Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 18, 2014 - Epiphany 2B

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
            That prayer, known as the Collect for Purity, begins our worship each Sunday. It is, perhaps, one of most powerful and intimate prayers that I know of. A version of that prayer dates back to the 11th century, so it has quite literally been prayed for over a millennium. The form that we have today has been in every Book of Common Prayer since the first one was published in 1549. That is one of the best parts of the Episcopal tradition- that our prayers have roots and when we pray them, our voices join with the multitudes through the ages that have prayed these very words. But anytime a prayer is so familiar, it can easily become rote. Given the context of Psalm 139, this morning I’d like to consider the depths of the Collect for Purity.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

January 11, 2015 - Epiphany 1B

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Today is a day about beginnings. Our reading from Genesis starts with “in the beginning;” and our reading from Mark comes from the start of that gospel. And, of course, we’re at the start of a new year. In The Four Quartets, TS Eliot famously says “in my beginning is my end.” If you attended the December class on the Gospel according to Mark, you’ll remember that we discussed the notion that this first chapter of Mark is an overture of sorts to the entire Gospel. This story of Jesus’ baptism serves to set us up for the theological and emotional trajectory for the rest of Mark.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

January 6, 2015 - Epiphany

May Almighty God, who led the Wise Men by the shining of a star to find the Christ, the Light from Light, lead us also, in our pilgrimage, to find the Lord. Amen.
            On Epiphany, we celebrate the manifestation of Jesus to the world, as the Holy Family was visited by visitors from the East. And in their encounter, there are several things for us to take note of and build upon in our own faith journeys. The first thing we see about the magi’s encounter with God is that it did not go according to the plan. It’s often the same for us too, isn’t it? These wise men were astrologers, journeying from a far away land because of a sign that they saw in the night sky. But notice that they don’t follow the star all the way to Bethlehem. No, instead they show up Herod’s palace in Jerusalem. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are about 6 miles apart, roughly the distance from here to the Rowan County portion of the Yadkin River. Not bad by car, but by camel that’s a least a an hour off. What we see in the magi is that they missed finding God on their first attempt. They thought they were following the signs, they thought they were on the right path,  they even had a divine sign in the star, and they still managed to miss Bethlehem by a decent margin.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

January 4, 2015 - Christmas 2B

Be with us, O God, for if you are with us, nothing else matters; and if you are not with us, nothing else matters. Amen.
            This text from Matthew is an extremely challenging one to preach on. Sometimes this event is referred to as “the slaughter of the innocents.” The word slaughter should never be used in a story about children, and that is what makes this so hard. When an elder dies, we mourn the loss and reflect on what happened in the past. But when a child dies, it is a loss of the future. My stomach is in knots even considering what would happened if we ever lost our dear Ellie. Exactly one month after Ellie was born, I sat on the couch at home, holding an innocent newborn in my arms, while the news on the television was that 20 children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I simply cannot imagine.