Accents | Acts 2:1-21

God is love. And those who live in love live in God. And God lives in them.

Yesterday morning those same words from the Bible began a celebration: the marriage of UntitledPrince Harry and Meghan Markle, watched by millions of people all over the world. As our own presiding bishop, Michael Curry, so memorably put it: “Two people fell in love, and we all showed up.” I imagine in countries where English isn’t spoken, the whole service was broadcast on TV and translated with subtitles so that everyone watching could hear and understand them.

Of course, they might not have needed help with the words. The dresses and flowers said it all. At weddings it’s easy to see how much we live in love. The happy couple are in love, right? and we love watching them. But it doesn’t end there, does it? Instead weddings always send the happy couple out into a noisy crowd of other people, who like them rely on the hope of love, and want to get it right. Read more

Fruit | John 15:9-17

I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

When I think of fruit that will last, I think of grapes, a bunch of them sitting on my img_1713-e1525808856165.jpg
grandmother’s coffee table. They lasted because they were made of jade. Hard as rock. Real fruit has short shelf life, and bruises easily on its way to making wine or cider or vinegar. And, in the meantime, feeds us.

So when Jesus says he wants you to bear fruit that lasts, you know he means to say something like this: Trust me: your life will last, so don’t worry about holding onto it. Instead take a risk, open up your heart to the world around you, and find a way to grow so fully you become a blessing like love poured out in earth as in heaven. Like fruit that lasts.

Today is the Sixth Sunday of Easter, by another name, Rogation Sunday: a day when the Church asks God to pour his blessings out like rain over the newly seeded earth. And here we’re talking real rain over actual earth in the hope of real fruit.

As words go, rogation is from a verb meaning to ask. It’s the kind of asking we’re made to do in the spring, when there’s no better thing to do than to get outside and ask for God’s blessing. Nowadays it’s mostly farmers and gardeners who do the asking. But a long time ago, in Merry Old England, the church priest and the church wardens, followed by a rowdy gang of children, would lead a procession from the church in order to walk the geographical boundaries of the parish. Read more

identity |Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40

Abide in me as I in you.

Today Jesus asks you — all of you all at once — to abide in him. It’s tempting to think thisScreen Shot 2018-04-29 at 3.47.11 PM.png talk of abiding means you to surrender who you are in order to be in Jesus. But, finishing the thought, Jesus asks you to abide in him as he abides in you, as if his life is also made known in your life, in your very own particular identity!

You have to admit, identity is important to us, something we want to hold onto and something headlines often suggest we’re in danger of losing. You hear a lot these days about securing your identity so that no one can hack into your life uninvited. Very often, in the hope of protecting your identity online, various accounts will ask security questions with answers ostensibly known only to you.

What was the model of your first car? What is your favorite city? What’s your dream job?

I answer Chevy, Paris, Priest.

But don’t tell anyone.

Long before I drove the old Chevrolet that belonged to my dad, I already had an ID card because he was in the Army. My military ID listed my full name, my gender and race, my height, weight, and date of birth, along with a picture to confirm it. Today I have other cards that identify me. Likely you do, too. I suppose I could hold all the cards that bear your name in one hand and imagine I know something about you. But I also suppose there would be so much more to know about you: a grace-filled mystery.

What I remember about my first ID card was how afraid I was to lose it. My parents often asked if I still had it. I also remember occasions when I needed it to prove who I was. I always felt a little worried when I had to show it. What if it failed me? What if I didn’t belong where I was heading?

I still feel nervous whenever I have to show proof of my identity, whether by passport or driver’s license or social security number. Even my Kroger card makes me wonder if I have the proper ID.

Today in the Acts of the Apostles, an angel of the Lord sends an evangelist named Philip out onto a wilderness road to share the good news of the Risen Lord. And on the same road we meet a man identified as an Ethiopian eunuch. The story has it he’s on his way home following a trip he’d taken to worship God in the Temple of Jerusalem. In his own land, he’s a court official, the keeper of a queen’s entire treasury travelling in his very own chariot.

Though nameless, there’s an awful lot of data about him offered up in the story.  His identity ought to be easy to discern, and yet the truth is biblical scholars have argued for centuries about who he really is. Despite ready answers to securing his identity: Chariot, Ethiopia, Eunuch, scholars have never quite hacked this man’s identity. Read more

Shared feasting | Luke 24:36b-48

While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Today Jesus asks the disciples for a bite to eat. Though they’re gladScreen Shot 2018-04-15 at 3.10.18 PM to see him, they’re not sure it’s really him. They knew him for dead. It’s only natural they struggle to believe he lives: risen from the dead. So he asks for something to eat, and they give him a bit of broiled fish. In this way, they share what they have with him, and he eats it. And in this way, they come to believe in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. It’s another way of saying, he was known to them in the fellowship of eating. And also within the fellowship of friends.

This story follows the pattern of Holy Communion. There is the love offering of what God gives us. And given to Christ, it becomes nourishment for the Body of Christ. There is the Spirit itself sanctifying us and sending us out for holy work in the world. As an old Frenchman once said, Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell what you are. We eat Christ’s Body in order to be Christ’s Body.

The table fellowship of Holy Communion claims we are what we eat: we are the Body of Christ sent from his table to forgive others and to share our lives in his name. Tables always mean to tell us we’re here to share what we have, to pass the bowls along until everyone is fed. On the surface, Holy Communion seems easy enough.

There’s always enough to go around, right?

But get us out there, outside the walls of this church, and it can seem harder. Read more

In Christ | John 20:1-18

They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him.

Every spring preachers bump their heads up against the Easter Tomb. Or, at least, I do. Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 2.24.38 PM
As if I was trying to solve it. As if the stone were still in place and I needed to roll it away one more time. Easter, though, is not a problem. Not mine. Not yours. It’s a mystery. And mysteries in the Church are not only signs of life but ways of living.

I think it’s why this particular day finds people dressing up in bonnets and flowers or wearing a new tie as if you were (as indeed you are) a new creation in Christ. It’s like saying Easter is something you have to walk around in, something you need to wear, like a heart on your sleeve.

As a young mother, I used to lay out my children’s Easter clothes on Holy Saturday.  I’d pull the dusty laces from my son’s Buster Brown shoes, and wash them. I’d iron their clothes and dress their empty baskets with ribbons, little knowing I was standing in a long line of Easter dressers. Read more

Powerless |Mark 15:1-39

Lent always lands us on the road to Jerusalem, a city of deep prayer and terrible Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 3.28.03 PMviolence. And today we’re finally there: here with Jesus in Jerusalem. This year the road to Easter came with its own odd turns. If you’ll remember, we began Lent with Ash Wednesday on Valentine’s Day. Out ahead of us Easter Sunday will arrive on April Fool’s Day. And today the Sunday of the Passion, what we mostly call Palm Sunday, shows up on March 25th, a day customarily set aside to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation when an Angel said to Mary, Fear Not, the Lord is with you. And for an answer, she said, Let it be. Read more

hidden hymn | John 3:14-21

Against God and against Moses, the people said, “There is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.”  The Book of Numbers

Those words are the likely source of an the old joke about the woman who complains in a restaurant to a friend. This Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 3.39.37 PMfood is awful, she says, and her friend answers, Worst thing I ever put in my mouth, and the portions are so small. In the Book of Numbers, the people tell Moses they have no food, or at least nothing they care to eat. In search of new life in a promised land, they are busy complaining.  Their complaint is familiar to us, the sort of words any of us might say on a long roadtrip in a car full of candy and crackers and empty cans of Coke. Absent snakebite, the only cure for backseat whining is turning the radio up loud.

Apparently, you can have too much or not enough, and all of it can prove miserable.

The “miserable food” the Israelites are tired of eating — the food they no longer recognize as nourishment — is manna from heaven. They’re tired of the holy provision of God to be had in their very midst. In their impatience, they fail to see what’s there to feed them. It’s an old story. Chronic complaint spoils a life. As symptoms go, it tells you your soul is unhappy, tells you your life is crying out for change. Read more