Tag Archives: Gospel

Safe in the palm of God’s wild hand

This week we talked about what it means to belong to God, to be claimed by the Good Shepherd.  How we are safe and secure in the palm of God’s hand, and no one can snatch us away–BUT our God is a wild God.  We are safe in the wilderness.

Listen here.

Preached at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Atlanta.

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#blacklivesmatter too

Sometimes, the young white clergy woman gets asked to preach on Absolom Jones Sunday.

Preached from white privilege–Listen here.

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Tough Love

Preached at Trinity Wall Street on the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28

We tend to think of love as something soft and nurturing–and it is these things. But if we’re “doing” love right, it’s also hard.

Watch it here.

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Holy Spirit Extravaganza

On January 17th, my bishop came up from North Carolina and family and friends came in from Texas, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and of course New York–all to ordain me to the sacred order of priests.

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Photo credit: Craig Ruttle


Watch it here.

If you want to skip ahead to Bishop Michael Curry’s spirited sermon, it begins around 40 minutes in.

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Photo credit: Craig Ruttle


With Bishop Curry’s blessing, I asked that the readings for the day be those used in celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. They are Genesis 37:17-20 (Joseph the dreamer), Ephesians 6:10-20 (the whole armor of God–including shoes for proclaiming the gospel!), and Luke 6:27-36 (love your enemies). It is my prayer that these readings will forever shape and embolden my ministry in Christ’s church.

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God and hope are not dead

1 Corinthians 15:12-20, John 5:24-27
The Feast of John of Damascus

I preached the noonday service at Trinity Wall Street the day after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to charge a white New York City police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, an African American, sparking protests over the lack of accountability for police behavior in communities of color. I had already planned to talk about how people are like icons, pointing to the resurrected Christ, and I brought one of my favorite icons with me to demonstrate that point. It turns out “Mary of Seven Sorrows” could not have been a more appropriate icon for the day. During the first minute of my sermon, the moment I mentioned the grand jury decision, a man stood up and walked out of the church. He did so respectfully, but he did so in protest–a new experience for me.

Watch it here.

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Generosity and Grumbling

9:00AM service at Trinity Wall Street, New York City
Jonah 3:10-4:11Matthew 20:1-6
Watch it here.

God is good—All the time/All the time—God is good–Amen.

Indeed both the readings we heard today speak not only to God’s goodness, but God’s opulent goodness. God’s over-the-top generosity.

First we hear the story of Jonah and the Ninevites. Jonah takes the prize for being the whiniest of the prophets. I mean here he tries to escape God’s instruction to go to Nineveh and warn the people of their coming destruction and doom, he’s thrown into the sea and swallowed by a giant fish who vomits him out onto dry land again, he begrudgingly makes his way to Nineveh and says simply, “Forty Days and God will smite you all,” and then he climbs up a hill and perches himself on the side of it to wait and watch the destruction. Kinda like the Grinch who stole Christmas waiting at the top of the mountain to hear all the Whos in Whoville cry boo-hoo-hoo.
Jonah
But low and behold, those pesky Ninevites—the people everyone loved to hate—the people who had enacted such evil atrocities on so many—the people no one could forgive—what do they do? They change their ways and turn to God. And God changes the divine mind and decides to spare the city.

Jonah is not happy. Perhaps he crosses his arms and pouts, or perhaps he shakes his fist up at the sky as he exclaims, “I knew it! This is precisely why I tried to flee in the first place. I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. I knew it.”

And God says, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

I think when we hear this story, we’re inclined to be like, “Yeah, Jonah! Give it a rest! How could anyone get upset over a merciful, gracious and loving God?!”

Ok, now picture a person, or a group of people, or a city or nation who have inflicted serious gut wrenching evils on us. Picture a modern-day Nineveh that you might wish were wiped from the Earth. Do you have that person or people in mind? Now imagine God forgiving them, and imagine your response.

Man, forgiveness is hard. Even when we’re not the ones doling it out, even just witnessing the immense love of a forgiving God can make us bristle.

And then we look at today’s gospel. A landowner goes to the market and hires some men to come work in his vineyard for a day’s wage. A few hours later he returns to the market and hires more men. And a few hours later he returns again, sees some men standing idly by, says “Why are you standing around doing nothing?” and when they respond, perhaps feeling destitute, that no one has hired them, the landowner brings who must have been the “least of these” back to work in his vineyard for the remaining hours of the day.

That evening he pays them all the same day’s wage, whether they worked 2 hours or 10. Of course the workers who had worked all day grumble at the landowner’s generosity. It’s not fair!! And like God’s response to Jonah, the landowner asks, “are you envious because I am generous?” And we might be inclined side with the landowner, because who could possibly begrudge his generosity?

But now imagine the implications on your life if minimum wage were to increase to better compensate the workers on the lowest end of our economic system. Or imagine how much more the food on your table might cost if the migrant farm workers who harvest it were entitled to basic workers’ rights, like one day off a week.

Sure it seems ridiculous to begrudge one’s generosity—until it demands something of us.

And lets face it. As easy as it is to laugh or scoff at the senseless anger of Jonah or the laborers, if we take these readings seriously and truly apply them to our own lives, we’re bound to squirm a little. Because if we worship a God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love—a God who acts out of generosity rather than fairness—a God who forgives way beyond our comfort zone—then are we not called to follow the one we worship and try our best to do likewise?

As you leave here today, think about which of these two stories makes you squirm the most, and then continue to reflect on it all week long. Think of God’s mercy on the Ninevites when you’re watching or reading the news. Think of the generous landowner when you’re going over your bank statement. Allow yourself to get uncomfortable. And then consider how you might practice more forgiveness and generosity in your own life so that your very lifestyle is an act of worship and a testament to the God of love we know in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

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#blessed

First weekday sermon at Trinity Wall Street, New York City
Ephesians 4:32-5:2 and Luke 6:17-23
Remembering Thomas A Kempis

Weekday services at Trinity are special because they are intimate gatherings of dedicated Christians mixed with a smattering of tourists from various faith traditions who happen to stop by.  On Thursdays the “New Beginnings” group of retired parishioners is always present, sitting in the front pews.  I was one lucky lady to preach on a Thursday with a group of strong women sending me love and encouragement!  While I did not preach from this script, it is what I wrote to prepare.

Since beginning my work at Trinity less than a month ago, my commute has quadrupled. I’ve gone from living, studying, eating and worshiping on the same small seminary campus—where forgetting my umbrella on a day like yesterday would might mean a few raindrops on my head walking from the classroom or chapel to my home—to forty minutes of walking and riding the train—where forgetting my umbrella means certain drenching.

With my new commute comes new routines. One of them is to read the New York Times—or the AM New York if I grab one—on the train.

I’ve always considered myself a fairly informed and aware person, but now that I’m really taking the time to read the news each day, I confess I feel like I’m watching the world fall apart.

Today’s Gospel echoes that same desperation.

Jesus is talking to people from Jerusalem, Judea, Tyre and Sidon. Did you know Jerusalem is about the same distance from Gaza as this church is from Croton Harmon or Mt. Kisco? That would be considered a normal commute for many New Yorkers. And Tyre and Sidon are coastal towns. The Gaza strip follows the same coast.

We hear in our reading that everyone is trying to get closer to Jesus—close enough to touch him. Pressing in on him, hoping for healing and change. Desperate.

And Jesus says: Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the hungry. Blessed are the weeping. Blessed are the marginalized.

Blessed.

Reading these words today with our colloquial notions of “blessed,” these words could sound trite.

Well, bless his heart—as I grew up hearing in the South.

Or an instagram pic of an ice cream cone on a hot day with the hashtag #blessed.

Hmm.

If Jesus’ words sound trite or empty, it’s because we have misused them.

It’s not about feeling blessed—but being blessed.

And so it’s when we feel the least blessed that Jesus reminds us that we ARE indeed blessed. And it’s the people who appear the least blessed that Jesus points to and says—THIS—this person is blessed.

When Jesus says, blessed are the poor, the hungry, the crying and marginalized—he’s not speaking words of consolation. These words are a call to action. This truth of not feeling—but being—blessed—it’s a truth that challenges us.

And we can look to today’s Epistle to understand just what it is Jesus is calling us to: kindness, forgiveness, love and sacrifice—a life that imitates Christ.

In a war-torn world such as ours—a world where civilians, children even, are victim to political, economic, religious and cultural conflict—these aren’t wimpy words—they are powerful. Kindness and forgiveness are not signs of weakness, but of strength. Love and sacrifice are not signs of compromise, but conviction.

If we listen to Jesus’ words and take them to heart—if we believe that the marginalized are blessed and live lives that proclaim this truth with the same love and sacrifice Jesus taught—we can be the change we want to see in the world. We can proclaim and embody the Gospel as imitators of Christ.

When Father Benjamin started today’s service in prayer, he mentioned a name—Thomas A Kempis. Thomas was a priest, monk and writer. He enjoyed solitude. But he used the quiet time he had to write one of the most published and widely read books in Christian literature: The Imitation of Christ. In it, Thomas talks about how to love God—by imitating the life of Christ with kindness, forgiveness, love and sacrifice.

How can you imitate Christ in your own life? Are you a quiet person like Thomas? Perhaps you can spend 30 minutes of your day praying for the needs of our community and for peace in the world. Are you a live-out-loud type? Maybe you can be like the woman I saw at the Fulton stop this morning singing, “What a friend we have in Jesus, take it to the Lord in prayer.” Are you a social person? Maybe you can help us pack brown-bag lunches on Sundays, or help us share the lunches with our neighbors on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Or maybe you like to keep to yourself, but have $17 to spare to share your compassion with the school children in our community by donating to our “Totes for Teachers” program.

I feel like the news these days brings out our differences more than anything. And it’s true that each of us is different, one from another. But we can, each in our own unique way, be imitators of Christ. We all have a capacity for kindness, forgiveness, love and sacrifice because we all are blessed.

It’s time to claim our blessedness and be a blessing.

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Beware of Bushels

Preached on Epiphany 5 at St. Matthew & St. Timothy Church, New York

Isaiah 58:1-9; Psalm 112:1-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20

After much encouragement from Mother Carla, this was my first “off the cuff” sermon in English and again in Spanish at SMST.  As such, I only have notes on points I wanted to cover, but no text.  Still, here’s the gist of what was preached that day–and I have to say that preaching without a text in Spanish was a hugely liberating and spirit-filled experience for me! 

I love this text and I’ve preached it before, focusing on salt and light.

It was my senior sermon, and some of you were there.

But today I’m going to focus on bushels.

Jesus says you ARE the light of the world. You ARE the salt of the earth. As in now.

Saltiness and light are not something to achieve, but what we are.

Unless we’re hiding our light.

Under a bushel.

What is a bushel anyway? It’s not a bushel of apples snuffing our light out.

A bushel is more like a basket—something that covers our light without extinguishing it.

So the light is still there—you are the light of the world.

The question is: Are you letting your light shine?

 

Take a look at the reading from Isaiah:

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn…

What does fasting have to do with shining?

Soon we’ll be in Lent—a season of fasting for many.

For the Israelites and maybe us too, fasting is about righteousness.

It’s about doing what is right before God.

But sometimes righteousness becomes self-righteousness.

Sometimes our spiritual life or our following the law gets focused on this inner life—cultivating our light to shine in our own life.

Jesus calls us the light of the world.

Keeping the law and working on our spiritual life isn’t about us, it’s about our neighbor.

It’s not just an inward journey, but an outward breaking forth of light.

The prophet Isaiah describes righteousness as what we do for others.

 

So this question of letting your light shine boils down to two things:

1. What is it you can do for others? (ie: name your light)

2. What keeps you from doing it? (ie: name your bushel)

 

Let’s start with the first question: what does it look like for your light to shine?

What can you do for others?

>Check in on people—call them or send them cards to let them know you care.

>Bake something or bring someone a meal.

>Invite people to church or events.

>Tutor or coach students or adults—what are you skills and how can you share them?

>Shovel out your neighbor’s car.

>Pray for someone—let them know you’re praying.

>Forgive someone if you’re holding a grudge.

>Stand up for someone being bullied.

>Be an advocate for the oppressed.

 

And the question that follows: what are the bushels that hide your light?

What keeps you from doing the things we named help our neighbor?

>Fear of rejection.

>Fear of failure.

>Fear of change or discomfort.

>Lack of concern, lack of awareness.

>Greed or pride.

>Lack of communication.

>Poor prioritizing.

>Comparing ourselves to others.

>Romanticizing the past and clinging to it.

>Unrealistic expectations—over or underestimating ourselves.

 

No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

We come to church and to this table to light our lamps.

We come here week after week to keep our lamps lit.

What happens when we leave here?

Do we hide that lamp under a basket? Or put it on the lampstand?

The light of the world is not for itself.

The light of the world is to be shared.

You are the light of the world.

Discover what that light is—what it is you can do for others to shine.

 

It doesn’t have to be something huge.

You can start with something small and battle your bushels a bit at a time.

But let your light shine.

 

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel, NO! I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine, let it sine, let it shine.

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