Tag Archives: Lent

Confronting my own Racism

03/03 Update: Execution delayed because drugs to be used are “cloudy”–unclear if SCOTUS is reviewing case or not.

03/02 Update after 9pm: Execution delayed for SCOTUS to weigh in.

Tonight a woman named Kelly Renee Gissendaner is scheduled to be executed in Georgia at the age of 46. Her picture has been in my newsfeed for days, a beaming face under a blue graduation cap. She is known to at least one of my classmates from seminary.

At 6:45 tonight, I sat down on the floor to pray for Kelly. I wanted to pray for her in the minutes leading up to and following her scheduled 7pm execution. As I prayed, several thoughts and phrases repeated in my mind…
I sang the spiritual, “Oh, Sister, let’s go down, down to the river to pray.”
I recalled the words of the Nunc dimittis we recite at evening prayer, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace… for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”
I apologized to Kelly and made promises to her.
I asked God’s forgiveness for my being complicit in a broken and sinful system.

And then it hit me.

While I have been opposed to the death penalty for as long as I can remember, this feels different. And it feels different because Kelly looks like me.

A white woman, pictured in cap and gown, smiling, a professed Christian.

The difficult truth–for me at least–is that this death affects me differently than the more prevalent images of incarcerated black males. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I’m re-reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow with a group of parishioners at Trinity Wall Street right now, I just met with a previously incarcerated black man last week to discuss some excellent work he is doing to give hope to prisoners serving life sentences, and I share dinner with a group of recently incarcerated (mostly black male) people once a month–so it’s not like I’m naive to the very real problem race disparity and mass incarceration.

And yet that knowledge is apparently not enough to override my internal prejudice.

Perhaps others will be more affected by Kelly’s execution as well, and perhaps God will use that extra dose of “she looks like me” discomfort to bring about justice. I don’t know. But I know Kelly has taught me a lot this night.

As of 8:45pm, Kelly has not yet been executed. She has been denied clemency–a decision affirmed by the parole board after her scheduled 7pm execution. I can’t imagine what the past few hours of hopeless hope have felt like.

Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy.

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Observing a Holy Lent

Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

This morning I preached at our 8am Ash Wednesday service. It was special to me because a) this time last year I was a seminary volunteer at Trinity, sharing ashes in the church and on the street, not realizing I’d be a clergy person on staff a year later… and b) I’d never been asked to preach Ash Wednesday before.

In reading the lessons assigned for the day, I found that I loved the juxtaposition of Isaiah’s “Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!” with Matthew’s “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them… whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you.”

It made me laugh because I read lots of opinions on how to do Lent “right,” often opinions of other clergy friends, and often opinions expressed as rules or facts.

ie: Ashes on the street is evangelism and love in the real world! vs. Ashes to go is cheap grace and not real church! Brothers and sisters–please.

This is probably why my mom texted me earlier this week, asking for advice on whether she ought to wear her ashes all day or wipe them off after leaving church. Usually when my mom asks such questions, I suggest she ask her priest. So when I responded this time that the decision was a personal one she would have to make for herself, she replied, “How would you answer if I were not your mother?” My response: the same.

And so that’s what I preached about this morning. My mom wanted to know what the church’s “stance” is. The church’s stance is simply to invite you to observe a holy Lent. A good start is to observe which of the lessons for today make you squirm more. Do you prefer to wear ashes on your head all day so that folks will see what a good Christian you are, getting up early to go to church before work on a weekday? Then maybe Matthew’s text makes you a wee bit uncomfortable. And maybe in observing that discomfort, you decide to wipe your face clean before continuing your day. Or does the idea of wearing ashes strike you as a reminder of your mortality you’d rather forget–or as a strong symbol of your faith you’re nervous to profess? Then maybe Isaiah’s text pushes you outside your comfort zone. And maybe that discomfort challenges you to wear those ashes “loud and proud” all day long.

The answer isn’t the same for all of us because our sin manifests itself differently in our individual lives. Some sin is communal–it’s true. And some sin is yours alone–or mine alone. In Lent we get to reflect on both. It takes observation. It takes noticing where your discomfort is and how that might be distracting you from following Jesus.

What will you observe this Lent?

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Lent Week 5

During the season of Lent, I am leading a group study on baptism and the triduum at the Church of St. Matthew & St. Timothy in New York City.  We meet on Wednesday nights in English and Thursday nights in Spanish.  I am only posting the English handouts on the blog, but can provide Spanish translations on request.

Week 5: Wednesday, April 9

Mystery Informing Mission

In the Easter Vigil liturgy found in the Prayer Book, the Priest invites the people to renew their baptismal vows: “Through the Paschal mystery, dear friends, we are buried with Christ by baptism into his death, and raised with him to newness of life. I call upon you, therefore, now that our Lenten observance is ended, to renew the solemn promises and vows of Holy Baptism, by which we once renounced Satan and all his works, and promised to serve God faithfully in his holy Catholic Church.”[1]

  • Look at the Baptismal Vows on pages 292-294 of the Prayer Book. What story do they tell?
  • Why do we make a practice of renewing our vows? What or who does the renewing of the vows serve?

Jeffrey Lee writes that: “The Baptismal Covenant says that faith is not simply a matter of giving intellectual assent to a series of propositions about God, but is a matter of lifestyle, behaviors, and concrete commitments.”[2]

We are not just Christians in the church, but in the world. Having been transformed, Louis Weil calls us agents of transformation: “The most common things in human life—a bath, food and drink, a human touch—can serve as instruments of an encounter with God. They can express a deep experience of human community and be signs of God’s grace in the fabric of human existence. So we may say that the starting point for a theology of Christian worship is to take the world seriously as the place where God acts. Or liturgical rites point to that activity, but they do not limit it. This insight offers us a guiding principle for the relation of each Christian to the world: the work of the church is not to escape the world, but to be the agent of transformation and healing whenever we encounter injustice, abuse, hatred or indifference. The ministry of each Christian, and of each Christian community is found right before our eyes. This helps us to understand why, during the early centuries of Christianity, a newly baptized Christian was referred to as “another Christ.” This had not so much to do with liturgical rites as with the fact that each individual Christian was called to be Christ in the place in which he or she lived. That is where ministry begins, and it is the work of every member of the church, not merely the ordained.”[3]

  • Next weekend we will renew our Baptismal Covenant. How will this renewal empower you to be an “agent of transformation and healing” in the world?
  • Think of the Paschal candle we will soon light with a “new flame” and think of the sparks you feel in your own life. Spend time reflecting on where you feel God tugging at your heart. Write some ideas down and consider them in prayer during these last days of Lent.

[1]Church Publishing, Book of Common Prayer Chapel Edition: Red Hardcover (Unknown: CHURCH PUBLISHING INC, 1979), 292.

[2]Jeffrey D. Lee, Opening the Prayer Book (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1999), 95.

[3]Louis Weil, A Theology of Worship (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2002), 17.

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Lent Week 4

During the season of Lent, I am leading a group study on baptism and the triduum at the Church of St. Matthew & St. Timothy in New York City.  We meet on Wednesday nights in English and Thursday nights in Spanish.  I am only posting the English handouts on the blog, but can provide Spanish translations on request.

Week 4: Wednesday, April 2

New Life Dawns: Easter Vigil

“What we gather to celebrate in the Easter Vigil is not a fond reminiscence, but a present reality. We gather to participate in the death and resurrection of Christ, principally in the baptism of new members, but also in the renewal of all the baptized.”[1]

Story: An early account of the Easter Vigil according to Hippolytus (A.D. 215)

“The candidates for baptism fast on Friday and Saturday; others fast with them on both days if they are able, or on Saturday if ill or pregnant. Saturday night is spent in vigil, listening to readings and instructions. At cockcrow the baptismal water is blessed, a prayer of thanksgiving is said over the “oil of thanksgiving” (chrism), and an exorcism said over the “oil of exorcism.” The candidates renounce Satan, his servants, and his works, then are anointed with the oil of exorcism. They are baptized, assenting to a baptismal formula which is a profession of faith, the basis for the “Apostles’ Creed.” When they emerge from the water they are anointed with the oil of thanksgiving in the Name of Jesus the Christ (the Anointed One). They are then led into the assembly where the bishop says a prayer with laying on of hands, completes the anointing, and signs each on the forehead. The newly baptized participate then in the prayers of the people, the exchange of the peace, and the Eucharist. On this occasion they receive water (an internal baptism), and milk and honey (the food of babies, the Promised Land) as well as the elements of bread and wine.”[2]

  • What symbols do we read about in the above passage?
  • What do symbols do? What do they mean?
  • Our Prayer Book states: “The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.”[3] What does this statement say about the symbols we’ve named?
Dean Patrick Malloy pours chrism onto Amelia Hall, held in the arms of her father, M.Div. Junior Pickett Hall. Photo: John Bethell

At the General Theological Seminary, Rev. Patrick Malloy pours chrism onto Amelia Hall, held in the arms of her father Pickett Hall at her baptism. Photo: John Bethell

“In the Great Vigil of Easter we celebrate and make present (anamnesis) the pivotal events of the Old and New Testament heritage, the Passover of the Hebrews from the bondage of slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land, the Passover of our Lord Jesus Christ from death, and our own Passover from the bondage of sin and death to the glorious liberty of new life in Christ Jesus.”[4]

  • What are we making present? What are we making real?
  • How do your answers this week compare to your answers from Week 1?
  • Ponder what it is we are participating in, and be prepared to share your stories when we gather together next week.

 

[1]Jeffrey D. Lee, Opening the Prayer Book (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1999), 91.

[2]Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary On the American Prayer Book (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1995), 240.

[3]Church Publishing, Book of Common Prayer Chapel Edition: Red Hardcover (Unknown: CHURCH PUBLISHING INC, 1979), 857.

[4]Hatchett, Commentary On the American Prayer Book, 242-3.

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Lent Week 3

During the season of Lent, I am leading a group study on baptism and the triduum at the Church of St. Matthew & St. Timothy in New York City.  We meet on Wednesday nights in English and Thursday nights in Spanish.  I am only posting the English handouts on the blog, but can provide Spanish translations on request.

Week 3: Wednesday, March 26

The Space Between: Good Friday

The Good Friday liturgy is simply a reading of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John, followed by prayers, followed by anthems and the veneration of the cross. “The service has no formal entrance rite and no blessing or dismissal: since the church began it’s Triduum celebration on Thursday evening, the Good Friday liturgy is simply a gathering together or a focused offering of prayer at a particular moment in the course of the three days.”[1]

Story: Egeria is a Galician woman who made several pilgrimages to Jerusalem and kept precise journals, giving us an idea of early church practices:

“The pilgrim Egeria gives us the first evidence of special rites to mark the day in her description of the Good Friday rites in Jerusalem about A. D. 381-384. From eight o’clock in the morning until noon, the wood and superscription of the supposed true cross were exposed on a linen-covered table at the site of the crucifixion in the courtyard behind the Martyrium, the great church built by Constantine’s mother Helen. There the faithful came to venerate them as the bishop held his hands firmly on the cross while the deacons stood guard. At noon the people assemble in the courtyard for a service of psalms, lections, hymns, and prayers which lasted until three o’clock. They then moved into the church for a service and afterward to the tomb where the Johannine account of the burial was read (Jn. 19:38-42). A voluntary vigil at the tomb continued through the night. After a time other churches acquired portions of the true cross and conducted rites similar to those performed in Jerusalem. Eventually veneration of a cross became a practice in churches which did not possess any piece of the true cross.”[2]

  • What purpose does the cross serve in Egeria’s time? In ours?
  • The veneration of the cross is optional. The Prayer Book states, “If desired, a wooden cross may now be brought into the church and placed in the sight of the people.”[3] Our church chooses to share in this practice—why?
  • Does the cross mean something different on Good Friday than it does on Easter?

 

The cross sits atop Conejos Peak in Colorado, which I summitted this summer with my family.

This cross sits atop Conejos Peak in Colorado, taken this summer while hiking with family.

“The Christian’s participation in Jesus’ death in baptism is also a participation in his resurrection (Rom 6:5)…Baptism orients us to a future that does not end in death even while it initiates us into a cruciform pattern of life. This was Christ’s path to the resurrection, and thus it is also ours.”[4]

  • Christ cannot be resurrected without first dying on the cross. We can’t celebrate Easter without first observing Good Friday.
  • Is the cross a symbol of death? Or victory? Or…?

 

[1]Jeffrey D. Lee, Opening the Prayer Book (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1999), 89.

[2]Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary On the American Prayer Book (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1995), 232.

[3] Church Publishing, Book of Common Prayer Chapel Edition: Red Hardcover (Unknown: CHURCH PUBLISHING INC, 1979), 281.

[4] Susan K. Wood, One Baptism: Ecumenical Dimensions of the Doctrine of Baptism (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009), 8.

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Lent Week 2

During the season of Lent, I am leading a group study on baptism and the triduum at the Church of St. Matthew & St. Timothy in New York City.  We meet on Wednesday nights in English and Thursday nights in Spanish.  I am only posting the English handouts on the blog, but can provide Spanish translations on request. 

Week 2: Wednesday, March 19

The Triduum Begins: Holy Thursday

Read John 13: 1-15. Then read the following explication of our Maundy Thursday liturgy:

“The Three days of the Christian Passover begin with simple familiarity; the rubric opening the liturgy for Maundy Thursday directs: “The Eucharist begins in the usual manner” (BCP 274). On this night we share the meal that Jesus filled with the meaning of his death and resurrection, the meal that reconstitutes the church in that same paschal mystery week by week. The Eucharist is a fundamental means by which we are incorporated into the dying and rising of Christ, by which we renew our baptismal identity. The meaning of that identity in Christ is expressed in additional ritual actions on this night. The Maundy Thursday celebration allows for the ceremony of foot washing—from which the day actually takes its name. In Latin the word “commandment” is mandatum. At the last supper Jesus says to his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus takes the role of a servant by washing the disciples’ feet, revealing his identity as servant of all; servanthood was to be the sign of those who follow him. The washing of feet is meant to be a ritual identification with the servanthood of Christ, a declaration of who we are by baptism. At one time another mark of the liturgy of this day—expressing the same identification with Christ’s servanthood—was a special collection of gifts for the poor. Those who have been fed at the table of the Lord must become food for others.”[1]

  • In what ways does this liturgy make the Gospel come alive?
  • How important to our faith is Jesus’ command to love and serve one another?
  • Have you allowed someone to wash your feet? How did it make you feel?
  • Have you washed the feet of another? How did that make you feel?
  • What does Lee mean by, “Those who have been feed at the table of the Lord must become food to others”?

Story: Read “Gaining a Dose of Humility, One Washed Foot at a Time” from The Washington Post[2]

  • How do you feel about foot washing after hearing this story?
  • Does this story challenge or inspire you?
  • If we are united to Christ in our baptism, and we remember and experience this unification in the Eucharist, how do we express that unification in our service to others?

 

[1]Jeffrey D. Lee, Opening the Prayer Book (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1999), 88.

[2] William Wan, “Gaining a Dose of Humility, One Washed Foot at a Time,” The Washington Post, April 2, 2006, accessed December 8, 2013,   http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/01/AR2006040100617_pf.html.

 

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Lent Week 1

During the season of Lent, I am leading a group study on baptism and the triduum at the Church of St. Matthew & St. Timothy in New York City.  We meet on Wednesday nights in English and Thursday nights in Spanish.  I am only posting the English handouts on the blog, but can provide Spanish translations on request.

Week 1: Wednesday, March 12

Water and Spirit: An Introduction To Baptism

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” John 3:5

Story: Read A Rite Of Passage by Aidan Kavanagh [1]

  • What do you think and feel upon hearing this story?
  • Have you ever thought of baptism as initiation? Initiation into what? How does it compare to other initiations you have experienced?
  • Euphemius and the other candidates never even see a Eucharist celebrated before their baptism—what does this mystery create?
  • What are the symbols used in the story—what do they symbolize?
  • This story describes the tradition that shapes our liturgy. But the tradition and liturgy (then and now) are based on certain beliefs we hold to be central. How does our baptism illustrate our beliefs?
  • Does your baptism shape your identity? How so?
This is me celebrating the excitement of baptism in an early church baptismal font outside Ephesus, Turkey.

This is me celebrating the excitement of baptism in an early church baptismal font outside Ephesus, Turkey.

What about this “Triduum” thing?

Triduum means “three days” and it begins when Lent ends on Thursday evening, lasting through Sunday evening, encompassing Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. “The Triddum, the very soul of our year, is what it is because of the baptizing: there is the passion, the dying and the rising of the Lord Jesus, met in our midst. There is the encounter with these death-dealing yet life-giving waters that forever define each of us as Christian and all of us as church.”[2]

“Even more than the participation in any of the liturgies…the manner in which this time is kept by individuals and by households will establish the Triduum as a holy time and will make the Vigil with its baptizing the center of our year. Fasting, praying (alone or with large or small groups), freedom from work when possible, time for the reading of scripture, an atmosphere of quiet: these being to make the Triduum presence in our lives, a presence to be received and honored and attended to. Likewise, the hours of Sunday need to have something more than “it’s all over” to them. The element of feasting, of some once-a-year foods, of another kind of restfulness filled with the sounds of the Vigil’s alleluia bring Easter Sunday into the home.”[3]

  • What traditions did you practice in your home or church growing up leading up to Easter? Who passed them onto you, and what did they mean to you?
  • What traditions do you continue to practice today—why?
  • How might celebrating the Triduum shape us?

 

[1]Gabe Huck, The Three Days: Parish Prayer in the Paschal Triduum (Chicago: Liturgy Training Pubns, 1981), 107-9.

[2]Huck, The Three Days: Parish Prayer in the Paschal Triduum, 1.

[3]Huck, The Three Days: Parish Prayer in the Paschal Triduum, 6.

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Pies desnudos: a Bilingual Maundy Thursday Sermon

Preached at The Church of St. Matthew and St. Timothy in New York City on Maundy Thursday, 2013. 

LectionaryExodus 12:1-4, 11-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35.

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

I’m always a little uneasy about Maundy Thursday services because I know what’s coming: foot washing.  Oh, the humility!  To let someone wash my feet!  So embarrassing. 

Peter says to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” 

Why is it so hard for us to let others serve us?

Pedro le dijo: “¡Jamás permitiré que me laves los pies!”

Respondió Jesús: “Si no te los lavo, no podrás ser de los míos.”

Siempre estoy un poco nerviosa en los servicios de Jueves Santo porque ya sé lo que viene: lavatorio de pies. ¡La humildad!  No quiero que alguien lave mis pies!  Que vergüenza.

Pedro le dijo: “¡Jamás permitiré que me laves los pies!”

¿Por qué es tan difícil dejar que otros nos sirvan?

When Jay and I were married, we carefully selected hymns that we felt would be important to our relationship moving forward.  The hymn we most loved started with the following words:

Brother, sister, let me serve you.

Let me be as Christ to you.

Pray that I may have the grace

to let you be my servant too.

I need prayers and grace to let you serve me.  Why?

Cuando Jay y yo nos casamos, nosotros seleccionamos con cuidado cada himno pensando en lo que sería importante para nuestro futuro juntos.  El himno que nos gustó más tiene este verso:

Hermano, hermana, déjame servirle

Déjame ser como Cristo es a usted.

Ora que yo pueda tener la gracia

De Dejarle a usted ser mi siervo también.

Yo necesito oraciones y gracia para que alguien pueda servirme—por qué?

To let you serve me requires a bit more humility and intimacy than we’re used to in today’s society. 

We are taught to be independent.  Self-sufficient.  Strong. 

To bear my feet.  To make myself vulnerable.  To let you wash away my dirt and smell.  There’s no room for pride in that! 

Para dejar a alguien que me sirva requiere un poco más humildad e intimidad que lo que estamos acostumbrados en la sociedad de hoy.

La sociedad dice que debemos ser independientes.  Autosuficientes.  Fuertes.

Para enseñar mis pies.  Para ser vulnerable.  Para dejarle a alguien lavar mi suciedad y olor.  ¡No hay lugar para orgullo en esto!

http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48299

We are used to sitting on buses and subways pressed up against each other without ever making eye contact.  We have conversations over text messages, emails and facebook without ever having to listen to another’s voice.  We insulate ourselves from the world around us, making sure we look busy and put together at all times, always putting our best foot forward, always playing to our strengths. 

But to strip away those layers of technology, appearance, expectations and social pressures.  To let you see my weaknesses.  My naked feet.  That seems a little too close for comfort in this day and age. 

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 

Estamos acostumbrados a sentarnos en los autobuses y trenes apretados unos contra otros sin contacto visual.  Tenemos conversaciones sobre mensajes de texto, email y Facebook sin escuchar la voz de un amigo.  Nos aislamos del mundo, asegurándonos que parecemos ocupados y bien preparados, siempre poniendo el mejor pie adelante, siempre demostrando nuestras fuerzas.

Pero para quitar cosas de tecnología, apariencia, expectaciones sociales.  Para dejarle ver mis debilidades.  Mis pies desnudos.  Eso me parece incomodo.

Respondió Jesús: “Si no te los lavo, no podrás ser de los míos.”

I looked up the Greek word for “share” used in John’s Gospel: μέρος (meros).  It means portion or part.  Jesus invites us to share in his ministry, to share in serving the world and in sharing God’s love.  But I can’t do my part unless I take off my “shoes” and let Jesus wash me.  I need God to love me so I can share God’s love.  I need Jesus to teach me so I can teach others.  I need people to pray for me so I can pray for the world. 

And all of this requires me to strip myself of my ego, my safety net, my distractions, my anger, and tonight my shoes—and to be served.  If I allow myself to be open to service, if I pray for the grace to let you serve me, then I’ll know what I’m asking of you when I say, “Brother, sister, let me serve you.”

Jesús nos invita a compartir en su ministerio, compartir sirviendo al mundo, compartir el amor de Dios.  Pero no puedo hacer mi parte si no me quito mis “zapatos” y dejar que Jesús lave mis pies.  Necesito que Dios me ame para que pueda compartir el amor de Dios.  Necesito que Jesús me enseñe para que yo también pueda enseñar.  Necesito que otros oren por mí para que yo pueda orar por el mundo.

Y todo esto demanda que quite mi ego, mi seguridad, mis distracciones, mi ira, y esta noche mis zapatos—para ser servida.  Si permito ser servida, si pido a Dios por la gracia de dejarle servirme, quizás sabré lo que pido cuando le digo, “hermano, hermana, déjenme servirle.”

I’m taking a class on addiction right now, and one of the requirements is to attend several 12-step meetings.  The people in the AA meeting I attended last week understand what it is to share.  Again and again I listened to people share their stories, and then to say, “it helps me to share this with you.”  And many people listening would follow up saying, “it helps me to hear your story.” The meeting was a constant give-and-take of serving and being served. 

I think the reason this works so well in AA is that every person who walks in that room has to check their pride at the door.  When you introduce yourself, you share your name, and then you name your weakness.  It’s not, “I’m Jack, and I’m an awesome father.”  Or “I’m Sally, and I’m a successful lawyer.”  But, “I’m Alex, and I’m an alcoholic, or a drug addict, or a gambler, or an over-eater, or a sex addict.”  It’s as if they say their name and take off their shoes in the same breath.

Una de mis clases es sobre la adicción, y uno de los requisitos es asistir a varias reuniones de 12-pasos.  La gente en la reunión de AA que asistí la semana pasada entiende lo que es compartir.  Varias personas comparten sus historias, y luego dicen, “me ayuda compartir esto con ustedes.”  Y algunas responden, “me ayuda a conocer su historia.”  La reunión era una constante toma y da de servir y ser servido.

Creo que la razón por la cual esto funciona bien en AA es que cada persona que entra a la reunión tiene que dejar su orgullo en la puerta.  Cuando se presenta, dice su nombre, y dice su debilidad.  No es, “Me llamo Jack, y soy un padre increíble,” o “Me llamo Sally, y soy abogado con éxito.”  No es esto.  Pero, “Me llamo Alex, y soy alcohólico.”  Es como si dicen su nombre y quitan sus zapatos al mismo tiempo.

Peter said to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

May we all take off our shoes tonight, whether they be shoes of pride or of fear or shame or loneliness.  May we take off our shoes and be washed by Christ’s love and be fed by Christ’s feast so that we too may share in Christ’s ministry.

Pedro le dijo: “¡Jamás permitiré que me laves los pies!”

Respondió Jesús: “Si no te los lavo, no podrás ser de los míos.”

Que zapatos nuestros quitamos esta noche, ya sean zapatos de orgullo, o de miedo, de vergüenza o soledad.  Que quitemos nuestros zapatos y seamos lavados por el amor de Cristo y seamos alimentados por la fiesta de Cristo para que también nosotros podamos compartir en el ministerio de Cristo.

Amen.

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I got to keep on movin’

Preached on the Second Sunday of Lent at St. Matthew & St. Timothy, New York

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Oh, how Jesus laments for God’s chosen people.  He cries out in both frustration and love.  Ah!  Jerusalem!  I love you!  I want to care for you!  But you make it so hard!

For several weeks now, Mother Carla has been asking us to consider where we picture ourselves years from now—what we will be doing, who we will be with, how we will be spending our time and our talents…and then to consider where Jesus desires us to be.  Is it the same place?  Do my desires for myself and God’s desires for me coincide?  Or is there tension between how I want to spend my time and how God might be calling me to spend my time. 

Is Jesus calling out my name in frustration and love?  Is he calling out yours?

I have a confession to make.  I am a very stubborn person.  And I’m also someone who worries about what others think of me.  I want to be liked, to earn the approval of others.  Several years ago, I was living in Benin, West Africa as a missionary.  I had intended to live there two years, but it soon became clear that I just couldn’t cut it.  I had to go home. 

And with that realization came the fear of how others would perceive my decision.  Would they think I was weak?  A quitter?  A wimp?  Would they think my faith wasn’t strong enough?  At some point, I knew in my heart that going home was the right thing to do, that God would care for me despite the many unknowns, and who cares what people think?

After figuring out this whole—you’re going to be ok, God will care for you, don’t worry about what others think—revelation, I got a little perturbed with God.  I said to God, “Really?  Did you have to bring me all the way to Africa to figure this out?”  And in my heart, I could hear God’s response plain as day: “Yes, Lauren, you’re just that stubborn.”

It’s true.  I’m stubborn.  And sometimes God has to go to great lengths to teach me something. 

Like Jerusalem, we are God’s people.  During baptism we are “marked and sealed as Christ’s own forever.”  We use Christ’s name to identify ourselves as Christians.  And Like Jerusalem, we too can cause God to call out in lament and frustration. 

Are you familiar with the term “face-palm?”  It’s when one smacks their palm to their forehead—like so:

Here are some Jesus face-palm moments I can imagine:

When Westboro Baptist Church holds up signs reading, “God hates Gays” at the funeral of a fallen soldier.  Face-palm.

When a priest apologizes for participating in an interfaith memorial service for the children of Newtown.  Face-palm.

When a church tries to cover up clergy pedophilia.  Face-palm. 

When I am too self-absorbed to make eye contact with the homeless man sitting outside the seminary gate. 

When I gossip about a peer because it makes me feel more secure. 

When I ignore a call from a friend or family member because I’ve got more important things to do. 

Face-palm, face-palm, face-palm.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem!  Christians, Christians!  You!  Me!  Us!

And even in his exasperation, Jesus longs to care for us.  “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”  It’s as if he’s shouting, “HEY!  Let me love you!”

Gosh, we can be stubborn.  The good news is: Jesus is stubborn too.

Jesus is traveling in much of Luke’s Gospel.  From chapter 9 to chapter 19, Jesus is making his way from the region of Galilee to the city of Jerusalem.  I imagine it takes him as long as it does because he is so busy healing people.  When the Pharisees tell Jesus he needs to get a move on because Herod is coming to kill him, Jesus says, “Tell that fox I’m busy healing people and casting out demons!”  And then he reminds us that he’s on a journey to Jerusalem.  Jesus knows what to expect in Jerusalem.  He knows he’s journeying toward death.  But dying is just as much a part of Jesus’ ministry as healing people and casting out demons.  Indeed dying is integral to Jesus’ ministry—he’s got to die if he’s going to conquer death.  And so he keeps journeying, keeps healing, keeps fighting evil despite Herod’s threats and Jesus’ impending death.  This is a stubborn Jesus.

Here’s why I’m talking about stubbornness and journeying.  Because we too are on a journey to Jerusalem.  And we too know what to expect—a dying savior.  During this season of Lent we think about the sacrifice Christ made in love for us—He stretched out his arms of love on the hard wood of the cross.  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem!  How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” 

We are preparing ourselves to accept God’s love for us.  We are preparing ourselves for the life that Love calls us to lead.  We are on a journey.

And this preparation, it takes time.  Habits are hard to break and make.  30 days remain in Lent.  Is God calling out to you?  Do you hear frustration?  Do you hear love?  Perhaps both? 

What will it take for us to let God’s love rule our lives.  What will it take for us to live risky, messy, Christ-like lives.  What will it take for me to align my plans with God’s plans as Mother Carla has challenged us to imagine.  You may be stubborn like me.  But Jesus is stubborn too.  And we’ve still got 30 days. 

Lets make them count.  Amen. 

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