Come on people

It was one of those very rare mornings when everything seemed to fill me with joy for no reason. Meeting some of my family for breakfast at a neighborhood place where all kinds and colors of folks come to eat simple breakfast fare and the owner remembers my name. Watching my granddaughter devour with gusto a waffle with blueberries. Observing what a great dad my son is. Walking under a blue sky with nary a cloud in sight. The woman hailing a cab at the corner. Flocks of office workers crossing the street en masse like shore birds running together across the sand when the light turned.* People sitting together at sunlit tables in another neighborhood breakfast place. The lady in the bright red hat. Seventh heaven empty and available.

And then, sounding from the speaker system in a plaza that is an outdoor bar in warmer weather, a snipped of the Youngbloods’ “Get Together.”

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

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Light up the sky

Light up the sky

I seem to be on a black and white kick in the photo work I’m doing today. Everything looks different, elemental. If I could do all my thinking in black and white, things would be so much simpler. Too bad it doesn’t work like that.

A sermon for the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When I first started to think about being received into the Episcopal Church, I joined an Inquirer’s class where we learned that the Episcopal Church was descended from the Church of England. And our teacher asked us on the very first day what turned out to be a trick question.

She said, “Who founded the Church of England?” And I think we all said Henry the VIII. And we were proud of ourselves. But that actually wasn’t the answer she wanted. She wanted us to say that our founder was Jesus Christ. And of course that is true, but I think it’s also misleading in a way, because Jesus didn’t set out to found a new church. If anything, he was more of a church reformer. He wanted to take people deeper in their relationship with God, so that faith wouldn’t be a matter just of what they did, but what they held in their hearts.

In this series of statements in today’s Gospel where he says, “You have heard it said … But I tell you,” these aren’t meant to be a set of new commandments replacing the old commandments. What he’s asking his followers is to internalize the values that those commandments and those rules represent.

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Mending

Chilly but wonderful photo walk this morning along the canal and over to the river. It’s a bit of a cliche, I know, but the beauty lies in the fractures. We break, we mend, what’s green keeps on growing. Much more interesting than the “perfect” places.

A sermon for the second Sunday after the Epiphany

So what are you doing here today, anyway? What are you looking for—as Jesus put it when he noticed two of John the Baptist’s people following him as he walked near where John had been baptizing.

What are you looking for?

I imagine the answer might be a little different for each one of us. Some of us made sure to be here because we have specific responsibilities this morning. Some might say that they enjoy the fellowship, or the singing. Deep down, we share a faith that’s best lived out in community, and this is an expression of that faith.

But sometimes we meet people in church who would have a hard time saying exactly why they came. They’re not sure exactly what they believe. They just felt some unexpected pull on their heart, and they responded.

And they’d be the ones who are most like the disciples in today’s Gospel. When Jesus sees Andrew and his comrade walking behind him, he turns and asks them what they’re looking for. We can imagine that ultimately they’re after some of the same things we seek here for ourselves: a connection with something bigger than themselves, something that will give their lives meaning.

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The truth of who you are

Suburban Station on a Sunday morning: Empty of the usual weekday rush, still home to the homeless who are even more visible now. Two women chat over their sacks of belongings as if over a backyard fence. Near the elevator to the street a man orates to an audience of no one in particular as if he were the preacher in a church with no pews. “You will tell the truth of who you are,” he proclaims, and I wonder if he is speaking to me, because I worry that I show the truth of who am every time I pass one of the many street people I see every day in the city, hands outstretched, and keep my own hands in my pockets. The suburbs do not prepare you for these. Safe from the sight of the poor and homeless, you could convince yourself that they don’t really exist, at least not here in the first world we so comfortably occupy. How do you decide whose request for “spare change” you’ll honor? All of them? None of them? But there after so many, and some do seem more deserving than others.

In my own preaching I tell people that we are all God’s children, all equally deserving of love, of grace–which is to say that we’re all both undeserving and yet deserving by virtue of having been created in the image of the divine. Why should it be different here on the streets?

I’m sickened when I hear someone say there are too many poor brown people in our great white country already, too many to let any more in. They’ll just have to fend for themselves. Even those who are already here don’t really deserve what we have. There are too many already. I’m sickened, and yet I sense that I am doing the same kind of sorting myself every time I go walking in the city.

Fire tree
Water tree

Woke up early to a very foggy dawn and thought it might be fun to go out and take pictures of the river. Funny thing: the fog turned out to be so denseI couldn’t even really see the river, but I did come home with some lovely images I hadn’t anticipated. One of those times when you risk missing a world of beauty if you let expectations frame your vision.

A sermon for the first Sunday after Christmas

Preached at St. James the Greater Church in Bristol and Grace Church in Hulmeville.

At Christmas time my dad used to decorate the house where I grew up very simply: wreath on the door, floodlight on the wreath, and a candle in every one of the five windows that faced the street. These were electric candles, of course, so in the beginning he had to go around and plug each one in individually when evening came. Later I gave him a set of Radio Shack remote plugs so he could make them all come on with the push of a single button, and that gave him more joy than you can possibly imagine. It was like being God: “Let there be light!” And at the push of a button, there was.

I loved those candles for their simple beauty. Loved coming home to that house at Christmas and knowing I’d find their light shining into the night.

I decorate my own house in New Hope pretty much the same way now, but the technology has advanced so all I have to do to turn my candles on is to plug them in once when I put them in the windows at the beginning of Advent. They’re light-sensitive, so they come on by themselves every evening at dusk. It’s convenient, but when I think about how happy it made my father to turn those lights on every night, I wonder if maybe I’ve lost something in letting go of the daily intention to make light shine out into the darkness of a December evening.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

That’s the line that really stands out for me this morning in today’s Gospel, which is taken from the first chapter of the book of John. That’s the line I really need to hear today.

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Sometimes the simple gesture of raising our arms to God says more than words.

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