The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, and fill all things living with your abundance. Amen.
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The people were in the wilderness. They were hungry. There wasn’t enough to eat. And God fed them anyway.
That sums up the story we just heard. But it sums up another story too, an older one at the heart of the story of God’s people Israel. They had escaped from Egypt and were on a long, long journey before they could enter the Promised Land. They were in the wilderness and they were hungry. And God fed them with miraculous food, a kind of stuff they called manna. The psalms call it the bread of angels. Every morning it appeared on the ground like dew from heaven. Everyone got just enough, never too much. If anyone tried to store up leftovers, they rotted away. It was food for the journey: each portion just enough to sustain them through. (more…)
A few years ago I was at a family wedding in South Carolina. And almost as soon as I stepped out of the airport I was struck by the climate, by the overall feeling of things: the heat. The humidity. The chirping crickets. And all around, the green, green, green. So different from the golds and greens of our California hills and evergreen forests: there it’s deciduous trees, and vines growing on the deciduous trees, and more vines growing on those vines. Driving down the freeway is like being in a tunnel between two walls of solid vegetation. So much of that is thanks to just one plant: kudzu. It started as an ornamental ground cover crop imported from Asia. Well, it covered the ground, all right. It’s been called “the vine that ate the South.” It spread to become one of the most successful invasive species ever. (more…)
May God plant the Word deep in our hearts, and make us fruitful, in the name of Jesus Christ: Amen.
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I’ve been thinking a lot about photons lately.
Photons, those little bits of light energy the sun is always showering down on us.
Recently on the vestry we’ve been discussing the fact that Farlander Hall’s roof is leaking and will soon need to be replaced. That’s a major headache, but it also presents an opportunity. Because once we get the roof squared away, that would be an ideal spot to add solar panels—which would both save a lot of money on utilities and be a big way to help us care for God’s creation. (more…)
I feel compassion for Paul, who wrote to the Christians in Rome, saying, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want but do the very thing I hate.” He goes on to say, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” A few months ago, as part of a small group assignment, I did an activity in which I drew two columns. On the left side of the page, I listed all the things I want to do. They included values, goals, and aspirations that I know will improve my life. Some of the items on the list included trying to get 8 hours of sleep each night, eating three balanced meals a day and no more than one snack, exercising 3-5 days per week, saving money, etc. On the right side of the paper, I listed all the things I tend to do each day like sleeping 4-5 hours, shopping online, sitting at the computer until I feel like the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, and eating the kind of foods that are not helping me maintain good health. After compiling the lists, I shared my observations with the other small group participants. I discovered that I could not understand why I resist doing the things that I say I value and are essential to a good life. I wondered why all the right choices live in the land of someday, and all the behaviors that do not help me take up residence today. I tell myself, “Knowing the right thing to do is meaningless if you don’t do it. Someday is not a day of the week. You only have today. Make better choices today”. It irks me that intelligence alone will not bail me out of this problem. “It is time to declare my independence from all that enslaves me and keeps me from becoming my best self,” I declare. “I will be free of this bondage.” My promises to myself last until it is time to make my choice, and then I do the same old things. (more…)
In the name of the one, holy, and living God: Amen.
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So how do you tell a true prophet from a false prophet?
Maybe we should start with what a prophet is. Sometimes people think a prophet is someone who predicts the future. And sometimes they do, but sometimes not. Because what being a prophet really means is being someone who speaks for God. Sometimes a prophet has more to say about what’s going on in the present, and what God really thinks about it. A prophet is someone who can talk about reality from a God’s-eye point of view.
So how do you tell a false prophet from a true prophet? (more…)
In the name of Jesus Christ, who was, and is, and is to come: Amen.
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Sometime when I was younger I remember being shown a chemistry demonstration. It started with what looked like a plain, clear glass of water. And then the teacher dropped a tiny grain of salt into the water—and almost instantly the water was filled with spiky crystals, growing in every direction until the glass was completely full. It turns out that what looked like plain water was actually a supersaturated solution of sodium acetate. That’s a salt you can make using plain baking soda and vinegar. Heat the water up to a high temperature and you can dissolve a larger amount of this salt in it than usual. As the water cools back down to room temperature, the salt remains dissolved as long as it’s undisturbed. But that solution is highly unstable. Those crystals are just waiting for the tiniest disturbance to fall out of the solution and become solid again. All it takes is a little grain dropped in, and suddenly what was hidden is revealed. (more…)
When Jesus met with the apostles before sending them out into the world, he knew that he had already taught them all that they needed to know to do the work he wanted them to do. Jesus knew their strengths and their weaknesses. He knew their fears and concerns. Jesus knew the individual skills each apostle had, and he knew that none of them were perfect. Jesus also knew that they would never fully understand what his teachings meant until the apostles tried to share those teachings with those who did not yet know the good news. And, Jesus knew one more thing, that the apostles would not be able to heal others unless they trusted in the power and authority he gave them. (more…)
I know we know this already. But let us dwell on it, just a bit, before we turn back to resurrection, and glory, and joy.
Jesus had been crucified. He was bruised and beaten. We use church language like passion and Calvary that can distance us from the reality. We speak of Jesus’s suffering. But he didn’t just suffer; he was made to suffer. Men who worked for the government hit him with their weapons. He was arrested and brutalized. And then he was killed. His body was left out in public for hours, until people who loved him were allowed to come and tend to it. (more…)
Some time ago, I wrote in the front of my Book of Common Prayer, “If now and then you don’t think your sermons might be a bit risky, then you are not a deacon.” It might surprise you to learn that deacons sometimes wonder if their sermons are too political, too radical, and too challenging for the communities they serve.
Deacons are described as having a prophetic voice and are encouraged to be truth-tellers when it comes to societal ills and the mistreatment of God’s children. And yet, deacons have always known that telling the truth is not always well received. (more…)
So there’s the physical, and there’s the spiritual.
The Israelites were in the desert. They were thirsty. Physically thirsty. And God met them there and provided water, miraculous water, water gushing out of a rock.
Jesus was by the well at noon, in the heat of the day. He was thirsty. Physically thirsty. And God met him there in the form of a woman, a Samaritan woman, and provided water, not miraculous water but very ordinary water, gushing out of a well dug so long ago by Jacob, the common ancestor of Jews and Samaritans alike. (more…)
During this last week, I spent a significant amount of time researching a financial product so I could assist my younger brother with an important decision he will need to make in the next few months. My brother is about to become 62 years old, and since I am seven years older than him, our thoughts have been turning more and more as to how we might best prepare for the future as neither of us has children or a spouse to care for us. My brother is generally capable and can manage his household. However, when complicated decisions are involved, he often turns to me for assistance. As the dutiful older sister, I take these requests seriously because my mother always told me to look out for him and to take care of him. By the way parents, I understand what you are hoping when you ask older siblings to take care of younger ones. You are encouraging them to look out for each other. However, it would be great if you could put an end date on the request. After all it was one thing to look after my brother when he was twelve or before he turned twenty-one. He’s sixty-two now and honestly someone as hyper-responsible as me can struggle with this request as most grown folk won’t do as you say just because you told them to do it. (more…)
The sun the source of our life on earth is a rather small star in the universe. But it is huge compared to the earth. You could fit more than 1 million earths into the sun if it were hollow. 1 million. And, every second the sun is turning 4 million tons of its solar self, its solar material, its mass into energy—light. It generates that light and gives it away, you could say. The material it transforms into light is not replaced; the sun is transforming itself and giving itself away. We are circling around what we could call solar generosity—and sacrifice. Everything you’ve ever done is what we could call a solar event—the result of solar sacrifice and generosity. (more…)
“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear?”
Indeed, whom shall I fear? Whom do I fear? Whom or what do you fear? The Bible is filled with talk about fear, mostly with admonitions to fear not! Remember the angel Gabriel to Mary, “Fear not, the Lord is with you.” Angels are very much into “Fear not!”
But of course, if truth be told we do fear. I read recently that 40% of Americans suffer from anxiety—ranging from panic attacks to other forms of anxious living. Look around this church and think about that. 40% of us are living with anxiety. (more…)
Somewhere in my house, there is a button I got a few years ago that says, “Jesus loves you, but I’m his favorite.” I thought of that button when I read today’s Gospel lesson. As a young girl, I longed to be unique, to be noticed for who I was, and to know that I had God’s blessing. Whenever I heard the account of the Baptism of Our Lord, I could not help but wonder what it would be like for a ray of light to come from the heavens and for a voice to say, “This is my child, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” What would it take, I thought, to be the kind of person that God would think was an exceptional being? (more…)
They brought him gifts, these magi; these wise men, mages, learned ones from the East. They came to find a king, and the one who was already king was not amused. He sent them on to Bethlehem, Herod, that fox, that sly wielder of power, plying them with smooth words even as his soldiers sharpened their swords for what was to come.
They brought him gifts, these sages, these Iranian seers, these Zoroastrian seekers of God. They followed a light from heaven, and they came to a humble house. And they opened their chests and brought forth their treasures, rich gifts laden with hope and expectation: Gold. Incense. Myrrh. (more…)