Monthly Archive for May, 2009

Day of Pentecost May 31, 2009

Acts 2:1-21                                                                          

Romans 8:22-27                                                                

John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

 

 

Let’s call him Adam. He was one of the unhappiest people I’ve ever known. Nothing and nobody could please him. Everything was always against him—and against him personally. If there was a new policy at work, it was a terrible idea and instituted by his boss for the express purpose of making Adam’s life miserable. If his daughter was having trouble at school, she was having trouble just so as to reflect badly on her father. And church—well, every change, every experiment, every new hymn tune, every sermon, was a direct insult to Adam. I had a special file folder labeled “Adam letters” telling me so.

 

I was on my guard big time therefore when Adam made an appointment to come and talk to me. I dressed carefully, so there would be nothing for Adam to criticize in that department, one of his favorites. I went over in my mind all the things in the last month or two that he might find fault with, preparing my defenses. And still I dreaded our meeting; my heart rate rose as I watched Adam pull into the church parking lot and get out of his car and I felt my breathing constricted.

 

So I was surprised when, once we’d settled into our chairs in my study, Adam pulled out a small white card and handed it to me. “My therapist said I was to work on these things. And he said if I had trouble, to come and talk to you.” This was news to me: that Adam would seek help in therapy! But there was more. On the card was written: “Practice praying before the Altar in church. Put yourself in the presence of God. Let God show you how much he loves you. Be with God in the light of love.”

 

“I’m having trouble with this,” Adam said. “I can’t do it. I can’t even begin. I don’t know what he’s talking about.” Continue reading ‘Day of Pentecost May 31, 2009’

Easter 7 May 24, 2009

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26                                                           

1 John 5:9-13                                                                      

John 17:6-19

 

Our Christian religion is full of paradoxes. Indeed, we could almost say that the presence of paradox is our best indicator that we are in the presence of God. For instance: Jesus is truly and fully human, but at the same time truly and fully God. God is One, but at the same time Three. You and I are sinners, but also saved. And all that is just the beginning. All through our history, people have tried to rationalize or clarify away these paradoxes. To say that Jesus wasn’t fully human or wasn’t really divine. That God was not Trinity. That we are not really sinners or not surely saved. We call those attempted simplifications heresies. By eliminating the paradoxical element of our faith, they take the life out of it. There is something about the tension in paradox that is necessary, that is the heart of Christianity. Continue reading ‘Easter 7 May 24, 2009’

Easter 6 May 17, 2009

Acts 10:44-48                                                                     

1 John 5:1-6                                                                        

John 15:9-17

 

This wonderful little reading we have this morning from the Book of Acts. Let’s listen to it again:

 

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers [that is, the religious insiders] who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles [that is, the religious outsiders], for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” [That is, for bringing them into the Jesus movement that became Christianity.] So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

One of the great figures of history will surely be Pope John XXIII. He was elected pope in 1958 as an old man, a placeholder, a transitional figure. But out of the blue one day, at a routine church meeting, he announced that he was convening a great council of all the bishops from around the world, to reform the Church, to bring it into the modern era. And he did, in ways that dramatically changed not only the Roman Catholic Church, but all of Christianity.

 

There are many little stories told of this old and gentle saint. One of the ones that I think of most often is that when he would lie awake at night, worrying about the council he had convened, about the Church and its future, he would say to himself, “Angelo, Angelo [for that was his baptismal name, Angel], who’s in charge of the Church? You or the Holy Spirit?” And then he would fall to sleep like a baby. Continue reading ‘Easter 6 May 17, 2009’

Easter 5 May 10, 2009

Acts 8:26-40                                                                        

John 15:1-8                                                                         

 

(Members of the youth group presented a dramatization of the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. The congregation renewed their baptismal vows, sprinkled with water from the Font by the children.)

 

Our lives are shaped by little coincidences that aren’t coincidents at all, but the workings of God’s Holy Spirit. We can plan our lives, our children’s lives, so carefully. We can work so hard at fulfilling dreams. But in the end, the power of the Spirit working largely unseen trumps whatever we try to do. Would I be here this morning, would I be an Episcopalian, let alone a priest, if a college friend had not invited me to come with him early one Sunday morning to the S.S.J.E monastery in Cambridge? I doubt it. The working of the Spirit.

 

So this drama we’ve just witnessed, about the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, is about the working of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading ‘Easter 5 May 10, 2009’

Easter 4 May 3, 2009

Acts 4:5-12                                                                          

1 John 3:16-24                                                                    

John 10:11-18

 

Halfway through Jesus’s earthly ministry, his journey from the shores of Galilee to Jerusalem, he asks his disciples a pivotal question: “Who do you say that I am?” You may remember that St. Peter blurts out the answer—“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”—what is called the Confession of Peter. I say this is a pivotal question in the gospels, because it begins to prepare the disciples for what is ahead: for the crucifixion and the resurrection. “The Son of Man must suffer, and be crucified, and on the third day rise from the dead.”

 

But the question can be turned around: Who does Jesus say that we are, each of us? Here, too, it is pivotal. For how we answer has everything to do with how we go through life, with all its challenges, its deaths and resurrections. It has everything to do with our discipleship. Continue reading ‘Easter 4 May 3, 2009’

History and Basics of Anglican Worship

During May, we at Holy Cross will be engaged in a review of our liturgy, the way we worship. (The word liturgy comes from Greek meaning “work of the people.”) As an introduction to this project, I offer a very brief summary of the history and basics of worship in our Episcopal/Anglican tradition. Continue reading ‘History and Basics of Anglican Worship’