A long, long time ago – 835 years ago to be exact – lived a young man whose inner light shined beyond his own time, and into ours.
His name was Giovanni Francesco Bernardone, born in Italy to a wealthy family in the year 1181.
His mother was French, and his father a rich Italian merchant. Giovanni grew up in Assisi, Italy.
As a young man, he was popular with his friends. He served in the military, was a prisoner of war for a year, and when freed, he looked forward to a life of ease and wealth. But he fell ill, nearly died and remained in a delirium for weeks.
When he woke up, he noticed God’s blessings all around him – and he felt an intense pull to give of himself so that others could to notice their blessings.
He is better known to us as Saint Francis of Assisi, and today we mark his feast day. (more…)
Imagine an autumn evening long ago in the Holy City of Jerusalem:
It is still hot this time of year in Jerusalem. Not many venture outside until the sun is low in the sky, and the cool Mediterranean breeze from the northwest begins to blow across the rooftops.
A few people begin to gather upstairs in one of the houses in the center of Jerusalem.
They find themselves in a big open room upstairs next to a wide veranda with a spectacular view of the Jerusalem skyline and the streets below. All the windows are large and open letting the cool air in.
Jesus and his followers gather in this upstairs room for supper like they do every night. (more…)
I am struck by the beautiful greeting in Paul’s letter to Philemon: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith towards the Lord Jesus.” The letter starts with a wish for grace and peace and goes on to let Philemon know that he is being prayed for and that Paul is grateful for him because of who he is, a man of faith.
I have not been in this pulpit in a month. It feels good to be standing here again, sharing a few words with you.
Please forgive me if I am a little rusty.
We heard from four extraordinary lay preachers in the last four weeks, each bringing to us his or her unique perspective on faith and the ministries each of these wonderful people are involved with. (more…)
Behind us is the anticipation of Advent, the mid-winter light and song of Christmas and Epiphany. Behind us are the grit of ashes on our foreheads and the reminder that we are dust and to dust we return. Behind us are Lent and Holy Week and the horrifying cross. Behind us is the astounding story of resurrection and Pentecost.
Here we are for the long weeks after Pentecost, outside the narrative march from Bethlehem to the upstairs room. In this time, called ordinary time, our circumstances in many ways resemble those of the early disciples. We ponder the questions raised by these remarkable stories, wondering what all this might mean, really mean, if we were to call ourselves disciples. Challenging ourselves by asking how we might, “clothe ourselves with the new self,” as Paul says in his letter to the Colossians. (more…)
I love the story of Abraham making a plea bargain with God this morning – it is among my favorites in the Bible. But that’s not where I want to go this morning.
Rather, in this warm summer day, I want to take you to the beach – the our beautiful Pacific coastline.
One of my favorites places on this good earth is a trail that stretches along the coastline south of Monterey at Asilomar. Along the trail is a sign that says “The Restless Sea,” and it explains why the surf looks so choppy at that spot. (more…)
It seems to me that today’s Gospel is about the importance of being present. As we heard, Jesus was welcomed into the home of Martha and Mary. And as we might imagine, there were others present as well so one could understand Martha’s need for someone to help her provide the hospitality that was customary at the time. We do not know a lot about Martha however it is not hard to envision a woman who wanted to be a good hostess. Most likely her home was orderly. Her guests were always offered whatever they needed to refresh themselves after travel. The food was prepared from scratch (as “takeout” or pizza delivery were yet to be invented) and she probably did not have servants. I could also imagine that Martha might have been one of those people that everyone counted on because she always got things done and whatever she did was done right. Like many people who everyone counts on to take care of things, Martha may have spent a lot of time being overwhelmed and a bit resentful because she never felt as though she could say “No.” The Gospel tells us that Martha is distracted by her many tasks, and I daresay, is a bit “peeved” that her sister, Mary seemed to be oblivious to the need to do anything to help her. So Martha appeals to her friend Jesus and asks him to intervene. Imagine her surprise when he chooses not to do so. (more…)
I have lived most of my adult life in big cities, including Los Angeles, Washington DC, San Diego and Sacramento. I tell you this by way of saying that I am not naïve about the challenges of living in the urban environment.
A few years ago one evening, Lori and I were returning home. It could have been in any of those cities – or in this city. It doesn’t matter where.
To get home, we had to drive down a particular street that can be, how shall we say? A little rough after dark.
On that particular night, on that particular street, we ran out of gas. (more…)
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In the 1770s, the most important church in America, bar none, was Christ Church Philadelphia, located across from what is now known as Independence Square. (more…)
In the 1990s there was a popular movement called WWJD. What Would Jesus Do? It was, according to Wikipedia, “a personal motto for adherents of Evangelical Christianity who used the phrase as a reminder of their belief in a moral imperative to act in a manner that would demonstrate the love of Jesus through the actions of the adherents. For them it was a moral compass to guide their decisions and actions.” A writer by the name of Mike Fleischman took this perspective a step further and asked, “What did Jesus do?” and he notes that Jesus used seven guiding principles for decision making: (1) He asked for God’s guidance, (2) He embraced the outcasts; (3) He restored broken lives; (4) He confronted hypocrisy; (5) He taught God’s word; (6) He served and (7) He equipped leaders. (more…)
Years ago when I was a little girl I spent summer vacations at my Grandmother’s house in Brooklyn, NY. In those days there was a wonderful sense of community. Everyone knew everybody, their stories, their troubles, their victories and their dreams. So it was always interesting when new people came into the neighborhood. One summer when I was about 8 or 9 years old I discovered that there was a new church around the corner from my Grandmother’s house. And while I do not honestly remember the whole name of the church I do remember that the word Pentecostal seemed to be a part of it. (more…)