Sermon for Recovery Eucharist and Commemoration of Father Samuel Shoemaker by the Reverend Charles Peek

There are people who shy away from AA because they think it seems too religious. Welcome to the Episcopal Church where we seldom make the mistake of seeming too religious.

You can tell by my outfit that I’m not a cowboy, so let me introduce myself: I’m Fr. Chuck Peek and I’ve been sober since April 30, 1986. For those for whom that form of introduction doesn’t mean anything, I’m a failed drunk. Once I belonged to the Poor Me club…poor me, poor me, pour me another! I don’t have to live like that anymore thanks to a program of recovery, such as AA; AA in turn owes its thanks to Fr. Sam Shoemaker, whom we celebrate tonight. Fr. Shoemaker, in turn, owed his life and ministry to his dedicated grasp of the essence of the spiritual tradition of Christ’s Church.

When we celebrate Fr. Shoemaker, we are celebrating a priest who was not at times shy about being critical of priests—something we can all relate to. (If you’ve been standing outside, finding fault with the Church, come on in and meet some of us who not only know its faults but sometimes are its faults!)

Among the legacy Fr. Sam left us was a kind of wish list for priests. Fr. Shoemaker’s “wish list” for the priest of the church is, it seems to me, no different than the wish list for all Christians, and, taken possibly in reverse order, no different than what the 12th step asks of those recovering:

“…I wish they would not forget how it was

Before they got in. Then they would be able to help

The people who have not even found the door,

Or the people who want to run away again from God.

You can go in too deeply, and stay in too long,

And forget the people outside the door.

As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,

Near enough to God to hear [God] and know [God] is there,

But not so far from men [and women] as not to hear them,

And remember they are there, too” (“I stand at the door,” silkworth.net 2016)

The spiritual steps offered as the steps to recovery in AA (or any other twelve-step recovery group) include steps that should be familiar to every practicing Christian. They include taking a moral inventory, making amends for harm done (in Christian repentance, it is not enough just to tell someone you are sorry for hurting them, you need to make amends for the harm), making a daily practice of meditation and prayer, turning our wills and lives over to God, which folks in Recovery and a great many Christians call “surrender”: laying down the arms of self-destruction and hoisting the flag of surrender to a loving God who can make us whole and useful.

In a letter to Fr. Shoemaker, Bill Wilson (sometimes called the founder of AA) said that the steps summed up what had been taught “primarily by” Fr. Shoemaker. Without Shoemaker’s teaching, Bill said, “there could have been nothing—nothing at all,” and he usually listed Sam’s name among the “co-founders” of AA (along with Dr. Bob Smith).

If you have been in meeting rooms of AA you have seen pictures of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob. You never see Sam’s picture, nor do you see the picture of Ebie who helped Bill get sober but couldn’t stay sober himself, and you certainly don’t see pictures of the long-suffering spouses, such as Lois. If I had my way, every one of their pictures would hang in the meeting halls. But, then, the program of recovery constantly reminds me that it is not all about Chuck Peek getting his way. Being a member of AA is not conditional on the member getting his or her way. (Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true of the Church as well.)

Not only the conception of the program of Recovery but also its very language echoes language and concepts found in the sermons and books of Fr. Sam Shoemaker. These same words and thoughts also echo the scripture once read in recovery meetings before there was a Big Book (the manual Bill Wilson wrote for AA), especially The Book of Acts, the Sermon on the Mount, the book of James, and Paul’s hymn to love at the close of Corinthians. And they all in turn mirror the standards used in the Oxford Groups that were forerunners of AA and for which Fr. Shoemaker was the American leader. Let me give one example of the close resemblance: in his preaching, Sam Shoemaker charged each listener to come to a “decision to cast my will and my life on God.” That is almost word for word the 3rd step of recovery (found in your program): “We made a decision to turn our wills and lives over to God.”

Now having mentioned the Big Book, let me say that tonight’s celebration is not necessarily a recommendation to go out and immediately read a copy of “the big book,” Alcoholics Anonymous. (Unless of course you are in Alcoholics Anonymous, and then it might be a great idea to read the manual!) But as to what good the book will do for those not addicted or committed to helping addicts: all the spiritual steps of any sound spiritual discipline are there to be sure, but they are definitely framed in the language of addiction, and possibly you are not an addict and do not operate from a personality that leans to any obsessions.

Perhaps…although for most everyone the possibility bears more thought than it is usually given. But even with the specific language to people who are addicted to substances, or behaviors, or experiences, the spiritual principles in the book come through loudly and clearly, so maybe a Christian or a church study group could benefit from a reading of the Big Book.

There you would find that the principles are simple and basic. Love and Tolerance (and the honesty, openness, and willingness necessary to become loving and tolerant) are the keys, and when it comes to being loving or tolerant, honest or open, it is my experience that we all stumble, all fall short. “All fall short of the glory of God.”

These principles we try to practice one day at a time. Scripture tells us that sufficient to the day is the evil thereof…meaning: we only get one day at a time and waste it if we try to live yesterday or tomorrow, if we take it for granted, or if we devote it to a fixation on all that is wrong with the world. We live only when we live the day we have, thankful for its blessings, and devoted to the solutions to our life’s problems. In short, your day is either run by the evil of people, places, and things, or it is run by the goodness of the grace of God! You cannot have it both ways, you cannot serve both God and what is not of God!

[During the Sunday Eucharist at St. Luke’s, Kearney, our celebrant tonight, Fr. Ness, gathers people for thanksgivings and blessings, and he always begins by asking them all to take a deep breath of the Spirit. Spirit and Breath come from the same root word, and a little thought will tell you that breathing is important to spiritual practice. Nothing better arrests a moment of panic than getting control of our breathing. Nothing eases stress better than regular, deep breathing. So I want you to take a moment right now and, with me, breathe deeply in and out: slowly breathe in God and breathe out what is not God, breathe in the spirit of God, breathe out what is not of the spirit of God, breathe in peace, breathe out discord . . . already you may feel the benefit of this, and you will find that adding this to your prayer and meditation times helps you to peace and quietness of mind.]

Now there are basically three things programs of recovery say about God:

First, Recovery tells us that there is a God and I’m not it. No matter from what religion or denomination, it is fundamental to every spiritual life to get rid of grandiosity and embrace humility. And by grandiosity I mean from both ends, the grandiosity of feeling that you are better than everyone else and the grandiosity of feeling you are worse than everyone else.

Now my good friend, retired Roman Catholic priest Fr. Jim Schmitt tells the story of parishioner who was just a horrible man—mean and abusive to his family, dishonest in his life, awful. But one day that changed and the change lasted another day and into weeks and weeks and Fr. Jim finally asked him what had happened that made the change in him. The man, now in recovery, said it was simple: he had turned in his resignation as head of the universe . . . and God had accepted his resignation!

So, first “there is a God and I’m not it”; then secondly recovery tells us that God is and has been all along in our corner. We don’t discover that God is with us now that we’ve gotten sober or clean. Drunk-a-logs (the stories we tell of our former drinking lives) prove that God was with us over and over again. And that tells us that the God who has been with us all along is not the hateful, angry God we had been taught or we had come to believe to be God. God was not missing in action, though we often missed the signs of God’s presence.

There is a God and I’m not it. God is and has been with us all along. And finally God expects something of you. I know we do not not seek controversy and I am sure this will be controversial, but here it is: contrary to a lot of sentimental Christianity preached today, God requires more than pious words. We are called not just to say God is in our hearts or Jesus is our savior, but to strive to actions that make those words real. The 3rd and 7th step prayers in The Big Book are essentially the prayer that God might do with me today whatever it takes to make me useful to God and other human beings. And one follow-up thought about being useful . . . we can’t be useful off by ourselves. Every addiction I know of—again to a substance, a behavior, and experience doesn’t matter—ends up isolating us from others. We may have started out going to the bar to be social; we end up alone in our rooms hoping no one will bother us. You cannot remain in isolation and recover and you cannot remain in isolation and be useful.

Making our new understanding real by putting words into action is exactly what we heard urged by St. Paul in tonight’s second reading: “Clean out the old leaven of malice and evil and eat of the bread of sincerity and truth.” (I Cor. 3)

We do not get into action once for all. We get into it daily. Sometimes we get over-confident or lazy. So the fact is that all of us some time, some of us all the time need to be reprogrammed, need to reboot the system. We celebrate Sam Shoemaker because that’s what Sam Shoemaker teaches us how to do. Let us celebrate Sam’s day by listening to what Sam teaches. My few examples all come from his book Realizing Religion—even in the title you can hear the idea of making something real. Anyone can be religious, but the challenge is to make that religion real in your life. So here is just a sample of what Sam taught.

Sam wrote, “There are laws for the production of the Christ-type of life. Without heeding them it is . . . foolish to hope for success.” 7

And with that he noted, “It is extremely hard, and in most cases frankly impossible, for anyone to secure results which are fundamentally spiritual without using any spiritual means, or fulfilling any spiritual conditions.” 6-7

Again, Sam taught, “Surrender to the Divine Life . . . takes on reality as we have in mind definite cooperation with God in definite work for one definite person.” 79

(When we first get into recovery, the definite person is ourselves; as we grow in recovery, then the definite person becomes another person in need.)

Then Fr. Shoemaker knew what all sound psychology teaches us, that one of the three things most needed in our lives is a sense that our lives have meaning and purpose. He told us that in recovery, we are:

“Armed with that fortifying [strengthening] sense that we are cooperating with God and doing the work which of all work [God] most wants done.” 78

I could hear that thought echo scripture tonight when Dottie read the reading from Isaiah, “Awake, awake, put on your strength”! (Isa 51)

And since you have all gathered here in a church tonight, here is what Fr. Shoemaker tells us about Church:

Sam taught: “We need the Church—need its irksome discipline as well as its inspiring teaching—and not less the Church needs us.” 69

How many ever stopped to think the Church might need us!

And he added: “There is no greater testing place of character, especially of the disposition which is able to work with others, than the fellowship of the Church.” 69

As I come to a close tonight, I want to say a word to those of you already in Recovery; remember this: the fellowship of the program is meant to lead us to the fellowship of the spirit. In the Fellowship of the Spirit, then, let me close with Fr. Shoemaker’s invitation to all of us…to you tonight…and invitation I repeat with fervent hope that you will take it to heart:

God will always give the regeneration we want . . . God has a great spiritual experience and destiny to which [God] calls you, if only you will rise up to receive it.

AMEN.

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Sermon for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, 2017

On Christmas Day this past year, my family spent the afternoon watching the original Star Wars movie. It was the first time our daughter Mari had seen it. I’m not sure what she thought of it, but for her nerd father who grew up with it as a staple of his childhood, it felt like a big moment. It had been years since I’d watched the movie, and this time I was struck by just how fast the plot moves. Princess Leia moves from an imperial senator, to an imperial prisoner, to commander of the rebellion with barely taking a breath. Luke Skywalker moves from being an ordinary farm boy on a backwater planet to being a major figure in the rebellion in about twenty-five minutes. The sequence of events that move the characters along seem like a rapid series of coincidences, but of course, in the Star Wars theology, it is the God-like force that is calling and moving them toward their destiny. In an instant, an ordinary person, in the midst of his ordinary life, is called to play an extraordinary role.

The same thing is happening in today’s gospel lesson. When we read this passage at both our Wednesday Bible study and most recent chapter meeting, several of us were particularly struck by how Simon and Andrew, James and John immediately drop everything and leave their lives behind to follow Jesus. Four ordinary fishermen, in one instant, are called to play an extraordinary role. Because they responded to that call, those ordinary fishermen are all enshrined in these windows, and countless others like them around the world.

Like the movie Star Wars, the events in this morning’s lesson are set against the backdrop of a cruel and oppressive empire. The fishermen Jesus called were kept in crushing poverty by what was extortion disguised as tax law, and for the people living on the little slice of earth known as Galilee, that was nothing new. Back when it was known as the land of Zebulon and Naphtali, the Assyrians were doing the same thing the Romans. In the midst of a dark political landscape, Matthew frames Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s ancient promise:

“Land of Zebulon, land of Naphtali. . .Galilee controlled by the Gentiles. . .the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

Jesus is the light promised to a people living in the darkness of oppression, fear, and poverty.

The rest of the lesson then shows us what that light gets up to, how it works in the world: it calls people to a new way of life, it invites people to form a new community of love, it heals those who are sick, who are desperate, who are desperately poor. God’s promised light works in the world by forming a alternative community of love and healing that will resist the world’s darkness.

In the words of one of my favorite biblical scholars, David Lose: “Jesus called ordinary people, in the middle of their ordinary lives to do extraordinary things. . .and he still does.” [1]

When we normally think of Jesus’ call, we think it’s the ordained clergy who are called, or we think that maybe some people are called to a particular job or something. But Jesus calls each and every one of us, exactly like he called Simon and Andrew, James and John. He is not so much calling us to do a particular kind of job, he is calling us to be light in a dark world. Jesus is calling us, Jesus is calling you, to form an alternative community, to join an alternative kingdom of love, and work together to heal the desperately sick, the desperately lonely, the desperately poor, and maybe most of all those who are just desperate.

Jesus is calling you, ordinary you, to play an extraordinary role. Jesus is calling you to light in the darkness. Jesus is calling you invite others into an alternative community marked by love and hope and healing. Jesus is calling you right where you are, in your own fishing boat, in your home, at your office, to join God’s extraordinary movement of bringing hope where there is despair, love where there is hatred, life where there is death.

I wrote this sermon on Friday morning, just before the presidential inauguration, as a handful of people were sitting in this cathedral praying. It’s an anxious time for our nation. These past several days, everyone has seemed a little more on edge. We are deeply divided, there’s anger all around, many are afraid. The good news for us today is that the people of Zebulon and Naphtali knew what all of that was like, Simon and Andrew, James and John knew what all of that was like, Jesus and everyone he touched and healed knew what that was like. Throughout the Old Testament, in the gospels, and in so many places in the history of the church, God’s people have come together in the midst of uncertain times, in the midst of all kinds of darkness, in fearful times and in exuberant times, and formed once again an alternative community of love and light. This morning, Jesus is calling you, ordinary you, to be extraordinary light and extraordinary love, saturating and infecting the world wherever you are, whoever you are, and whatever you are with love and hope and peace. Jesus stands right here in the midst of us today, and calls us again, “Follow me.” I will make you fish for people, I will make you light for the world. Land of Zebulon and Naphtali, land of the United States, land of Omaha, the people who have walked in darkness have seen, see right now, and will see again, God’s great light. Amen.

[1] http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=3018

2017 Epiphany Proclamation

In the ancient church, before calendars were widespread, it became the custom for all of the holy days for the year to be announced on the feast of the Epiphany. The days and seasons of feasting and fasting that give shape to our life as Christians are all oriented around the date of Easter, which is the central mystery of our faith. The annual Epiphany proclamation helps us put in mind and look out over the whole scope of the salvation story as we enter into this new year.

Dear brothers and sisters,
the glory of the Lord has shone upon us,
and shall ever be manifest among us,
until the day of his return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons
let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination,
the Easter Triduum of the Lord:
his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial,
and his rising celebrated
between the evening of the Thirteenth day of April
and the evening of the Fifteenth day of April,
Easter Sunday being on the Sixteenth day of April.

Each Easter — as on each Sunday —
the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed
by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.
From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent,
will occur on the First day of March.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on
Thursday, the Twenty-fifth day of May.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter,
will be celebrated on the Fourth day of June.

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be
on the Third day of December.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christ
in the feasts of the holy Mother of God,
in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints,
and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come,
Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

Christmas Eve, 2016

As most of you know, I grew up in North Platte, which is a smallish railroad town that sits on the southern edge of the Nebraska sandhills, exactly 281 miles west of this cathedral. I didn’t pay much attention to those sandhills growing up—they were just sort of there—but in my adult life, I’ve grown to love them more and more every year. I love their austere and understated beauty. I love the fact that though they are their geologically fragile and threatened, somehow they’re still there. I love how when you drive through them the sense of your own smallness against the vast backdrop of God’s creation is both comforting and terrifying in equal measure. They are known by very few people in the world, and beloved by even fewer.

About a year and a half ago, I was in Bethlehem around Easter. I had just finished eating lunch at a little restaurant on the edge of town, and I was standing outside by myself, taking in the view of the Judean hills, the same hills where the shepherds were keeping watch in tonight’s gospel. I was mesmerized by how much they look like the sand hills I came from on the other side of the world. Replace the sheep with cattle, and I might have been standing on the hill just outside my mom’s back yard. Like their Nebraska counterparts, on the first Christmas the Judean hills were largely unknown to the world, and loved only by the handful of people who called them home.

And yet, that’s where the real action happens in Luke’s Christmas story. The gospel we heard tonight is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. I’ve read or heard it hundreds of times. But this year I was struck by the fact that the way Luke tells the actual birth of Jesus is pretty boring. A poor family is sent scurrying by an imperial decree the way poor families always are when the powerful make decrees. Labor and delivery are described in one sentence! We get no details about what would have been a scary and unimaginably difficult journey and childbirth.

But when the action shifts to the hills, things get exciting. An angel appears, shepherds shake with fear, and a big heavenly choir appears transforming those ordinary hills into a flash cathedral. Heaven and earth are joined together, and common ranch hands become the first to hear the news that the world has changed.

With the politically powerful hanging around the edges of the story, the poorest people, in the most insignificant field, become the place where the glory of God’s love shines brightest.

And that’s just the thing about Christmas: it makes the astonishing claim that the God who made all things took on our flesh and blood, moved into our neighborhood, joined us on our terms. But God wasn’t just born in some generic sense. God was born in what was basically the North Platte of the ancient Roman Empire, or the inner city, or the Appalachia, or the border town slum.

Christmas announces that God is always being born in those places and people that are most forgotten, and thrown out, and overlooked. Christmas announces that God often shows up in the cold and lonely and frightening mangers of our own hearts. Christmas promises that there is no person too far gone, no situation too broken, no place too distant for God’s love to reach and save and heal. In fact, if we follow Luke’s version, the less important and lovable the place, the more likely God is to show up there.

But if that’s true, if we really believe that, then those of us who celebrate it tonight are compelled to constantly proclaim that fact with our whole lives.

The beauty and peace and joy of this night is not an escape, it’s not a temporary reprieve from a harsh and brutal world. The beauty and peace and joy of this night are meant to shape us into people that will help God dazzle forgotten fields with the glory of love wherever we are.

To sing “o come let us adore him” is to join God in defying the powers that are working now as they did then to oppress, and ignore, and break down and exclude. To sing “o come let us adore him” is to commit ourselves to expecting God to show up in the poor, the homeless, expect God to side with the immigrant, expect God to stand alongside gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, with religious minorities, with victims of sexual assault, with the frightened and angry foster child, to travel in the weary arms of refugees, and anyone else who has been pushed to the margins and backwaters of our world. Those are the places we will find God being born again and again and again. This night invites, it demands, that we stand in those places and look for the glory of God to come blazing out of them.

So come to the manger again tonight to worship our newborn king, but don’t expect him to stay there. Expect to hear about him from those out in the fields, expect to meet him on the forgotten and lonely hillsides of our world, in the hidden and painful parts of your own heart. And when you meet Jesus in those places, expect to quake with awe and joy at the way he dazzles the darkest places with the glory of love. Amen.

Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent by Brother James Dowd

As you have no doubt gathered by now, this morning we mark the first Sunday of Advent. In our church calendar this is the beginning of the new liturgical year, and in our secular calendar and popular culture it is a kind of crossover from the Thanksgiving holiday to the Christmas holidays.

And all of this just in time for Jesus to get his Christmas cards out early with the heart-warming Gospel message we just heard, that the world is coming to an end; that disaster waits around every corner; and that you better be ready. Happy Holidays from our house to yours, signed: Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

Not to be outdone, our ever pervasive media, from which we are seemingly unable to find refuge, has decided that the end times are indeed upon us, and that the apocalypse begins here in the United States, rather than in the traditionally anticipated place of the Middle East.

And perhaps they are correct. Maybe it is that bad. The signs of our times are not looking good and I believe we really, truly, need to pay attention to them. To sweep under the table the questions, concerns, and even panicked response to the election of our sisters and brothers who are handicapped, or immigrant, or Muslim, or poor, or LGBT, or African-American, is morally indefensible. Just as it was to sweep those same concerns that many white working class people had. Concerns that no one was listening to them regarding their increasing poverty, their inability to find work, the growing very serious drug problem in rural areas and more.

So, yes. I’m here to tell you they are all right – the world is falling apart. Insane terror organizations like ISIS control large parts of the Middle East murdering untold numbers; climate change is real and yet most of our leaders fiddle as millions of acres of forest burn, our coastal areas flood and havoc is wreaked on our agriculture; Neo-Nazis and Klansmen openly celebrate, “their” election victory; many of the women and men who built our major industries throughout the Midwest and Appalachia are in desperate need; race relations haven’t been this bad since before the civil rights era; young men of color continue to be harassed, imprisoned, and even killed at alarming rates by the police; police officers are being randomly assassinated; and so much more.

So, yes, we should pay attention. That is what Jesus was instructing us to do when he told us to awaken. But as Christian, we are also not to despair. We are never to despair. Advent is an important liturgical season in any year, but this year, I think it is essential for our lives as Christians because Advent is nothing if not about light, peace, joy, and hope.

And that is why, when Dean Loya, Mother Sarah, and I were planning the Advent program for our community, we chose the theme of Breathing into Christmas as a way to focus our faith journeys at this time. We will seek to teach, in various formats, the theological and spiritual aspects of light, peace, joy, and hope and how they help us to breathe into Christmas. The idea of breathing into Christmas is a way to bring those theological aspects of light, peace, joy, and hope into the everyday reality of our lives. To change what can seem like abstract ideas into something as close to us and as necessary to our existence as our breath.

This week, we’re focusing on light. This morning we heard the great prophet Isaiah, the prophet of Advent, invite the House of Jacob, to “walk in the light of the Lord”. And that reminded me of another prophet I greatly admire – not nearly as well known – but very important to my life and to the lives of many others. Father James Otis Sargent Huntington was the founder, back in 1884, of the Order of the Holy Cross, the order to which I belong, and the first male monastic order in the Episcopal Church. He fought against many church, societal, and governmental forces to bring the light of Christ to another period in which both our church and our country was being roiled by great unrest.

In his time, the Industrial Revolution was creating a great deal of wealth for a very few on the backs of the mostly immigrant working poor who labored in near slave-like conditions. He first chose to work with very poor German immigrants, none of whom were Episcopalian.

God always works in mysterious ways and that is no less true with Father Huntington. So, here was the young James Huntington, a patrician son of a well-heeled New England family, whose father was a bishop of the church, called to serve in the slums of the Lower East Side of New York. And the way he would serve and welcome others to serve with him was to dedicate his life and community to prayer and service to society’s outcasts.

All that prayer – what I call breathing – led Father Huntington to develop his most famous teaching which is a simple sentence: “Love must act, as light must shine, and fire must burn.” “Love must act, as light must shine, and fire must burn.”

Inherent to the fact that light must shine – it cannot not shine. It is not light if it is not shining. And inherent to the fact that fire must burn – it cannot not burn. It is not fire if it is not burning. So too, is the fact that Christian love must act. To love as a Christian one cannot not act. It is not Christian love if it is not acting. One must, in fact, act. And that very act of love is learning to live into the light.

Living into the light, breathing into the light, is an act of Christian love. It is an act so radical that it is, in fact, quite counter-cultural to engage in such acts of love. You see, all around us, the forces of the market-place, our current political system, and our governmental, military and industrial complex all conspire to have us believe that if we gorge ourselves on buying products we don’t need; and if we vote out of fear even when that vote is not in our personal or national self-interest; and if we allow our treasure to be squandered on needless armaments and wars; We will be happy. We will be satisfied. We will be safe.

You see the powers of darkness are best at deception. They want us to be so afraid that we will attempt to assuage that fear with the supposed balm of a hyper commercialized and militarized society. A society that is susceptible to the Big Lie. And these same powers tell us over and over and over again: you don’t need to act: politics doesn’t belong in the church; you don’t need to act: those immigrants are taking our jobs; you don’t need to act: those people who are protesting are just whiney crybabies; you don’t need to act: your life is hard enough.

Darkness. Darkness. Darkness. But Advent is about Light. Light. Light. Light. In fact, we have this great symbol in the Advent wreath that we use each year. As the literal darkness descends and we have less light each day from now until nearly Christmas, we keep lighting first one, then two, then three, then four lights on that wreath in defiance of the darkness. To be a Christian is to out-light the darkness, even if by only one candle, because light must shine.

And so we too must act. We stand up at Advent and we light those candles and we keep lighting those candles, and we put lights up on our houses and on our trees, as we proclaim to the world that we will not let the darkness overcome us. We will act for love, for mercy, for justice, and for peace. Nothing will stop us because if God can love us so much that God would come among us, become one of us, teach us God’s way of living, and then die for us; the very least we can do is to attempt to become a little bit like God and behave in a way that is about the light.

As light must shine and fire must burn, so too we must act as God’s hands and feet and heart and mind and voice in our time and in our community, just as the great prophets Isaiah and Father Huntington did in their times. This is our time, my sisters and brothers, to stand up, light those candles, pray into that light of Christ, and act for justice, act for peace, act for the immigrant, the despised, the poor, and the forgotten. Let that light shine in you so that it becomes the fire that must burn in our communities. AMEN.

Sermon for Christ the King Sunday, 2016

Two TV moments to start this morning. Sixteen years ago at this time, after George W. Bush and Al Gore had fought through a bitter and mean campaign (it seems pretty mild now), the country waited weeks and weeks to sort out what was essentially a dead tie between the candidates. Cynicism about politicians and Washington had been growing for a while, and seemed universal. NBC’s “The West Wing” was just hitting its stride. Against the backdrop of an election scene that looked a little like a circus, and then as the country started to become more and more fractured, “The West Wing” provided us with a sort of alternate political reality, where President Josiah Bartlett and his team united a country with integrity and a commitment to service that seemed both pleasantly old-fashioned and hopefully forward thinking.

Fast forward to today, and in the aftermath of this year’s bitter and mean campaign, I’ve been watching the Netflix original series “The Crown,” which traces the reign of England’s Queen Elizabeth II from her ascension as a young woman in the late 1940s. In one of the early episodes, Elizabeth is seeking advice at the bedside of her sick grandmother. The older woman leans in and says forcefully, “Monarchy is God’s sacred mission to bring grace and dignity to the earth. It gives ordinary people an ideal to strive towards, an example of nobility and duty to raise them in their wretched lives.” Her point is that the monarchy serves as a grounding point for English identity, an anchor of stability and history in the midst of a rapidly changing world, and a British empire coming apart at the seams.

Today is the last Sunday after Pentecost, which since the early twentieth century has been celebrated as the feast of Christ the King. Pope Pius XI instituted the feast of Christ the King to remind a divided Europe in the aftermath of World War I of their common allegiance to Christ rather than to any earthly ruler.

It’s a feast that seems as relevant and important today as it did in the 1920s, and I think the alternate reality of “The West Wing” and the Crown’s ideal to strive towards can help us make sense of what it might mean for us today.

Our gospel lesson today gives us a sense of what the ideal Christ our king sets for us might be. Here is Jesus in the most unlikely position for a monarch: being executed alongside common criminals as an enemy of the state. Three times Jesus is mocked and challenged to save himself, and three times he forgives and embraces his tormentors. While the nations and kingdoms of the world are ruled by force and intimidation, our kingdom is ruled by a king who suffers alongside us, a king who uses his power to dispense boundless mercy, who promises paradise to criminals and outcasts. When Jesus was handed all the power in the universe, he didn’t choose to simply be the biggest king with the biggest empire, he chose to give his power away in love, he chose to use his power to upend all the ways we normally organize kingdoms.

Our king provides an ideal to strive toward, a grounding point for our identity, but it is an ideal of service, and mercy, and love, and peace. It’s an ideal of loving rather than winning. It’s an ideal of being merciful. It’s an ideal of standing with those who are cast out. Our king rescues us from the power of darkness by turning the order of a dark world on its head.

“The West Wing” provided a different way of imagining one season of our nation’s history. But, of course, it was fantasy and escape. The alternative kingdom we belong to—the Kingdom of God—is actually more real and more true than the darkness we currently see. Our job is to make what seems like a different and fantastical reality shine through that darkness, until it turns the whole world to Christ’s light.

In the coming months and years, there will be no easy or cheap healing of the deep and complex divisions among us in this country. I’ve heard from so many people who I love, who I work with, that the immigrants, refugees, gays, lesbian, and transgender persons, and so many others who were targeted by hateful rhetoric in this campaign are scared about what happens next. That the election came out the way it did suggests there’s a whole lot of people in our country who are angry they’ve been overlooked and ignored and dismissed. Others are simply tired of hearing about it, and simply want to move on.

I don’t know how it’s all going to shake out, but wherever a person falls on that spectrum on this day, the call to us is the same. On the feast of Christ the King, we are invited simply to renew our commitment to Jesus Christ, not as a doctrine or a belief or a religion, but as a way of life. We are invited to renew our commitment to living the way Jesus lived and taught, and to renew our allegiance to the kingdom his life announced. We are called to make Jesus’ way of standing with the suffering, solidarity with the marginalized and threatened, offering peace at every turn, the ideal we strive towards, the thing that lifts us out of our ordinary lives.

But then we are challenged to help make this other kingdom a reality here and now. We are challenged to ask ourselves: what is one thing we can do today, or this week, to wave the flag of Christ’s kingdom? How can I stand with the suffering? Where can I offer forgiveness?

The good news today, and every day, is that no matter what happens in our lives, in our nation, or in our world, God has already overcome the powers of darkness and sin and death. “He has rescued us from the power of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” The resurrection assures us that’s a done deal. Our job is to use whatever life we have to offer that promise to those who are still trapped in darkness, until the kingdom of life and light and love appears in its glorious fullness. Amen.

 

 

Sermon for All Saints Sunday by the Reverend Canon Liz Easton

Last week, I visited New York City for the very first time. I was there for work, but I was able to stay an extra day to explore the city with my best friend since middle school, who moved to Brooklyn a couple years ago.

We did all the things that you do when you visit New York—we ate great food, walked a ton, and explored different neighborhoods. We also went to a Broadway show, “Falsettos,” a revival of a musical that first appeared on Broadway in the early nineties and has now returned for a short run. Like all good theater experiences, this one has really stuck with me, and I found that I especially couldn’t shake it as I was thinking about All Saints Day, baptism, and today’s tough gospel reading.

“Falsettos” is a family drama, set in New York in the late seventies and early eighties. The second act of the play centers on the family’s young son, Jason, struggling to decide whether or not to have a bar mitzvah. He’s not especially religious, and bar mitzvah’s—as you may know—require a ton of hard work to pull off. He’s nervous about who to invite, about messing up the complicated prayers in front of all the girls he has crushes on. His divorced parents don’t get along, and their pressure to go ahead and plan the party just adds to his resistance. He’s on the fence about it, and he won’t budge.

Suddenly, his father’s partner, with whom he’s especially close, gets mysteriously ill. Jason decides to wait to have the bar mitzvah until the man recovers. What the audience knows, and what Jason’s parents are just starting to realize, is that this young man won’t get better. Like scores of other gay men in New York at that time, he’s been diagnosed with a disease that will soon be known as AIDS, and he’s going to die.

Jason departs the room after announcing that he wants to hold off on the Bar Mitzvah, leaving his parents to have a conversation that I think all parents are familiar with—is it better to tell him the truth, or protect him from it? Bar Mitzvah’s are about becoming a man, but he is still very much a little boy. What is the healthiest way to get him through this, whole?

In one of the most poignant moments of the play, Jason’s step-father asks, “Why don’t we tell him that we don’t have the answers, that life rarely goes according to plan, and this is the start of becoming a man?”

Today’s gospel reading is from the Sermon on the Plain. We might be more familiar with the Sermon on the Mount, which appears in Matthew: “Blessed are the meek…blessed are the peacemakers…” Luke’s version, which we just heard, is a lot grittier, and honestly probably less memorable because it might make us a little uncomfortable, tempting us to forget.

Here, the blessings that Jesus bestows are strictly literal: “Blessed are the poor,” he says, not “the poor in spirit.” Luke’s version also stands out because Jesus’ blessings are balanced with curses, basically: “Woe to you who are rich,” he says. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.” The fact that Jesus preaches this sermon on a plain instead of a mountain tells us something too: Here, Jesus stands on level ground with the people who seek him out; he meets them where they are and takes his place within the complicated and often painful equilibrium of their real lives. “Blessed are you,” he says.

In the Sermon on the Plain, suffering is balanced with rejoicing. Blessings are balanced with woes. Jesus points toward a kingdom that has not yet come, but is near enough that we are blinded by glimpses of its glory. It’s a mess, and God became a human precisely for this reason: to share with us in suffering, and to share with us in joy. To be in the midst of our brokenness, and to point us toward ultimate restoration, perfect unity with the Creator.

Jesus even gives good advice on how to live here: “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

I am more and more convinced that this is what it means to be a Christian—to stand on the plain with Jesus and with the whole host of humanity. To hold all of it—the blessings and the woes, the kingdom that is now and is not yet now—to hold it all, and to stand there. To love even in the midst of such brokenness.

Like many of you, perhaps, I find myself a little anxious this week. This presidential election has pulled back a veil in our country, and has revealed to us a nation that is far more divided than I think I realized. We are learning more about each other’s prejudices, seeing first-hand each other’s pain, discovering where we stake our identities, and the lengths that we will go to affirm that we are right and others are wrong. As a country, we have behaved badly in this election.

The thing that disturbs me most of all, I think, is how this political season—more than any other I’ve witnessed—has pulled us like magnets to opposite poles, making us stare across the divide and point fingers and shout curses. Relationships have been broken, if not severed completely. Families have been divided. People are terrified, and angry, and exhausted. This is simply not Christian. This is not what Christians do.

I wonder if the space between those poles might be the plain where Jesus stands. I wonder if it’s where we’re being invited to stand in the coming weeks and months. As Christians, we have practice being there. We know the terrain. As a country, we have to learn how to live with each other going forward, and my prayer is that those of us who can will abandon our poles and walk into the plain.

Today, we are baptizing two souls into the Body of Christ. All Saints Day is a particularly beautiful occasion for a baptism, because it reminds us as powerfully as ever that we are not alone in this messy world. We are united with one another, with Christ, and with all the saints in heaven as we seek to hold our ground, as we bravely take our place on the messy plain of humanity.

Baptism, like all things Christian, balances the here and the not yet. Initiated into the Body of Christ, we can expect the glory of resurrection and an eternity with God. But we’re also powerfully equipped to live the life we’ve been given, here on earth.

As a priest in baptism, there’s one prayer that always stops me short, chokes me up, and confronts me with what it really means to follow Jesus. You’ll hear it in a moment: “Heavenly Father,” we pray, “we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed on these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace.” That’s the coming Kingdom part. But the prayer goes on:

“Give them an inquiring and discerning heart,” we ask, “the courage and will to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.” That’s the standing on the plain part, and I can’t imagine a better hope for our children, a better hope for ourselves. The prayer says it all.

So, what about Jason? What about his family, and his dying friend, and his growing realization that life rarely goes according to plan? Well, Jason decides to have the Bar Mitzvah, but he decides to hold it in his friend’s hospital room rather than the event hall that his parents had rented. He only invites their family and two close friends. He turns a small hospital table into an altar, wears his prayer shawl, sings his prayers with abandon. He becomes a man in his religious tradition that way, in the midst of brokenness, pain, and grief. It is a beautiful impulse, coming from a child. To honor love, community, relationships, and hard, messy spaces. To hallow a place when so many would rather run away.

That is my prayer for all of us as we walk into what might be a rather difficult week: may we choose the plain, knowing that God is there.

AMEN.

Seeing Through God’s Affection: Starting Magdalene Omaha

“Where there is great love there are always miracles,’ he said at length. ‘One might almost say that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love. I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you. The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.”

–Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

This exchange from one of my favorite novels takes place between the wise and reserved Bishop Latour and his young and passionate vicar, Vaillant, during their extensive and trying travels together through the southwestern United States of the nineteenth century. “Where there is great love, there are always miracles.” I have always thought that sounds great, but like Bishop Latour, it has mostly been an intellectual truth for me, something that I know must be true, whether or not I actually believe or experience it to be so. This past weekend, I was reminded again of these words, and I encountered their truth in the most concrete and undeniable way.

For the past seven months, I have served as president of the board for Magdalene Omaha, an affiliate of Magdalene/Thistle Farms in Nashville, which is a program for survivors of sex trafficking, abuse, and addiction. Magdalene communities offer two years of free sanctuary for survivors, covering all of their living and medical expenses, connecting residents with appropriate mental health social service providers, and giving them a small stipend. There is no authority in the house, and no residential staff. The residents are free to come and go as they wish. The program is non-sectarian, and does not require or ask for any religious commitment. The residents’ life together is guided by the twenty-four principles outlined in Magdalene founder Becca Stevens’s book Finding Our Way Home.

We are in the very early stages of starting our program in Omaha, and this past weekend Becca, as well as two graduates and one current resident of Magdalene, were with us for our big kickoff event to raise both money and awareness. I spent three days with them at different events—a dinner for major donors on Friday, a round table with community leaders and lawmakers on Saturday, our big event Saturday night, and again at Trinity Cathedral on Sunday morning. Over and over again, I saw signs of both great love, and of the miracles that such love can manifest.

I saw the miraculous growth of a community that began with just five women in 1999 and today has become a global movement with more than thirty affiliate programs. I saw the miraculously transformed lives of three women who experienced unimaginable abuse and trauma as they showed us again and again what it means to love truly and to be truly loved. I saw the miracle of a city coming together to talk about its hard truths and imagine a better, safer way forward. I saw the miracle of an army of volunteers getting the word out in force, and providing rich hospitality to everyone who came to hear the stories of the women of Magdalene and to support the planting of a house in Omaha. I saw a miraculous spiritual energy I don’t often seen in churches, moving a diverse group of people to attempt what might have otherwise seemed impossible.

And all of these miracles are happening because of great love. There is the great love Becca has for God’s creation and God’s people, and which moved her to start Magdalene almost twenty years ago. There is the great love the survivors have for themselves, for one another, and for the woman still on the street, who they remember each time they meet together in community. There is the great love developing between and around the leaders of Magdalene Omaha.

Magdalene Omaha isn’t about providing a service for victims. It’s about creating a beloved community of women who are survivors, so that their community might help all of us challenge a culture that fosters addiction in its many, many forms and tolerates violence against women, including the sale of women’s bodies. The potential and the power of this movement, which is fueled by great love and produces honest-to-God miracles, runs far beyond combating the evil of sex trafficking. This movement has the power to transform everyone who encounters it. As we in Omaha have come together to do the long work it will take to form and support a Magdalene community, we have been and will continue to form more and more people who are committed to making miracles born of great love happen wherever they are. “I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you,” Cather wrote. The Magdalene communities help us all to see the world through the eyes of God’s affection for every single one of us. That affection, and that love, have the power to heal us from all of the ways that we are broken and that we break one another.

During a conversation on Sunday morning at the cathedral, I was explaining to a group of people that we hope we will be able to begin offering sanctuary to our first group of residents sometime in 2018, which is a perfectly realistic and responsible timeline. One of the Magdalene graduates, Lori, jumped in and said, “it’s going to happen a lot faster than that!” Before I experienced the miracles that Magdalene manifests, I wouldn’t have believed it. Having witnessed great love and seen miracles this weekend, I think she might just be right.

Sermon for the Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost by the Reverend Sarah Miller

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

These are words from the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent to Judah’s exiles taken into captivity in Babylon. For a few months now, Jeremiah has been hovering like a little storm cloud in our readings, often provoking our confusion and alarm, or ruining what would otherwise be a perfectly lovely Sunday morning with his dire warnings of death and destruction. Which is, if you know your Old Testament history, basically what being around Jeremiah was like when he was alive. Jeremiah was appointed by God to foretell and then bear witness to a disaster: the utter destruction, by the Babylonian Empire, of the kingdom of Judah, of its holy city Jerusalem, and of the temple, the dwelling of the God of Israel. Today’s words are written to people who, just before that all took place, had been taken from Jerusalem into exile in Babylon; not only did they endure the shame of defeat, but they suddenly found themselves having to live among their enemies. The good news is that after today, the prophets’ warnings turn into promises: the destruction is not permanent, the exile to Babylon will not be forever; return and restoration are coming. But for now, despite the exiles’ grief and culture shock and homesickness, the God of Israel sends word through Jeremiah that in the meantime, they are to get on with the business of living: build houses, plant gardens, get married and have kids. And the kicker? They are to seek the welfare of Babylon, to pray for it, because their wellbeing is dependent on its wellbeing.

The story of the Babylonian conquest and exile is historical fact, but this chapter in the people of Israel’s story, this period of waiting to return home to Jerusalem, is, for Christians, also charged with symbolism. Jerusalem exists today as an actual city that you can go and visit, but throughout scripture, the image of New Jerusalem, a city filled with peace and justice, keeps getting held out as a promise of the perfectly restored human community that God will one day establish. In the same way, Babylon pops up all over the place as shorthand for the violent, oppressive empires that human sin creates and props up over and over again throughout history. When, hundreds of years after Jeremiah, the writer of Revelation wanted to to describe God’s future triumph over evil to early Christians, he symbolized it as the fall of Babylon, and as New Jerusalem, a beautiful city, descending down out of heaven to finally be established on earth.

It shouldn’t be hard for us to imagine why Christians for centuries have identified with those exiles stuck in Babylon; making the best of things in an imperfect world; trying to hold onto an identity that is often at odds with the surrounding culture; holding on to the promise of return to a home that we’ve never actually seen and can only dimly imagine, but that we long for God to establish for good. We are exiles, in a Babylon world, waiting for the New Jerusalem, the beloved community, the kingdom of God, to be established on earth as it is in heaven. This way of imagining our place in the world has often resonated with Christians, and it seems to me to have been thrown into greater relief during this season in our country’s life, this election cycle. I have heard so many of you grappling, in one way or another, with how faith and politics inform each other; with how we reconcile our identities as both Christians and citizens. Doesn’t the church have to stay out of politics? Shouldn’t we be worried if our faith starts getting too political? How do we accept an imperfect political process with imperfect candidates, and where do we draw the line between imperfect and unacceptable?

There’s a clue for us hidden in the very word “political.” Its roots have nothing to do with Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal or libertarian. Politics is about the polis, which is just the Greek for city. It’s about how humans organize and order a common life with each other. And Christians absolutely have something to say about how we live with each other—we even have a political ideal: we call it the kingdom of God. To pray, “thy kingdom come on earth,” to call Jesus our Lord and the King of Creation—those are political statements. We are citizens of that kingdom, currently in an exile that we are promised is temporary. And to those in exile, the Lord has said, not to condemn the polis, the city, not to escape or withdraw from it, but to seek its welfare, and to pray on its behalf, as if our lives depended on it, because, the prophet tells us, they do.

This way of approaching politics hopefully saves us from some of the more troubling trends we’ve seen lately: we shouldn’t expect perfection or salvation from public servants, but we shouldn’t use imperfection as an excuse to withdraw from the process, or to make a pointless protest out of our vote, or, most troubling, to court violence and chaos out of a jaded, nihilistic despair. We use our vote to ensure the welfare of those around us, and we work to proclaim and prepare for the coming of the kingdom. When we gather on Tuesdays to pray for peace and justice during this election, we are following God’s command to the exiles. When we feed the hungry and show hospitality to refugees, we are offering a world so often ordered like Babylon a hopeful glimpse of what it will look like when God’s in charge.

If our primary identity is as followers of Jesus, citizens of his coming kingdom, then our politics, fundamentally, is about making ourselves and all that we have available for God to use in preparing the way for that kingdom. It’s why we’re all praying right now about what we will give financially to this cathedral in the coming year. It’s why we offer our whole selves to God in the Eucharist each week. It’s why in our work and families and our community, we are called to promote each other’s welfare. Our vote, and our politics, belong to God, as much as anything else we have. For us as exiles, awaiting the kingdom of God, we must each prayerfully decide how we can best seek the welfare of our city, our country, and our world.

Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, 2016

There’s been a lot of bad news this summer. Both here and around the world, we’ve had wave after wave of violence and tragedy; and if that weren’t bad enough, the back and forth we engage around it fans the flames of the deep political divides among us. The Book of Common Prayer tells us that “the mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (855), so it seems a preacher has a responsibility to speak word of hope and life in the midst of it all the division. I’ve tried to do that in my preaching this summer, but I have to admit that when it came time to prepare this week’s sermon, I was mostly just feeling weary and cynical about it all, as I’m sure many of you are, too.

Then, as you know, I spent the past week at our diocesan youth camp. About a hundred of us spent the week playing, praying, singing, listening for God, and forming and incredibly loving and generous community. Part of the reason I’m committed to serving as a counselor each year is that camp paints a picture of what a community of Jesus’ followers ought to look like, and is a little glimpse of what I imagine God’s kingdom will be. There is a lot of joy and laughter, and every person is celebrated and loved for the unique person God has made them to be.

This year, the camp staff included four recent graduates of our camp program who were back serving as counselors for the first time. As I got to know each of them a little better over the week, I blown away by their stories, and their dedication to helping our campers know God’s love in very real ways. One counselor is working three jobs to help pay for college, and spent their only week of vacation to help with camp. Others continue to overcome challenges in their own lives, and are driven to give the love they’ve received in our program. I went feeling a little bit like a martyr for enduring the exhaustion and the heat, but I was quickly set straight by seeing the kinds of sacrifices they were making, and the kinds of odds they’ve overcome to be able to do so. It was hard to stay cynical for long in the face of loving, and hope-filled young adults who are passionate about sharing the gift of God’s love that they have received.

In today’s gospel lesson, when Jesus answers the disciples’ question about how to pray, I think he was hoping his answer would shape them into people just like that. He gives them what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer, and then a few stories about how God will be available and generous to us when we cry out to him. At the very end of the passage, Jesus gives us the punch line about prayer: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” It turns out that the benefit of prayer is the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. When we ask, and seek, and knock, we aren’t granted our every wish by a divine genie (we all know prayer doesn’t work like that anyway). When we ask, and seek, and knock, we are filled with the gift of God’s spirit, so that we can love as God loves, so that we can be as unrelentingly generous as God is, so that we can be agents of peace and healing and mercy even when the world is as divided and violent and tiring as it has been this summer. In the words of one commentator this week: “The point of prayer is not to change God’s mind but to shape ours, to make us fit for the kingdom, ready to live the only life possible in God’s household: one of love.” [1]

We pray for God’s kingdom, we pray to forgive and be forgiven, we pray for the small gift of daily bread, so that our whole lives might start to reflect God’s perfect generosity and peace in the midst of a hostile and hard world. The more we pray, in the big moments, and in the smallest details, the more we are shaped into Jesus’ hands and feet in the world.

Those four young counselors so easily and naturally gave of themselves because for years and years and years, they had been steeped in the kind of prayerful, loving community that Jesus had in mind.

On the last day of camp, with a lot of help from Trinity’s Suitcase Project volunteers, youth from all over the diocese prayed for victims of violence, and then packed eighty bags for women and their families who have survived sexual assault or domestic violence. Then we went and blessed the bags, and prayed the Lord’s Prayer again. You can’t be part of something like that, and not be filled with hope.The world is a violent, divided, hard, often tragic place to live. This summer has given us almost weekly reminders of that fact. But about 100 youth and adults from around our diocese spent last week soaking ourselves in God’s love and generosity through prayer, and play, and companionship. That’s a hundred more people who are ready to stand as lights in the darkness, as agents of hope in the midst of despair, as agents of peace in the midst of violence, as agents of life in the midst of death. And for all of us here, every single time we gather for anything here at the cathedral, we are invited to do the same—to soak ourselves in God’s love and generosity so we can be agents of the same in our lives—until God’s kingdom comes in its fullness, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

[1] Stamper, Meda. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2923