Monday, January 29, 2007

BCP - Epiphany 4 C - 28 Jan 2007

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Brother Kevin Patrick Cagle
BCP – Epiphany 4 C - Sunday 28 January 2007

Jeremiah 1:4-10
1 Corinthians 14:12b-20
Luke 4:21-32

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

As our lesson from the Gospel according to Luke begins today Jesus has just spoken these words from the prophet Isaiah. Jesus is fresh from his long experience in the wilderness where he had been pushed and challenged. Before that - he had recently been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River - being clearly identified as Gods anointed one. On his journey toward Nazareth, where we find him today, Jesus moved about Galilee teaching and healing people of all kinds of diseases. He was becoming famous for his eloquence and for his healing abilities. He had experienced for himself the deepest things of God and he was beginning to speak out about what he knew.

The picture we are given in Luke today is not one of gentle Jesus, meek and mild. Jesus is speaking in his hometown synagogue. This is the room where he was taught to read the very words just spoken - and these are the people who instructed him in the Jewish tradition. They are relatives, neighbors, childhood friends and perhaps even some long-term enemies. Jesus is among people he knows and who know him. The words spoken are not comforting or reassuring to this tightly knit community. They are challenging and even provocative.

Immediately after Jesus read from Isaiah, everyone present spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, Is not this Josephs son? They recognize him as one of their own.

Jesus is well received. He then proceeds to tell the group what they are really thinking. Putting words in their mouths, Jesus tells them he knows that they are thinking he is a bit strange really - and in need healing himself. Though they were initially impressed by the gracious words falling from his lips, they doubted all of this healing of lepers and such. They wanted Jesus to prove himself by healing someone in Nazareth - where the hometown folks could see what was going on.

Jesus then reminds them that God had often sent prophets to Israel - and that these prophets had acted in accordance with Gods purposes and not to make the people of Israel comfortable. God had even passed over people like these standing in the Nazareth synagogue - in favor of marginalized people like the widow in Sidon. He reminded them that, There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." Naaman had been an officer in an army with enmity for Israel, but the prophet had been sent to deliver healing to him.

This would be something like Jesus telling us here this morning that God was passing us over to become chaplain to Ossama Bin Laden.

The predictable response to Jesus in the synagogue is anger. Provocation of this kind can only come from one who knows - and is known well - by their audience. This quiet gathering of the faithful becomes a lynch mob. All in response to hearing truth told about themselves. They are not happy at being known so deeply and completely. They have been exposed at the hand of one of their own. Jesus is not supposed to act in this way. Where is his hometown loyalty? Their secrets are his secrets and being a part of a tightly knit community means that secrets were to be protected. Challenge to the status quo is not welcome. Change of heart is not wanted. The ending is ugly. Jesus slips from their midst just before they throw him over a cliff to his death.

What would have been a happy outcome to this scene? What did Jesus want from these hometown folks anyway? It is hard to say, but I think the story of Naaman helps us to see. Jesus chose this story to make a point about accepting the tough truth of God as well as healing.

The story of Naaman is found in the second book of Kings. He was a captain in the Aramean army and was a well respected person with his King. Naaman was also a leper. A captive Israeli servant girl working in Naamans household told of the prophet Elisha who lived in her homeland and could certainly heal Naaman. Naaman was a proud man and Israel was the enemy of his King, but Naaman wanted to be healed of leprosy and would stop at nothing to be so healed. With his Kings blessing, Naaman traveled into enemy territory to plead with the King of Israel for the healing that was reportedly available there. Elisha came forth with instruction for Naaman. To be healed, he simply had to wash himself in the Jordan River there in Israel seven times. Doing so would result in the restoration of his skin.

Naaman became furious. He considered the action prescribed to be degrading. He had hoped for an elaborate magic show performed by the prophet or for some challenging test of endurance to be assigned him - with healing as the reward. And besides that, certainly the distant waters of some far away river were better than those of the Jordan which belonged to the King of Israel. The task was too simple.

Naaman was angry and ready to leave, but his friends spoke hard words that challenged his pride and his grandiose expectations. They convinced him to do the simple thing that God required of him in order for healing to take place.

Naaman did not remain fixed in his initial anger reaction. He used it as an opportunity to move forward. Naaman did not only plunge into the waters of the Jordan that day, he also plunged into the depths of his own inner being right there as he stood in that moment.

This was a moment of drastic and frightening change for Naaman. His vision of community had to be expanded. These people of Israel who he thought he knew so well his enemies, held the keys to his healing. Naaman made a choice to confront his own anger and his biases and to cast himself on the mercy of God. His decision to allow his world to become smaller resulted in healing of body and the finding of faith.

The people in the synagogue of Nazareth did not follow Naamans example on the day of Jesusvisit there. They would not let go of their anger. They refused to allow for the possibility that Jesus saw something that they could not see.

Perhaps Jesus had hoped that he could use his familiarity with the Nazarenes to get straight to the point with them. Rather than beating around the bush, maybe Jesus hoped to tell them - that what God wants is changed hearts and an expanded view of what being in community means and who it includes.

This is not how things worked out that day. Rather than allowing their familiarity with Jesus be an instrument of direct communication, they used familiarity instead as an excuse to dismiss what Jesus was trying to tell them.

I have to ask myself this morning: Who speaks truth to me that I do not want to hear? Who makes me so angry that I want to kill them? What am I afraid of and why will I not listen?

It is in listening through our initial emotional response that we hear the tough truth that God wants to tell us and it is in speaking directly to those closest to us that we help each other accept the healing and comfort offered by God.

Without his friends encouraging words, Naaman would likely have left Israel in anger and continued to suffer from leprosy. We need to speak out when our friends and our world are in danger. We need to speak clearly and directly, not shrinking from difficult truths. We need to pray for compassion and openness to those who we have labeled as enemies.

Our world has become so small. We are known to each other. We live in an age of high tech gossip where fine details of our lives are easily revealed. We cannot escape from each other and I think that this is good. For me it is a sign of what God wants us to be, a global community of truth and reconciliation where all are welcome, most especially those we had considered insignificant or even enemies.

For healing, God calls us to listen and to speak. God calls us to plunge into the waters at hand, the waters of ourselves.

Listen and speak.

Listen and speak.

In doing so, we participate in the healing of our world.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

BCP - Epiphany 3 C - 21 Jan 2007

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Brother Reginald Martin Crenshaw, OHC
BCP – Epiphany 3 C - Sunday 21 January 2007

Nehemiah 8:2-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Luke 4:14-21

“Be the Change we want to see in the world.” In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

"Be the change we want to see in the world."
This saying by Gandhi is a fitting introduction to the Readings that we’ve just encountered. Today’s epistle and Gospel is not just an interesting conversation about the unity of the human race but a major challenge to us to sit up, listen, see and then act on that belief that we are one.

On Friday, at our novitiate bible study, I asked the novices to consider three questions as we considered the Readings for today’s liturgy. I would like you to consider these questions yourselves as well. They are;
- What attracts you about these readings and why?
- What do you resist in these readings and why?
- And, what questions do these readings raise for you? Answer for you? Not answer for you?
I invite you to reflect on your responses as you journey with me during this homily.

And so!... Well! Well! Well!
What would you think, if I came to worship with you and as your guest preacher I began as Jesus did with these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord."

Then I closed the Scripture from the Isaiah reading and said to you “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

What would you reaction be? You would look at me and say; "Who does he think he is? Isn’t that Reg, don’t we know him?" And you would whisper to each other the things you knew about me, hoping that in the whispering you would be exercising power over me and neutralizing the effects of my words.

You would continue: "How could he say something so arrogant and silly? How could he, as one of us, one of our kind, who is as poor and disenfranchised as we are promise us freedom? How dare he? We’re oppressed, we’re victims. Who does he think he is? Why would someone in the same condition as us talk to us about being agents in our liberation?" How can you be a victim and agent at the same time? That’s not possible.

Isn’t it interesting that those of us who experience oppression of whatever stripe, whether it be racial, gender, sexual orientation or poverty or, any of the “isms” will respond in anger, to the challenge that we are subjects, that we are agents rather than victims.

What are we really responding to when we are being confronted with reality of our oppression that makes us turn our backs and respond the way the people of Nazareth did? One possibility is that oppression is a life of trauma. We spend so much of our emotional life accepting our status as “other” and existing in a survival mode.

We have learned to live with being “Other” by suppressing our feeling about the injustice of it. The reminder by Jesus or anyone that we could be agents seems to invalidate all the energy created in accepting injustice. We feel we have wasted our lives in some way. And, we respond with an anger of recognition that we have accepted the role as “other” and “victim” as the only possibility for our lives.

The citizens of Nazareth weren’t just spiritually poor, they were relationally poor, economically and socially poor. They had been taught that they were nothing; that, their condition was beyond their control. And life, well, it just is. If all your experience of life supports this notion, how dare someone -- and someone who we know (Jesus) to be a person like us -- dare to present as good news that our blind eyes (existence) could be opened; that release from captivity was possible; that oppression could be overthrown?

In today’s reading, Jesus is addressing people who are marginal, who are against the wall. He is addressing the poor people of Nazareth not as oppressed people under the roman authority but people with agency. Speaking directly to the oppressed is different because usually it is the oppressor who is addressed. It is the oppressor who is criticized for systemic oppression. Don’t do that, your actions are wrong, always the analysis is of the oppressor action.

Rarely, are the people for whom agency is required spoken to directly. In this Lucan passage the people whom we always talk about as in need of being freed are addressed directly; the poor and the marginal themselves. This is rare indeed.

Maybe the people’s resistance to Jesus' call to agency and their response of anger comes because they realized that once you acknowledge, the reality of your situation you cannot remain the same. To encounter the reality means to deal with the shame you have been made to feel because of who you are.

Remember: Jesus is not addressing the oppressor but the oppressed themselves who in their acceptance and belief about who they are become partners with the oppressor and their role becomes one of being in collusion and supporting their own oppression.

Thus we talk about liberation in the abstract, as something that does not belong to us but to someone else. We are afraid to examine our lives and our options from the position of subjects. Instead we accept what’s been said about us. You are either racial inferior and you believe it in the core of your being and you respond to everything with that in your system. Or you believe that you are deformed and defective because of your sexuality, or you believe you can’t be this or that because of your gender.

Our brother Jesus is addressing each of us in our life situation and saying: "You are subject and agent and therefore, you need not live your live as victim." Jesus releases you from the captivity of victimhood and allows you to see that you can be other than victim. If you can deal with the pain of the oppression and look it square in the eye, you can go free.

And to bring this point further, today’s Corinthians reading is the proclamation of the metaphor of the one body. We are all part of the one body. One part is not only dependent on the other part but each part has dignity because all the parts have dignity. We cannot be free; we are not complete without one another.

Let me read to you from "The Message" translation of 1 Cor. 12: 18-26.
“By means of his one Spirit, we all said goodbye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized. Each of us is now part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain -- his Spirit -- where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves-labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free, are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.”

We are inextricably bound one to the other. Can you see that? Can you feel that? Will you allow yourself to see and feel that? It is proclaimed in Corinthians as it is in Luke that we are subjects who are grace-filled agents; we can free ourselves because God is the source of freedom; God is at the root of freedom.

Last Monday we celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., preacher, civil rights leader and practitioner of nonviolence. Dr. King spoke to this nation as Jesus spoke to his people in Nazareth. He spoke to us as one who was not above us but as one of us. He spoke to us about our agency. And in his speech in April of 1967, he connected the struggle for racial equality with the struggle against war and militarism. His challenge to us was that, as agents, we could be the change that we want to see in the world. "Be the Change you want to see in the world.” (Gandhi) Be the change you want to see in the world, turn your back on victim-hood, stop participating in your own oppression.

We must Stop / Start / Continue. We must Stop seeing ourselves as victims. We must Start seeing ourselves as subjects and agents who can move beyond shame, dishonor and guilt. And we must Continue to strengthen the body of humanity of which we are all a part.

And so I have a dream which completes, Dr. King’s.
“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black white, brown, Jews, Gentiles, Protestants, gay, straight, bi-sexual, transgendered, women who are feminists, women who are not., black women who are womanists, black women who are not, Muslims, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, non-believers, Traditional believers, will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro Spiritual, free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”
The road to real freedom, my brothers and sisters is for us to be the change we want to see in the world.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Martin Luther King commemoration - 14 Jan 2007

Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford, Connecticut
Brother Reginald Martin Crenshaw, OHC
RCL – Epiphany 2 C - Sunday 14 January 2007
Sermon Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Good Morning! I am so happy to be with you to worship God, to celebrate and affirm our lives as members of the community of faith and to remember a brother who has gone before us Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I would like to begin with these words from Gandhi who said: “Be the Change you want to see in the world.

Dr. King dreamed about how to be that change in the world. The last paragraph of Dr. King’s “I have a dream" speech speaks to this. It reads: “When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro Spiritual, Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last.

Therefore the road to real freedom is for us to be the change we want to see in the world.

My brothers and sisters, one more year has passed, and tomorrow which is the official celebration of Dr. King’s Birth as well as during the month of February (Black History Month) we will hear The “I have a dream" speech in parts and in its entirety on TV documentaries, radio stations, and at special community events. Preachers will echo these words and some of them who possess good preaching skills may even for a moment incite us to an emotional pitch, in which the light switch goes on and for a moment, we say and maybe even hum, “You know this dream—it may be possible isn’t it.

And yet after all the rituals, celebrations, food orgies, memories of when we were young and in the struggle for civil rights, and other peace and justice issues, we turn the light switch off, sigh and say, “Oh well!" And we return to our life as it is today. If we have done well professionally and financially, this cry of freedom articulated in Dr. King’s speech is believed to be an accomplished fact and this is clearly indicated by our social status and financial resources.

What happens to a dream deferred Asks Langston Hughes? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore -- and then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over -- like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? What is your answer? What dream has been deferred in your life?

Freedom, for some, is no longer a problem and for many, quite frankly, they’re embarrassed of talk about freedom in general and in particular to talk or think about the various struggles for freedom against oppression. Quite frankly, they assert that battle is over, let’s get on with the real issues, the economy and more importantly, how do I survive and maintain my life minimally at the level, that I’ve currently achieved.

Still others are disturbed by any discussion of inequality of whatever stripe and respond with denial and anger. Why, they say must we always talk about these things? Life must move on. Yes it must, but the question is how must it move? What responsibility do we have for shaping the quality of life not only for ourselves but our neighbors?

This morning’s second lesson has a sneaky way of bringing up the issue of freedom and why what we think is freedom is in fact not freedom at all. Let me repeat the words from a different translation, the Message. It reads, “What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it?

Let’s for a moment reflect on what it means not to know God. There is a profound absence, a void, in our lives when we don’t know God. Our culture of individualism leads us to a blindness and illusion. The self suffers because egotism leads a person away from the experience of community. The greatest illusion is the belief that we are god.

When we believe and act as though God does not have anything to say in our lives, the resulting belief is that we do not need God and we don’t really need each other. The consequence of this belief is manifested often in our personal lives, and in society as a whole.

We see, for example, couples unable to talk to each other about common issues between them because of the lack of faith and trust in each other. There are ways corporately in which we distinguish ourselves from others.

We create an “Other” by race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. These become ways we imprison ourselves and insulate ourselves from others. We then cast them out of the human family. They are not like us; they are not us, but something else.

All of these distinctions become reasons and justifications for all the destruction we commit upon each other. We go to war; we create scientific and social knowledge and language that exalts one group over the other.

For example, the dominant group calls its form of communication language; it calls the dominated group’s language a dialect clearly implying that one form of communication is superior to another. One group (the dominant group) calls its understanding of the divine with its attendant dogmas and rituals -- religion, it calls other groups (dominated groups) understanding of their relationship to the cosmos, to ultimate reality as primitive, superstitious and lacking in sophistication. We call one group cultural representations art and refer to the cultural representations of people we view as inferior as “folk art”.

All of these distinctions might have justifications and a great cultural and economic industry has been created around them but they are essentially judgments about the worth, work, and life of others. These judgments often become a means to isolate, condemn and dismiss.

The result of this absence of God is tragic, people are unable to trust, the ability to be intimate with another human being is impaired and hence our ability to love either ourselves or others is a reality that exists outside of our conscious life.

What then does the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., have to do with the ways in which God’s spirit gets worked into our lives? What do he and his life represent? Why must we celebrate what he stood for? What gifts does God give us to live the lives we need to live?

I want to suggest that Dr. King is a symbol of all of our lives. And further that as a symbol for all of us, celebrating his memory can assist us in “letting God’s spirit get worked into our lives.

Symbols are important signs in that they point to a reality larger than ourselves. It is the job of the symbol to keep us on track to hold us accountable and faithful to our calling as Christians. Dr. King is such a symbol reminding us through his life and actions of the reality of the incarnation, the mystery of God becoming and entering human life.

Dr. King’s life points to the central Christian reality of death and resurrection and his life encourages suspicion of false security. Our true security as Christians lies in the constantly renewed experience of being stripped naked, plunged beneath the waters, raised up, and the condition of entry into that mystery, (the promised land, as Dr. King expressed it) is metanoia, a complete revolution in our lives.

It calls us to welcoming those gifts of the spirit mentioned in today’s second reading. We welcome the variety of gifts, wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Dr. King’s life, his words, his actions reminds us of the necessity for renewal, restoration, reconciliation and justice.

As symbol Dr. King encourages and calls us to constant renewal, restoration, reconciliation and justice which we have committed ourselves to in our baptismal covenant. We have in our baptismal covenant committed ourselves to pray, to forgive, to respect the dignity and integrity of each human being, to Strive, promote and work for justice and peace. As symbol, Dr. King “demands that we let go of false securities and allow God to work his strange work upon us. Amen.

BCP - Epiphany 2 C - 14 Jan 2007

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Brother Bernard Jean Delcourt, OHC
BCP – Epiphany 2 C - Sunday 14 January 2007

Isaiah 62:1-5
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Eternal One.
(adaptation from Ps 19: 14)


I find the story of the wedding at Cana a delightful and rich combination of symbolism and of everyday humanity.

Jesus, Mary and a few of their friends are guests at a wedding. The bride, or the groom, are probably related or associated to Mary and Jesus. It is a time of joy, celebration and merriment.

I try to imagine a relaxed Jesus bantering with friends and relatives while enjoying festive food and drink. Is this a precursor of the heavenly banquet when we will enjoy God's presence -- with our judgment past us and all of our earthly worries put aside?

But Mary becomes aware that the hosts are running out of wine. In a Mediterranean context, shame would fall on the family that was unable to properly entertain its guests on a wedding day.

Moreover, the scarcity of resources on such a day would come as a bad omen on the couple's future. Mary shares her concern with Jesus. At first, he seems to find it an imposition to uphold the family honor. Why should he be part of the solution to this very problem?

Yet Mary seems to be undaunted that the Kingdom of God is yet to come; she sees that Kingdom as a clear and present reality and she leaves it to Jesus to take care of the present issue.

Only grace can save the day and Mary seems in no doubt that grace is in plentiful supply with her son. "Whatever he tells you, do it" -- she says to the servants. I imagine her returning to her spot at the banquet and reclining, concerned no longer; resuming the conversation with her table neighbors. She trusts that our salvation is in the hands of God.

I like the fact that God uses what is at hand to work out grace amongst us. Our persons and our lives are the ore out of which God refines grace. The jars of water for the purification rites are there; Jesus has them put to use. They are filled with the water drawn from the well -- the water that when drunk will let us become thirsty again. And the God whose words brought the universe into being has the water turn into wine of the very best kind.

It could be the foreshadowing of the cup of wine that will signal our salvation and quench our thirst with an ever flowing source of life. Out of the stone jars -- used to satisfy the purification rites set down by Moses -- comes a new wine; like the wine that will seal a new covenant between God and the people of God.

As the new wine is poured at the wedding in Cana, most of the guests are unaware of the grace that fills their cup. But a few are let in on God's Kingdom breaking into our reality.

First, a smile must pass on Mary’s face as she overhears the headwaiter calling out to the bridegroom that the best wine should have been served first. And then, the simplest of folks -- the servants who obeyed Jesus -- are awed by the miracle.

This first sign then is also a template of how God’s grace may not always strike us evidently but may be at work amongst the humblest and most unassuming of us.
Isn’t it reassuring to know that God’s grace may be at work even when I have no clue that it is even here.


And this brings me to the other side of grace that our texts bring up for me this morning. The apostle Paul warns us about a few dangers in receiving God’s grace.
First, it is important to always remember that the gift of God’s grace is the unearned gift from God and not a validation of how good I am.

Second, it is urgent that we do not make a hierarchy of gifts. All of God’s graces are needed to bring about God’s Kingdom amongst us.

It’s a little bit like a good symphony, without the diversity of instruments and choristers coming together, it would be a very different piece of music. And while the piano may be more prominently featured at times, the triangle and the piccolo flute may showcase its contribution in a way that the piano would be quite unable to do on its own.

It is also important that all the musicians remember that they are playing a score greater than any one of them. If they each do their own thing (different scores of music maybe or even different tempi), nothing much will come of it. On the other hand, if they remember that they have a conductor (maestro Jesus maybe), and as long as they follow God’s score, the harmony may yet win the day.

I like this metaphor because it emphasizes the need for us to embrace our diversity and put our gifts to work in a discerning way in order to achieve common good.
Our community life here thrives or flounders along similar lines. It is when we recognize the greatness and variety of God’s individual gifts to each one of us that we can construct the most fruitful dialogue and build ourselves up in love.

All of our gifts are grace. None of the gifts are reason for individual boasting. Each gift finds its meaning in the building up of the Kingdom of God. No one type of gift is superior to other types (for instance, managerial, financial, technical gifts in this community are as needed and as good as artistic, creative, esthetic, communication and pastoral skills to name but a few of the many gifts we embody as a community).


For the Roman Catholic church, today starts the period of the liturgical year that is referred to as “Ordinary time”; the in-between time from Christmas to Easter and then again, from Pentecost to Christmas. Does God’s grace slow down in this time?

Any time, all the time, ordinary time, is the time of God’s Kingdom breaking into our world and our lives. God’s Kingdom is breaking into the world with us and through us at any time, on any day.

Remember the words of Isaiah:

“For Zion’s sake (that’s humanity, the people of God) I/God will not keep silent,
And for Jerusalem’s sake (that’s still us) I/God will not rest,
Until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
And her salvation, like a burning torch.”
Our God whose Word brings the world into existence will not stop to pour grace upon us until the Kingdom of God is permanent and evident to all.
Let’s ask ourselves. How are we enabling the water of our ordinary time to be turned into the nectar of God’s time? Ponder that in your heart, if you will.


Let us pray:

Unwavering Presence, Inexhaustible Power, your Spirit allots gifts to each one individually as the Spirit chooses. Help us to recognize we each receive of your grace. Help us to put our gifts to work for the breaking in of your Kingdom in all of our environments.

And give us an unshakeable trust in the power of your grace whether visible or not. Amen.


Come Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

BCP - Epiphany 1 C - 07 jan 2007

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Brother Scott Wesley Borden, OHC
BCP – Epiphany 1 C - Sunday 07 January 2007
Baptism of Christ

Isaiah 42:1-9
Acts 10:34-38
Luke 3:15-16,21-22

There is an old Polish Christmas carol that translates roughly: “Christmas is here again... and happy days we’ll have ‘till Easter. Then it is Eastertide, and happy days we’ll have to Christmas.” The carol interrupts its exuberance with a second verse: “This is not the truth, for Lent comes in between with fasting.”

It seems like just a week or so ago that we were celebrating Jesus birth... Because it was... And here we are at his baptism. Not an infant baptism... Decades have passed since last week. Can crucifixion be far away?

There is, perhaps, a message in this odd, “out of time” jumble of events. Jesus is born. Then, a few days and a few decades later, baptism and execution.

It strikes me that these events, bunched up, tell us some astounding things about our relationship with Jesus.

First Incarnation - God takes on human flesh. Jesus comes into our lives. Ready or not, we’re going to encounter God. We respond by saying yes and by saying no.

I think that in a very profound way, crucifixion is the story of how we say no; how we struggle to keep Jesus out of our world. We do our very best to kill him.

There will be a most appropriate time to reflect on crucifixion in just a few weeks. But this morning the only thing I want to note about crucifixion is that, thankfully, it is a failure.

Herod’s genocide is also a struggle to keep Jesus out of the world... a way of saying no... and also a failure - though at a terrible cost.

God will be in the world... God is incarnate.

If crucifixion is about how we struggle to say no to Jesus, then perhaps baptism is about how we struggle to say yes; to have a relationship with Jesus; to let God into our lives. Does it succeed where crucifixion fails? Maybe...

Maybe is probably the wrong word. Gradually is probably more like it.

We know that relationships don’t happen all at once. They don’t happen without work. They demand growth and flexibility. They can become ever more rich and complex over time. They give life.

Baptism marks the beginning of a relationship with Jesus - we should expect that the relationship will grow over time, that we will grow over time. That we will be stretched and shaped. This relationship won’t just give life, it will give life everlasting.

John Wesley was very fond of the term sanctification. As we become more aware of our relationship with God - of God’s grace in our lives, we will become more sanctified.

There is no purpose in sanctification. It is not, in Wesley’s thinking, a path toward salvation. It is a response to salvation - to grace. As we grow in our knowledge and love of God, the wholeness that comes from that awareness will sanctify our lives. Sanctification is the joyful outpouring of God’s love.

Today we contemplate Jesus’ baptism and we contemplate our own sharing of that baptism.

It is perhaps a good day to contemplate our own crucifixions, large and small - the ways we struggle to keep Jesus out of our lives. And it is especially good to celebrate that we fail to keep Jesus out.

It is also a very good day to contemplate how deeply we allow Jesus to enter our lives, and to celebrate that no matter how great our relationship with Jesus is, it can go further. Jesus doesn’t inhibit this relationship in any way - but perhaps we do. What better way to renew our baptismal vows then to consider how we might open ourselves to a deeper and more complete relationship.