Naming, Casting out evil: A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, 2018

Corrie and I caught the first episode of a new documentary series that’s airing on PBS this winter. It tells the stories of people who met during significant historical moments and the efforts to bring them back together after decades. The first episode told the story of Reiko, a Japanese-American woman now in her 80s who was among the hundreds of thousands who were taken from their homes and lives and interred in camps for the duration of the war.

Reiko wanted to reconnect with Mary Frances, a Caucasian girl who had been her best friend. Their friendship was opposed by Mary Frances’ parents and broken when Reiko and her family were interred in Wyoming. After the war, when she returned home with anti-Japanese sentiment still running high, Reiko was afraid to go to school. But on her first day back, Mary Frances ran up to her, took her hand, and walked with her into the classroom. Continue reading


January 25: The Conversion of St. Paul

O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world; Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Caravaggio, The Conversion of St. Paul

A God abounding in steadfast love: A sermon for Epiphany 3, Year B

I don’t know when it was. Fifth grade, sixth grade, even earlier? Somewhere around there I first recognized just how implausible the story of Jonah was. By that time, I knew enough about the anatomy of wales, human physiology, and the digestive system to know that it the likelihood of someone being swallowed by a whale, surviving in its belly for three days, and then being vomited up on the seashore was quite slim. I knew enough geography that a whale swimming from the Mediterranean Ocean to the Persian Gulf in three days was far-fetched, and that a whole city might repent in response to a six-word sermon was impossible. For the literal mind of a precocious and inquisitive pre-teen, the book of Jonah presented enormous problems. Continue reading

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

Shitty things done on our behalf

Powerful reminder of our shared culpability and need for confession

Word Made Fresh

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.