Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see!

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

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Shitty things done on our behalf

Powerful reminder of our shared culpability and need for confession

The Reverend Marcus G. Halley

Sunday, when you kneel (or stand) for the Confession of Sin, remember these words:

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
– Donald Trump.

I could explore ad nauseum all the ways in which Donald Trump is categorically wrong in his assertion that Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries (all conveniently countries dominated by people of color… but this comment is totally not racist) are “shitholes.” I could write about how American and European colonialism stripped these countries of natural and human resources over hundreds of years. I could enumerate how there are many places in the United States that, due to a capitalist system that prizes profits over actual people or care the environment, could resemble what some would refer to as a shithole. I could write about all the exceptions to this false narrative of American exceptionalism that suggests that countries populated…

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You are God’s beloved child: A Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord, 2017

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

A Poem for Epiphany: The Magi by William Butler Yeats

The Magi

W. B. Yeats, 18651939

Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

Source: poets.org

Break forth, O beauteous, heavenly light: A sermon for Christmas Day, 2017

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

God is with us: A Sermon for Christmas Eve, 2017

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

She fed our Bread: St. Augustine of Hippo on Mary

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