Showing posts with label Gospel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gospel. Show all posts

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Collect of the Day: Second Sunday of Advent
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer)
The Holy Gospel according to Matthew
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,  "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."  This is the one of whom the prophet Isai'ah spoke when he said,

"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
"Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'"

Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Phar'isees and Sad'ducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance.  Do not presume to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.  Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:1-12)
I recommend Penny Nash's fine sermon titled "Fire and Light".

Friday, March 15, 2013


The Gospel takes away our right forever to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.
---Dorothy Day
Thanks to several Facebook friends.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


A 65-year-old former nurse has delivered a withering telling off to the Archbishop of Westminster – England’s most senior Catholic – for his stance on gay marriage.

The woman, who now works with animals and lives in northern England, says she has been married for 30 years but gay marriage doesn’t threaten the status of her relationship whatsoever.

And she says Archbishop Vincent Nichols and his church have become obsessed with gay sex, ignoring the real problems of society – the economy, schools, hospitals and our children’s future.
The woman has requested to remain anonymous.  Excerpts from her splendid letter follow.
I am 65 years of age and have been married for almost 30 years. I would so have appreciated an explanation from you or any of the hierarchy exactly how my long and happy marriage will be threatened by the union of gay couples. When I meet people in my day to day existence they talk about the economic climate (bad), lack of employment (bad), uncertain future for their children (bad), state of schools, hospitals (bad) – never ever has anybody expressed concern about a threat to their marriage by the proposed legalizing of same-sex marriage. You, the church, claim that marriage is the bedrock of society and indeed it is but you also seem to consider it so fragile that allowing a few gay people access to it will endanger it forever. Here the implicit homophobia cannot be ignored.

Sadly you still think your pronouncements will be accepted without question by a meek credulous herd. You have spent far too much time telling us just how sinful we are while drawing veils of respectability over your own grievous wrongdoings.

I sometimes despair of this church, this institution. It seems to me in my reading of the Gospels that Jesus had no problem whatsoever with those who were considered outsiders or exceptions. He appears to have happily shared meals with prostitutes, drunkards, lepers, Gentiles and I do not doubt with people of same-sex orientation since such an orientation has existed since time began. The church seems much happier with its version of order over compassion and love towards the so-called exceptions. It has an appalling history of excluding and torturing those who do not think or subscribe to its definition of ‘right’.

To me, you (particularly but not exclusively the hierarchy) appear to be a frightened group of men preoccupied with titles, clothing and other religious externals. You seem, with some wonderful and brave exceptions, to pay only lip service to ecumenism and matters of social justice. I would love to see the so-called ‘Princes of the Church’ (Where did all these triumphant, utterly anti-Gospel titles you award yourselves come from?) get rid of the silk, the gold, the Gucci shoes, the ridiculous tall hats, croziers, fancy soutanes etc etc and substitute bare heads and a simple pilgrim’s staff on all liturgical occasions and that might be taken as a small outward sign of your inner acceptance of fundamental Gospel values.
Bulls-eye!  What an excellent and eloquent letter.  Along with the Roman Catholic "princes" of the church, I'd hope the "princes" of the Church of England, and especially the chief "prince", Archbishop Justin Welby, who will be enthroned next month, read the retired nurse's letter.  The  matters with which the archbishops and bishops in the two churches occupy their time and speak of, so often seem to have very little to do with the Gospel.

And for all hierarchical churches, if those in authority would keep in mind that they are called to be the servants of all, the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be far better served.  I've often wondered what silks, and lace, and mitres have to do with the Gospel and thought that simpler vestments might be an aid to remind those in authority of their servant role.  Mitres are the silliest, and my suggestion would be to ditch them.

But I digress.  Though I have quoted generously from the letter, I urge you to read it all.

Photo from Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Matthew 21:1-13 (NRSV)

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them,

“It is written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Schwarz, Wjatscheslaw Grigorjewitsch  - Palm Sunday in Moscow
Russian State Museum, St Petersburg

What have we in the painting above? (Click on the picture for a larger view.)  A historically accurate reenactment of the Gospel account?  No, of course not.  Why then do we see depictions of Jesus wearing a bejeweled golden crown and expensive fabrics when he would have worn the ordinary clothing of working class males in 1st century Jerusalem, which was an undergarment of coarse cloth and a tunic made of wool?  It's true that Jesus' tunic was seamless, which seems to have been unusual, but that's about as far as his finery can be taken.  The only crown Jesus wore was a crown of thorns.  Even after the Resurrection, when Mary Magdalene first saw Jesus, she thought he was the gardener.    
The rule of God—the kingship of Christ—is not about earthly power or political authority, revenge or judgment; it’s about wholeness, it’s about restoring creation to the fullness of peace and justice, truth and love that God intended. It’s about all lands—ALL people—not just a chosen few. It’s about the primary moral value of prizing the interconnectedness of all humanity—of loving our neighbors as ourselves. The kingship of Jesus is AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN vastly different from a worldly kingship. When we celebrate Christ the King, we’re holding up a king who is, first and foremost, a  reconciler, a redeemer, a servant. This is a king who comes to show us how to live as a people of God in the kingdom of God—a shepherd willing to lay down his life for his sheep. (Susan Russell - Sermon 2004)

 Image from Wikipedia.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Hmmm...thinking that I don't much like having the Passion narrative read on Palm Sunday.

I know. Folks can't or don't get to church on Good Friday, and, for them, if the Passion narrative is not included in the Palm Sunday liturgy, the story in church leaps from Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the triumph of the Resurrection, with nary a nod to the Crucifixion. Still....

Sunday, February 27, 2011


In her first book, Take This Bread, Sara tells of her conversion experience. One day, out of curiosity, she walked into St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco just before a Eucharistic service began. Sara, unreligious and unbaptized, walked forward with the others in the congregation to take communion. Of what happened, she says:
I still can't explain my first communion. It made no sense. I was in tears and physically unbalanced. I felt as if I had just stepped off a curb or been knocked over, painlessly, from behind. The disconnect between what I thought was happening - eating a piece of bread, what I heard someone else say was happening - the piece of bread was the "body" of "Christ," a patently untrue or at best metaphorical statement; and what I knew was happening - God, named "Christ" or "Jesus" was real, and in my mouth - utterly short-circuited my ability to do anything but cry.

Yet that impossible word, "Jesus," lodged in me like a crumb. I said it over and over to myself, as if repetition would help me understand. I had no idea what it meant; I didn't know what to do with it. But it was realer than any thought of mine, or even any subjective emotion: It was as real as the actual taste of the bread and the wine. And the word was indisputably in my body now, as if I'd swallowed a radioactive pellet that would outlive my own flesh.
Sara's conversion upon receiving communion and her continuing desire to live her life as a follower of Jesus made perfect sense to me, because the Eucharist is life-giving and life-sustaining for me. Not only that, her story pretty much convinced me that we'd take the better part by having no restrictions on who can receive communion. After all, it is Our Lord's body and blood, not ours, and what right have we to withhold Jesus' body and blood from anyone?

Sara now runs the Friday Food Pantry at St. Gregory's, which feeds hundreds of people each week. Her new book, Jesus Freak, continues her story. The subtitle of the book is "Feeding, Healing, and Raising the Dead".

Early in the book Sara says:
What does it mean to be a Jesus freak? Or, more to the point, what would it mean to live as if you - and everyone around you - were Jesus, and filled with his power? To just take his teachings literally, go out the front door of your home, and act on them?

It's actually pretty straightforward, Jesus says. Heal the sick. Cast out demons. Cleanse the lepers. You give them something to eat. You have the authority to forgive sins. Raise the dead.
And then Sara tells her story of trying to follow Jesus - her story of taking Jesus' words in the Gospel seriously. She tells of feeding, healing, forgiving, and raising the dead. And her stories are surprising. Jesus sends unlikely souls to join Sara and the members of the community at St. Gregory to do the work. The people who need help are sometimes demanding, dirty, smelly, not nice, drunk, high. They come at inconvenient times, wanting the impossible, but somehow needs are met, although quite often in an untidy way.

Sometimes when I'm in church, I think, "What are we doing? Is having church this way, in this place, in this time what we are to be about as followers of Jesus?"
Most Christians know so much more about the faith than I do. They grew up in Sunday School; they know their church history and creeds by heart; some have even been to seminary and can read the Gospel in Greek. But when I tell them I met the risen Jesus in actual food, they often pull back a bit, as if I'd declared I saw the Virgin Mary on a tortilla. (Which, by the way, would make me very happy.) And when I tell them that Jesus said we can go ahead and heal the sick, that we don't have to wait for authorization from our bishops to raise the dead, they look worried.

I do mean it. I still can't fully explain who the Boyfriend [Jesus] is, but I see him at work everywhere, still breathing in all kinds of people: poor men, crazy women, middle-class retired couples, little kids. They're feeding, healing, forgiving, raising the dead.
Crazy, isn't it?

Maybe the way we do church is all right. I think of Sara's conversion upon taking communion. Maybe gathering together in community to celebrate the Eucharist is what feeds us for the journey after we leave church, where the greater part of the work of seeing Jesus and following Jesus takes place.
The formulas of religion may be so over familiar that many believers have a hard time acting as if this most surprising narrative is true. They may doubt themselves and not understand why Jesus trusts us to do his work. They may be sick to death of the institution, tired of propping up a dysfunctional church, and trying to coast by without caring too much. They may, like me, be anxious because there's no way to be Jesus on your own private terms: you have to jump in and do it alongside your Boyfriend's other lovers.
If my writing here seems a bit muddled, then it's because I'm feeling my way and not very sure of myself. Both of Sara's books gave me much to think about and much to pray about, and I'm still processing her ideas and words. What I hope I have done for at least a few of you is piqued your interest enough that you will want to read the books.

I posted last year on Take This Bread.