Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Do you believe?

"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." - Elizabeth (Luke 1:45b)
One of the many Christmas decorations in our house is a painted piece of slate which says simply: "We believe." It is accompanied by either a painted sprig of holly or painted Santa (I can't recal which) but it obviously is intended to convey a belief in at least the spirit of Santa Claus. I thought of that piece of slate as I prepared and delivered the sermon for last Sunday. The Gospel passage is Mary's visit to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, while she was still pregnant with John. The quote above is part of Elizabeth's exclamation as the child leaps in her womb in response to Mary's greeting. We might even say that John started preaching even before he was born!

As Christians, we talk a lot about belief and blessings. Most of the time, when we talk about blessings, we talk about them as things that already are. We are blessed with a wonderful church, family, job, etc... In the Magnificat that follows this passage, Mary recounts something that will be as if it has already happened! She believes so strongly in God's faithfulness that she is able to proclaim that faithfulness by talking about God's wonderful works before they even happen. She might have even heard the words "Consider it done" from God, and so she does consider it done!

As the days are short and the nights are long this time of year, it is very tempting to look out upon the world with a skeptical, even cynical eye. We are still embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate is even now wrangling over health care reform. Our own state is dealing with a substantial budget deficit, and even our church is dealing with the aftermath of the church split that occurred earlier this year. There are many, many reasons to be pessimistic! Yet, if we have Mary's faith, we can say in the midst of all of this: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..."

May that faith be born in us anew as we again await the Christ child. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What then should we do?

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ's compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.
--Teresa of Avila

This morning in my sermon I explored the question: What would John the Baptist say to us today? In the Gospel lesson appointed for this, the Third Sunday of Advent, John begins "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance!" Not exactly a Hallmark or Christmas special moment! John is speaking plainly, even brutally, and no one has any doubts about what he means. In fact, several different groups of people ask him "What then should we do?"

So, what then should we do? Given the fact that we are approaching the season of the Incarnation, perhaps thinking and praying about how and where God might be calling us to live out our faith more tangibly would be an excellent start. Then, of course, we actually need to do what we believe God has called us to do. As Teresa of Avila says above, we are the hands and feet of Christ in the world. If we don't do it, who will?

As I think about what it exactly means to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, a few ideas come to mind. John the baptist addresses everyone when he says "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Clearly, then, the responsibility to share what we have with those who have less than we do applies no matter who we are. I'm even thinking about my family's closets and how many coats we actually have. How many people do not even have one? Something to think about, especially in the dead of winter!

Beyond giving to the economically needy (remembering that we are all needy, just in different ways), the ways of being Christ's hands and feet in the world would seem to be as diverse as the gifts and talents that God gives us. Someone with a talent for construction, for instance, might well volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, or even labor unseen to help another nonprofit renovate their office or help a needy neighbor with a long-deferred home maintenance project. For me, of course, as a priest, my job is my ministry--visiting the home-bound with communion, planning and leading worship, and even the innumerable administrative tasks that threaten to take over the day. Even typing on the computer like I am doing now can be a Jesus thing.

What is God calling you to do in the world in Christ's name?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hurry up! No, wait....

As I write this blog entry from my office with the patches of sunlight streaming through my window, I am thinking about the fact that Christmas is less than three weeks away. On Thursday, it will be exactly two weeks away. I have now been here for a little over eight weeks--two months--and there are still boxes to move or unpack (in both office and home) and what seem like a million things to get done. Into that sense of urgency, Christmas can sometimes seem almost like an intrusion. One is almost tempted to say to God: "How dare you interrupt my important work, everything I need to get done, with yet more things that need to get done because of Christmas?!"

And yet, as the video below illustrates, Christmas is not intended to be an additional burden to add to the stack, but as an opportunity for transformation. Advent, then, is the opportunity to prepare for such transformation:

This video challenges me as a father, a person, and perhaps especially as a priest, to look at my own life and ask where God is trying to break in, to transform me into the person he wants me to be. That transformation will not occur because I crossed the last thing off my to-do list, as if that ever happens, but can only occur if I make the time to put aside the list for the one thing that actually makes a difference--the coming of Jesus. As these next few weeks roll by, join me in stepping back, taking a breath, and preparing, really preparing, for transformation. Who knows what God might do?

(thanks to Irenic Thoughts, the blog of King of Peace, Kingsland, GA)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Singing Songs of Expectation

Our Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, has recorded a brief Advent Message for the church. Here it is:

Though she speaks well for herself, I thought it was notable that in the midst of all of wars, poverty, economic crisis, etc... she says that "we live in expectation of a world that is healed." That is the essence of Advent and Christmas--Jesus coming into the world as a healer and reconciler. This is not some mushy Hallmark card sort of thing. As anyone who has ever tried to heal a relationship knows, reconciliation is very, very hard work. As Christians, we know that the truly impossible work of reconciling God and humanity has already been done in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We need only take hold the power of that reconciliation and resurrection life and make it our own. Blessed Advent.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Joining the Conspiracy

In my sermon this morning, I talked about the fact that Advent is primarily a time of preparation, of clearing our minds, hearts, and lives to receive Jesus afresh. At the end, I invited people to join the Advent Conspiracy, an effort to counter the frantic consumerism that is rampant this time of year with four simple concepts: Worship Fully. Spend Less. Give more. Love all. Check it out:

I'm also going to use Advent to get into the discipline of praying at least one of the Daily Offices (Morning, Noonday, or Evening Prayer) per day--especially since my prayer life has suffered in this time of transition. You're invited, too!

Oh, and if you want a really good organization to support with your "Give more," here are two:

Episcopal Relief and Development

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Kingdom of God is like....

Today at St. Edward's we celebrated Christ the King Sunday--a celebration of the Kingship of Christ and, by extension, the Kingdom of God. While the lessons appointed for the day, especially the Gospel lesson, are predictably focused on Christ's identity as a king whose kingdom "is not of this world," they got me to thinking about what we think about and picture when we think about the Kingdom of God. While driving home from a funeral yesterday, I happened to hear the following song on K-LOVE, a Christian radio station:

What you need to know is that the little girl he is referring to is his youngest daughter, who last year at 5 years old was tragically killed in an accident. I was particularly stuck by his image of heaven:
But in my mind’s eye I can see a place
Where Your glory fills every empty space.
All the cancer is gone,
Every mouth is fed,
And there’s no one left in the orphans’ bed.
Every lonely heart finds their one true love,
And there’s no more goodbye,
And no more not enough,
And there’s no more enemy. No more.
Today was also our Stewardship Ingathering Sunday where we collect the pledges from members for 2010. As I talked about in my sermon, what greater purpose can there be than to be ambassadors, representatives, of that sort of Kingdom? What a privilege to invest our time, our talents, and our treasure in partnership with God to whom we pray "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Provoking and Encouraging

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
This text is set in the larger context of the writer to the Hebrews' answer to the question: "What should we do as we wait for Jesus' return?" In the context of today's readings, I find this to be very good advice. As human beings, our natural tendency, when confronted with danger or stress, is towards fight (the attack, or more often one another) or flight (fleeing the situation, closing in on ourselves, etc...). This passage of scripture gives us a third option: faith.

The author of this letter (we don't know who that person is) lays out the faithful response of Christians to difficulties--provoke one another toward love and good deeds, meet together, encourage one another. In other words, point out how God is active in the world and how we can partner with God in that action, show up for church, small groups, etc... to support one another, and encourage one another through these difficult times.

Sounds like a plan!

Coming Attractions

On Sunday, November 29, we will have a Service of Lessons and Hymns and Holy Eucharist, Rite II. All are invited to come, sing, and be with us for the First Sunday of Advent.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Stewardship and St. Edward's

There is a quote about stewardship that says "Stewardship is everything you do after you say 'I believe...'". This morning, we launched our Fall Pledge Campaign at St. Edward's. There were a few things different about this effort from others in which I've been involved. First, I've been at St. Edward's less than a month--this was my fourth Sunday here. Second, as most of you who will be reading this know, St. Edward's is a congregation in the midst of restoration. We've been focusing on the part of Praise my Soul the King of Heaven that identifies us as "ransomed, healed, restored, [and] forgiven" people. It is when we know ourselves to be blessed by God--to be ransomed by Christ's death and resurrection, healed by Christ's power, restored to right relationship with God in Christ and each other, and forgiven for those things we have done or left undone--that we are freed to enter afresh into a partnership with God in, to use the language of the prayer book, "restoring all things to unity with God and each other in Christ."

St. Edward's has been on a remarkable journey in many, many ways. Those who have chosen to remain here and thus remain in the Episcopal Church have sacrificed much through their gifts of time, talent, and treasure to keep St. Edward's the vibrant, lively community that it is. We certainly have our faults, and our fair share of interesting personalities (mine included!), but we are in the process of re-discovering what it is to be beloved Children of God. In that process, we are spending this month, as well as the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, focusing on the benedictine value of stability--not changing things for change's sake, establishing a firm liturgical, spiritual, and even financial foundation, and preparing ourselves to look at each other and out into the world with God's eyes, seeing where God is working, and joining in that work.

If you are reading this and are not already a part of St. Edward's, I invite you to come and be a part of this period of (re-) discovery. If you are part of St. Edward's, you will have many opportunities to see God at work in the world and join in that work. The first of those chances is the Pledge Packet that was given out at worship this morning and will be mailed out tomorrow to those who did not pick their packet up. Please take it, put it in a prominent place, and commit to thinking, praying, and talking with your family about your commitments of time, talent, and treasure to St. Edward's in 2010. Unlike a PBS-style pledge drive, we won't be asking for a specific amount or be giving out thank-you gifts for different levels of support. What we will be doing is using the collective pledge of all of our members to begin to discern God's vision and mission for St. Edward's in 2010 and beyond. May God bless and guide us in this effort.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Welcome to the weblog, or blog, of St. Edward's Episcopal Church in San Jose, California. In addition to our web site (which is in the process of being updated), this is the place to keep up with everything related to happenings at St. Edward's. From Vestry meetings, to special services and events, to simple upcoming items of interest--you will find them here. So, check back often, comment as you wish, and come visit us on Sundays at 9 a.m!