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Today's Sermon

 I have been on a trip to visit my son in North Carolina and have just returned.  It is good to be back and here is today's sermon.

John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Sermon

This will be a different kind of sermon but I think it ties in nicely with today's lessens. I want to tell you about my trip to visit my son in North Carolina. I was worried about him in part because that is what parents do when it comes to their children, even thirty seven year old children. The good news is I think he is living his life the way he wants to live it. He makes enough money to support himself. He will probably never have great wealth but he will be ok. He has a lot of dogs, probably too many dogs, and they are how he expresses his love for God's creation and I get that.

He and I still have a strong bond and I can tell that we think alike in many ways. I will always worry about him but maybe after this trip I will worry a little less. It was clear he wanted to take me to places he thought he and I might both like. So....he took me to a craft beer and wine bar. It was a cool bar. It was not a large place but it must have had a thousand varieties of wine and beer. We went up to the bar and made our choices on what kinds of beer we would try first. The beer I chose was a high gravity beer which means it is a sipping beer because of its high alcohol content. I learned that after I had drunk the beer. (I was wondering at the time why I was feeling a little fuzzy)

t wasn't long before we were engaged in discussions with others at the bar. I was talking to this guy whom I later found out was an architect and he asked me what I did. I told him I was an Episcopal priest. (I wasn't wearing my collar.) He said, “that doesn't surprise me”. I believe he meant it in a good way. One woman and her friend who had just come into the bar (they had been on the patio) overheard us and she came up to me and said, “Can I talk to you?” I of course said, “sure”. 

She proceeded to tell me about her son. At age twelve her son got up early one Sunday morning, dressed up, and went to a Sunday service. She herself was not a church goer. He went to services every Sunday after that of his own volition and he continued doing so for several years. It was a great puzzle to her and her husband but they felt it was a good thing. 

One day at age fifteen, he was talking to his mom and he said he wanted to tell her something. He said that it was very private, and he was afraid she would get really mad at him. As tears were rolling down his cheeks he confessed to her that he was gay. He said he couldn't help it and that he had been going to church all that time because he was sure that he was going to burn in hell for eternity because of it.

She was in tears as well by this time. She hugged him and told him she loved him and there was nothing that would get in the way of her love for him. She also told him she had been pretty sure that he was gay from the time he was a small child. She also said she was certain God loved him too and that being gay was not something that would make you burn in hell.

We had a good conversation after she related her story to me and I thanked her for sharing it. I praised her and I told her she did a wonderful job of assuring him that he was loved and that there was nothing wrong with him.

I had a lot of conversations that evening but this was the most memorable. Did I mention that this bar was so cool that it closes at 8PM. 

I did wear my collar when I traveled to and from North Carolina and I'm glad I did. While I was waiting for a connecting flight in the Atlanta airport, I bought a Snickers at one of the kiosks in order to tide me over. I am always hesitant to pay so much for a candy bar ($2.29) but as I went to the counter the lady at the register said, “I want to thank you father for your service and I am going to give you my employee discount of $1.79.” (still too high) I thanked her of course. It is a good idea to show your religious beliefs on several levels. Although I think she thought I was Catholic. does all of this tie into today's readings? Jesus came back. He knew the apostles were still not ready to be full believers. Peter had gone back to fishing. Thomas said he wouldn't believe until he had touched Jesus' wounds. After Jesus return from the resurrection the apostles were stronger in there faith and they no longer feared showing their stripes and talk about this spiritual path they called The Way. 

This passage is telling me that I should never hesitate to talk about my faith and to show my stripes if you will, whether it is in a bar or an airport or anywhere else. We are all called to be ministers of Christ's Way and not just when we are sitting in a pew.


Easter Sermon

John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her

The Sermon

He is risen. He is risen indeed! Hallelujah! Yes we can say hallelujah again. What does Easter mean for us today? I remember as a child looking forward to this day, almost longing for it. We went to mass every day of lent and twice on Saturday's so I must admit that I was more looking forward to the end of lent on a truly superficial level.

I have changed. I truly look forward to Easter for all the right reasons. He is resurrected. The gospel reading brings it all home to me. Mary found an empty tomb and she wept because he was not there. She was already grief stricken but now there was the added pain that she could not properly honor this god/man whom she loved.  Imagine Mary Magdalene’s joy at finally seeing her lord and discovering he had risen from the dead.

Jesus was resurrected. He did not simply become reanimated as had happened with Lazarus, he had changed. His God nature was fully present. As we will hear later on upcoming Sundays, Jesus was not restricted by bodily constraints. He could choose or not choose to let people recognize his presence. He could appear and disappear at will. He could walk through walls. And yet he could sit down and eat dinner with his followers. He could have those who were in doubt physically touch his wounds. Jesus' God nature was fully present. There was no doubt who he was.

Blessed are those who have not seen these wonderful events and still believe. That brothers and sisters is you and me. I believe there is something inside of us that allows us, inspires us, to believe that Jesus Christ lived on this earth two thousand years ago. That he suffered death and was resurrected. And all of this happened because of his love for you and me.

Let us remember Christ's love for us every day for the rest of our lives. Jesus final commandment to us was to love one another as he has loved us and may we be ever mindful of his love and may we be living examples of this commandment.


Maundy Thursday's Sermon

It was a small gathering for the Maundy Thursday service.  The silence during the stripping of the altar always gets to me.  Here is the gospel reading and the sermon.

Fr. Fred

The Gospel

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

The Sermon

Jesus was a rule breaker. Washing the feet of someone considered a subordinate was unheard of in the first century. Jesus was teaching his apostles several things by washing their feet. Humility comes to my mind first. This was an honor/shame culture and Jesus, by this one act of washing his disciples feet, was telling them to let go of the artificial rules of the culture and to do what they felt deep down in their gut was right. Serve each other. Love each other. Do not worry about status.

The washing of each others feet today is a symbolic ceremony. It is a re-enactment of the event that happened two thousand years ago. I am guessing that all of you who are having his or her feet washed did a pretty thorough job of making sure your feet were reasonably clean before you came here this evening and you probably don't really need your feet washed. But, this isn't really about hygiene. It is about caring for one another. This is how you will show it tonight. Jesus is telling us, his present day disciples, that humbly showing love for one another should happen today and tomorrow and all of the tomorrows after that.

Jesus knew what was about to happen that night. He knew he would be betrayed. He knew that he would die a painful humiliating death. He did not welcome it, but he knew it was his father's will and Jesus loved the Father. 

His last lesson to his disciples was this: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

This is a very simple request. Love one another. It is not so easy to carry out. Some people are hard to love. Sometimes you and I are hard to love but as Christians that is what we are told to do.

Lets make this our goal for this year. To love the hard to love and, as I have just said, we all fit into that category at one time or another.