SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

 

Details about Ginny’s Ordination

 

Just a few reminders about Ginny’s Ordination to the priesthood.  The event will takle place this Saturday, June 30 at 11:00 a.m. at Old Swedes.  It will be followed by a cookout and potluck luncheon on the grounds of Old Swedes.

 

Parking

We are expecting a capacity crowd.  Parking will be available at Old Swedes and we will be double parking the cars tightly into the Old Swedes lot.  In addition, NORAMCO (the industrial plant below Old Swedes) has volunteered the use of their contractor’s lot on the corner of 7th and Old Swedes Landing Rd.–just a short walk to the church.  Parishioners who are able might consider parking at the NORAMCO lot to leave as much room for visitors at the Old Swedes lot.  If possible, we might be able to use a person or two who are familiar with the NORAMCO lot to help direct people to the lot and from the lot to the church.  John Piggott, who works as a part time sexton at Trinity will be on site to help coordinate.

Cookout and reception

If you volunteered to help set up for the reception, please plan to arrive at Old Swedes by 10:00 a.m.  Trinity will provide the meat for the cookout, along with bottled water and juice boxes.  Parishioners should be bring a side dish, salad, or dessert to share.  Please remember it will be hot on Saturday.  If you are bringing a dish that needs to remain cold until the reception, please bring it in a cooler. 

 

Seating

Since the cookout and recpetion will be on the grounds, you are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on.

 

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06-24-2012 sermon

June 24, 2012

Pentecost 4b

June 24th, 2012

Mark 4: 35-41

 

And Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” Amen.

 

“Let us go across to the other side.  Let’s go to a new place, a different place.  Let’s leave behind the comfort of the familiar and let’s go across to the other side.”

And the disciples said, “Okay!” and they got into the boat to take off and go across to the other side.

They didn’t expect to feel like their life was in danger.  They didn’t expect to feel like they might perish.  They didn’t expect to feel frightened to their very core.  They were just hanging out, on a boat, enjoying each other’s company, perhaps wishing they had their fishing nets, taking a trip to the other side.

I can’t help but want to break into song:

Just sit right back
And you’ll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip,
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny ship.

The disciples were a motley crew, they came from various backgrounds.  Some were used to being on a boat and others had never stepped on a boat before.  They had grown accustomed to being the support to Jesus while Jesus preached and taught and they knew how much this took out of him. How much it tired him out.  Even when Jesus wasn’t teaching and preaching to the crowds, his lessons continued in private when Jesus explained the parables to the disciples. 

 

We see the human side of Jesus as he longs to take his rest.   He climbs into the boat, gives a gesture to where they were heading (the other side) finds a nice comfortable spot on the boat, kind of in the back away from the group of disciples and he falls asleep.  Meanwhile the disciples are awake and aware of that feeling of leaving behind what you know and moving towards what you do not know… the journey from here to there… from old to new… from familiar to unfamiliar. 

 

Have you ever been in that space?  Have you ever been in that point in your life where you eagerly set out in a new direction, to a new place, a new job, or a new relationship, you are all gung-ho and feel ready and certain- like nothing can get in your way?  And if so, if you have ever ventured out in a new direction towards that new place, to that “other” side, and did you travel there without any fear? 

 

It is not by accident that Jesus sets a course for the other side.  It is not by accident that he desires to take his rag tag group of disciples to the other side, to work in a new area, to gather with a group of people they don’t know.  It is not by accident because Jesus is still calling us, still encouraging us, still setting the GPS in our lives to the “other side.”

 

If we were to stay in the familiar, only worship with people we are familiar with, only sing songs of a familiar tongue, we forget our end of the deal, our promise that we made in our baptism- to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.  My brothers and sisters, our neighbors live on this side and they live on the other side.  They live within our zip-codes and they live in other zip-codes.  Our neighbors look just like us and they look nothing like us.  They attend Trinity Episcopal Church, Old Swedes and they don’t attend church at all.  The other side.  That is where Jesus was heading.  That is where he was taking his disciples.  That is where we are being called.  The other side- beyond our comfort zones, beyond our own expectations, beyond what we know for certain.  Even so far as beyond death into eternal life.  The other side.

 

And guess what happened.  The disciples got scared.  This is one of the many reasons why I love the disciples and the Apostles.  They are a reminder that these folks didn’t show up from their pre-Jesus lives complete, without flaws, without the foot in mouth issues that we all suffer from – they didn’t arrive without egos, completely selfless.  No, they showed up just as they were.  We show up just as we are. Full of fear sometimes.  Questioning what in God’s name am I doing here?  Why am I in this pew?  Why am I in this boat?

 

The storm begins.  The disciples know where they are headed, they are gathered together in the small water craft and the storm rolls in on them with wind, rain, lightening, thunder, waves, mounting waves, tossing the boat to and fro and the disciples are clinging to the sides of the boat, huddled down together, white knuckled.  Perhaps second guessing the career change they made in order to follow the man who is now sleeping through this racket. 

 

The storm begins in our own lives when we head out in a new direction.  People who know us, who know us well, might begin to question our own judgment about the direction we are heading, the reasons behind our new plan.  We may fear that the timing is wrong.   We might fear that we don’t possess the gifts and skills necessary to get across to the other side.   We might fear that we will need to rely on others in order to get this job done.  We might fear that we will have to change in order to complete the task and make it to the other side.  We fear. 

 

When the fear settles in, when we know that what we are facing is bigger than us and we are committed to making it to the other side(whatever and wherever that might be) intact, in one piece something shifts within us.  In that moment of fear and realization that we cannot do this on our own, we cannot battle our fear on our own, we cannot overpower the storm on our own, we call out to Jesus who already knows our need and he says, “Peace!  Be Still!”

 

I know in the passage Jesus says this to the storm, to the weather but I can’t help but wonder if Jesus was saying, “Peace!  Be still!” to both the storm raging around the boat and to the disciples gathered in the boat.  Peace!  Be Still.  Shhhhhhhh.

When we focus our energy and our resources and our time on our fear and not on the journey, those fears seem to grow bigger, bolder and louder.  We can, sometimes, use our very fear to be the reasons we don’t move forward, we don’t take the risk of getting to know our neighbors, keeping us on this side and never making it to the “other side.”  Peace. Be Still.  The storm is over.  The power of the living Christ, the mercy he shows, the grace he offers, the love he gives is bigger than any of our fears.  He calms the storm.  He settles the sea of doubt and fear brewing inside of us.  He quiets the voice in our head that list all the reason why we shouldn’t move forward, move toward the place Christ calls us to- to the other side.

  I am reminded of a refrain from a Bob Franke Song

“Halleluiah the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly”

 

The other words that Jesus said during this passage seem a bit hurtful at first.  Jesus goes on to say, “Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?”    One could argue that Jesus was speaking about the disciples’ faith, or lack of faith in Jesus.   I would like to go a bit further- not that the disciples didn’t have faith in Christ, but that they didn’t have the same faith in themselves as Christ had.  Jesus won’t let us go on our own.  We don’t enter into the journey towards the other side alone.  We are not alone.  Even when our fear is at its loudest and roughest and scariest, we are not alone.  Christ is still present, in our hearts, in our journey.  Knowing we are not alone empowers us to stand and stare down our fear, the fear that can prevent us from moving forward towards the other side.  Christ is in the boat.  Christ is in our hearts.  Our faith in Christ extends to the understanding that Christ strengthens us, nurtures us, teaches us, guides us and ultimately walks with us, rides with us, rows with us, flies with us- to the other side- to where our neighbors are, to where we are being called.  Jesus doesn’t say there is nothing to fear- because there certainly are things and people and events we may fear- but when we walk in love as Christ has taught us, we can walk without being afraid because we know we have faith and we are not walking alone. 

Peace.  Be still.  Have faith.  Let’s go to the other side.

Amen.

 

June 17, 2012 Sermon

June 19, 2012

Ordinary time 4b

Mark 4: 26-34

06-17-2012

I speak to you in the name of one God.  Amen.

Whenever I go back home to Asheville, North Carolina, there are several activities I will make room and time in my schedule to accomplish.  My “to do while back in Asheville” list consists of these items:

  1. Take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway- which is more than a road – it’s a beautiful journey that entices drivers to explore a 469-mile gateway to America’s rich cultural heritage.  I normally drive to one of the many hiking trails or overlooks and take in the beauty and mystery of the mountains.  I breathe in deep and my breath becomes prayer.  I have been humbled and brought to tears on many occasion when surveying the beauty of God’s creation from the driver’s seat, from the top of a hiking trail, from an overlook.  I am humbled by the artistry of God, humbled by how green God’s thumb must be to have this creation be the result of God’s careful planting.
  2. I make time in my schedule to attend the Friday night drum circle held in Pritchard Park in the heart of downtown.  This gathering of all sorts and conditions of humanity has been assembling for over nine years.  I remember hearing one young man, tall and skinny, shirtless and baggy shorts, sweaty from dancing say with his arms outstretched, “this- this is my church” and I understood what he meant.   All walks of life show up to drum, to listen, to ultimately find their toe tapping, their bodies moving, their spirits lifted, connected and joining in a true example of the Kingdom here on Earth.  The rhythm from the heart, the rhythm of life, the rhythm of creation speaking a common language.  This is not an orchestrated piece that people study before arriving.  The whole of their lives has been their study and they bring their studies, their lives, their brokenness with them, drummer and spectator, child and young at heart, male and female, believer, not yet believing, and they revel in the connection, the connection running through each of them in this one tiny park for two hours, once a week.  Sounds like church to me too.
  3. The third item on my “to do while back in Asheville” list is to visit my alma mater- Warren Wilson College.  I arrived at Warren Wilson as a transfer student in January of 1992.  Without getting too far off track, let me just say that when I arrived to begin a new journey in a new school, I was in desperate need of some repair and restoration.  The previous school I had attended was not a good fit and I was wearing the scars of the damage done in that one semester on my heart and in my soul.  I was in need of reconciliation and Warren Wilson was the place I was going to be fed and nurtured and reconciled. 

Warren Wilson is not your typical college. In fact, one of their marketing taglines is, “Warren Wilson College isn’t for everyone, then again- maybe you are not like everyone.”  As part of the contract of being a student, one must agree to live a life of service while attending classes and fulfill the requirements of their Triad: academics, work and service.   Academics- pretty self explanatory- go to school, do your homework, participate in discussions.  After the academics piece, the college experience does take a bit of a different turn.  When I was a student, we had to agree to fulfill the service requirement each year which amounted to 20 service hours within the community of Asheville and a 100 hour concentrated senior project.   I washed and walked dogs for the humane society, I did winterization of homes for the elderly, I drove for meals on wheels and for my senior project I was the youth coordinator for Grace Episcopal Church. 

The third part of the triad is work and by work, I mean WORK.  Warren Wilson raises cows and pigs for market.  They grow corn to feed the cows and pigs.  They have an organic garden and from that garden they sell to the community, they have an onsite daycare, they have cleaning crews, cattle crew, pig crew, recycling crew, electricians, plumbers, painters, carpenters- the community took care of the community.  We worked 15 hours a week with duties assigned according to the crew you worked on.  I was a lifeguard, a librarian, an events planner, a security guard and the crew I Ioved the most and the reason I make sure to return to Warren Wilson whenever I am home- landscaping.  I go and I walk among the shrubs I planted, the retaining walls I help build, the trees I dug holes for and the flower gardens that contain my finger prints and my beads of sweat- and I marvel at how big they are, how much they have grown, that they are still standing, still flowering, still retaining.  I touch these elements and I am at once thrown back in time, sixteen years ago, laughing with my crewmates, longing for a water break, wiping sweat and dirt off my cheeks- and I feel the connection to the very root of these plants and trees and shrubs- I feel a connection to the mortar of these stones- and I marvel at how they have grown in my absence, in my slumber, in the time that I have been walking elsewhere, they have continued to grow and stand tall, stand strong.

One of my most cherished memories from this time in my life was listening to the orientation for the class of 1998 and hearing the dean of Work, Ian Robertson say, “We plant seeds and we grow people.”  We plant seeds and we grow people. 

I like to think that each of these activities that I do when I go home is a way of connecting or reconnecting to the seed and soil and sowers of my own life.

 

In our gospel text today we hear these opening lines:

26He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.

 

In working through the text, I kept trying to figure out- are we the seed?  Are we the ground?  Are we the sower?  Who are we?  What are we?  Which part is God?  I was having a little bit of an identity crisis.  Ultimately I came to a conclusion- and that conclusion is this- Yes.  The Kingdom of God begins with a yes.  Our participation in the Kingdom of God begins with a yes.  God’s vision of the Kingdom of God begins with a yes, “And God saw that it was good.”  Yes.

The kingdom of God belongs to the seed, to the ground, to the sower- to all who are participating in whatever capacity they are participating – knowingly, unknowingly, on purpose, accidently, well thought out plans and haphazard procrastinations, in our sleeping hours, in our waking hours, in our hopes and in our failures- the kingdom of God is becoming through each of us, is growing through each of us, is begin realized within each of us. Yes!  We do not know how- Yes!

We are the sower- we impact the ground, the people we come in contact with in our daily lives and our interaction with them is the planting of seeds.  We may not even know that we have done any planting but sometimes, after some time and some space, we notice something different within a person- some type of growth- which we might have helped nurture and create through our relationship with them.  Yes!

Sometimes we are the seed, we are placed in the lives of one another and together we change the world around us through our own growth and development.  As we grow, side by side, we also change the landscape around us.  Behold, God is doing a new thing- and we are a part of that new thing in the greening of our leaves, in the height of our stalks, in the shape and color of our fruit- we are each beautiful and unique creations of God.   In our own growing and becoming, the Kingdom is growing and becoming. Yes!

Sometimes we are the ground, the person or persons charged with the responsibility to hold the gifts that are given, the lessons learned, the memories shared, the people who have crossed our paths and decided to linger and abide for a while in our soil.  We let the root of those gifts, those lessons, those memories and those people be harbored, nurtured, tended to within our very hearts and souls.  We are strengthening them, empowering them, giving them a safe place to land until they are ready to grow.  We don’t do anything except be present and in our presence- we share with them in their journey.  Yes!

And God is present throughout the whole process, in all manner of ways- some we are aware of, and some we never see.  We do not know how. The mystery is part of the beauty of creation. 

And today we celebrate a new creation, a new sower, a new seed, a new plot of ground that we will tend to with loving and nurturing hearts.  We celebrate the baptism of William into this vineyard, this farm, this garden and as he grows, we grow.  And as he learns, we learn.  As he shares, we share; each in this beautiful cycle of sower, seed and soil.  God is present in mystery, God is present in the nurturing.  God is present in our becoming as we, together, continue to create the kingdom of God.  Yes!

Amen.

 

Mark 3: 20-35

Pentecost 2b

June 10, 2012

I speak to you in the name of one God, amen.

 

I think he’s gone mad.  I think he’s gone out of his mind, James.  I think your brother has lost it.  I know he was sent here, I gave birth to the Son of God, and I know that he is special and here to do the work of God- God knows I know this!  I have seen this work with my own two eyes.  But I think he has gone mad.  He is my child.  I don’t know what I will do if I lose him.  James, we should go. We should go to him.  We should bring him home.  We should save him.  Save him from this, from this death wish, this need to stir the pot.  Yes, to stand up for what is right- there is a time and place for that but at what cost?  I’m worried James.  I’m worried that this is not going to end well.  Let’s go get him.  Let’s bring him home.  They are going to kill him.  He is going to get himself killed.

He will listen to me, I am his mother.   I know he loves me.  We are going to leave James, you and me, let’s go get him.

I am not a parent.  I have two nieces and a nephew, a Godson, and I worry about them and I love them.  I want them to make good choices, right decisions and I want them to be good and upright citizens in our community.  I haven’t raised them.  I have from a distance watched each of them grow over the years but I have been somewhat removed from the daily ins and outs of rearing a child.  The struggle, the hardship and the great reward.  But I understand where Mary is coming from in this passage.

She is watching her son, Jesus, stir up such a ruckus and knowing the way the Romans operate- she knows that if he keeps this up, he is going to wind up dead.  In the blink of an eye, someone will run him through with a sword or a spear and I think Mary, out of all the love she has for her son, was doing what any parent would do.  “I got to bring him home.  I got to make him safe.  I got to nurture him, restore him… I have to save him… from himself.”

Mary doesn’t have the benefit of knowing the whole story.  You have to admit, that some of the things that Jesus said was causing him to put his life in danger- he was upsetting the apple cart, we was challenging the status quo, the rule of order- and what he was saying was dangerous to say when considering the context and the place- he was challenging the Authority of the government.  He was asking people to consider others first.  Consider the poor, take care of one another, pray, life is not about collecting wealth and status- nor finding these items and actions something to strive for- life is a gift, given by God, blessed by God for us to spend the whole of our lives serving God, worshipping God, giving back to God through our gifts, through our time, through our talents, through our relationships with one another.  Jesus was saying you cannot serve two- you cannot serve Roman Empire and God- you have to serve God.  And this… when said aloud, was considered “mad” behavior, possessed behavior.   

So Mary and James and the whole crew arrive to take Jesus home, Jesus says, “No!  No!  I know this makes you uncomfortable.  I know you are worried but this is not how it is suppose to be, Mom.  You can’t just come in here and put your arms around me.  This is what I am supposed to do.  I know it is painful to watch and makes you uncomfortable- I know these things, Mom but this is what I came to do, was born to do.  I’m not going home.”

Mary doesn’t give up.  She tries again and sends word to Jesus

“Jesus, your Mom is here.  She’s kind of mad.  She wants you to come home now.”

And Jesus says this one line that sends chills up my own spine, “Who are my Mother and my brothers?  These people are my mothers, my sisters and my brothers.  Whoever does the Will of God are my mothers, my sisters and my brothers.” 

Reading through the Gospel in preparing for today, I cringed when I read that line.  It hurts me in my heart to hear such words come from Jesus.  We don’t expect someone we know and love, whom regard as teacher and redeemer to say such things about his own mother.  But when looking at the lines right before this particular verse in the Gospel, we read that Jesus just said, “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”

Blasphemy: A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity.

I would like to add to the definition that blasphemy could also be a lack of acting, utterance and writing- to “not do” Things done and left undone, things said and left unsaid- blasphemy.  To allow the world around us, the people we are in relationship with stifle the Holy Spirit in our own lives, that to can be seen as blasphemy.

And when a person is stirred by the Holy Spirit to do, to speak, to live a life that has God at the center, and this life is in contrast to those who know how he or she used to be- two things are going to happen:

  1. That person will know deep, fulfilling and satisfying joy
  2. Their friends and families are not going to know what to do with them- especially if this newfound joy happens along the way, along the way of a shared life, a shared path.

People who have yet to experience that kind of joy are going to be dumbfounded by the changes that take place in the life of a person who has discovered the joy of God, the joy of living a life that is prayerful, that leans towards serving others, that longs to be fed through the community of Christ in order to go out and feed others, to be strengthened in a community of Christ in order to go out and strengthen others- this seems “mad” or a little left of center to others who are still thinking in terms of status quo, in “Earthly ways” who have yet to have the scales fall from their eyes or have their hearts opened to the incredible joy that comes from the Love of God.  And sometimes, instead of supporting those who have discovered this joy, they call us crazy, naïve, mad.   They say these things because they love us and don’t want us to change- but when a person discovers the joy of Christ, the grace of God’s love- one can’t help but be changed.  They think they are loving us, protecting us when they shake their heads at our faith and what we do because of our faith- but the reality is they are afraid of losing us because they aren’t ready to walk with us. 

Jesus never said this life was going to easy or comfortable-

When we were baptized, when we are baptized, when we renew our baptismal covenant, we agree to a life of action, of service:  The last three items in the Baptismal Covenant are the ones that will truly cause some of our family members and our friends to scratch their head, to worry about us, to want to collect us in their arms and bring us home so we can be safe:

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good
                 News of God in Christ?

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
                 your neighbor as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace among all
                 people, and respect the dignity of every human

I will with God’s help. We will with God’s help.  God’s help comes in the form of prayer, of spiritual food shared around this Holy Table, in the relationships we have with one another in this community- and our job as fellow companions is to continue to feed one another, nourish one another, pray for one another, hold each other accountable to using the gifts God has given us to love and serve God by serving those right outside these doors.  That is what we have agreed to.  No where does that say we will be safe and free from the judgment of others who have yet to experience the deep joy that comes from loving and serving God.  But in the end, that judgment doesn’t matter.  What matters is how you let the love of God shine through in your life- how do you use that light to illuminate the darkness in this world, how do you kindle that fire in your own life and give it away to the world. 

That is what matters.  Not what anybody else says.

So go- Go and love boldly. Go and shine brightly. Go and live a life that is dangerous- dangerously filled with the Holy Spirit and allow your life and the life of those around to be changed and transformed by the joy of God’s grace and love!

Amen.