July 22, 2018: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

By Mr. Ed Schneider on the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost:

Readings (Track 2)   Listen Here

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us always. Amen.

There are many spiritual disciplines. These disciplines include prayer, self-denial, simplicity, hospitality, work, study, fasting, worship, and giving. This isn’t a complete list, but it gives you an idea of how spiritual disciplines are intended to touch on every area of our lives. Spiritual disciplines are intended to help us move beyond ourselves and to learn to be open to experiencing God in new, diverse ways. Spiritual disciplines are so critical to our spiritual health and to the health of every Christian community that you’ll find some explicitly mentioned in Scripture. And you’ll find some at the core of all Christian monastic rules. Today’s Gospel is about one spiritual discipline that’s routinely ignored today. It’s the discipline of taking a deep, physical, mental, and spiritual rest. It’s the discipline of Sabbath rest.

The reading begins with the disciples returning to Jesus after He sent them in pairs on a mission to proclaim the Gospel, to cast out unclean spirits and to anoint the sick with oil and cure them. You can imagine that when they returned, they were excited. But you can also imagine they were tired from their work. Jesus saw that, and He tried to get them away from the crowd so that they could rest. However, the crowds followed them wherever they went, they couldn’t get away. The lectionary today skips over a large section of the text, and the missing bit is the story of how the crowds followed Him to a lonely place where there was no food. Jesus then fed five thousand people. That had to be exhausting. After Jesus fed the crowd, He again tried to get the disciples away somewhere quiet to rest. But again, the crowds followed. People wouldn’t let Jesus and His disciples stop. The crowds kept following Jesus to heal their sick, and Jesus, having compassion for them, continued to work.

Yet rest is what they needed. We all know what happens when we work long hours with no rest. We get tired. We can’t concentrate. We have accidents, we get irritable, we burn out, and our health suffers. We have to take care of our health. We all know that maxim, that we can’t care for others unless we first care for ourselves.

But there are so many demands on us. There are too many things to do and never enough time to do any of them. When can we take time to stop? We know we can’t always be Martha scurrying around doing our chores. We also know we have to be like Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet, and the Gospel lesson today plainly tells us that people will continually make demands on us and keep us from resting if we allow that.

This is why Sabbath rest is a discipline, a discipline. It requires us to make a commitment to rest and then follow through on our promise. It’s such an important discipline that is in Torah. God told Moses on Mount Sinai, remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You shall not do any work. For in six days the Lord made Heaven and Earth, the sea and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day. Now, it’s easy to take this commandment and get all balled up in legalisms. Some have, and Jesus tells us in the Gospels that those people were missing the point. They were missing the point of what Sabbath rest is really about.

So then what is Sabbath rest? It’s about taking an extended time to be still. To be present. To be quiet. To allow not only your body to rest, but to allow your mind to rest as well. What does resting the mind looks like? What does that mean? It means letting go of and avoiding the distractions that filled our minds with verbal and emotional clutter. I don’t know about you, but I find it tiring to read newspapers, and the news online, to watch movies, and to scroll through social media. I appear to be sitting, resting, but my mind is working, processing and absorbing what I read and what I see. And I also get so emotionally stressed and wrung out from the very many dramas and horror stories, real and fictional, in the news, in movies, and in social media posts. When I need mental rest, I have to get away from it all. I had to turn the TV off or go away where there is no TV, where there are no newspapers, where there are no cell phones. The best vacations I’ve had are where I’ve had no access to any of that, because my mind then isn’t filled with that chatter.

Okay, we know the physical and mental benefits of Sabbath rest, and we have an idea what it’s supposed to look like. So why is Sabbath rest a spiritual discipline and not just a physical or mental one? Because it’s only when we’re rested, only when we’re still, only when we’re quiet, that we can be open to hearing God’s voice. How can hear God speaking to us when our bodies are tired? How can we be open to hearing God speaking to us when our minds are cluttered with the headline news and social media dramas du jour?

1 Kings 19 tells a story of Elijah fleeing to Horeb to escape King Ahab, “God said to Elijah, go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by. Now, there was a great wind so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” It was only in silence that Elijah heard God’s voice.

God’s voice is not in the earthquake of illness from exhaustion. God’s voice is not in the wind of our ephemeral fears and anxieties. God’s voice is not in the fire of our dramas. God’s voice can only be heard in the silence of our souls. As Psalm 131 says, “Oh, Lord, I am not proud. I have no haughty looks. I do not occupy myself with great matters or with things that are too hard for me. But I still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast, my soul is quieted within me. Oh, Israel, wait upon the Lord, from this time forth forevermore.”

Resting the body and mind, stilling the soul, being quiet, being present: these are the elements of true Sabbath rest. And these elements are the conditions needed to enter into the deepest type of prayer, which is by far the most important spiritual discipline we can practice.

Prayer isn’t just about intercessions. God knows our needs, our wants, and our fears before we say anything, and God will help us in the ways we need. But deep prayer is at the heart of our relationship with God, and we can’t be receptive to what God has to say unless we take the time to be still, to be quiet, to be present. The spiritual discipline of Sabbath rest is about taking the time during each week, the discipline, take the time during each week, and it could be any day of the week, it doesn’t have to be Sunday, to rest. Be still so that we can be present to God. It’s a time we need to regain our strength so that we can meet the world as it is and where it is, and continue actively loving and serving the Lord. Amen.

July 15, 2018: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

By Seminarian Jean-Pierre Seguin on the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost:

Readings (Track 2)   Listen Here

I come before you in the Name ✠ of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

A plumb line may seem like an odd image for God’s justice. To start with, a plumb line was the ancient near Eastern version of a level: basically, an evenly weighted stone or some other material on a string. But it could show you that a wall was straight, based on Earth’s gravitational pull. A plumb line is not to be debated: your wall will be straight, or your wall will be crooked, depending on its measurements.

But in order to understand the full impact of Amos encountering a plumb line in a vision from God, we have to go a little bit further ahead in the chapter, because this is just the third image God has showed him. So in order to communicate the import of today’s reading from Amos, I’m going to share from the beginning of chapter seven:

“This is what the Lord God showed me: he was forming locusts at the time the latter growth began to sprout (it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings). When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said, ‘O Lord God, forgive, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!’

The Lord relented concerning this; ‘It shall not be,’ said the Lord.

This is what the Lord God showed me: The Lord God was calling for a shower of fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. ‘O Lord God, cease, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!’

The Lord relented concerning this; ‘This also shall not be,’ said the Lord God.

This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb line.’ Then the Lord said,

‘See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’”

Now, interestingly, the text tells us directly of the reaction to Amos’ message. We are left to assume that after seeing the burning fire consuming the deep, Amos was convinced that he should bring this dire message to his people. The result is that the chief priest in Israel tells the king that Amos is conspiring against him.

And the King says, to go prophesy in the south. Your words are nice. I don’t want you to, like, be poor or anything, but just go tell those people down south that they better get their act together, because you can’t say these things in the king’s sanctuary. It’s interesting to note that the main objection is to saying these things in the king’s sanctuary. Because if you look at the first chapters of Amos, the people of Israel have strayed so far from their covenant with God: they have mistreated each other, they have followed idols, they have murdered each other, the gap between the rich and the poor has been growing; God no longer even cares for their sacrifices.

And yet when a dresser of sycamore trees is sent to say that the consequence will be exile, and the fall of the reigning house of the King, he has met with angry rejection. We see a similar dynamic in today’s gospel. Everyone is abuzz about who Jesus is, but oddly enough, King Herod gets closest to the truth. Not that he’s right, Jesus is his own person, but he understands the power of Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and ministry, in his own kind of backwards way. Because he acts, it appears, from a deep insecurity, an insecurity that leads him to listen to John, but then order John’s execution when, in a moment of weakness, it is requested of him.

And I don’t want to lay all the blame on the women of Herod’s court, again, marriage was not something about which women had a lot of say in this society, but everyone within Herod’s court acts the way Herod does, out of fear, out of jealousy, out of a desperate attempt to cling to power. And the result is that the prophet is executed.

It is interesting that in both cases, people choose not to hear, or to ignore, or only partially hear, the word of the one who comes speaking truth. Amos, as he defends himself before Amaziah, demurrers, saying he is but a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees. Now in the Hebrew scripture, this connects him with a rich lineage. Moses was a herdsman for his father-in-law when he encounters the Burning Bush. His actions lead to the liberation of the Hebrew slaves and the downfall of a King. David is a shepherd when he is anointed King. God, we see in the Hebrew scriptures, has a habit of calling on those on the margins, those who are doing tasks others look down upon, who have time to listen.

Amos is a herdsman, he dresses sycamore trees, and God shows him a simple building tool, and Amos, following, trusting in God, goes forth, and tells the King that he will fall, that God will work with his people, but that part of this will involve exile. It’s not an easy word to hear, but it is an important one.

So for us today, as we encounter these prophets, these people who spoke truth, we must also ask ourselves, “What are the words that we knew deep down were true that we chose to ignore? Are there times when we are called to follow God’s plumb line and say that there are lines one cannot cross? Are we willing to sacrifice the prevailing order of the day to speak up for God’s justice?”

Martin Luther King is well known for the “I Have A Dream” speech and for a few others, but it is worth noting that when he was assassinated, he was planning a Poor People’s Campaign to occupy Washington DC and other parts of the country, that he was standing with striking sanitation workers, people who deal with the refuse of the city, and that he had spoken out against war, and that he had called what was patriotic “death dealing.” We’re all at different points, in different positions. We have different roles in society, some of us – we’re all called to different work.

But the example of Amos, the example of John, of the Blessed Virgin, of Jesus and the other Disciples tells us that, in those times when the authorities of this world have lost their moral compass, when society appears on the surface to be functioning but is filled with deep hidden suffering, we must speak out. And when we hear people speaking whose voices challenge us, perhaps make us angry, it may be useful to imagine, to remember, that they are sparing us from a rain of fire. That listening to God’s word, while uncomfortable, is worth the cost of avoiding the direction our own folly, individually and collectively, may take us. May we, dressers of sycamores in our own day, speak God’s truth. Amen.

July 8, 2018: Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

By Fr. Timothy Kroh on the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost:

Readings (Track 2)   Listen Here

In the Name ✠ of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jesus is rejected. Rejection is one of the most difficulty of human experiences. It slightly unravels our sense of self, at least the false sense of self we receive from the feedback of others. Rejection is never something too easily sloughed off. Jesus knows this. So, He experiences rejection, first, for us, to show us the right way. Why would I say that He chooses this rejection? It doesn’t look that way on the surface. However, the One who knew all, also knew the way He would be received in his hometown, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that sometimes the people who have known us since childhood have a hard time changing their opinions.

Jesus wanted the disciples to be there for this moment of proclamation and rejection. Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, He was invited to teach, and the response of those gathered was, “Where did this man get all this? Don’t we know him? Aren’t his brothers Joses and Judas and Simon? Isn’t his mother Mary? Aren’t his sisters here today?” And they became offended by Him. They took offense at the teachings of Jesus. I won’t judge this community too harshly, at least not without acknowledging our almost universal tendency to think one way about someone, without allowing that people grow in grace as we do. We have to keep an open mind about others, as well as about our own identities, as they change and evolve in our journey with God. And it’s important to remember that our truest identity, children of God, does not depend upon our acceptance or our rejection by anyone. In our baptism we promise to proclaim the good news in word and deed; it’s not contingent upon how it’s received. Whether we are rejected or received with great joy, we are children of God.

But the onus is on us, however, to respond in the right way. Why did Jesus want the disciples to experience this moment of rejection? It seems like a weird kind of pep rally to give them before He sends them out, two by two. He wanted them to be prepared for the inevitable: that some people would not receive them with grace, and they would have to behave with grace. He said to the disciples a little bit later, “‘Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” I think that is an impressive response. After all, they’re just two ordinary folk, no fancy entourage, no nice clothes, not even a staff or a second tunic, showing up in a community with a word and a gesture of love. And moreover, they proclaimed that all should repent, that is, turn around. The response they received, in my opinion, was remarkably positive. But surely we know that there were some villages that did not accept them.

We need to hear these instructions as if Jesus Christ our Lord were standing in front of us teaching us about church growth. As if we had paid the Lord of Life to come and teach us, to be a consultant, because these are simple and remarkable instructions for that word we as Anglican Christians don’t like to use: Evangelism. Sharing the good news. Imagine, here are the instructions from the Lord of Life: Go! Don’t take a lot of stuff, and preach the good news. Stay for as long as you can. If they don’t accept you, leave. Shake off the dust, and start again.

Those are simple and powerful instructions for sharing a word and a gesture of love with a neighbor or a stranger, and we really ought to take them as seriously as we would take any instruction for church development from a paid consultant. Their lifestyle was a statement in itself, they didn’t call the people to come to them in some building, a center of power. They went out to the people, and that is what we must do as a community of faith.

I want to lift up something that happened on Wednesday, which was, as you know, Independence Day. A group of young adults from our congregation organized themselves independently to open up the church from 10:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. To offer a word, and a gesture of love. The word of love being a welcome, and the gesture of love being a cup of cold water, a good biblical offering. For those seven hours, they acted as evangelists. Not by convincing people of some complicated belief, but by offering a word and a gesture of love.

This simple organized act of love reached a lot of people, not only in person out there on the steps, but much, much farther through social media, and now it’s reaching everyone who listens to our sermons via podcast. Greetings, podcast listeners! As I and the young adults engage in the ministry of open doors along with so many others who are sitting here today, we know that when we offer a word of love, people are generally very happy to receive it. There is, however, some occasional rejection, and we can’t be afraid of that. We simply follow our Lord’s strategic plan for church development: To greet the friend, the stranger. To offer the word and the gesture of love, and if we are rejected, to move on and try again.

When we deal with rejection in our personal lives, it can be very difficult. It’s important to remember that if we’re in the heat of rejection in our own lives, that Jesus did not say, “Get revenge.” Jesus did not say, “Seek to justify yourself.” Jesus just said, “Move on.” Sometimes we’re called to reconciliation, and that involves staying, being present, communicating. But sometimes, we are not meant to respond to an unkind word, but simply to accept it as the price we pay for accepting the many blessings of others.

Most of the time, whether in our own lives or in our ministry as ministers of this church, the majority of folks will receive our word and gesture of love by blessing us with another word and another gesture of love. It’s important to note, also, that our word and gestures of love have consequences and effects that go far beyond the ones we might see in that moment. Not everyone we greet will come into our church, but some will. And even if they don’t, we have no idea the effect that simple act of love may have in the life of another, and in others through them. As we seek to be God’s ministers of the Church of the Advent, we’re called to keep going in this simple but profound ministry of presence by continuing our open doors ministry, and in other ways, such as our flea market which is coming up. Doing this work is our sacred call as the baptized. We’re called to share the good news. This is lived out, not in difficult, but in simple ways: by opening up our doors, by greeting people with a word of love, a cup of cold water, a listening ear. Not all of them will join us at Mass, but some of them will. And all of them will witness, by God’s grace, not by our effort, that we are striving to be an authentic community of love that lives into our mission, to be a loving, diverse, and inclusive community, sharing the love of Jesus Christ with everyone.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

July 1, 2018: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

By Fr. Timothy Kroh on the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost:

Readings (Track 2)   Listen Here

In the Name ✠ of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

On this Sunday before Independence Day, in this particular time in our history, we should consider migrants. The story of America is a story of migrations. The first migrations were millennia ago, as the ancestors of the First Nations came onto this land as the first humans to live here, and then millennia later another wave of migration, this time from Europe. Many European migrants were fleeing persecution and violence, as migrants due today, but the migrants from Europe were not only human migrants, but also the migration of colonialism, disease, violence, forced conversions. Soon after the arrival of this migration, another one began: four hundred years of forced kidnappings, brutal transport, and the sale of human beings as chattel fueled the economy of this nation. Thanks be to God that those people of nobility and courage did not have their faith and hope extinguished but survived to a time of freedom. And yet we know that that freedom was often incremental in its progress and often went backwards. America is a story of migrations, and we can see the effect of this evil system today, all over the country but certainly in this city of Baltimore, in the inequality and lack of opportunity for people of color, in the culture of violence, and in the geography of this city.

America is a story of migrations, and the migrations continued after two world wars and during, when numbers of people from all over the world came to this country to seek the promise that we enjoyed. And yet so many of them were ghettoized and marginalized by the whites who were already here. Migrants pour into our borders every day. We hear the stories of so many of them in the news and so often unaccompanied child migrants, and maybe we wonder why their parents, if their parents are living, would allow or encourage such a dangerous journey. There’s only one answer to that: desperation. If you’ve not heard of the gang MS-13, you’re lucky. MS-13 is a gang that began in this country as disenfranchised migrant children were not allowed into public schools in the 1980s, and the gang grew from Los Angeles to all over this country and all over Central America. Last night I read a story about an eleven year old boy, the same age as the girl in the Gospel today, who was recruited by the drug cartel in his village in Honduras. The gang said to the parents of this eleven year old, ‘We’re taking your son.’ The parents said ‘No, please don’t, anything but that,’ but they knew the gang’s modus operandi, which is to take children, to tattoo the symbols of the gang on those children’s bodies, and then they are forever in that life of death and crime. This is no fate for any child. And if they resist, the parents are only too often murdered, perhaps with the children as well.

I’m sorry for these disturbing images in church, but I feel responsible to share them. In the Gospel today about another child in crisis, Jesus heals not only the child, but also a woman who had been suffering for twelve long years – the lifetime of these children in question. Today the mercy and power of Christ is shown in this story of healing for the woman with a hemorrhage, and this girl who was at the point of death. These stories testify to the unstoppable love, mercy and justice of God. And today that mercy works through you, and me. Baptized ministers of God. We who’ve made solemn vows to love and serve Christ in our neighbors, to uphold the freedom and dignity of every human being, are called to be agents of God’s work in this world. We need to remember this week, but all the time, that our nation is indeed great, but God is greater. We need to give thanks for our nation and work to improve it, and also remember that it is a sin to have any loyalty above our loyalty to God. We need to remember that ‘Liberty and justice for all’ has been interpreted in extremely limited ways in the course of our history and that each successive generation has fought to expand the concept of liberty and justice. We need to remember that all of us here are descendants of migrants. We need to remember that the wisdom of God decreed that our own Lord was a child migrant in the land of Egypt, along with the Most Holy Mother of God and St. Joseph, fleeing, as so many migrants do today, the threatened murder of their child.

As St. Paul says to the Corinthians, so he says to us: “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may not be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.” We can and ought to be so deeply grateful to God for setting us in this nation among many nations of the world. But we ought to remember this week that God has done this in order to give us rights and responsibilities. We have the right to free speech, to the vote, the right to civil action and protest, and so many other privileges shared by far too few in this world. We’re lucky to have them, and they’re gifts from God. And in this moment in the history of our nation, and in every moment, you are called to exercise your rights, not just as citizens, but as citizens of God’s kingdom. As ministers of Christ’s justice, mercy, and compassion. For the migrant, for those who are homeless, for those who live every day with racism, poverty and violence, for everyone who is marginalized. For our Lord honors those who are not honored in the world and blesses the poor and the persecuted.

Unless we exercise our rights and privileges to honor such as these, and to expand liberty and justice for all, our celebration of the national day is facile. And if we’re not making the right use of the gifts we have, we need to consider how God is calling us in this season to be agents of justice, love, and healing. Amen.

June 24, 2018: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

By Seminarian Jean-Pierre Seguin on the Third Sunday after Pentecost:

Readings (Track 2)   Listen Here

I come before you this morning in the Name ✠ of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Six years ago, the thirty-eighth chapter of the Book of Job saved my life. Perhaps more to the point, God saved my life through the story of Job. I had been experiencing depression for months: the type of depression that lingers much like a late Michigan winter. Drab, with the changing gray palette of the silent sky the only visible difference day-to-day. It was summer, however. The weather was lovely. I was in the middle of my time in college and I was starting to actively discern a call to the priesthood. However, my family was moving and I had to leave the home I grew up in.

I found myself at a Benedictine monastery in the middle of farm country in late August. I tried praying with the monks; I tried going on a long run on the dusty dirt roads to clear my head. Nothing seemed to quite work. Then, however, I turned to the devotional handout in my room, and I tried reading the gospel assigned; it had some meaning. The real breakthrough came when I reached out to God and I told God that I needed something, I needed to hear something, and I just opened the Bible – something I rarely do, I usually follow the lectionary. But I opened up the book and I saw the beginning of the thirty-eighth chapter of the Book of Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the Earth?” I was struck by the question, so I kept reading. Immediately, something opened up. The question tore through all the gray malaise and I felt God’s mercy pouring into my heart. I was not there, I did not know who laid the foundation of the Earth. I did not experience when the morning stars sang together and the heavenly beings shouted for joy. I felt alive. I felt loved. I felt worthy of love.

Now I was lucky: I was able to contact my family, get the help I needed, talk to my priest who was very empathetic, find a therapist. Years later, the experience is one of transformation, and not of frustration or tragedy. This, however, is not always the case, which is why I think it is valuable for us to turn to the Book of Job. Experiences of mental illness are not normative, and U.S. culture unfortunately tends to treat the non-normative as suspect at best. One scholar of the Hebrew scriptures has labeled Job an anomalous book within the wisdom tradition, because of its dissenting view of the theodicy, or the theology of why people suffer. Perhaps this is why Job’s story reached me in the middle of depression: an innocent suffer who rails against God and begs for answers, while losing everything and finding his friends to be unreliable and judgmental. While it can often be helpful to focus on the importance of responsibility, Job reminds us that even when we do everything right, as far as is humanly possible, we are sometimes tested by circumstances beyond our control.

And after losing everything, and suffering so much, Job receives consolation from God in the form of a powerful message about God’s strength. This is the God who has created life-giving rain and knows when the mountain goats give birth. In the moment I read those words, I could only give gratitude to our amazing creator and wonder at a creation that contains so much variety, including my flawed, beautiful love itself. God is bigger than and cares for us in the midst of our troubles. Because if God loves me, God loves you, and God loves everyone. We live in a time when people in power seek to diminish the humanity of some for the benefit of a few. The children ripped from their parents’ arms at the militarized place called ‘the border’ or ‘la frontera’ signal to us the dehumanizing currents that run through much of American culture.

Migrants fleeing violence and persecution threaten some so much that they cling more closely to their nationalistic fear than to God’s commands. Like Jobs’ friends who taunted him in his misery, they self-righteously persecute the poor while literally attempting to destroy brown families. Horror stories like these have occurred in this country since its founding, and until white society takes love of neighbor seriously, they will continue, both at the border and in places across this land. Genocide, slavery, and white supremacy must be overcome within people’s hearts and outwardly within communities or its dark tempting power will cause people to continue to forsake God.

James Cone, the founder of Black Liberation Theology, explicitly connects the Cross and the lynching tree: two powerful symbols within the black community. He argues that for the African-American community, both came to represent death and the promise of redemption, judgment and the offer of mercy, suffering and the power of hope, a thirst for life even in the face of death. He later invokes the Womanist theologian Shawn Copeland who argues that enslaved African sang spirituals because they saw on the Cross the One who went all the way for them. As well: as a result of Christ’s crucifixion, triumph over the principalities and powers of death, triumph over evil in this world.

This weekend I witnessed something that gave me hope in God’s weapons of righteousness, something that can equip us for spiritual battle in these troubled times. The Poor People’s Campaign, a broad-based movement for justice, based in moral revival, beyond party lines, gathered in Washington D.C. to commemorate the end of six weeks of action. Across forty states and many sovereign tribal lands, people got together, talked, raised their voices. Thousands were arrested. And on Saturday, yesterday, thousands of people gathered on the National Mall to hear the stories of the poor from the poor, white black, brown, of all status. People called for justice in the economy, in education, in the treatment of the environment, for an end to racial injustice, and for our transformation beyond a war-based economy. The movement draws strength from Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders, and is based solidly in nonviolence, in nonviolent direct action.

There were many Jobs in that crowd, people doing their best to live while struggling with unemployment, lack of health care, industrial pollution, mass incarceration, and failing schools. People spoke for themselves and they did not hold back. Clergy and other leaders supported them in their testimony. Just as God did not order Job’s suffering, so also God does not condone the suffering human beings endure today. As people of faith who believe in this awesome God, any response not based in deep love is insufficient.

If Jesus went to the Cross once and for all time, why are the weakest and most marginalized still killed simply for existing? Why can we still read the Book of Job and relate it to so many stories of people suffering in the world today? Why’s the humanity of some cherished and cared for, while others are given indifference, or worse, treated with cruelty? We must see, as Job tells us, or as God tells us in Job, that God sees every birth and death in all of creation, and sit with Jesus in the back of the boat. Jesus, who calms the storm, who calms the fears of those he loves, of those who follow him. And who in such actions shows himself to be fully God. Jesus incarnate shows us through his ministry that God cares most especially for those who suffer, for those who are cast out, for those in need. This is the Jesus who is the Lord of Creation and who will bring about peace. God restores the life of Job. Jesus calms the storm for his disciples.

How will we open our hearts today and reach out? Amen.

June 17, 2018: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

By Fr. Timothy Kroh on the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost:

Readings (Track 2): http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearB_RCL/Pentecost/BProp6_RCL.html

Listen Here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/episodes/742620-june-17-2018-fourth-sunday-after-pentecost

In the Name ✠ of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Well, please allow me to apologize once again for the wrong readings. It’s a minor issue, though, for us today, because we heard some wonderfully familiar scriptures. Let me just remind you of some of the words we heard from St. Paul today: “If anyone is in Christ, they are,” meaning they, you, are “a new creation. The old has passed away; everything new has come.”

This is such a wonderful thing to hear today, on the day we baptize Cody Joseph, this precious child of God, whose family reminds me of the Holy Family, coming into the temple, Mary, Joseph, and the Baby, to offer and dedicate the Child to God, and that is what they do today, in the sacred vows they’re about to make on his behalf. Vows that we will all, of course, as you know, be supporting them in. And now they will become a holy family dedicated to God, ministers of Christ, and of his church, as are all of we.

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away, see, everything new has come. The vows of Baptism that we will renew in a few moments show us a pattern of life we can live that makes a new life, a life not imprisoned by the old ways of sin and greed and self-interest, of denying the humanity of others, but of honoring it, of loving and serving God and our neighbors as ourselves. When we live these vows we live a new life; we are a new creation.

All of you, every day, are meant to live your life, and me too, in this wonderful new way of love. God chooses all of us for this way, and he entices us through the doors, so to speak, until our hearts are caught up in his love. “Everything old has passed away, see, everything is made new.” I think it’s a wonderful holy coincidence, maybe not a coincidence at all, that the name of this child is Cody Joseph, which is a family name, but also one of the greatest patron saints you could have, and that this, on the secular calendar, is Father’s Day and so Alan celebrates his first Father’s Day and Cody under the patronage of St. Joseph. And we should really all look to St. Joseph for this pattern of living. We at the Church of the Advent honor Our Lady almost every Sunday by praying the Angelus, but we should also remember St. Joseph, whose shrine we have and where some of you make your devotions to him.

He was a Saint called by God to live a new way of love, to not be self-interested but to be concerned about others. God gave him the most important ministry of being guardian and protector and companion of the Mother of God and the Son of God: Jesus Christ, our Lord. Joseph gave of himself every day in ways the scriptures rarely mentioned, but we know must have been true. Those of you who are fathers and mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, whether by blood or by faith, we know what it means to love others in that way of self-giving and self-sacrifice. To want their good as much or even more than our own. This is what we learned to do and be in the promises of Baptism. And so, in a few moments, as we renew our vows, remember, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away. Behold, everything is made new. Amen.

Holy Baptism: https://www.bcponline.org/Baptism/holybaptism.html