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Creation: SKY

Sept. 25, 2016

Readings:  Jeremiah 4:23-28  Psalm 19    Philippians 2:14-18   Mark 15:33-39

sky-and-clouds

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims God’s handiwork. Day to day makes utterance, night to night speaks out. There is no utterance, there are no words, whose sound goes unheard. Their shout carries throughout the earth, their words to the end of the world.”[1]

Sky. Psalm 19 is a poetic and powerful witness to God’s creative majesty and God’s creative word. “Pay attention!” the poet shouts to us. Look up!  See these heavens? They proclaim the glory of God. Those fluffy white clouds that drift and flow with the wind, those clouds that arrange themselves into creative shapes, those clouds have voices. All their voices praise the God who created them, who set them free to roam the heavens.

This morning, I have three images to share with you.

sky-with-cloudsImage #1. This summer, I sat in a window seat of an airplane, 30,000 feet above the earth. As I looked out, all I could see below the airplane wings was clouds.Fluffy, white clouds in a brilliant, blue sky. It suddenly occurred to me that had I not known where I was—that is, buckled into the seat of a 737 airplane, en route to BWI, I might now have been able to tell you that I was ABOVE the clouds. Without being able to see the ground, I could just as easily have been looking UP as DOWN. I must admit that it was a bit unnerving to think about this possibility—and glad the pilot and co-pilots were more skilled than I!

rocky-coastline-maineImage #2. Another afternoon this summer, I lay back on a blanket on a flat surface of some rocky cliffs. As I watched fluffy, white clouds move slowly across the blue sky, all that was in my vision—if I looked straight up—was the sky. Had I not turned my head to the right and seen the row of tall spruce trees there, or turned my head to the left and watched the waves that crashed against the rocky shoreline, I would have had no way to orient myself. Continue Reading »

Creation: HUMANITY

Readings:  Genesis 1:26-28          Psalm 8           Philippians 2:1-8           Mark 10:35-45

Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 2:15:  “The LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to till it and tend it.”            

A photo by NASA. unsplash.com/photos/rTZW4f02zY8Two Sundays ago, the theme of our first Creation series was EARTH. In Week #1, you may remember that I made a couple of points. The first was that the Genesis story is not a logical, scientific account of what happened in the beginning of time. Instead, Genesis was intended God’s people engaging in theological reflection,with God as the subject. God as the first cause.

I noted that there were at least three implications of the Creation story for you and me. First, I said God challenges us to recognize and acknowledge that God is the first cause of all life that we know: Light and darkness.  Sky, sea and earth. Fruits and vegetables. Daylights and nightlights.  Birds and sea creatures. Cattle, creeping things and wild animals.  Human beings.

worship

The second implication was that IF God is the first cause of all creation—from night and day to human beings—then our best and highest response to God is worship and adoration. We exist as created beings to worship the Holy One who created the world and all that is in it. Coming to church may have other benefits, such as socializing with friends or Sunday School for our children. However, the foremost and deepest reason we come to church is to worship God, the loving Holy One who created us. In the face of such a mystery, we kneel, give thanks, put our hands out to receive bread and wine that represent God to us through Jesus Christ.In response to what is in our hands, we say, AMEN.

There is a third implication, however, and I left that one for this week. It is this:  If we acknowledge God as first in importance in our lives and in the world, then this begs the question of how you and I take care of God’s created order.

Continue Reading »

Creation: EARTH

Sermon #1 in a Creation Season series

Genesis 1:1-25     Psalm 33:1-9

prospect-hill-b-bThis summer, Pat and I stayed at a historic bed and breakfast in East Tennessee. This 1889 house features amazing windows. They are made of “historic stained and colored glass.” In addition, the old house features handmade moldings and site-formed bricks, crowned by a metal shingle roof that is a close approximation of the original one.”[1]  In our room, the two windows—tall, with very old, wavy glass—were topped with palladium shaped windows that were a lovely shade of rose. At sunset, I happened to look up from my book. As the sun set, the leaves and branches of a large tree outside the window created an intricate, dark, lace etching against the glass. The background of that delicate etching gradually deepened; pale rose to deep rose. Crimson, then purple. Finally. . .darkness. The beauty of God’s creation was exquisite that evening. Too exquisite to capture with any cell phone or camera.

Not until you sit still and pay attention to a setting sun—or a rising full moon—do you realize how amazing God’s creation is.

Whether creation happened gradually over millennia, or in one burst of cosmic energy, we cannot know. What we do know is this: God speaks.  God creates. God asks human beings to worship God.

One of the ways I prepare for preaching is to look carefully at the biblical passage upon which I plan to preach. I look at the context in which that scripture was originally written. Continue Reading »

You may have noticed recently that most people are taking sides in politics. Whether you are an American in the midst of a Presidential election year, with two distinctly different candidates, or whether you live in the U.K., where England has just voted to leave the E.U., people are taking sides. In most cases, extreme sides.

In anticipation of next week’s national Republican convention in Cleveland, the GOP’s platform has shaped up to follow the Right Path on immigration, family values, and LBGT issues. For example, CNN reported today that the 112-member GOP panel approved a platform “that opposes same-sex marriage rights, supports efforts to restrict bathrooms to individuals’ birth gender and protects businesses who refuse services to individuals based on religious objections to gay marriage.” (http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/13/politics/gop-platform-lgbt-social-conservatives-rift/index.html)

MiddlePath2

Despite LGBT advocates’ strong efforts to move the GOP’s position closer to the middle path, they were not able to do so. No thank you, we’ll just hug the Right Side of the Right Path here.

On the Left Path of politics, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, recently fierce primary opponents, have forged what seems to be a forced and uneasy alliance. In an unprecedented public way, Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has publicly spoken out against Donald Trump—calling him “a faker’ and “inconsistent,” that “he says whatever comes into his head at the moment.” http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/12/politics/justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg-donald-trump-faker/

Continue Reading »

Tea Candles Holy Wed

How long, oh Lord, how long?
For the souls who have died,
for those who love them,
for those who must look at gaping wounds
and bodies with no earthly life, and 
for those who narrowly escaped death. . .
we give You thanks for their lives, oh God. And we pray. . .

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The angels have already met you in Paradise.
God’s Table is ready for you.
God’s Choir has sung you into Light.
And we, here, left behind,
continue to light our feeble but loving lights
in the face of darkness.

~Sheila N. McJilton

 

“. . .they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. . .and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’” (Acts 11:22b-23, 26c)

Today is the Feast of St. Barnabas. In our Episcopal tradition, we have a book entitled Holy Men, Holy Women (note: formerly Lesser Feasts and Fasts), in which all the different feasts are listed–including a special Collect. What is a Collect, you may ask.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collect.

Barnabas was one of the apostles. He was NOT one of the original twelve disciples, but may have been among “the 70” referred to in the Gospels. However, Barnabas was a critical person in the early Jesus Movement; one of the things I love most about him is that he encouraged people.

This past week, I attended e-Formation 2016, a conference about all kinds of digital technology, at Virginia Theological Seminary. While I was there, I gathered with a small group. One woman among us has her own website, is involved in Christian formation, and is obviously a good (and scholarly) writer.  Yet she was not as confident as she might have been in her own talents.

Continue Reading »

pipesA couple of weeks ago, I realized that I needed the services of a plumber. I had the sneaking suspicion that SOMETHING that was not supposed to be leaking in my basement WAS leaking. So one morning, I called a local Laurel plumber–one I had used a number of times before.  We set up a time for the next morning, and at that time, Joe appeared on my front porch. After surveying the situation in the bathroom and in the basement, he announced that I had not made the problem up. The wax seal on the toilet had deteriorated, was leaking, and needed to be replaced. I left Joe to his work, and went into the next room to work on my computer.

A few minutes later, I heard the sound of Andrea Bocelli, singing Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s opera Turandot. Then I heard Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen.  I was puzzled. P was sitting in a nearby room, so I thought, “Well, maybe she’s listening to some shared post from someone on Facebook.” So I walked out of the office, then stopped abruptly in front of the bathroom door.  There, on the side of the bathtub, was Joe’s cell phone. He was working steadily on the misbehaving toilet, while opera and other classical music serenaded us all.

My mouth dropped open. A plumber named Joe (I swear, I am not making this up) was listening to opera? Opera?  Really? I said, “Wow, opera. How wonderful!’  He turned around and grinned.

“I love opera,” he said. “You know, opera touches you here [here, he touched his head], and here [he touched his heart.] “I love all kinds of music. Years ago, when I was a kid, my dad would take me to bars–you could do that back then–and we would hear Earl Flatt and Lester Scruggs play. I like bluegrass, too. I like all kinds of music.”  Then he turned back to work on his project. And as long as he worked, a variety of music played from his cell phone. Soon, he was finished, judged the work to be successful, collected a check, and bid me a good day as he left.

Once again, I was reminded that appearances are deceiving. I should never judge someone by the way they look, or present themselves initially. The old adage “don’t just a book by its cover” was apt here.

An annoying plumbing issue was resolved that morning, I enjoyed some of my favorite music, and I re-learned an important lesson. Win-win-win. Bless you, Joe the plumber.