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.


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.

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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)


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/

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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.

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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.


Some Random Prayers

FullSizeRender-7Dear God,

There are some people who need Your help this evening:

The very young-looking woman who has been cleaning our hotel room this week told us that her mama “cut me off, so I had to get a job.” She has a three year old daughter, and although I didn’t ask, I suspect she is a single mom. Maybe she finished high school, but she sure looks young. But of her job, which she’s only been doing for about six weeks, she said enthusiastically, “I love my job and I love my co-workers.” Then she carefully made up the bed and left fresh towels. Dear God, bless this young woman. Help her not to be doing back-breaking work like cleaning hotel rooms all of her life until she is tired and bitter and broken.

The good friend who has been betrayed this week in a rather public way. That is all I will say, God. You know the story, and You certainly know how hateful so-called Christians can be. Soothe my friend’s soul and give him peace and courage.

The young woman who was in the hotel elevator with us this afternoon, jiggling her foot and leaning against the elevator wall. When my beloved touched her gently and said, “Are you all right?” (she looked very agitated), she replied, “Oh, I’m just so tired.” And when we got to the lobby, she said, “But thank you for asking.” Give this young woman some hope, oh God, and thank you that someone noticed that another was in distress.

Those who live on the margins–those brothers and sisters who have been judged or pushed aside because of who they are, or because they are substance abusers, or because they are “basement people.” Send those marginal folks someone who really see them this night, and who accept them, no matter what.

Bless the staff who set up coffee, or served lunches, or sold soft drinks, or cleaned up after the conference-goers this week, oh Lord. Most of them were invisible to us. Make them visible to some child of God today, and let them know that we are grateful for their efforts.

Bless all those who are willing to stand on the edges of power, who are willing to speak Truth to institutional power, no matter what the cost. Give them voices, oh Lord, and give others the ears to hear what needs to be heard. Bless the Truth-Tellers, God. Bless them.

I pray for the repose of the souls who died in the plane crash between France and Egypt, and for the families and friends who are drowning in deep grief this night. I pray that they now feast at Your Table, where all are welcome, and where no one is a stranger.

Thank you, God, for your unconditional love and acceptance. Thank you for taking our doubts and concerns into Your heart. Thank you for giving us space to rest and re-create ourselves. Make us again into Your image, so that we can be Your hands and feet and face in this tired, broken, violent world. And help us to have the courage to speak Your truth, regardless of the cost. Amen.