Monday, August 27, 2012

Thirteenth after Pentecost

August 26, 2012 
(Proper 16B2) Joshua 24: 1-2, 14-18; John 6: 56-69

Good morning, and grace and peace to you as we move along into these transitional weeks between summer and fall. 

I don’t’ know about you, but the readings appointed for this morning would catch me at a somewhat uncomfortable place in the temperament, as I so often describe it, even deep down in my DNA as the descendant of a long line of Northern European introverted males.

I heard a piece on the radio the other day, in the midst of the early election season, about who these folks are who identify themselves  and even register as “independent” voters.  So they found this one guy who was registered as an Independent in Wisconsin, I think.  And first they asked him about his political philosophy, values, issues of concern, and actually they all sounded pretty much on the liberal side of the spectrum.  And they asked him about who he had voted for in the past for President, and he said as I recall Mondale, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama.  And the interviewer said, “it sounds to me like you’re a Democrat.”  And he replied, “I just don’t like to be put in a box.” 

I guess this is on the political front what the girls on the old “Sex and the City” t.v. series would call a “commitment phobic” male.  And actually it’s quite interesting to type the words “commitment phobic male” into the Google search engine, which I did this week.  There are quite a few folks who express some strong feelings on the topic, it turns out.

I remember when I was twelve or so seeing the small one-room house back in North Dakota that my great-grandparents first lived in when they arrived out there on the bleak northern edge of the Great Plains back in the 1880’s.  About the size of our Narthex here, I would say, and I think they had not only husband and wife and several kids and maybe some of the farm animals during those brutal winters.  Pretty much I think the rule was, if you had a strong opinion about something, you kept it to yourself.  At least until spring.  And no whistling indoors!

I wonder if there isn’t something of this in the phrase you hear fairly often, when people will say to survey-takers that they are “spiritual but not religious.”  I think that actually can sometimes a pretty complicated and multi-layered statement.  But maybe there is something to it simply of registering as an Independent.  In a diverse society, where there are a lot of consumerist pressures sometimes not just in terms of political philosophy but also in terms of religious allegiance, and a kind of free market commercialization.  Buy this product, buy that product, sign up today!  And maybe people sometimes feel like they’re standing in a used car lot with a salesman who seems to be pushing a little too hard to get you to sign on the dotted line.  Even when you know you need to buy a car and you are pretty sure this is the one you want, it’s really hard.  We know there are games out there, and that you can get taken for a ride if you’re not really careful, and you’re never really sure if you’ve been careful enough.  And if the stakes are high enough, if the car is going to cost a lot of money, or if you’re talking about asking someone to marry you, say, to get back to the “Sex in the City” girls, it may seem pretty odd if you’re able to manage that situation without having your blood pressure spike a few points or feeling at least a little shortness of breath.  We’ll say that it can be stressful even to hold a strong or clear opinion, much less to express it, in a world where many of those around you, and even those nearest and dearest to you, are likely to disagree.  Risk there, as you know if you’ve ever ventured a political comment in your Facebook status.  So some relationship between being commitment averse and being conflict averse, perhaps.

Joshua was Moses’ right-hand man, his protégé and the heir-apparent in succession to the position of leadership in those years as God’s people moved in that wandering journey from Mount Sinai to the land that had been promised them, and then through the years of settlement and internal and external conflict as Israel found its new home among the Canaanites and Philistines and Jebusites and Hivites and Midianites and all the other tribes and peoples all around them.  But eventually the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, and it was the end of one chapter, and the beginning of another, and no one really knew what lay ahead for them.  This fluid jumble of wandering Hebrew nomads, former slaves, the flotsam and jetsam that had joined the rabble along the way.  Now to be householders, farmers, builders, town and city dwellers.  One people, but in a very new way. 

And as he comes to the end of his life Joshua gathers all the elders and judges and officers of the people, and following the example of what Moses did first at Sinai and then at the end of his life, as the people were about to cross the Jordan and enter the land that he would never himself enter, Joshua calls them to renewal of the sacred Covenant Relationship, reminding them at this new moment of the Promises that began between God and Abraham, in those ancient days.  “I will be your God, and you will be my people, and I will make you great, as many as the grains of sand along the shore of every ocean, as many as all the stars of the heavens, and through you I will redeem and bless the world.”  The commitment that lay at the very source of their identity as a people.  If anything held them together and made them one, it was that.  Renewed at Mount Sinai with the Giving of the Law.  The heart of the words of Moses as he commended them to the God who had brought them out of their Captivity in Egypt and through the Waters of the Red Sea.  And now again, as the new chapter begins. 

As perhaps there is a sense that as we settle down and begin to pay attention to all the concerns and demands of our day to day life in this new world, we might find ourselves not remembering that identity, losing track of those ancient promises and that foundational relationship.  As perhaps some new folks have joined us along the journey or have come into our lives as neighbors, and even into our families, over these years, who may not themselves share all those deep memories.  And so Joshua, the words ringing out over the assembly.  “Remember Abraham, remember Moses and Aaron and the sufferings of Egypt.  Remember the miracle of your rescue, and the power that continues to sustain you in this place, and the great destiny that has been promised.”  Remember, remember, remember.  Say it again, and make it fresh, make it new, make it yours, and ours, today.  If you have ever been a guest at a Passover Seder, this will sound familiar.  Remember who you are, where you come from, why you’re here today.

“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness . . . .  And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day—this day!—whom you will serve . . . .  But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”

You can date forever, weeks, months, even years.  I’m a visitor, a fellow-traveler, an associate.  But always as a short-term rental.  Keeping options open.   But if it’s going to be a marriage, and a family, then something needs to be said.  Sooner or later, to fish or cut bait.  “Choose this day.”  Certainly Billy Graham caught this years ago when he decided to give his organization’s monthly magazine a one word name, “Decision.”

And so this critical moment in St. John’s gospel, as Jesus has set before both his friends and his enemies the challenge of his mystical and supernatural character and identity, in language that strikes at first as poetic and metaphorical, and then, as we listen to the tone of his voice and look into his eyes, we realize that it is poetic and metaphorical language that is about something that must be understood as true or not true.  So difficult for those of us who appreciate the gray areas and the ambiguous margins, who will register Independent and seek spiritual meaning without a commitment of faith.  As the guy says to the girl in romantic comedies without number, “our dating relationship is great . . . so why does there have to be anything more?”

Jesus the preacher, the teacher, the ethicist, the interpreter of scripture, the prophet of justice and the advocate of a new social order, even Jesus the healer, the miracle worker.  All fine with that.  But then: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.  This is the bread that came down from heaven . . . and the one who eats this bread will live forever.”  John says, “because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. “ So Jesus asks, “what about you?”

The question that echoes.  Line in the sand.  Challenge.  Invitation.  Proposal.  As the Valentine’s Day card so succinctly puts it, “will you be mine?” 

To decide.  Commit.  Take a stand. Turn the page.  Say who you are, and whose you are.  Of course it’s a process.  We hear the words spoken to us at different times, in different ways.  Perhaps we hear them countless times, and then one day we hear them and we know they are now for us.  And we respond as we can.  In the mix of personality, character, life experience, in the hopes and fears of our lives, each of us individually.  Without a template or a timetable.  Knowing his compassion, his patience, his infinite tenderness, as he knows us better even than we know ourselves.

But the question spoken in our hearts as we come to the Table for the Bread of Life, the Cup of Salvation.  Abide in me, as I in you.  Will you be mine?

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Twelfth after Pentecost

 Proper 15B2
Proverbs 9: 1-6; Eph.  5: 15-20; Jn 6: 51-58
Baptism of Charlotte Jane Cooper

Good morning all and grace and peace—and a special welcome from all of us at St. Andrew’s this morning to all in Charlotte Jane Cooper’s entourage—godparents,  family, and friends who are here to worship with us and to celebrate this great sacrament of Christian Baptism.  A wonderful day.

“Regard O Lord, the supplications of thy servants, and grant that whosoever in this house shall be received by Baptism into the congregation of Christ’s flock, may be sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and may continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end.  Amen."

On the radio this week I heard an interview with Ned Colletti, an old baseball guy who is now General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  (I guess no comment about that series.  LA has been rough for us this year.)  

Anyway, he was talking about some of the moves that both the Dodgers and our Pirates had made at the time of the trading deadline at the end of last month, both in terms of impact in the current season and in years ahead.  And talking about some of the best players rising in the Dodger Minor League system, he said, “you have to give these players time to play.  You can’t rush them.  You just can’t microwave the kind of experience you need to have to play in the Major Leagues.  It takes time.”

I don’t actually want to say that everything I know I learn on Sports Talk Radio.  But I think what Colletti had to say caught my attention because of the way the lessons appointed this morning center on the idea of Wisdom.  On what true wisdom is.  On how we become wise.  On what that even means.  On how we come to share in a deep and transformational way in God’s wisdom.  And that sounds like a good topic on a baptismal day . . . . 

There isn’t anything wrong—and in fact there is a lot that is incredibly important about knowledge, expertise.  Book learning.  We have great many advanced degrees around us this morning, and certainly that fact is one that enriches our lives in this congregation and in our community in many ways.  And there is a kind of practical knowledge about the way of the world that is so very important also.  My dad used to talk about certain people as “savvy.”  Meaning that they knew how to make things work, how to get along, how to be successful.  But not necessarily well read or highly educated.  Different genres of knowledge.  We know perhaps some who may speak three languages and understand the inner workings of the atom, but who may seem utterly clueless when it comes to the affairs of everyday life.

But when we think about wisdom, we know this is even again something of a different category.  Knowledge, reflection, life experience gathered over a long period of time, the fruit of mature contemplation, psychological and emotional and spiritual balance and depth.  Hard to pin it down exactly.  Maybe we know it when we see it.  Wisdom not so much something you can seek as a goal, an object, but a kind of spiritual gift, if you don’t mind that word.  A matter character that may gradually emerge over time as our lives unfold.  Not something you can make in a microwave, anyway.   Maybe not even something we ever actually “have.”  Something that is deep in the character of God, and that we can share.  Participate in. A little vague, I guess, but I hope this is suggestive.   

I’m reminded of the title of a book that impressed me a great deal 30 years ago, when I was in seminary and in the midst of the time of discernment that we call by shorthand “the ordination process.”  By the Presbyterian Eugene Peterson, which is about the characteristic of wisdom and maturity in Christian life, called, and I just want to put the title out here now:  “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”  All those words challenging for us I think.  Long, when we center so much with the desire for instant gratification.  Obedience, when we so often seem to twist the prayer to say, “not thy will, but mine, be done.”  And “same direction,” when freedom and flexibility always seem to be what we seek to achieve.  Not about something we zap in a microwave.  Not something we own or control.  A gift.

Thinking about the prayer we will pray for Charlotte: “Sustain her O Lord, In your Holy Spirit.  Give her an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.”

Come, Charlotte, as the wonderful invitation this morning, “eat of this bread, drink of this wine.”  I love reading this section of the Proverbs.  “ Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” 

Or as St. Paul has for us today, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time.  Be filled with the Spirit.  Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  

Because that is what true wisdom is all about.  The spirit to know and to love him.  When there is this transparency.  When what we do and what we say and the character of our lives is congruent with him, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.  And as Jesus in the sixth chapter of St. John.  “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”

O come, thou Wisdom from on high—as we sing in the second week of Advent:  O come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orderest all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.  Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The source of true knowledge, the seen from which all our human wisdom will grow.  Emmanuel.  God with us.  That he may dwell in us,  and we in him.

You can’t take a class for it.  There is no diploma, no certificate of accomplishment, no credential.

But what we can do is immerse ourselves in his presence, to stand in the river of his love.  To open ourselves to his presence in the Holy Scriptures.  Reading them, knowing them by heart, letting them fill our imaginations.  To open ourselves to his presence in the life and worship of the Christian family.  To open ourselves to his presence in the pain of this world, among the poor, the sick, the broken.  To let down our guard and acknowledge our sin, and to accept the gift of his forgiveness.  And grace and healing and new life in him.  And see what happens then.  Not so that we have a wisdom of our own, but that we share in his wisdom.  And then to see what he makes of us, in this life and in the life to come.

It’s a prayer for Charlotte Jane this morning, and it is for all of us.  May she grow into wisdom and true godliness all her days.  True wisdom, true godliness.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

St. Mary the Virgin

The Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin
Feast of the Dormition, Feast of the Assumption

O God, who hast taken to thyself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of thy incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of thine eternal kingdom; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Click here for more.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all

1 Corinthians 15:19-28

Ancient Hymnody of the Dormition

Troparion (Tone 1)
In giving birth, you preserved your virginity!
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos!
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers you deliver our souls from death!

Kontakion (Tone 2)
Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,
She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb!


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Eleventh after Pentecost

(Proper 14B2)  I Kings 19: 4-8; John 6:35, 41-51

Good morning, and grace and peace.  Certainly giving thanks for a somewhat cooler weekend after what has felt like one non-stop heat wave since before Memorial Day.  I expect we’ll have some more high summer before we get the true beginning of the fall, but it is nice to have this bit of anticipation this weekend.  Highs in the 70’s.  Remembering when my grandparents retired down near San Diego back in the 1960’s.  We used to say: 78 all summer long, 75 all winter long . . . .  

The readings appointed for us this morning from First Kings, with Elijah under the Broom Tree, and then from the Sixth Chapter of St. John, are distinctively we might say “eucharistic”—and in fact they are both readings that I sometimes use as Biblical references when we have gatherings of our young people for preparation for their first Holy Communion. 

Others as well make their appearances in those First Communion sessions.  A little different every year.  The story of Manna in the Wilderness.  Elijah again and the Widow of Zarephath, with the cruet of oil and jar of flour miraculously replenished each night in the midst of famine.  The 23rd Psalm, “thou settest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.”  The Prophet Isaiah’s great vision of the banquet in the Day of the Lord, in the 25th chapter, as we so often have as an appointed reading at the Burial Office  “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined.  And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death for ever, and the LORD God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.”

Elijah and the Broom Tree this morning.  Such a great story.  So far as he knows, he is the last of the Prophets of the LORD, in flight for his life from the pursuing armies of King Ahab and his Queen Jezebel, without family or friend or hope of any refuge.  No hope, no future.  For him personally, or for the sacred trust between God and his People.  And he sits down in the heat of the day in the shade of this tree, exhausted, in despair, waiting to die.  One way or another, I guess we’ve all been there.  Out of options. 

And in this moment for Elijah of profound emptiness and vast hopelessness the Angel of the LORD comes to touch him with blessing, and encouragement, and shares with him this food and drink, a cake of bread, a jar of water, that will lift him up and fill him with new energy and resolve, and will sustain him miraculously through the wilderness not just for that afternoon but for the whole of the journey ahead, forty days and forty nights, until he is able to reach the holy mountain.

And then of course in those First Communion conversations all the meals of Jesus, with his friends, with the poor, the outcast, the untouchable, the miraculous feeding of the multitudes, and that Last Supper, breaking the bread, sharing the cup of wine, in the looming and defining shadow of the Cross, with his words of promise of his continuing presence, “this is my Body, this is my Blood,” and with his word of command, “do this, in remembrance of me.” 

And the sacred meals of Eastertide.  At table with the two disciples from Emmaus.  In the upper room.  Breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. 

All of that swirling around in the background, on this Morning Prayer Sunday at St. Andrew’s, as we would be called to attend to this sixth chapter of St. John.  This is a passage that often gets read in pastoral situations when we share Holy Communion from the Reserved Sacrament, at home or in the hospital, and often in moments of some crisis or distress, illness, even as we would pray together in the last hours of this earthly life.  “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me shall not hunger.  He who believes in me shall not thirst.”  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.  And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 

I am the Bread of Life.  We don’t very often sing here, though in some of our churches around the diocese you’ll hear more often the hymn by Suzanne Toolan and Betty Pulkingham, number 335 in our hymnal, from the Community of Celebration back in the 1970’s, with the repeated refrain, “And I will raise them up, and I will raise them up, and I will raise them up, on the last day.”

Maybe it is better to have all this on a Morning Prayer Sunday.  To call our attention, in the momentary absence of the bread and wine, to the Living Bread of his presence, his real presence, in the scriptures and in the prayers, in the life of the church, in our obedience.  To encounter his living presence. 

Certainly to say that what this is about is knowing Jesus, recognizing him as the only Son of the Father, God from God, light from light, very God of very God.  Trusting him, opening our hearts to him.  Here today.  “No one can come to me unless  the Father draws him.” 

God’s  intention for us.  A deep invitation.  A door that opens before us.  The gift the Father longs to give us is communion with him in the life of his Son, through the Holy Spirit.  And then to see how that happens. 

Those in the background of John 6 who are grumbling about Jesus seem to have read the words of the scriptures, but they have not opened their hearts in that reading to be led by God into the relationship that leads to eternal life.  The great arc of repentence, forgiveness, restoration, renewal.  Healing in this life and in the greater life to come.  As we encounter the prophets and God’s word with an open heart, “everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.”

“This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. “

Hard to pause here and not to think of the story in the fourth chapter of St. John, Jesus with the woman at the well.  When he says to her, “every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Wow.  And “the woman said to him, “sir, give me this water.”  As we would say this morning,  as we hear the words of John 6, “Sir, give me this bread.”

Our prayer this morning, in our prayers and thanksgivings, and in all our life.  “Sir, give me this bread.”

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

For Bill and Peg Ghrist

Renewal of Marriage Vows
August 5, 2012


Bill and Peg: what a wonderful day, and thank you so much for sharing your anniversary with us.  It is very much a gift and an honor and a joy to be here with you this afternoon.  

Recalling that summer Sunday, August 2, 1987, when your St. Andrew’s family joined with your family and friends to witness and bless with much love the exchange of promises and vows and the blessing to consecrate your union as husband and wife.

I don’t know exactly how Ralph conducted the ceremony, but I think it is likely that as on page 425 in the Prayer Book Order for Marriage he addressed the congregation to say, “will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?”  And that as we have said today, the whole congregation would have responded, “We will.”

Twenty five years later, and I do pray that over these years we all of us, those who were here on that day and those who have arrived in the interval since, have by our shared life in this Christian family been able to be faithful in that promise.  As we have been and are a community of prayer, of conversation and discussion and discernment, of learning, of friendship and support, of outreach and service and Christian witness in the wider neighborhood and city and world.

But what I do know and what I do want to share with you is that as we have prayed for God’s blessing for you in your lives together, you have been truly a blessing for us, and are and continue to be.  The life that you share, your care and love and respect and friendship  and tenderness for one another, overflows and fills all of our lives.  You have been and are and continue to be a gift of encouragement and grace for us, as you every day inspire us to the great calling of Christian life.

So thank you for that.  Thank you for the reading from Colossians, which I always think to be not only perfect for a wedding, but simply as a word about the character of our life in Jesus Christ, as we follow him and are formed and reformed in his image.  “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another.  Forgive.  And above all, clothe yourselves in love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”

You are a blessing, and it is with joy and love that we pray God’s continued blessing on your marriage, and on the life we share with you together.

Tenth after Pentecost

(Proper 13B2) Ephesians 4: 1-16

Good morning and a word of welcome to all.  Grace and peace.  The first Sunday of August and I always feel we’ve turned something of a page on the calendar: not simply from one month to the next, but “early summer” to “later summer.”  We’re still in all this heat and humidity, of course, and very much aware on Sunday mornings and through the week of all the calendars of vacations and special events that make scheduling for Altar Guild and Readers and Acolytes and Pews and Sittings and all the rest always a challenge.  (Bill and Peg, was it a hot weekend for your wedding day in 1987?) 

But at the same time also aware that we’ve passed the midpoint, and just a few weeks now and the universities will be opening for the fall term.  It’s all “Back to School” now in the department stores.  And our Round Up Sunday just a month away.

We do have a few weeks to go in our Sunday morning lectionary with St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, and it has been helpful for me actually in this season both in terms of our life here at St. Andrew’s as we look forward to the new cycle of the fall and here in our diocese as we are turning a new page in so many ways with the welcoming of our new bishop, and then also in the wider frame, as I reflect on the experience of participation once again in the General Convention of our Episcopal Church during the first part of last month.  A touchstone.  A lens, a thematic frame for reflection and interpretation.  Background music.  This letter which is both a letter to a specific Church, a particular congregation in Asia Minor, modern Turkey.  But also a word of general significance, to and for the whole Church.

The Church in Ephesus was special to Paul –as I noted last week.  He and they had been through so much together.  This cosmopolitan city and something of a pilgrimage destination for devotees of a number of the pagan deities of the Greek and Hellenistic world, and especially with a devotion to the goddess known in Greek as Artemis, in Latin as Diana.  There was as well a significant industry in the production of religious items—statues, coins, medals, icons, and so on.  And in the midst of this a small Jewish population that kept mostly to itself, but now emerging from that community a new sect, I guess you would say, these Christians, first Jews but then increasingly gentile converts, who all of a sudden aren’t keeping to themselves but going out into the public square and preaching a new message, about the love of God and the saving work of Jesus Christ at the Cross.  With energy, and enthusiasm.  And it’s an attractive word, calling people away from the worship of the old gods and into a new life of faith.  And as the message gets out it begins to have some impact, traction, and there are dramatic miracles and healings, and old worshipers of Diana make a public demonstration of their renunciation of that old at one point dramatically burning their old religious books and discarding their statues and medals.  And suddenly the officials and authorities of Ephesus are concerned, begin to feel threatened.  And there is confusion, rioting in the streets, the beginnings of persecution, and with some real intrigue Paul and the leaders of the community are barely able to escape with their lives.

A great story, mostly in Acts 19, and filling in the background for the later scene in Acts 20 that I talked about last week, when Paul met with the leaders of the Church at Ephesus for the last time, and their tender and tearful parting.  They had been through so much together, pastor and people.

All that context and background for the Letter to the Ephesians that we’ve been reading these past few weeks.  Paul encouraging them now not in person but at a distance, written from the time of his imprisonment in Rome, years later, after that final farewell,  and perhaps not long before his execution, which was probably in the years A.D. 67 or 68.  And his theme and prayer and longing over and over that this Body of Believers, his spiritual children and pastoral care, would grow ever more deeply into a maturity of faith that would be manifested in, demonstrated by, their spirit of unity.  And of course that might speak to us both in our society and in our wider church, as we have been through and in many ways continue in a time of polarization, division, disharmony, seeking often victory, rather than a common mind in Christ.

For the Ephesians, a unity that they would find not because they are from the same ethnic and social and cultural and educational background, because they are not.  Jews and Greeks, Asian Turks and Europeans, affluent professionals it seems and laborers and domestic servants.  Not because they were similarly gifted and shared common interests.  Not because they all were at the same place in their devotional life, in their understanding, in their theological perspectives we might say. 

But because in the midst of all those differences they were committed, heart, mind, soul, and strength, in loyalty to Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior.  What they shared, in spite so much of what we would call “diversity.”  So, in the words from Ephesians 4 that our 1979 Prayer Book repeats in the service for Holy Baptism, at the very foundation of Christian life, “there is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

This almost organic unity that echoes Jesus in John 15, “Abide in me, as I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.”  Although the image is both of the branches simultaneously growing out from the vine, and growing into the vine, ever more deeply rooted in the source of life, Jesus himself.

 “Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” 

A little later this morning I’m going to have a few words to say as our good friends Bill and Peg Ghrist renew their marriage vows, but I would just say here that over my eighteen years now of life and ministry here at St. Andrew’s they are two people who have in their marriage, in the way that they live their lives and in the vision and care and support and encouragement of the life of this congregation  in so many ways, been really wonderful and inspirational examples of the vision of the life of the Christian family that St. Paul is talking about here.  With prayer and generosity, wisdom and intelligence, good stewardship, good humor, a spirit of grace and forgiveness and kindness. “Growing up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ . . . and building itself up in love.”  Thank you both so much for your friendship, and for everything that you share with us.

At the beginning of the third Christian century the Roman historian Tertullian reported that when outsiders looked at the ancient church of the apostles, prophets, and martyrs, they would exclaim, “these Christians, how they love one another!”  A reflection of Jesus in John 13, “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.” When Christ is center, conforming our lives to his will rather than to our own.  Offering up our brokenness for his healing.

It is breathtaking.  And it is simply so much more, so much more, than we so often seem to settle for.  At church or anywhere in our lives.  A group of people we like and get along with.  Friends.  People with whom we share perhaps some interests, life-experiences, cultural and social values.  All of that good, in its own way, I suppose.  Though perhaps because it may be comfortable, perhaps too easy.  Jesus doesn’t say, “by this all will know that you are my disciples, that you like one another.”  It’s the hard part that gets measured not when we’re all happy together, but when there are differences, conflicting interests and values and goals.  When we find ourselves trying to manage in the context of people-who-aren’t-like-us, in whatever configuration that may be.  Easier not to be challenged.  Easier to live in smaller circles of compatibility.  That a road with fewer bumps and fewer potholes.  A mutual admiration society. 

But that would be short of the hope that God has for us.  In a season when we wrestle with differences and brokenness of relationship, alienation and estrangement, in the world and in the church.  As we think about the life and labors of those who came before us, heroic witness, in persecution and distress, generation after generation, and of the love that lead Jesus to the Cross, to hear not simply with our ears but in our hearts this plea from Pastor Paul, as our reading begins this morning, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”  That’s the test that we need to bring to the table, this morning, as we kneel and pray, “Lord, I am not worthy,” and then to hear the word, “But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.”

To be worthy not by taking it easy, but  in his mercy, “with all humility and gentleness,’ and with prayers that we would know and continue to know and to grow in this spirit, as we turn in our lives to know and to grow into him, “with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Holy Matrimony

Amanda Ruth Daly and Jeromy David Sivek

August 4, 2012

Jeromy and Amanda, what I want to say first to you, is thank you.  What a great day this is!  I extend of course a very warm summertime welcome to all on behalf of the people of St. Andrew’s Church.  It is for us all, and for me personally, a privilege and a joy to be sharing this moment with you, to be with you as witnesses and as supporters and cheering fans as you exchange the vows and promises, the words, and the commitments of the heart, that will make you one in Christ, as husband and wife.  It has been fun for me to get to know you over these past few months of our preparation together for today

You are two remarkable young people: smart, funny, talented.   I probably am not going to be able to sustain a conversation for too long except in the most general way in the areas of mathematics or bio-engineering, but I know that you both have creative and interesting work and with a great deal to contribute in many ways in years to come.  With great families—as Jeromy’s parents are part of our life here at St. Andrew’s and in our Highland Park neighborhood, and Amanda it’s wonderful to be meeting your family now as well.   And this I know supporting and encouraging circle of friends. 

In any case, now here, this great day of your marriage.  Congratulations to you, as I know your friendship and deepening relationship have been rich in so many ways, and as I know that the story that is yet to be told of the life and family you will share as husband and wife will be a great one, and rich in blessing for you and for many others.  As it already is.

The first lesson that you selected, from the fifteenth chapter of St. John, is a wonderful and very appropriate reading for this day.  It reminds us that deep down our life as Christian people is a love song, through and through, an expression of the deepest passion and compassion of the human heart, as we know that in our deepest and most intimate relationships, and as we would understand through that, that we are for at least a brief moment in this world catching a glimpse of the deep love, the passion and the compassion, that is at the heart of God’s life, and that we are all ultimately destined for.  This day, the commitments you bring, the words and promises, speak about who you are today, and also about who we are all destined to become, God’s hope and intention for each one of us since the beginning of the world.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.  The rarest thing of all, the most precious, the most fragile, the hardest to find and the easiest to lose, yet somehow also the most durable, the most patient, the most forgiving, the most welcoming.  And of course what on behalf of the Church this day we pray, not simply that you will continue and grow together in your love for one another, but that as you build your home and family and your life together from this day forward you will indeed abide in ever deeper and more meaningful way in the love of our heavenly Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

You know, in the Old Testament Book of Exodus, chapter 3, there is one of my favorite stories, about a moment of life-changing experience, what we would call a “vocational” moment, a moment of transformation-- in a way kind of like this moment.  Moses is working for his father in law, tending his sheep out in the wilderness, and one day he sees something off in the distance that looks strange to him.  He moves closer and finally comes to this great big tree or bush that is on fire, fully engulfed in flames, burning and burning—but no matter how long it burns, it doesn’t burn out.  He watches for a while, amazed at the sight, and then all at once a great, deep voice comes from the flame.  (I like to think it was the voice of James Earl Jones.)  “Take off your shoes, Moses, for the ground on which you are standing is holy ground.”  Holy Ground.

This is the moment when God tells Moses about his plan for his life, how from the day of his birth he has been shaped and prepared for the mission to lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt and across the Wilderness and into the Promised Land.  God speaks into this world, into our lives, and what was an ordinary place is now made sacred by that holy word.  And Amanda, Jeromy: in the vows and promises you make today, in God’s sight and in the presence of these friends and family members, the ground under your feet here and now  is consecrated, and made holy.  Not because of what you are saying, but because we believe, and certainly why in our tradition of the Christian family we call marriage a sacrament, that God’s word is being spoken to you now. 

We can imagine that burning bush, right here, right now.  That God’s holy presence is with you, surrounding you, above you, and beneath your feet, with richness and blessing and purpose.  The prayers and blessings of this day don’t just happen in this one moment of your wedding, but they go out with you into your marriage and life together, from this day forward, and will be around you and under you and with you all the days of your life.   Abide in his love.  He has great plans for you, for each of you, and for you together as husband and wife and family.  That’s the great and wonderful thing we celebrate.  I don’t know what they are.  None of us do.  But he is beginning to reveal them to you now, in this moment this afternoon.

And so, Jeromy and Amanda, my and our prayer today: that like Moses, you would each continue to have eyes and ears and minds and hearts open to God’s word and presence and direction.  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” at the heart of your marriage, and I know there will be an abundance of blessing for you and for others for many years to come.

Again, thank you.  May God bless and keep you with joy all the days of your life together.  It’s going to be, and already is, a great story.  And now: friends, as Jeromy and Amanda  come forward to exchange the vows that will make them husband and wife, I would ask that we would all bow our heads for a moment and in our own words ask God’s care and blessing for them.

Bruce Robison

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ninth after Pentecost

September 29, 2012

Grace and peace indeed on this summer morning, and to say that it is very nice to be home again. 

A little over three weeks ago I set out first for eleven days in Indianapolis and the seventy-seventh General Convention of the Episcopal Church, and following that very busy, very rich, but also very stressful time, Susy and I zoomed on up to Scituate, Massachusetts, her ancestral family home on the South Shore, for some days of vacation.  Sunshine and a little beach time. 

We got home yesterday, and we still have laundry to do, but again, good to be here.  You'll notice that I haven't even had time in the office to print a sermon this morning--the first time I think that I've come into the pulpit with an electronic manuscript!-- [Holds up the IPad!]

And with thanks to Phil Wainwright, Tim Hushion, and Ben DeHart for their assistance on these three Sundays, and to Dean Byrom and Deacon Chess for attention to pastoral concerns, and of course always to Pete Luley, Joan Soulliere, Amy Hume, Becky Usner, and all who keep this place humming along whether I'm around to cause problems or not.

As Phil pointed out in his sermon a couple of weeks ago, our Year B lectionary during these midsummer weeks allows us to hear a very substantial portion of St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. 

This powerful and profound and I think from a literary point of view we might even say beautiful meditation on the life and meaning and character and purpose of the Body of Christ, his Church.  

We know from the Book of Acts just how special the Church in Ephesus was to St. Paul. 

As a matter of fact I can't read any of this Letter to the Ephesians without the words of Acts, chapter 20 playing in the background.  And perhaps as I'm writing this while on vacation, something is here also about "absence makes the heart grow fonder." something about how precious our relationships can be within the life of the Christian family.

In any event, In Acts 20 as Paul is beginning the journey that will bring him to Jerusalem and then on to arrest and trial and eventually to Rome and to his execution.  And we hear Paul's farewell message to the elders of that congregation, as they are separating with tears and love. 

"You know," he says there, "that I kept back nothing that was for your good: I delivered the message to you; I taught you , in public and in your homes; with Jews and pagans like I insisted on repentance before God and trust in our Lord Jesus. 

And now, as you see, I am on my way to Jerusalem, under the constraint of the Spirit.  Of what will befall me there I know nothing, except that in city after city the Holy Spirit assures me that imprisonment and hardships await me. 

For myself, I set no store by life; I only want to finish the race, and complete the task which the Lord Jesus assigned to me, of bearing my testimony to the gospel of God's grace."  

And then he says, "And now I commend you to God and to his gracious word, which has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all who are dedicated to him."  And "as he finished speaking, he knelt down with them all the prayed.  Then there were loud cries of sorrow from them all, as they folded Paul in their arms and kissed him.  What distressed them most was his saying that they would never see his face again."

It's that scene from Acts that, again, plays in the background and fills in some of the personal resonance, as I read this touching benediction in Ephesians 3. 

"I kneel in prayer to the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on heart takes its name, that out of the treasures of his glory he may grant you strength and power through his Spirit in your inner being, that through faith Christ may dwell in your hearts in love.  With deep roots and firm foundations, may you be strong to grasp, with all God's people, what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know it, though it is beyond knowledge.  So may you attain to fullness of being, the fullness of God himself."

To think about the deep love St. Paul felt for these dear friends.  His spiritual children. Men and women, boys and girls who had first heard the news about Jesus from him, who had been nurtured and disciplined in  faith under his care. Christian friends through good times and in times of distress and persecution, gain and loss.

 As we read earlier in Acts when the officials in charge of pagan shrines in Ephesus had incited a riot in the streets against the tiny Christian fellowship.  They had been through a lot together.  Sharing now in this letter his deepest hope and prayer. 

So, thinking about all this.  I recently heard a wonderful quotation from the English mystical writer Evelyn Underhill.  Who said: "The thing that is interesting about religion is . . . God."  

Alongside the familiar saying that comes out of the 12-step movement, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."

Paul keeps his eye on the ball with the Ephesians. 

Nothing to say,  we might notice, about Ephesian Church music or architecture or a Capital Campaign, or a Sunday afternoon outing to the stadium, or the public stance of the Church in response to Roman economic policies in the eastern part of the Empire. Not that these concerns aren't important in their own way. Not that there isn't a place for them. But first, to keep the main thing the main thing.

"The thing that is interesting about religion is God."  To reflect why we are here this summer morning, in this place.  Who we are to one another.  What we wish for one another and for ourselves and for our families and our friends and for the world all around us. 

As we read together the Holy Scriptures, the one sacred Story that incorporates and measures and interprets each of our separate stories.  The foundation and deep infrastructure of Paul's relationship to the Christians of Ephesus.  And rolling across continents and centuries, reflecting on who we are here in this place, this Christian family. 

Paul give the Ephesians and us the two keys.  Repentance before God.  Turning in faith to trust in Christ our Savior. 

Anyway.  There is a lot to unpack about the General Convention--and I know that Mary Roehrich, Steve Stagnitta, and I will find a time in the next few weeks to share our perspectives and reflections with you, as we compare our calendars and see what will work with the church calendar. 

And as I said, a lot to unpack as we arrive home from vacation as well.  It was fun to post a few notes and photos on Facebook, and I've enjoyed seeing some of the places you all have been and the things you've been doing at home and on the road. 

Especially fun to see the pictures from our annual Chorister Camp, and i was sorry to be away while that was going on this year.  Getting back on track with all the good work we have through the end of this summer and on into the season ahead.  But with thanks to Pete and Matt and everybody for that.  Great things at St. Andrew's.  And how about my Pirates!

My mailbox in the church office is overflowing.  Calls to return.  Emails to answer.  The busyness of life.  And it's practically Round Up Sunday!

But to have here before us as well the word of reminder, Paul to Ephesus, and for us our best word of greeting and our hope and prayer for one another, the main thing will always remain for us the main thing, what holds us together and inspires us to move forward.  Again to quote Paul: "That through faith Christ may dwell in your hearts in love."

Again, blessings.  Grace and peace.  It's good to be home and here with you.

Eighth after Pentecost

Sermon by Mr. Ben DeHart preached at St. Andrew's on the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, September 22, 2012.  Ben is a 2012 graduate of the Trinity School for Ministry and a Candidate for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.  He is currently assigned as assistant to the Rev. Dr. Philip Wainwright in the Episcopal Ministry at the University of Pittsburgh.

“In Christ, You Are Unconditionally Accepted and Given Purpose”

It’s an absolute pleasure to be here with you in your beautiful building this morning.  And while it is noble and very Christian of you to welcome a complete stranger into your midst, it probably wasn’t very wise giving him the pulpit.  With that said, have no fear, your valiant rector will return next week to undo any of the damage that Tim, Philip, and I most certainly have done or—in this case—will do.

But in all seriousness, I am very excited to be here this morning, not only because I have the chance to meet new people, but also because I get to talk about my favorite thing in the world—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  What one theologian refers to as the one-way love of God for suffering sinners like you and me.  What NT scholar F.F. Bruce summarized using in these words, “Christ died [not for the healthy but] for the ungodly.”

It’s been offending self-righteous people like myself for two thousand years now.  For just like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, some of us find it downright upsetting that the wayward son is just as acceptable to the Father as us—the diligent, hard-working, rule-keeping—older brother (or sister) types.  We’ve been trying to earn his love for some time, how dare he accept these reprobates who turn to him at the last minute? 

Yet when we internalize the truth of the Gospel even we begin to realize that this unfair reality—this message that is too good to be true—is, in fact, what we’ve wanted all along.  A love from the praiseworthy that is truly unconditional—a love, that as the great hymn says, will never let us go. 

This Gospel, while found throughout both Old and New Testaments, is most explicitly stated in what has come to be known as the Pauline Corpus—and that just means the collection of letters traditionally attributed to St. Paul.  Unfortunately, for many of us Episcopalians, we have picked up the notion somewhere that Paul somehow complicated what Jesus made simple. 

This truly is an unfortunate reality, and we would do well to learn from our Lutheran brothers and sisters that, rather than complicating Jesus’ teaching, Paul makes explicit what is left implicit in the Gospel narratives.  And I’m going to say that again because that was profound for me the first time I heard it.  What Jesus left implicit, Paul makes explicit. 

And hopefully this will become evident as we take a look at the actual passage read just a moment ago. 

In our text for this morning the author of Ephesians is pressing a point Paul made time and time again, that we have been saved by grace and not by our works.  If there is any doubt or confusion about this, I’m going to read a portion of the passage again—starting at verse 8—“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Notice that the author writes that salvation is not by works twice for effect.  Just like the Hebrew prophets of old, he is purposely redundant to emphasize his point.  In doing so, he makes it very clear that salvation it is a gift of God.  Therefore, the grounds for self-righteous boasting have been pulled out from underneath us.  The older brother’s salvation in the parable of the prodigal son was just as much a gift as that of the prodigal. 

Earlier in Ephesians 2, the author spilled much ink to show us that we were not in good standing with—our creator—the Triune God.  He’s goes so far as to write that we were spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins, because from time immemorial we have chosen to go it our own way.  As Martin Luther would later comment, “we are curved in on ourselves.”  Put simply, we are profoundly selfish.  And no, not just those “real sinners” like the prodigal son who make the 10 o’clock news, but all of us, even the most pious.       

I think a scene from Clint Eastwood’s movie “Unforgiven” illustrates the author’s point well. Having just participated in the shooting and painful death of another man, Clint’s young sidekick, the ‘Schofield Kid’ is shaken, he’s visibly disturbed by the consequences of his action.  Trying to justify his actions, to reassure himself, he says, “[Well,] He had it coming.”  Only he receives no comfort from Clint, who utters that deathless line, “We all have it coming, kid.”…  Indeed, Clint, we all have it coming; maybe even especially the self-righteous.

But the author’s point here is not to make us depressed or for us to wallow in self-pity.  He calls us dead to get his point across well, and his point is this: dead people do not rise.  They cannot release the grip of the grave by picking themselves up by their own bootstraps. 

He emphasizes the fact that we are utterly helpless to make ourselves right with God to show us that we are not self-sufficient, that all of us were in desperate need of an external solution (of outside help.) Not even being made better was an option.  We were in need of something much more radical.  We were in need of being made new.  We were in need of resurrection. 

And that is exactly what God has done for you and for me, for while all of us “have it coming,” we are not going to get what we deserve.  Our past, present, and even our future sins have been cancelled not because we’ve been able to make up for them, but because of the Cross of Christ.  Because our God loves us—the ungodly—so much that he took what we deserved upon himself so that we might be reconciled to him.

Just as Christ was made alive after his crucifixion, so, too, has God made us alive.  We, his servants, have also been resurrected.

And the crazy part about all of this—as noted in the passage that we just read—is that he did this without regard to our efforts.  He did it entirely free of our help. 

For as Paul and his disciples make clear, reconciliation with God is not contingent upon our works.  Peace with God has nothing to do with what we bring to the table.  It is the gift of God.  For as verse 9 makes clear, “[it is] Not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” 
And that is the good news for you and me—that his grace triumphs over karma.  The Good news that is too good to be true and yet it is…

Now I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but I’d be willing to bet that you’ve been the victim of conditional love at some point in your life.  Maybe a lifelong friend bailed on you because you just weren’t cool enough.   Or maybe—back in high school or college—your boyfriend or girlfriend abandoned you when the going got tough, or maybe you just never lived up to your father’s expectations.

Or maybe you’re the guilty one. Notice I told the story of when I was the victim, but there are plenty of occasion when I was the victimizer—when my love for others was conditional. 

Thankfully, the living God is not like this.  Although our friends, lovers, and earthly fathers fail us—and we, at times, fail others—our heavenly Father will never leave us or forsake us.  Not when we ignore him, not when we fail him, not even when we betray him (not even when our love is conditionally granted to him).  For recall the definition of the Gospel I gave at the beginning of the sermon—God’s one way love for suffering sinners.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible reads this way, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.”  It is the very moment that we were at enmity with God that he reconciled us to him by dying for you and me on the Cross. 

You see, the Christian life is not a burden that our parents passed on to us, or a call to a life marked by self-righteousness.  Instead it is an invitation into a love that will not let you go…
But before I close I have to address those of you who inwardly protest.  Those of you who see all of this as being too easy.  For there is a rejoinder in the back of my head as well. If law observance is not what makes us right with God, well, then what’s to stop us from sinning?  What’s to prevent those stories on the 10 o’clock news from happening?  Or maybe, even more personal, what then am I supposed to do?  If God is doing everything, if none of it is my doing, if good works don’t make any difference regarding my standing before God, what’s the point?

 And as if anticipating our retort, this is what the author writes next (verse 10), “For we are God’s workmanship… we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand for us to walk in.” 

Thus the author clears himself of the charge of antinomianism. We do good works.  Not because we are saved by them, but because we are saved for them.

In the Rite I post-communion prayer we ask that God would help us to “do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in.” You can see how directly it is modeled on Ephesians 2:10. The point of good works is that they are already prepared for us by God ahead of time. That is his gracious will and purpose, so that we do not need to be anxious, nor do we need to be prideful. When we manage to do something good, that is the grace of God operating in us. And all of this comes from “the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”[1]

So having just been offered the peace that passes all understanding, we are now given purpose.  And while there a plethora of things we can do to the glory of God, one of these things is what the author writes about next.   

For not only has Christ leveled the playing field when it comes to piety, but he has also done the same regarding race and class.  On the Cross, not only did he forgive us our sins, but he also broke down the wall of hostility that separates us from each other.  We’ve learned that we may not boast on account of our piety, but we also have no grounds to brag on account of our race, gender, or socio-economic status.  The work of Christ has undone racism, classism, and gender inequality for we all come before the Lord with empty hands. 

All this to say that one of the works which we have been prepared to walk in is to work to eradicate these prejudices in the life of the church, because discrimination is incongruent with the truth of the Gospel.[2]

And even though we still see these things all around us today—especially on the 10 o’clock news—when Jesus comes again it will be done away with forever.

Only until then we don’t wait passively for the 2nd coming.  We work for these things God has prepared beforehand for us to walk in.  Knowing that work done for justice, in love and obedience to the Scriptures, in the power of the Spirit, will be completed and fulfilled in the new Kingdom.  Therefore, none of your efforts are in vain.

So for those of you who didn’t get that job because you are a woman, or for those of you who have been discriminated against because of your race, or for those of you who have suffered impartial treatment due to your economic status, know that justice is coming, that all wrongs will be made right, that all sufferings and ills will somehow truly be undone.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.    

[1] I received this insight from the famous Episcopal preacher Fleming Rutledge (See
[2] Though there is forgiveness even for us who have failed from time to time even in these categories.