Special Bulletin Insert – July 1, 2018

General Convention: The Episcopal Church’s Family Reunion

Imagine Eucharist for 8,000 people. Imagine a marketplace of goods and ideas. Imagine quiet conversations among friends, old and new. Imagine one of the largest legislatures in the world. Imagine the utter silence of prayer before momentous decisions.

The every-third-year gathering of the Episcopal Church known as General Convention is all of these things. The 79th gathering begins in Austin, in the Diocese of Texas, on July 5 and continues until July 13. Bishops and deputies from the Episcopal Church will make broad decisions about policies and worship.

Those decisions take the form of resolutions agreed to by both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.

The House of Deputies ranges in size between 800 and 1,000 members. Its sessions are moderated by its elected president, a position held by the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings of the Diocese of Ohio. Each diocese is represented by up to eight elected deputies: four priests or deacons and four lay members.

Deputies cannot be instructed to vote one way or another. They agree to have an open heart so that they can prayerfully listen to others and be led by the Holy Spirit. And they cannot refuse to vote on an issue.

Most resolutions or other actions must pass by simple majorities in each house. Occasionally, the House of Deputies votes by orders, meaning that clergy and deputies vote separately and each order’s votes are counted as one vote with the majority of those two votes being recorded as the vote. If the deputation’s orders are evenly split, the vote counts as “no.”

The House of Bishops consists of diocesan, suffragan, assisting and retired bishops. It will be led by the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, who was elected at General Convention in 2015.

Resolutions come from the groups that carry out work authorized by the previous convention, and from bishops, dioceses, provinces (geographic collections of dioceses), and deputies. Before a resolution can come before either house, it must be considered by a committee, which hears public testimony and makes recommendations on whether that resolution will be presented.

Convention is more than legislation. All business stops each day so that everyone can join in the Holy Eucharist.

In the exhibit hall, organizations and interest groups present their wares, recruit members and do their best to influence legislation. Many church-related organizations hold meetings in conjunction with Convention, including the Episcopal Church Women, who hold their Triennial Meeting concurrently.

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Royal Families, Pentecost 8 (B) – July 15, 2018

Proper 10

Royal Families Episcopal Sermon


[RCL]: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29

Ever wondered, even for a moment, what it would be like to be royalty? Ever indulged in a daydream that you’re really the child of a king or a queen? Did you watch even a few minutes, maybe even just the sermon, of the recent royal wedding and wonder what it would be like to be part of the family?

In today’s first reading and gospel lesson, we get a glimpse into the lives of two royal families. Neither has a happy, fairy tale ending. Both may leave us wondering what it might really mean to be part of a royal family.

The first couple, in our first lesson, is King David and Michal, his wife, who was the daughter of King Saul. If we know the backstory of Michal and David, there’s a line in this lesson that really sticks out. It’s when Michal looks out the window and sees David dancing before the Lord. And then we hear, “and she despised him in her heart.” The line should break our hearts a little because this is not the happy story that their romantic beginnings portended.

Michal was the second daughter of King Saul. Saul had vowed that whoever killed Goliath would obtain his first daughter in marriage. You remember Goliath, the gigantic Philistine warrior David brings down with a slingshot and a stone? But when David kills Goliath, Saul is jealous of David and reneges on his vow and marries the older daughter to someone else.

Turns out that’s good news for Michal, because, the Bible says, “Michal loved David” (1 Samuel 18:20). Michal loved David. When her father Saul finds this out, he decides to use this to his advantage in his hostility toward David. He tells David he can have Michal as his wife – he can marry into the royal family – if David kills one hundred Philistines. [What the Bible actually says is that David is required to bring Saul the foreskins of one hundred Philistines (1 Samuel 18:25), but don’t imagine one hundred Philistines are going to let David get away with just that piece of them.] Saul is certain David will end up the victim of some really cranky Philistines, but David actually kills two hundred. He gets to marry Michal.

Michal loved David. Saul sends his soldiers to kill David, but Michal protects him. She lowers David out the window, then dresses up an idol like David, complete with his clothes and a goat-hair wig, puts it in bed, and pulls the covers over it. Saul’s soldiers burst into the room, pull back the covers, and—no David (1 Samuel 19:11-17).

With David on the run, Saul gives Michal in marriage to someone else. And in the meantime, David also takes a couple more wives.

Michal loved David. But we never hear that David loved Michal.

Eventually, David becomes king and demands Michal back. Maybe it was love after all. Maybe it was just getting back what belonged to him.

We aren’t told when exactly Michal stopped loving David. Maybe it was when they were separated, and she didn’t know what had happened to him. Maybe it was when he took her back from a man who begged him not to.  Maybe it was when she met the other wives he had married in the meantime. What we do know is that day, watching David dance for the Lord with joyful abandon, she sees David and she hates him.

After the dancing, David throws a dinner for all the people, and then, in the section after our reading ends, David goes back to his home. Michal meets him out front and tells him he’s made a fool of himself, dancing like that, so un-kinglike, and in front of the servants’ maids too. David says, basically, “Well, I was dancing for the Lord, the one who made me king instead of your father, and I’m going to do a lot more embarrassing and debasing things than this, but, sure, I’ll be a hit with the servants’ maids” (2 Samuel 6:21-22).

David was a great king, but a great husband? Michal might say not. No fairytale “happily ever after” here.

King Herod, in our gospel lesson, has other troubles in the marriage and family department. He has divorced his first wife and married Herodias, his brother-in-law’s wife. Since his brother-in-law was still alive at the time, this was against Jewish law, and John the Baptist calls him on it. Herod is supposed to be keeping Jewish law, not flouting it. But neither Herod nor Herodias like John the Baptist criticizing their marriage in public, so John the Baptist rots in jail.

That is until King Herod throws himself a birthday party and makes a promise that is supposed to make him seem like a big man, a stupendous, powerful man. He promises to give his stepdaughter whatever she asks because her dancing has pleased him so much. Herodias sees her chance, not to change her husband’s mind about John the Baptist, not to practice good conflict resolution skills and see if they can come to some compromise about John, but to get rid of this meddlesome prophet once and for all. And big macho man Herod doesn’t have the guts to say no, to go back on his word in front of his guests. Herodias tells her dancing daughter to ask for the most repulsive possible dish at a dinner party—John the Baptizer’s head on a platter. So, check out these royal family values: Herodias is willing to use her daughter to get the horrific thing she wants. Herod would rather be taken for a murderer than a fool. The daughter doesn’t seem to have the moral sense to recognize she’s being used to commit a horrific tragedy.

So much for fairytales. Our own families may not include utter hatred or gatherings that descend into murder, but we’ve all had our experiences of people who are supposed to be partners becoming enemies, of people using one another, people feeling discarded, or being manipulated. We know deep in our bones that this isn’t what families are for.

In today’s Epistle lesson, we hear God’s plan for an alternative family, a different kind of royal family in which we are adopted as God’s own children through Jesus Christ. Our inheritance as members of this family is redemption, forgiveness, knowledge of God’s will and God’s desire to gather all things on heaven and earth together in Christ. No divisiveness, no abuse or manipulation. No discarding of people or disregard of feelings. No using of others. Love that endures. Love that shows forth, not in empty promises or dangerous ones, but in praise. In baptism, we have been adopted into God’s family, the ultimate royal family. As members of God’s family, we are loved beyond all knowing and with a love that can reach out in love and service to others, even to the puzzling person we’re seated across from at the dinner table every night.

What happens next in Mark’s gospel, right after today’s lesson, right after Herod’s horrible feast, is that Jesus throws a dinner party. It’s the Feeding of the More than Five Thousand, and it’s completely different from Herod’s feast. There’s no guarded palace, just a beautiful open field where all are welcome. There’s no head table; everyone is a guest of honor. There’s no boasting, just thanksgiving. There’s no pompous vow-making and self-aggrandizement, just simple food, blessed, broken, and shared, and enough for all. No horrible silver platter of death, just twelve baskets full to the brimming with abundant life-giving bread and fish.

At which royal family table would you rather dine? Ours is prepared. The host, the ruler of heaven and earth, awaits with open arms.

The Rev. Amy Richter, Ph.D., is an Appointed Missionary for the Episcopal Church, with Episcopal Volunteers in Mission. She and Joseph Pagano,her husband, will teach at the College of Transfiguration in Grahamstown, South Africa and visit several Provinces in Africa to work with our partners in the Galatians 6:2 (“Bear one another’s burdens”) project on theological education. She and Joe have a new book coming out in 2019 from Cascade Publishers, a collection of reflections by theologians, writers, and musicians on their experiences of worship in the Episcopal Church.

Download the sermon for Pentecost 8 (B).

Bulletin Insert – August 5, 2018

The Feast of the Transfiguration

August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which commemorates Jesus’ unveiling as the Son of God, and his radical change of appearance while in the presence of Peter, James and John on a mountaintop.

The Gospel of Matthew records that Jesus “was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.” At this moment Moses and Elijah appeared, and they were talking with Jesus. Peter, misunderstanding the meaning of this manifestation, offered to make three “booths” (or “dwellings”) for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. A bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud stated, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The disciples fell on their faces in awe, but Jesus encouraged them to arise and “have no fear.” When the disciples looked up, they saw only Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8).

The Transfiguration is also mentioned in two other gospel accounts (Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 9:28- 36) and is referred to in the Second Letter of Peter, which records that “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” and “we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).

The Transfiguration is a pivotal moment because it revealed Christ’s glory prior to the crucifixion, and it anticipated his resurrection and ascension. It also prefigures the glorification of human nature in Christ. Some think that the setting on the mountain is significant because it becomes the point where human nature meets God, with Jesus acting as a point of connection between heaven and earth.

Celebration of the Transfiguration began in the eastern church in the late fourth century. The feast is celebrated on August 6, which is the date of the dedication of the first church built on Mount Tabor, which is traditionally considered to be the “high mountain” of the Transfiguration. There are scholars, however, who believe the Transfiguration occurred either on Mount Hermon, which borders Syria and Lebanon, or on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Collect for the Transfiguration

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, p. 243).

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Bulletin Insert – July 29, 2018

The Feast of William Wilberforce

On July 30, the Episcopal Church remembers William Wilberforce (1759 – 1833), along with Anthony Ashley Cooper (1801-1885), prophetic witnesses of the Gospel of Christ. Wilberforce was a British statesman and evangelical Anglican who used his position as a Member of Parliament from the Yorkshire area to advocate for the abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire.

Noted for personal charm and great eloquence as a public speaker, Wilberforce was elected to Parliament from his home town and district of Hull at the age of 21. After a conversion experience in 1784, he joined the evangelical wing of the Anglican church and became interested in social reform movements.

Lady Margaret Middleton, the wife of another Member of Parliament, approached Wilberforce as a likely person to work within the government for the abolition of the slave trade. The enormity of the task was daunting to Wilberforce, who wrote, “I feel the great importance of the subject and I think myself unequal to the task allotted to me.”

But Wilberforce accepted the mission. “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners,” he wrote in his journal in 1787. His health, however, had never been good, and illness prevented him from immediately taking on the challenge. It was May 1789 before he made his first speech in the House of Commons on the subject of the slave trade.

When Wilberforce formally proposed abolition of the trade in 1791, his fellow members voted against his motion by nearly two to one. Wilberforce continued to press the matter, making similar proposals some nine times by 1805. During that time, due to the efforts of many reformers, the British people learned about the horrific conditions endured by enslaved Africans, and public opinion gradually turned against the slave trade.

It took longer to convince Parliament, but the Abolition of the Slave Trade bill was eventually passed in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords by large majorities and took effect in March 1807. Although the successful bill was introduced by another Member of Parliament, Wilberforce received full credit — and a rare standing ovation from the House of Commons — for his untiring efforts. Unfortunately, the 1807 bill did not immediately stop the slave trade. Seafaring traders flouted the law, sometimes covering this illegal commerce by throwing their captives overboard to drown when ships of the British navy approached. Many people became convinced that only the abolition of slavery would stop the trade.

Wilberforce at first resisted calls for outright abolition, writing in 1807, “It would be wrong to emancipate [the slaves]. To grant freedom to them immediately would be to insure not only their masters’ ruin, but their own. They must [first] be trained and educated for freedom.” But he eventually came to support full emancipation and worked to bring public opinion and political will together to that end. He continued to serve in Parliament, supporting a variety of causes, including overseas Christian mission, increased education, and greater freedom for Roman Catholics. He retired in 1825 due to ill health but continued to campaign for an end to slavery.

Wilberforce saw his efforts rewarded when Parliament passed a law in July 1833 outlawing slavery throughout the British Empire. He died three days later at age 73. In honor of his service to the nation, he was buried in the north transept of Westminster Abbey.

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Bulletin Insert – July 8, 2018

The Feast of Nathan Söderblom

Swedish bishop Nathan Söderblom was the first member of the clergy to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Born Lars Olof Jonathan Söderblom, on January 15, he graduated from Uppsala University in 1883 and was ordained a priest in the Church of Sweden (Lutheran) in 1893. He earned his doctorate in theology at the Sorbonne and taught theology at the University of Uppsala until his appointment as Archbishop of Uppsala in 1914.

During the First World War, Archbishop Söderblom called on Christian leaders to work for peace and justice. He believed that all Christian church communities were called to fight unhealthy nationalism, racism, militarism and the oppression of minorities. At the same time, he proposed that Jesus’ message of love disseminated from pulpits, in newspapers, and in schools to create a powerful body of Christian opinion across national borders in favor of peace.

He famously wrote in his work, The Content of Christian Faith:

“For me everything is absorbed by the one big question – the question of reconciliation and healing [restoration.] Do we see God’s way in the terrible chaos of this world; the way which for the human reason is a source of offense, but remains the only possible way? This way does not avoid the tragedy of human life but goes through the very middle of it.”

Archbishop Söderblom took great interest in the early liturgical renewal movement among Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans. He saw a profound connection between liturgical worship, personal prayer, and social justice. In 1925 he invited Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran, and Orthodox leaders to Stockholm and together they formed the Universal Christian Council on Life and Work. His ecumenical work led eventually to the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948.

Söderblom’s advocacy for Church unity as a means toward to accomplishing world peace earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930. After his death in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1931 his body was interred in Uppsala Cathedral. He is commemorated in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on July 12.

Collect for the Feast of Nathan Söderblom

Almighty God, we bless your Name for the life and work of Nathan Söderblom, Archbishop of Uppsala, who helped to inspire the modern liturgical revival and worked tirelessly for cooperation among Christians. Inspire us by his example, that we may ever strive for the renewal of your Church in life and worship, for the glory of your Name; who with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Bible Study, Pentecost 7 (B) – July 8, 2018

Proper 9

[RCL]: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13 

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

The breadth of David’s story throughout scripture is here condensed and blessed in the tenth verse of 2 Samuel 5: “And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.” This emphatic illumination of God’s presence repeats a refrain that has been persistent throughout David’s rise to power: God is with him (1 Samuel 16:18, 17:37, 18:14), and it is here that this rather climactic anointing of David as king of a united Israel lays bare a master class in fidelity.

Amidst considerable political tumult, the tribes of Israel express fidelity to David as their true leader. It is not merely the tribe of Judah (by which David has already been anointed in 2:1-4) that exhibits this faithfulness, but rather “all the tribes of Israel” who come to profess their trust in David’s kinship, leadership, and divine blessing. David then solidifies his own fidelity to Israel in his making of a covenant, and the culmination of this mutual profession in David’s anointing gathers up the divinely wrought movements of prophecy in a revelation of the Lord’s own steadfastness.

Astute preachers would do well to note the lectionary’s neglect of verses 6-8. These detail some of the more violent dimensions of David’s conquering of Jerusalem. While their descriptions certainly challenge our preferred embrace of David as hero, they nevertheless do not diminish this passage’s overwhelming insistence upon the perfection of God’s abidance.

  • Where and when has the faithfulness of God’s presence seemed most abundant? When has your sense of God’s faithfulness perhaps been challenged?

Psalm 48

At times, psalms seem to pray within us, lending words to unutterable intimacy between the soul and God. At others, the psalms turn outward, calling out to the world to behold the works and wonder of the Almighty. Psalm 48 is a psalm so outwardly oriented – a passionate, exultant hymn of praise for the One who has preserved his own people and holy city. God has triumphed over all adversity in fidelity and strength, and thus the psalmist and all who hear are called to rejoicing. An eternal dimension emerges in the final connection of the Lord’s glory in the establishment of his city for the ages to come: “This God is our God for ever and ever; he shall be our guide for evermore.” Just as David’s anointing in our first reading heralded a new and blessed event in the story of Israel, the psalmist’s praise calls the heart into spirited recognition of the endurance, perfection, and sanctity of the Lord’s own work.

  • What might this psalm have to say to us in the Church today? Does the imagery of a triumphant God in Jerusalem resonate with how we know, pray to, and worship God in our own context? 

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Paul addresses the Corinthians in an excerpt that follows his “fool’s speech,” a passage where he has taken upon the persona of a “fool” to challenge those among them who have made false and self-aggrandizing claims to authority. Much of the speech is ripe with irony, and Paul criticizes those who have held up personal triumphs and private revelations as evidence for their own divinely-sanctioned supremacy. He here continues to counter these false claims with a reorientation toward Christ. Even were his own experiences so powerful as to justify boasting, the boast could not be of his own might or holiness, but rather only in the Lord whose power is made “perfect in weakness.” The Greek word for perfected in this passage is teleitai, and it suggests not so much an immediate bestowal of a perfected state as it intimates a ripening to fullest maturity. Weakness invites us into recognition of and surrender to our dependence upon God. In what the world perceives as weakness, our spirits deepen to be filled by the true power found only in the revelation of Jesus.

  • How does false authority differ from the authority of Jesus Christ? What might the authority of Christ inspire from us in terms of our own behavior, prayer, and treatment of others?

Mark 6:1-13

This passage from the Gospel of St. Mark offers revelatory insight into a life of discipleship. As Jesus and his disciples continue their ministry in Jesus’ own hometown of Nazareth, they are met with the breadth of human response to that which is unexpected: astonishment, incredulity, and even antagonism. One might expect a homecoming to be joyful and rich in blessing, but how often have we returned home, changed after a time away, to find ourselves somewhat distant from those who knew us best? Even for Jesus, a life in God’s service (into which he is knit intimately as the second Person of the Trinity) is rife with complexity. Notably, Mark stands alone among the gospels in mentioning that despite rejection, Jesus “laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” His work continues even amidst unbelief, and the following description of the commissioning of the disciples is thus imbued with particular power. Though the world may refuse them honor, hospitality, or even dignity, they are to go forth, to travel light in companionship with one another, to seek sustenance among this fledgling community of believers, and to persist in the holy work of their beloved Lord.

There is a delicate irony in Jesus’ instruction to the disciples to “shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against” those who do not receive them. Rabbinic literature features the image of shaking the dust from one’s feet as a ritual act of the faithful Jew upon return to Israel after a journey through unclean lands. Jesus has just been rejected in Nazareth. What might this statement mean regarding his own community? Ultimately it is revealed to be true that hardship, uncertainty, and rejection are just as much a part of discipleship as joy, fruitfulness, and peace. In fair weather and foul, the work of the Word continues to heal and to redeem.

  • How do we change how we live out our faith based on the circumstances that surround us? Do we remain authentic to who God has called us to be?
  • Where do we find hope amidst the hardships of discipleship?

Brit Bjurstrom Frazier is a senior at Virginia Theological Seminary from the Diocese of Los Angeles.

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Hometown, Pentecost 7 (B) – July 8, 2018

Proper 9

Pentecost 7 Episcopal Sermon


[RCL]: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

Several years ago, a diocese was celebrating its one-hundredth anniversary. At the time, the diocese had produced a beautiful coffee table book that contained short histories of each of their parishes, along with a generous helping of pictures. At the diocesan convention that year, the book was being sold everywhere and anywhere, between legislative sessions, in the exhibition hall, you name it. There had even been a table set up in the narthex of the church where the convention Eucharist was being held. The book was being sold to folks as they walked in.

When the diocese’s retired bishop took to the pulpit for the sermon, he began with saying, “I’m sorry if you heard the commotion a few moments ago, there was a homeless, long-haired man that got into the church. He was shouting something about his father’s house and he turned over the tables where we are selling our book. Don’t worry, we got rid of him.”

Don’t worry, we got rid of him. Of course, he was kidding, there was no commotion, no long-haired, homeless man. But the bishop also wasn’t really kidding. He was leveling a clear criticism using the story of the clearing of the Temple to critique the diocese’s overzealousness in selling the book. The bishop was afraid that the zeal for the book was getting more energy than the mission of the church.

Don’t worry, we got rid of him.

Where is Jesus to be found? Where do we encounter the Holy? Is it at church? Is it only at church?

Can Jesus be found at church, or do we get rid of him?

Let’s dive into the gospel story to see if there are any hints as to where Jesus can most reliably be found.

The story opens in his hometown, and his disciples follow him. It’s an interesting detail. Jesus is from Nazareth and his disciples are from Galilee. They have walked with him back home. It is an interesting and significant detail; Jesus is returning home, but he’s different in several ways now, not the least of which is that he has followers.

The ones in the synagogue who hear Jesus preaching are astounded. They are into it. They are in awe.

Then the analysis comes on: “Don’t we know this guy; didn’t he install your cabinets?” “That’s right! I know his brothers and sisters, I just saw them at the falafel stand on Wednesday.” Something like that.

After all this wondering and recognition, the next sentence the gospel uses is: “And they took offense at him.” Why do you suppose that was? They were astounded, but when they saw that he was “one of them,” all of a sudden, he is offensive. Jesus then demonstrates a masterful use of the double negative, “Prophets are not without dishonor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And the narrator tells us that Jesus couldn’t do any deeds of power except a few healings. Indeed, Jesus is amazed at their unbelief and it seems that there is some connection between trusting Jesus and Jesus being able to work. This matter of Jesus not being able to work is not the same as praying harder, by the way, but there is a connection between Jesus working and the offense the people feel at his presence and teaching.

Jesus and his followers then leave Nazareth. They leave Jesus’ hometown and enter the villages that presumably surrounded the big city. And then something interesting happens. You would think that given the cold reception Jesus received in his hometown that Jesus would then give them the old razzle-dazzle, he would heal and work miracles. Instead, Jesus heals and then pairs off his followers and sends them out with special instructions. They are to travel light. They do, they preach repentance, they heal, and they call out evil when encountered.

Jesus doesn’t give them the razzle-dazzle, he doesn’t do a deed of power to embarrass the old home locals; he instead authorizes others to go out in his name to heal, testify to God’s love, to call out evil. This is very instructive about how our God operates generally. Never a braggadocious moment, never a moment of old-fashioned power like lightning from above—instead, it’s a new-fashioned power that points away from itself and pours into others.

This is how God operates, and it is something for us to remember as we move through this season after Pentecost: the Holy Spirit is God’s sharing of God’s-self with us: God’s empowering of us for the work of establishing God’s Kingdom, God’s way of living, right here in our own communities.

Besides all this, we see something in the story that is as troubling as it is interesting. Jesus is unrecognized in his hometown. He is recognized of course, but he is not accepted as one who is deeply connected with God. Indeed, once they do begin to recognize him, they are offended by him. And it’s in this offense and un-trust, this unbelief, that Jesus cannot work as powerfully as he would have normally.

This should concern all of us who claim to know who and what Jesus is. The church is the hometown of Jesus, as it were. Are we offended by him? Do we allow Jesus to be Jesus or have we domesticated him into a mere kindly carpenter? The church has, at times, carefully kept Jesus in a safe and contained box, but Jesus keeps leaving the familiar, keeps empowering others, and most importantly keeps showing up in strange places that are not his hometown.

That’s where we will most reliably find Jesus, outside of the hometown. Of course, we meet in this space each week. We come for solace and strength. We certainly believe that Jesus is present with us, especially in the Holy Eucharist; but Jesus is also found outside, in the villages, in the world. Don’t you know that we disciples are always playing catch-up to the Risen Lord? Ever since that day when the women found an empty tomb, ever since then, we have been going to where Jesus has gone ahead of us, into Galilee, into the villages, into our neighborhoods. And once we go there, seeking him in the face our neighbors, he will be revealed, and we just might be empowered to do his work: healing wounds, preaching God’s love, and calling out evil.

Let us go from here, into the villages following Jesus where he has already gone—and not simply following him, but being empowered by him to do his work of love and healing which the world so desperately needs.

Amen.

Joshua Bowron is the rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte NC where he lives with his wife Brittany who is a Jedi-level catechist in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atria. 1,2,3,4: They have 1 dog, 2 cats, three children, and 4 chickens.

Download the sermon for Pentecost 7 (B).

A Beloved Child of God, Pentecost 6 (B) – July 1, 2018

Proper 8


[RCL]: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

Jesus sees beyond the outward appearance to the heart, revealing, as he does so, the very heart of God. A crowd presses in on Jesus, clamoring to see the miracle worker some were claiming to be the Messiah. As he makes his way to Jairus’ home, he is interrupted by an encounter with a woman who would have seemed destined to die unknown, unremembered, unremarked. But this woman showed her great faith in trusting that all she needed to do was reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Nothing more was required, but nothing less would do.

Clearly, she had heard of Jesus’ reputation as a healer. As we learn from Mark’s Gospel, for twelve years, “She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.”

A faithful Jewish response would have been to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem, seeking healing by offering sacrifices. But just as with the lepers Jesus made whole, this woman would have been declared unclean. Because of her hemorrhaging, she was no longer fit to be in the Temple—not even in the Court of the Women.

Knowing the state of medicine in the first century, we know she would have eaten every conceivable combination of herbs, applying endless creams and ointments, doing anything someone asked and paying everything she had. A woman of some means now reduced to poverty. But there would have been the other, harsher, side of her malady. Jesus often contends against the perception in the culture of his day that if someone was suffering, this was God’s punishment for sin. The ongoing hemorrhage would have left her increasingly cut off from community.

We know this because we still have diseases that come with a stigma. Fighting cancer is seen as heroic, but less so mental illness, chronic pain, or addiction. As soon as anyone found out that she had been bleeding for five years, seven years, ten years—whatever it was by that point—judgment would follow. The sickness came to define her for everyone who knew how she suffered—that is, everyone except for Jesus. Beyond this, we also know that her standing in society would have been in relation to a man. Just as Jairus goes to Jesus on behalf of his daughter, the way of that part of the world in the first century would require the woman to be in the company of a brother, uncle, or son. Instead, she is presented as without family.

Through her faith that she just needed to touch the hem of his garment, we see how much she invested in this one last hope of healing. Some people spoke of Jesus’ teaching with great authority. Others speculated he was Elijah or one of the other prophets returned. Many hoped Jesus would overthrow the Romans so that Jews could once more rule Israel on their own. But for the real sufferers, cut off from others because of disease, there would have been only one tidbit about Jesus that mattered. His reputation was clear. Wherever Jesus went, he cast demons out of the possessed. Jesus touched people who were blind, deaf, and lame, making them see, hear, and walk.

The most difficult part of her disease was that her bleeding did not just make her ritually unclean, and so unable to worship in the Temple; the religious law of her time mandated that anyone she touched would also become unclean. To have Jesus touch her might bring her healing, but it would have made him ritually unclean as well. She would have to push against a lot of pressure from her society just to reach Jesus.

He would have been difficult to find in those days anyway, as he was always crossing back and forth around the Sea of Galilee and then traveling down to Jerusalem for the festivals. Then she found him that day on the seashore. She gathered with a large crowd of others, all bent on hearing Jesus, many wanting healing as well. An important religious leader named Jairus came to implore Jesus to heal his daughter.

As Jesus started toward Jairus’ house, the woman knelt down, reaching out for the barest edge of his robe and grabbing hold as if touching the very throne of God, as life and healing from the one God flowed through it. And her plan worked. The bleeding stopped. Her body was finally healed after twelve years of suffering.

Then everything the woman planned went wrong. Jesus stopped. He stopped everyone. The whole crowd. Jesus cried out wanting to know who touched him. His disciples couldn’t believe the question; with such a great crowd rushing around, a lot of people had been bumping into Jesus. Jesus kept looking because he too felt the miracle.

There is so much power in this moment as the woman everyone came to ignore became the center of attention. Mark’s Gospel tells us in fear and trembling she fell down before Jesus. How could she not be terrified? In so many ways, everyone told her she was unworthy, cursed by God. And now this—once more, she would be humiliated. She throws herself at Jesus’ feet and recounts her whole story. Twelve years of suffering. Trembling, she tells Jesus the whole truth down to the hem of his garment.

After so many people had cast her down, Jesus lifts her up, looks into her eyes and says the words which make her healing complete. With the eyes of love on her, he said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

“Daughter.” Not an outcast. Not a woman alone in a society that treated you in connection to the men in your life. She was a beloved child of God. In Jesus naming as daughter the woman afflicted with suffering for twelve years, we see the very heart of God. Others may have judged her harshly, but God never forgot her, always loved her, and wanted to welcome her home.

“Your faith has made you well.” Jesus knew what great faith she had come to have that even the very hem of his robe could heal. His disciples were often clueless. The crowds were fickle. But this woman’s faith knew no bounds.

“Go in peace,” he said. Shalom means so much more than a lack of war. This peace is health, well-being, and wholeness. Her body healed, but Jesus was so much more interested in healing her mind and soul—he was interested in complete healing and setting her free from the prison of suffering.

Sickness had defined her. Then Jesus set her free to be a daughter of God. She didn’t continue to follow Jesus that day, at least not physically. She could cut away from the crowd, confident that Jairus’ daughter would be healed, as she began the journey to Jerusalem. Her duty would be to offer sacrifices for thanksgiving for healing. Beyond this would be the simple fact that she would be allowed once more into God’s Temple. Jesus does this so often with his healing. He doesn’t just cure disease but restores people to their community. She wanted, needed, the bleeding to stop, but what she needed more—and Jesus knew it—was to be accepted once again. To have God look into her eyes and call her “daughter.”

So often, people, beloved children of God, are judged by society and found wanting. They are named in various ways as outcasts and treated as less than human. And until all of God’s children, the whole human family, are welcome at the table, we will be falling short of the kingdom of God. For those of us with a seat at the table, we can pray for the grace to see the world as God sees it and the courage to act.

But if you are one whom others have seen as unworthy and judged as lacking, know that God loves you as you are and wants better for you as well. You don’t have to even touch the hem of his garment. You only have to reach out your heart in prayer and offer God your pain and suffering. God wants to take that hurt and give you shalom—the health, healing, and wholeness—he gave to a woman not named in scripture, but whose faith is unforgettable.

This is something we can all experience every time we gather for the Eucharist. In this Great Thanksgiving, Jesus is the host. At this table, all of us are known and loved. In the meal of bread and wine, we are fed. And in this meal, we find ourselves beloved children of God. Then we are empowered to share that same love with others.

Amen.

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue is Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Georgia. He is also a member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and serves on the Advisory Group on Church Planting. Frank blogs on church development topics at http://loosecanon.georgiaepiscopal.org.

Download the sermon for Pentecost 6 (B).

Bulletin Insert – July 1, 2018

Independence Day

On July 4th, The Episcopal Church joins the United States in celebrating Independence Day, marking the day the country declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1776.

Collect for Independence Day

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, p. 242

Collect 17: For the Nation

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Book of Common Prayer, p. 258

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Bulletin Insert – June 24, 2018

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

This year, the church celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on June 25. John was Jesus’ cousin and a prophet with a large following when Jesus began his ministry. Although many of John’s followers believed him to be the Messiah, John recognized Jesus as the true Messiah, called for the world to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Mark 1:3), and baptized Jesus.

The Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is one of the oldest Christian festivals, dating back to 506, and was first included in the Book of Common Prayer in 1549. It was decided to observe this feast six months before Christmas because Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy with John at the time of Jesus’ conception. This date in June also coincides with the summer solstice, a pre-Christian festival, which is now dedicated to the Nativity of St. John the Baptist in much of Europe and the Mediterranean and widely celebrated.

The Gospel of Luke describes John’s miraculous birth to an elderly, childless couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who was a cousin of the Virgin Mary. When the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that Elizabeth would bear a son who would be named John, Zechariah did not believe it was possible, so he was made mute. Zechariah’s speech was restored to him on the eighth day after John’s birth, when the baby was circumcised and named. With his newly regained voice, Zechariah then proclaimed the canticle known as the Benedictus Dominus Deus:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace’ (Luke 1:67-79).

Collect for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, p. 241).

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