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…)

This morning’s sermon in Elk Grove:

 

In this morning’s reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, we read about Jeremiah’s call.  The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah.  “Before I formed you in the womb,”  he is told, “I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

But Jeremiah says, “Ah, Lord God!  Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”  It’s actually not clear how literally true this might have been.  There are Jewish traditions (seemingly based on how little he said in the first thirteen years of his career before King Josiah died) that he may have been commissioned at birth!  And the word “boy” in Jeremiah’s response could mean any male between an infant and a young man!  His career really seems to take off when Jehoiakim takes over as king.  All told, he spends forty years prophesying before the temple is destroyed. (more…)

Except for our gospel this morning, all of our readings have to do with wisdom.  Solomon, invited to ask God for anything at all, asks for wisdom.  And God thinks this was the right thing to ask for.  Our psalm suggests that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom — again, seen as a good thing.  And in Ephesians we are exhorted to live as wise people.

Wisdom seems to be important.

And although our gospel doesn’t talk about wisdom, it is a reading from John’s gospel, which seems to develop the first creation story from Genesis — you remember that story, don’t you?  In the beginning God created.  And how did God create?  God created by speaking things into being.

And how does John’s prologue, John’s creation story start?  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being …”

The Greek word which we translate as “word” is “logos.”  And the logos is much more than just a spoken word. (more…)

Some of you will still remember the song, “American Woman,” that still gets some play on classic rock stations.  I like the song fine, though it’s not one of my favorites.  (I prefer the version with the acoustic guitar lead in that then breaks into a harder, electric rock.)  It’s been running through my head for the last several days.  Knowing that we all read into what songs and poems and stories mean from how they connect in our own minds to our own lives, I’ve always heard this as a song about not settling for the standard work hard (at any job that pays well), care for your family and retire well thing that seems to run in American culture.  What’s important is being successful and comfortable.  Very possibly, that’s just me.

I think, if you’d asked me during my college days what the most important thing in my life was, I might have answered ending the (Vietnam) war.  Or I might have answered finding the meaning of life (I was a philosophy major) or figuring out God (I did become an Episcopal priest).  Or I might have answered my writing.  It would have depended when and in what context you asked me.

Did I want a real relationship with a woman?  Sure.  You bet!  But it might well not have been on my list of most important things.  And, in the context of making some woman happy by supporting her living the American dream, it was certainly not on my list of vital things to do with my life. (more…)

I don’t have too many more opportunities to share my thoughts with the folks at St. George’s.  Here’s what I thought was important to share today:

Imagine the hottest person you can, man or woman, whatever floats your boat.  For me it would be a woman.  Imagine that she’s the most alluring thing you’ve ever seen.  She’s everything you’ve ever wanted, and more.  She’s smarter than you are.  She’s better read.  She’s more athletic.  She’s kinder.  She see’s right through you.  She looks at you, and she just knows everything there is to know about you.  Are you going to approach her?

I’m betting you don’t.  She’s simply overwhelming.  She puts you to shame. You know, on a basic level, that she’s simply out of your league.  There is simply no way in hell you’ll ever measure up to her.  We are simply ashamed to approach her. (more…)

Today, in the calendar of the Episcopal Church, is the day we commemorate Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 1109.  He was born in Aosta, in northern Italy, around 1033 CE.  He left home as a young man, traveling north, until he reached the Abbey of Bec in Normandy, where at Lanfranc’s urging, he embraced monastic life and took his vows in 1060 — succeeding Lanfranc as Prior in 1063 and later as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093.  So he was roughly 27 years old when he finally settled down.

Anselm is probably best known for his ontological argument for the existence of God — which I studied way back in college.  Basically it says that since God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, and since we have the idea of God (as unconditional being) in our mind, such a being has to exist (or there would be something greater) and we could not even talk about such a being if it did not exist outside of our mind.

I’m probably not doing a fair summary of the argument, possibly because it has always seemed a circular and unconvincing argument. (more…)

I’m not dying, I’m retiring (and looking for new work) because it’s time to move on.  But I was struck by a story (in Chittister’s The Rule of Benedict):

An ancient people tells us that when the moment of a great teacher’s death was near, the disciples said, “What is it we will see when you are gone?”  And the master said, “All I did was sit on the river bank handing out river water.  After I am gone I trust you will notice the water.”

How wonderful!

As a priest, it’s really tempting sometimes to get caught up in one’s own importance.  We often think we are indispensable.  But we are not.

To use the image in the story, what matters is the water — using Christian terminology, “the water of life,” which is Jesus.

If I have been faithful, I’ve handed out this water flowing freely past me to those who pass by thirsty — which is all of us.

But the water is there, and free, whether I am there or not.

I hope my congregation notices the water when I am gone.