A Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, 2018
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” We can still hear the easy dismissal, the disparagement in these words across two millennia. We can hear all of the superiority the speaker assumes in this encounter with a stranger. And it’s likely, that as we hear that question we are reminded of all the ways we—our culture, our media, our political figures—disparage and dismiss those who look differently, or think differently, or come from different countries or are of different religious convictions.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Nathanael’s question was not just a matter of the dismissal of a stranger. It was a legitimate response to Philip’s own question, “Have we met the Messiah?” For there was nothing in scripture, nothing in Jewish tradition, that would lead one to conclude that the Messiah, the Savior and redeemer of Israel, would come from, or have anything to do, with Nazareth. It’s a place that’s unmentioned in Hebrew scripture, of no account in first century Galilee. It was a tiny village, 200-400 inhabitants, a village made up of tiny houses, very poor people, most of them scraping by trying to make ends meet in an empire and economy that thought them of no worth or value. Continue reading
A friend of ours, our former Yoga teacher, was back in town over the holidays, and over lunch as we caught up on our lives, she recommended a book to me: Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. It’s written by Fr. Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest who has served in the LA projects for over 30 years. He works with gang members, helping them get off the street and leading productive lives. It’s a book full of powerful stories of redemption, forgiveness, resilience, and suffering. For most of the men and women in these neighborhoods, gangs provide the only family and community they have ever known. Continue reading
One morning in the first week of December, I was walking back to my office after having coffee with a colleague on State St. It was around 10 am and a bright sunny day. As I came toward the church, I looked up and saw something remarkable, perhaps miraculous. The sun was at the perfect angle in the sky so that it shone directly through the tower windows. I had never seen this before. It filled the tower with light that shone even more brightly than the sun.
But that wasn’t the remarkable thing. On the tower walls, and I have no idea how this occurred, there was reflected light from the sun; it was patchy but it went up the tower walls. I had no idea where the light was coming from but it was a sight that was so ethereal, so bright, so beautiful, that it took my breath away.
I’ve been around this place for over eight years. I thought I was familiar with all of its nooks and crannies (well, to be sure, I’ve never climbed up the tower to see the bells). I thought I had seen it from every angle, at every time of day or night. As beautiful as Grace Church is, it’s become so very familiar to me that I don’t expect to see something new, I don’t expect to encounter and experience beauty in a new way. Continue reading
Is there anything quite so wonderful as a Christmas Eve service? The church is decorated beautifully with poinsettas and wreaths and greenery. Our beloved and beautiful crèche stands where it does each year at the foot of the altar, with its wonderful hand-carved figures. We have heard our choir and organ perform music familiar and new. Some of us have already begun to celebrate Christmas, having come here from parties or gatherings. Others are looking forward to late night festivities, or to lavish dinners tomorrow with friends and family.. Continue reading
He who sustains the world lay in a manger, a wordless Child, yet the Word of God. Him whom the heavens do not contain the bosom of one woman bore. She ruled our King; she carried Him in whom we exist; she fed our Bread. O manifest weakness and marvelous humility in which all divinity lay hid! By His power He ruled the mother to whom His infancy was subject, and He nourished with truth her whose breasts suckled Him. May He who did not despise our lowly beginnings perfect His work in us, and may He who wished on account of us to become the Son of Man make us the sons of God.
from Sermon 184, For the Feast of the Nativity