So, once more, here is a draft of tomorrow’s sermon for Yuba City:

Easter 6 C

I’m going to throw you a curve this morning, and use the alternate gospel reading for this Sunday.  Not only that, as allowed by canon, I’m going to preach on a slightly longer text than is specified.  We are always allowed to expand the reading, and I’m doing it so that you hear the whole story.  Don’t worry, it’s not that long!

When the story starts, Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem, to attend a religious festival.  When he arrives, near the Sheep Gate, which may have been how he entered the city, he passes a pool of water, around which are gathered all kinds of invalids.

Why are they gathered there?  If you look at the copy of the gospel I passed out at the beginning of the service, you will see a bold footnote, number 1, just before verse 5.  — Did you notice that our reading had no verse 4?  What the footnote tells us is that the best and earliest sources did not have a verse 4.  But other sources had, wholly or in part, an explanation:  they were waiting for the stirring of the water, because when an angel stirred the water, the first one in would be healed.

One man had been waiting by the side of the pool, receiving charity from the faithful for his livelihood, for thirty-eight years.  I’m thinking he had become comfortable and complacent in his disability.  And I’m thinking Jesus thought so too.

Recognizing that the sick man had been there a long time, Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be made well?”

You would think the obvious answer to this question is, “Yes!  Yes!  Please God heal me.” (more…)

Once again, I doubt that anyone from Ft. Bragg is going to see the sermon I intend to preach this Sunday before I give it.  (If I’m wrong, and you plan to be there Sunday, probably you should skip reading this for now.)  Also, I apologize to any followers who read “Thrift Shop Resurrection” – most of which is given again here.  So here it is:

Easter 4 C

 

I have problems with this morning’s reading from Acts!

Is that allowed – to have issues with scripture? (more…)

I talked to a young (to me) woman last week.  I believe (I’m not entirely sure) that she would consider herself a Christian.  (I’ve actually talked to her on a number of occasions.)  She knows I’m an Episcopal priest, and she was wondering about Easter …  What happened on Easter?  What were we celebrating? (more…)

This has been my first Holy Week since I retired.  And it’s absolutely bizarre.  After some thirty years of planning and leading worship (and all the extra planning and sermons for the special services during Holy Week) I got to choose what services I participated in and where I worshiped.  I only led one (public) service all week on Palm Sunday.  I did the major offices of Matins and Vespers (mostly) at home.  I attended a Maundy Thursday service at an Episcopal Church.  I attended an Easter Vigil at a Lutheran Church.  I’ll probably say Matins in the morning at home.  It’s actually nice just to be there to worship.  Although, after some thirty years in the field, it’s pretty much automatic that you are critiquing every service you attend.

Maybe they shouldn’t let clergy attend services led by others!

But I find myself thinking that every three to five years all clergy should be required to attend someone else’s Holy Week and Christmas services.  Not everything was done the way I would have done it.  And that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing! (more…)

Well, since it’s ready, and since I don’t think anyone from the congregation in Sutter Creek follows my blog, here’s what I expect I will preach for the Second Sunday in Easter:

Imagine what it must have been like.  A week ago, Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem.  Thursday they all gathered for a special meal with Jesus.  Later that night, Jesus was arrested.  Friday morning he was tried and brutally executed while they all hid (and some of the women, braver than the rest of them, watched from a distance).  Today they were hiding, barricaded behind locked doors, waiting for the sound of footsteps which might mean that they too were being arrested …  Fear was in the air.  And that evening, suddenly, something unrecognized appeared in the room with them!

“Peace be with you,” they heard.  But they did not experience shalom.  There was no wholeness or completeness or being in harmony in their hearts. They might well have thought they were seeing a ghost. They must have been scared witless!

But Jesus, it was Jesus, showed them his wounds.  They recognized him by his wounds, (more…)

I’ve been thinking this week about how religious traditions build on the customs and sites of those who have gone before – even when those who have gone before are of different faiths.  Christmas trees are derived from non-Christian traditions in Germany, I’m told, and Halloween is derived from Celtic druidic practices – though they have been “baptized.”  A Christmas tree is not used by Christians to worship a different deity.  All Saints’ (or all Hallow’s) Eve remembers those who have died in the faith (even with all the spooky stuff about death and spirits) and who are now alive in Christ.  For that matter, Christians take the Jewish holy writings and look at them through a new lens, and Muslins take both Jewish and Christian holy writings and look at them through a lens of their own.

And it’s not like this is something new.

In chapter 12 of Genesis, when Abram first comes into the land of Canaan, he arrives at the sacred place at Shechem and comes to the oak grove of Moreh.  It is very likely that this oak grove was already a site of worship for Canaanite deities. (more…)

Many years ago, I served as the Rector of a small congregation in rural Wyoming (St. Andrew’s in Meeteetse).  Some time before I arrived, they had opened a thrift shop for the community (population around 500).  One woman had spearheaded the project.  Her family donated the building.  And she ran the program her way.

I got to thinking about this today because I read a blog post from my friend, Joe Duggan, where he said:

I have had an epiphany in my prayer today. I am no longer going to talk about “at risk congregations”. At risk of what? At risk of dying or closing? There is nothing to fear in the death of our congregations.

Why does he say this?  Because he believes in resurrection.

That got me thinking about the thrift shop. (more…)

There was a strand in yesterday’s office reading from Jeremiah that I hadn’t noticed before.  In it, starting at 15:27, Jeremiah says:

I took no pleasure in sitting with merrymakers; with your hand on me I sat alone,
choking with the indignation you filled me with.
Why is my pain ongoing,
my wound incurable, refusing to heal?
Why, you’re like  a spring that dries up when it’s needed most,
like waters that can’t be relied upon!

The commentary in The Jewish Study Bible suggests that Jeremiah has failed in his office of being a prophet. (more…)

What, really, constitutes a meaningful fast?

I’ve been thinking about that question as Lent approached – it seems useful to have an answer before Lent arrives …  Or maybe just to arrive at an answer during Lent …

When I was growing up, I remember, I was encouraged to give up desserts, or to watch less TV, or not to eat meat one day a week.  And as I grew older, I became less certain how meaningful any of these acts are.  At least on the level at which I practiced them, they were pretty trivial (and non life changing) disciplines. (more…)

I was rereading the story of Noah in Genesis today.  It’s so obvious to me, now, that this is not actual history and that the story uses two sources that I have to remind myself that this was not always so.

The sources are pretty obvious (if mixed together) when you look at the story  We go back and forth between one pair (a male and a female) of every species in the first source and seven pairs of all clean species (and only one pair of all unclean species) in the second source.  (more…)