Friday, August 31, 2007
Sermon for September 2nd, 2007
Sermon for September 2, 2007
St. James’, Goshen IN
One time on a Sabbath, Jesus went to the home of a Pharisee, a ruler in the religious community -- a Senior warden. Jesus watched what the other guests at the party were doing; he observed that some people wanted to be seated at the head table with the host. We have all been to parties like that; the big wedding reception is the best example. Big splashy party, assigned seating - or open seating. As a priest, I have gone to more than my share of wedding receptions, and have done lots of people watching. It is fun for me to see people react to being assigned to table 49 when they thought they should be at least at table 3. I’ve watched people pickup their place cards and move them to a “better” table; “Oh there must be some mistake.” Sometimes as the priest at the wedding I am seated near or even at the head table. My solution for the past many years with 25 or 30 wedding per year is to just skip rehearsal dinners and wedding receptions. But observing the arrogance and pridefulness of people wanting to show off their greater standing is pretty funny.
The first lesson from Ecclesiastics starts with the line: Arrogance is hateful to the Lord and to man, and injustice is outrageous to both. Compared to God of what do we have to be arrogant? We are made from the dust; we return to the dust. We live for a short time and have almost no power compared to God. The prophet Micah 6:8 may have said this even better than Ecclesiastics: Do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with your God.
We are not called to be prideful or arrogant. We are called to love each other, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Earlier this summer we read about Abraham and Sarah wanting to fulfill the promise from God that their descendents would out number the stars of heaven and the grains of sand in the sea. They were in the wilderness tending their flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, when three strangers came. The three strangers were entertained with food and drink, and the strangers were messengers, angels, from God bringing news that Sarah would have a son the next spring. We show hospitality to strangers by visiting the sick, the poor, the imprisoned. Some are imprisoned in jails, but more are imprisoned by addictions, mental illness and bodily infirmities.
Love each other. Let brotherly love continue. Love your neighbor as yourself. Let God be the judge of lives; we ask in the Lord’s prayer to forgive us as we forgive others. I want to be forgiven; therefore I forgive. I have been forgiven; therefore I forgive. I do not judge, God is the judge.
Our Jewish and Christian ethic is fairly simple:
“Arrogance is hateful before the Lord and men; injustice is outrageous to both.”
“Do Justice with Mercy and walk humbly with our God.”
“Let brotherly love continue…show hospitality to strangers”
“ Forgive us as we forgive others.”
Thanks be to God.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Sermon For August 26th, 2007
Sermon for August 26, 2007
St. James, Goshen IN
The operative phrase here is “strive to enter through the narrow gate”. In Jerusalem there was a narrow gate, just large enough for a single person to walk through. Not large enough for a camel, or horse or even a man in armor carrying a sword and shield. A few years ago we were in Portugal and entered into a mountain walled village; the road to the top of the mountain on the border of Portugal and Spain wound around with sharp switch back. And when we got to the walls of the village we had to go through a passage way with three 90 degree turns, each of which required pulling in the outside rear view mirrors, going forward, turning and backing up and then turning forward again. A very slow process. Some wise person had printed on the walls Strive to enter by the narrow door; many will seek to enter and will not be able. I wanted to laugh, but was afraid that I might be stuck in the gate forever.
Striving to enter through the narrow gate is very difficult. Keeping all of the laws all of the time, never sinning, is impossible. The sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Able fought with each other, and Cain killed Able. Cain was marked forever with the death blood of his brother Able. Humanity descends from Cain. We get angry and kill each other. We wage wars or the wars are waged on our behalf, we go on crusades, jihads. We have the blood of Able marked on us. We made a covenant with death and destruction. We can not enter through the narrow gate no matter how much we strive.
But because we have the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s only son, through the shedding of the blood on the cross the mark of Able’s blood on Cain has been taken from us. We are no long bound by the covenant of death and destruction. We, all humanity, are welcomed from the East and the west, from the north and the south to the table set before us in the Kingdom of Heaven. We are the lost, least and last that have become the first into the kingdom of heaven. Not by our striving to enter through the narrow gate, but by the graciousness of God who has given us the gift of salvation, not by our striving, but as a gift given out of love toward us.
Thanks be to God.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
St. James Weekly
Saint James’ Weekly
August 19, 2007
Saint James’ Choir: We now have 4 people who have said, "yes" to Choir (including myself). We still need a few more – please consider this important ministry. ###
Howard and Sarah Taft are back from Indianapolis. We’re so glad to have you home. ###
Sarah Taft reports that her sister, Marge Kehr, recently went to the ER (in Phoenix), and will be admitted to 24-hour care for about two weeks before returning to her home. ###
Congratulations to Jody Snobarger and Phil on their approaching marriage in April 2008! ###
Jimmy’s Place: Adults and Teens. Please try to attend the gathering tonight from 5:30 – 6:30 P.M. The Board of Advisors, the Jimmy’s Place Band, and I covet your presence. It is also Annie Swartley’s last night as lead female singer before heading to Indiana University – Bloomington. We would love to see you. ###
Director of Parish Services
Sermon for August 19, 2007
Sermon for August 19, 2007
St. James’, Goshen IN
I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!
Do you think I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.
Wow, what has happened here? Were is the Christmas acclamation Peace on earth good will towards men.
If you just take the first few lines about fire and baptism you could say this is about the power of the Holy Spirit expressed as fire. As in the Pentecostal fire that danced above the Apostles, and is seen today as the funny pointed hats bishops wear. And the Baptism of all Christians. That would be a nice sermon all optimistic and evangelical.
But totally missing the point. “Do you think I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you division.”
Religious fervor is divisive. The problems in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sunni verses Shiite; car bombing killing hundreds. The problems in the Holy Land, Jews verses Palestinians; disputed land grabs, rocket launching, and economic blockades. The Roman Catholic / Protestant problems in Ireland seem to be quieted down for the moment. The Pope claiming that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church and only true religion. The problems we face in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion: three against two and two against three, father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother.
We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings to us, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith who for the joy that is set before him endured the cross. Each of the religious divisions set before us today are caused by people declaring that they alone know the will of God, and that they alone know the totality of God. Not only a I’m right and your wrong, but because I’m right and your wrong, I must destroy all that is wrong.
Jeremiah saw this with false prophets teaching dreams and deceits. “Am I a God at hand, says the Lord , and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I can not see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth? No one can fully describe God, God is infinite, humans are finite. We can only see a small fraction of the fullness of God. Imagine looking at a very large chandler hanging from the high beams of the church, you can see only a part from your angle, but I see a very different part from another angle. Each of us seeing from a different angle see a different part of the chandler. We see God differently at different times of our lives, but God is always bigger than we can comprehend. Theologians have tried to describe God writing long complicated tomes, but the Biblical answer to the question is easy. Moses talked with God at the Burning Bush and asked who is God. God’s answer was simple: I am. God Is. Any more would be human speculation and attempts to limit God. God Is. More is divisive, false and arrogant.
In our home has a tile of Bethlehem limestone; the tile has flecks of red in the stone. Geologist claim that the red fleck are traces of the red algae that makes the Red Sea turn red. Jesus was born in a limestone cave in Bethlehem surrounded by bits of the Red Sea algae. Our limestone tile has inscribed on it,
God is, bidden or not bidden, present with the Moslems: Shiites, or Sunnis: Christians: Catholic, Orthodox or Protestants; Jews: orthodox, conservative and reformed; Anglicans: northern hemisphere liberals, and southern hemisphere conservative. There is only one God.
Thanks be to God.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Sermon for August 12, 2007
Sermon of August 12, 2007
St. James’, Goshen
Pentecost 11, proper 14
In the first lesson we heard one more time the promise God made to Abraham that his descendents would out number the stars of the sky, or the sand of the sea. This recurring promise continues even though Abraham and his wife Sarah do not have children. They lived in Ur near the mouth of the Euphrates river, and were told to go the a promised land. They travel all the way along up the river almost to what is now Turkey, they crossed over the mountains and travel down the coast of the Mediterranean Sea into Egypt. They came out of Egypt into the great desert, before entering the promised land, always hoping that the long promised child would be born. “Fear not Abram, I am your shield, and your reward will be great. Your heirs will out number the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea.” Sarah knew the promise made to Abraham and in their old age three strangers were given hospitality in the desert, and when the strangers told her that she would conceive and have a son by next spring, she laughed.
In the second lesson we hear the definition of faith: Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive.
By faith he sojourned to the land of promise.
By faith he lived in tents with his son Isaac, and grandson Jacob heirs with him of the same promised land.
But listen to the story of faith. Abraham and Sara whined and complained to God; God you promised us heirs to out number the stars and the sand of the sea, but we still have no children. Oh they went out toward the promised land with a hope, but whined and complained when the hoped for child and promised land was not easily attained. The promise was given by God and fulfilled by God when it was no longer humanly possible. Abraham and Sarah had tried and tried to have a child, but nothing happened. They had wandered north and west, south and east, but had not come to the promised land. They had worked and even grown wealthy with flock s sheep and goats, with herds of cattle, servants -slaves. But there was no child to be heir to their great wealth. And they whined and complained to God saying you promised.
The faith which is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen is not the Faith of Abraham and Sara. It is the faithfulness of God. God promised them a land and descendents, and God delivered when it was no longer humanly possible.
We live by faith not works. We live by God’s faith; his faithfulness. We do not live into the salvation offered by God’s promise by our works, our treasures, but by God’s gift and faithfulness to deliver when it is no longer humanly possible.
Thanks be to God.
Saturday, August 4, 2007
Saint James Choir
Saint James’ Choir
Sermon for August 5th, 2007
St. James’, Goshen IN
Well the sorting of my father’s photos has led to the sorting of my photos: 450 slides of a 1958 trip to Europe - nice shot of a large gothic church, maybe Germany or Austria. Or another few hundred of unidentified herb gardens. Now the family photos are kind of fun, but would be more useful if we could identify some of the great aunts, uncles and distant cousins.
The first lesson says that all of our doings, strivings, collections, worries, all our stuff is just vanity. Do you really enjoy stumbling over the boxes of photos that you don’t look at and can not identify? Are mementoes of a 1958 trip to Europe really useful? How about 50 years of canceled check? Or in my case a 40 year collection of sermons - yuck.
Jesus was ask to help two brothers divide the family estate. Jesus said, Take heed; beware of all covetousness: a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. There was a rich person who had filled all of his bank accounts, IRAs and houses with all of his possessions. What shall I do; build an even bigger barn to hold all the stuff of life. And God said, You fool: this night I will require your soul, and the things that you have, whose will they be? He who lays of treasure for himself but is not rich in heaven.
And Paul reminds us to love one another, and forgive one another as God Loves and forgives us.
What is Loving and Forgiving about all the stuff we have accumulated? Storing it in boxes, filing cabinets, trunks unseen, unidentified, gathering dust and mildew is not loving or forgiving.
Sharing with family and friends, if they want it, is loving and forgiving.
Using your wealth to assist others: family, friends and neighbors, is loving and forgiving. Providing in your estate to assist others is loving and forgiving.
We have been given the great gift from God of Love, Forgiveness and Salvation. This is a gift; we do not earn, deserve or have any right to those, but they are given by God.
What do we do in return? Take our ease, eat, drink and be merry? No, we Love and Forgive others as God has loved and forgiven us.
Thanks be to God.
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