Archive for April, 2018

Luke 24:13-35         The Road to Emmaus

st-george-klooster-judea-woestijn-israël-27292972When you are on a long journey, hospitality matters. In the Middle East, where it is hot, dry, and rugged, hospitality really matters.

A number of years ago, I went on a 28 day pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a group from Virginia Seminary. Over that time, I experienced deep and radical hospitality. The first followed a two-hour hike out of Jerusalem to the Greek Orthodox St. George’s Monastery. St. George’s is perched on the side of a steep cliff, and within the complex is a cave. This is the cave to which the Old Testament prophet Elijah is said to have fled, where he experienced earthquake, wind, fire, then finally, the still small voice of God. As we wandered around the exterior courtyards of this ancient place, we saw no one. Suddenly, a young monk appeared. Bearing a silver tray with glasses and cold water, he welcomed us all to St. George’s. Here, in an ancient place, a total stranger greeted us with radical welcome and generous hospitality.

Another day, after exploring some ruins in Samaria, our group stopped for lunch in a small local family restaurant. First, they brought us fresh, cold water. Then they served what had now become a familiar salad plate: a row of tiny, sliced cucumbers, quartered fresh tomatoes, sliced green peppers, purple cabbage, slivers of carrots and green cabbage. Bowls of green olives. (more…)

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Flowers Sm1. Grateful for the Easter Story that Unfolded Last Week. . .and the Easter Story that Continues This Week
All the Easter eggs have now been collected. Flowers are beginning to fade on the Easter cross outside St. Philip’s. We have taken down the Easter services banner from the fence. Easter must be over.
NO!  Easter, like Christmas, is a liturgical SEASON and not limited to one day. We focus on one day, but there are many more. Christmas has twelve days in its season. Easter has fifty.  Easter goes from Easter Day to the (feast) day of Pentecost, when we’ll celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles gathered in Jerusalem.
This year, spring has been shy about showing her face. Winter seems to continue to taunt us. Yet all around us are signs of new life–flowers poking up, things blooming, and yes, folks struggling already with allergies.
As we celebrate the emergence of new life, the word GRATITUDE comes to mind.
2. Grateful for YOU at St. Philip’s Parish
There are several reasons for this gratitude. First, I am deeply grateful to all of you who worked so hard to make our Holy Week so amazing. If I begin to name people, I know I will forget someone. So I will just say that Altar Guild and Worship Committee figure heavily into my thanksgivings, as well as all of you who volunteered to read lessons and prayers.
It is true that clergy usually bear the heaviest lifting of Holy Week (what we lovingly refer to as “the Holy Week Marathon,” but equally true is that we clergy could not possibly do the best job we can do without help of a lot of people. So please know how grateful I am for the gifts so many of you have offered.
41RTjmwF9XL._AC_US436_QL65_3. A Book on Gratitude
A colleague of mine, Diana Butler Bass, has just published her new book. It is entitled Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks. Diana began writing this book early in 2016, and through a personal struggle, finally finished it. As many writers know, the book took a different turn than she had originally envisioned. (Note: I understand this, because sometimes I have a particular focus for a sermon, and somewhere in the midst of writing it, the sermon takes a different path!)
(Note: if you’d like to check it out, or buy it, click here:

lilies of the field4. Grateful for My “Emergency Contact List”
Another reason I thought about gratitude was an e-mail I received two days ago. I subscribe to emails from Coach David Girt, who owns and manages LiveNow Fitness in Elkton. (http://www.livenowfitness.com) Several of our parishioners work out there. While I chose another place for my work-outs, I still get Coach Girt’s e-mails, because I find them to be inspirational.
This week, Coach Girt said we all have a person we want to be contacted in case of emergency. Yet he expanded that list, asking some questions for me to consider:
“Who mentors you and offers a baseline of wisdom?
Who challenges you to think?
Who cheers on your dreams?
Who cares enough to admonish you?
Who is kind when you have failed?
Who shares the load in high pressure moments without being asked?
Who brings the smiles, fun, and laughter?
Who lifts you up when life is getting you down?
Who loves you unconditionally?”
As I considered David’s questions, I mentally answered these questions for myself. In doing that, I found myself thanking God for people who are there in good times, in challenging times. For people who do share the load of my life. For those who cheer me on, for those who are kind when I mess up. And this week, especially grateful for those who are supporting my taking some much-needed time off. Today, in this Easter week, as we think about new life, I invite you to answer those questions for yourself.
Then say thanks to God that you have that kind of “emergency contact list.”  God is good. The Lord is risen. New life abounds. Thank you, God.

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Mark 16:1-8

images-3“So they went out and fled the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Terror. Amazement. Fear. Well. . . Happy Easter, everyone! You may be hearing Mark’s version of the resurrection with skepticism and doubt. Who in the world writes the greatest story ever told, then ends it with terror, amazement, fear and flight?  If this story ends in terror, fear and flight, why are we even here this morning?

If you are even a little bit disappointed, then congratulations. You just got the point of what Mark was trying to show us. So may I state the obvious? Eventually, the women do tell this story.  Peter becomes the head of the Church in Rome. James becomes the head of the Church in Jerusalem. Throughout the centuries, they, along with thousands of others, gave their lives as martyrs for the Christian faith. Men and women who believed in Jesus Christ were so passionate, they would give their very lives for the Holy One who showed us the most perfect way to God.

images-4 Yet on this Day of Resurrection, we stop for a few minutes in Mark’s gospel. We stand at an empty tomb with Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James (who could be the mother of Jesus, since one of the James was his brother), and Salome—who may have been the wife of Zebedee, the mother of another James and John. For these women, it is not Easter Sunday. It is the morning after the Sabbath. the third day after a brutal crucifixion.  Dawn brings a dreaded reality: a reality that is like a nightmare, because their Lord is gone. Within eight days, there has been a joyful Palm Sunday procession, a Last Supper, a betrayal, an arrest, a denial. They have watched a whipping, taunts, and spitting. They have watched as their Lord stumbled through the cobbled streets of Jerusalem, bearing his own instrument of death. At the end, soldiers took Jesus’ body down from a cross. Then Joseph of Arimatheaa asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. It was he who wrapped the Lord’s body in a linen cloth, then laid him in a nearby tomb.

How did they get to this place of darkness, of grief, of such deep loss? The beginning of ministry in Mark had seemed so wonderful. So hopeful. It began in Galilee, after John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Jesus’ ministry began with powerful preaching, amazing teaching, miraculous healings. (more…)

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