the rest of us did Church in all too visible and audible ways, Irv was quietly keeping the ship afloat.

 

Because he was not too enamored of his own voice, Irv had the vital spiritual gift of listening.  When he listened to you, his attention was undivided.  James 1: 19 says, Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.   That was Irv Cousins.

 

He could listen to you in a way that said, “you matter.”  He took people seriously.  Irv had human dignity because he respected the dignity of others.  He showed that respect by the way he listened.

 

Christina Rossetti said, Silence is the most beautiful music Benjamin Disraeli echoed Silence is the mother of truth.   Irv had the dignity, the wisdom, and the compassion to keep still and listen others into life.

 

This is not just an individual character trait.  It is not an accident of nature and nurture.  Irv’s way of being in this world was a virtue created by God.  It was, as Rahner said, a unique, irreplaceable word of God.

 

Irv’s family will not be the only ones to miss him.  We all will.   The world needs Irv’s way of being now more than ever.  Maybe some of the rest of us will have to take up some of the slack by becoming a bit more like him.  I know I want to be more like him.  But no one can take his place.

 

We will miss him dearly.

 

Our consolation is that Irv Cousins came from the heart of God, he returns to the heart of God,  he was never cut off from the heart of God.  He was a good man if ever there was one, and nothing good dies forever.

Amen.

 

Epiphany Episcopal Church

The Rt. Rev. Dan Edwards

August 12, 2017

Bulletin

Homily – 8/13/17

Posted August 14, 2017

“Peter Doesn’t Swim”

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead.  The King James says that “Jesus constrained the disciples to get into the boat.”  It was clearly not the disciple’s idea to leave Jesus alone with the crowd.  They probably wanted to stay while he dismissed them, but Jesus insisted they get into the boat and go on ahead of him.  It had to be quite exhausting to be the center of attention; to be the one that everyone wanted to see, to touch, to speak to.  I can recall a diocesan convention several years ago, when Presiding Bishop Katherine was the speaker.  We had just adjourned for the lunch break, which was a very short break if I remember correctly.  I saw a large crowd of people head in her direction, and a line began to form, just to say hello, to get a blessing, or to simply speak with her.  She handled it with her usual grace, but it must have been a bit exhausting and it took up more than half of her lunch time before all in the line had their moment with her.

It must have been the same for Jesus, but even more so.  This was Jesus who did miracles, who had the power to feed 5,000 people, who could heal the sick, could bring the dead back to life.  Is it any wonder that people wanted to get a moment with him?  And not just the crowd, for the disciples also made demands on Jesus’ time, even when it was well intentioned.  So it is not surprising that he would send them away while he handled the last of the crowds, to give him a brief respite and a few moments alone.

So we have the disciples alone in a boat and night is falling.  They are far from shore when a storm comes up and the small boat starts to get battered by winds and high seas.  Not exactly a good place to be.  They were certainly wet and uncomfortable, and likely afraid of the storm.  And then, in the wee hours of the morning, in the darkness, they see a man walking toward them on the storm-tossed sea.  If they were not already, they are most certainly terrified at this point.  “It is a ghost’, and they cried out in fear.”  But Jesus tells them not to be afraid.

We know the rest of the story.  Peter walks onto the water, starts to fall, and is saved by Jesus.  We hear the rebuke ‘oh ye of little faith’ and we chalk it up to good ole Peter once again.  I have said this before, but it bears repeating.  If Peter had not actually existed, the gospel writers would have had to make him up.  Think about it.  Peter is the perfect foil for the action that takes place.  It is as if he came straight from central casting in Hollywood.  Peter who is just a tad too anxious to please.  Peter who wouldn’t let Jesus wash his feet.  Peter who doesn’t quite have enough faith.  Peter who would deny the Lord three times before the cock crowed.

The reason Peter is such an integral part of the story is that we can all relate to him.  If he were the stereotypical hero, if he were Hercules, he would never make a mistake.  He would be exactly what he always tried to be, but so seldom was.  Instead he was entirely human, and that is what makes him relatable.  For we all try and fail, so we can see ourselves in Peter.  And we can see that if Peter could fail and still be redeemed, then there is hope for us as well.

But I think it is too easy in this story to condemn Peter.  I think history has given him a bad rap this time.  For what do we all remember about this story?  Oh ye of little faith, poor Peter, failing yet again.  But how exactly did Peter find himself in this predicament?  “Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’  He said ‘Come’.  So Peter go out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.”  Let me say that again.  Peter said, Lord, command me to come to you on the water.  Peter ASKED for this.  And that is amazing.

Let me remind you that the disciples found themselves in a boat on a rough sea, tossed by the wind and waves, in the middle of the night.  They see a strange apparition walking toward them on the water and are terrified.  And Peter, poor old doesn’t quite get it Peter, does something remarkable.  He asks the Lord to tell him to get OUT OF THE BOAT!

This is incredibly courageous.  It had to be way outside of his comfort zone, yet Peter asks Jesus to set him this impossible task.  Think of how hard that would have been if it were you or me.  Do you think you would have the faith to ask the Lord for something so impossible?  I certainly don’t.  I know that I don’t have the strength, or the skill, or the courage to do something so difficult.

But that is precisely the point.  Peter doesn’t have the skill or the strength or the ability to do this by himself either.  He didn’t just climb out of the boat.  He asked Jesus to command him to do this impossible task.  For Peter knew something that we tend to forget.  Nothing is impossible for God.  So while Peter couldn’t do it alone, he could with God’s help.  The same is true for us.

Do you have the courage to ask God to help you with a seemingly impossible task?  How about something well outside your comfort zone?  It need not be walking on water, for we have opportunities every day.  We collect school supplies for Communities in Schools, but they also need people to mentor and tutor kids.  We collect food for the Epicenter foodbank, but have you ever thought about going down there and handing out the food to those in need?  We collect personal items for Gabriel’s gift, but they also need folks to go out and distribute them to homeless folks here in town.  These things may be way outside of your comfort zone, but if you ask God for help, they are surely things you can accomplish.

And you may find that doing these things, things that are done with and through the Lord will put you into places and situations you could never dream of. You all know Deacon Ann.  She has always had a heart for the homeless and the hungry, and after turning more deeply to God she became even more involved in helping and in advocacy.  But she never dreamed that this would lead to an opportunity to advocate in person with the President of the United States.  Yet, that happened.

You never know what God has in store for you until you ask for his help.  And when you do, you will be able to do things you never dreamed of.  To quote from Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you will go.”

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