Monthly Archive for January, 2010

Epiphany 4 January 31, 2010

Jeremiah 1:4-10                                                                  

1 Corinthians 13:1-13                                                      

Luke 4:21-30

 One of the wonderful things that can happen sometimes at church is that something that had grown old is made new. A reading, for instance, a prayer, a hymn, an idea – that had seemingly lost its life through overuse is suddenly resurrected, given new currency. Those of us who were here last Sunday, when Canon Charles LaFond was our preacher and followed up in the afternoon with the retreat on discernment, experienced I think one of those “made new” moments.

It centered around what Charles said about saying “yes” to God. You remember that he started out by talking about how epiphany – this season of the Church year – is like a light going on. The star in the sky that the Magi followed to the Savior’s birth – a light going on. Jesus coming up out of the waters of baptism and hearing the voice of God pronounce him the Beloved – a light going on. Jesus turning the water into wine at the Wedding at Cana – another light. When God reveals himself, we experience it as a light going on. What had been unclear, confused, without purpose or direction – suddenly the light goes on, something clicks, and we see the way forward. These are epiphanies; this is how God calls to us. Continue reading ‘Epiphany 4 January 31, 2010’

Epiphany 2 January 17, 2010

Isaiah 62:1-5                                                                       

I Corinthians 12:1-11                                                        

John 2:1-11

 It is said that the purpose of a sermon or homily is to relate the readings from Holy Scripture to our lives and the world around us. As the theologian Karl Barth said, the preacher goes into the pulpit with the Bible in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other. My usual technique in doing this is to start with the daily newspaper, with our lives, our situations – an incident, a person, a situation we all know about or can relate to. We aren’t very familiar with the Bible, we don’t most of us read it at home, and to start with it always seems to me to turn people off.

But St. John’s gospel is hard to preach on that way. It doesn’t have neat little parables, interesting characters, “morals” or “messages” that can easily be related to everyday life. St. John’s is a mystical gospel. It was written late, by the only disciple of Jesus who did not meet a martyr’s death but lived into extreme old age, reflecting and meditating and polishing his thoughts about the Lord he had known and who loved him especially. John’s gospel is poetic, symbolic, every word heavy with meaning, often coded meaning. Continue reading ‘Epiphany 2 January 17, 2010’

Baptism of Our Lord January 10, 2010

Isaiah 43:1-7                                                                       

Acts 8:14-17                                                                        

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

A friend writes to say he has “lost his faith.” This can mean different things for different people, but for him, he explains, he “can no longer believe in the doctrines of Christianity.” What doctrines? He doesn’t say. The Incarnation, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection? I don’t want to put him on the spot by asking, nor do I want to put myself in the position of doctrinal expositor.

But it does seem odd to me. Doctrines, I think, really come last rather than first in faith. First comes a sense of wonder, the asking of questions about the meaning of life, if life has meaning. And a close second comes some sort of personal contact, experience of a person of faith that makes one want to have what they have. I suppose it’s not coincidental that this friend of mine grew up as an only child, has never married, never had children, and has led a life sheltered from the ordinary interactions with other people – the daily ups and downs – that most of us enjoy (or suffer through). Continue reading ‘Baptism of Our Lord January 10, 2010’

The Epiphany of the Lord January 6, 2010

Isaiah 60:1-6                                                                       

Ephesians 3:1-12                                                                

Matthew 2:1-12

[At Holy Cross Church, we celebrate major feasts that fall on weekdays with informal evening house Masses. A congregation of a dozen or so gathers at the vicarage. The celebrations are followed by potluck desserts.]

Increasingly these major feasts in the Church calendar – All Saints’, Ascension, the Epiphany – can be celebrated on the nearest Sunday. That’s true with the Epiphany now in the Roman Catholic Church in North America, the Anglican Church of Canada, even the Church of England. The Sunday celebration allows the whole congregation to share in what are important liturgies of the Christian faith. But keeping the celebrations on weekdays does have the advantage of reminding us that the Church moves to a deeper and more ancient rhythm that the commercialized, secular world around us. We have lost a lot of the richness of a world that was oriented around the cycle of feasts and fasts, holy days with their rituals and stories.

Sometimes I come up to a Mass like the one tonight and I wonder what I can possibly find to say – to say that is fresh and new for this congregation of faithful house Mass attendees, who have all heard my thoughts many times before. But then, praying with the readings, they begin to open up and reveal new depths of richness, new allusions and insights. And these major feasts also are so much more than the readings appointed for them. They gather up thematically all sorts of strands that interweave in the great matrix of the Catholic faith. Continue reading ‘The Epiphany of the Lord January 6, 2010’

Christmas 2 January 3, 2010

Jeremiah 31:7-13                                                                               

Ephesians 1:3-14                                                                

John 1:1-18

Theaters in Elizabethan times, in which Shakespeare produced his plays for instance, were multi-storied affairs. The stages were like doll’s houses, with two or three stories, each open to the audience. Seating for the audience was also banked in tiers, like a stadium or opera house today. The richer people sat up in the boxes; the poor people – known as groundlings – stood on the ground level. Shakespearean plays also tend to have stories or tiers of action: the high drama – royal battles, Hamlet’s soliloquies – took place on an upper story of the stage; but even Shakespeare’s most serious plays had scenes between “lowlife” characters, which took place at the ground level of the stage and were designed to entertain the groundlings in the audience.

 I thought of all this as I read again the gospel for today, which is the prologue to St. John’s gospel. John doesn’t start out with accounts of shepherds and wise men. Instead he gives us this high drama philosophy: Christ is the Logos, the Word, the structure of meaning through which God the Father created the universe. He was “from the beginning” and “all things were made through him.” He “came into the world” bringing life and light.

Like a Shakespeare play, however, this high drama is interwoven with a lowlife drama for the groundlings. Continue reading ‘Christmas 2 January 3, 2010’