Sunday, June 26, 2022

3 Pentecost

 


June 26, 2022

 

1 Kings 19.15-16,19-21; Galatians 5.1,13-25; .Luke 9:51-62

 


+ I don’t want to toot my own horn, but for any of you who have worked with me, at least on the Vestry level, I am not one to let grass grow under my feet.

 

When I focus on something, I will work on it until either I succeed at it, or I have to admit failure on it.

 

And even, in those times when I have to admit failure, I still kind of find myself gnawing on the failure.

 

Because it’s hard for me to give something up I’ve focused on.

 

That’s not always a good thing, let me you.

 

It’s actually weirdly obsessive.

 

But being that kind of person means I really have issues with what Jesus is telling the young man in our Gospel reading for today.

 

We hear Jesus say, Let the dead bury their own dead.

 

What?

That’s not what I want to hear after these last several months in which I have done a record number of funerals.

 

It’s an unusual statement.  

 

It almost boggles the mind when you think about it.

 

And yet….there is beautiful poetry in that phrase.

 

We hear this saying of Jesus referenced occasionally in our secular society.

 

It conveys a sense of resignation and putting behind oneself insignificant aspects of our lives.

 

Still, it is a strange image to wrap our minds around.

Let the dead bury their own dead.

What could Jesus possibly mean by this reference?

Does it means we shouldn’t bury our loved ones?

 

No. This statement from him, as always, has a deeper meaning—and really only starts to make sense when we put it in the context of his time and who his followers were.

 

When we find this man talking about having to go and bury his father, and Jesus’ response of “let the dead bury their own dead,” we might instantly think that Jesus is being callous.  

 

It would seem, at least from our modern perspective, that this man is mourning, having just lost his father.

 

The fact is, his father actually probably died a year or more before.  

 

What happened in the Jewish culture at that time is that when a person died, they were anointed, wrapped in a cloth shroud and placed in a tomb.

 

There would have been an actually formal burial rite at that times.

 

And of course, Jesus himself would later be buried exactly like this.

 

This initial tomb burial was actually a temporary interment.

 

They were probably placed on a stone shelf near the entrance of the tomb.

 

About a year or so after their death, the family gathered again at which time the tomb was re-opened.

 

By that time, the body would, of course,  have been reduced to bones.

 

The bones would then be collected, placed in a small stone box and buried with the other relatives, probably further back in the tomb.

 

A remnant of this tradition still exists in Judaism, when, on the first anniversary of the death of a loved one, the family often gathers to unveil the gravestone in the cemetery.

 

There’s a wonderful liturgy in the New Zealand Prayer Book that I’ve used many times for the blessing and unveiling of a gravestone.

 

Which I think a very cool tradition personally. 

So, when we encounter this man in today’s Gospel, we are not necessarily finding a man mourning his recently deceased father.

 

What we are actually finding is a man who is waiting to go to the tomb where his father’s bones now lie so he can bury the bones.

 

When we see it from this perspective, we can understand why Jesus makes such a seemingly strange comment—and we realize it isn’t quite the callous comment we thought it was.  

 

As far as Jesus is concerned, the father has been buried.

 

Whatever this man does is merely an excuse to not go out and proclaim the kingdom of God, as Jesus commands him to do.

Now to be fair to the man, he could just be making an excuse, which really under any other circumstances, would have been a perfectly valid excuse.

 

Or he could really have felt that his duty as his father’s son took precedence over this calling from Jesus.

 

Certainly, in Jewish culture, this would be an acceptable way of living out the commandment of respecting one’s parents.

 

 

It doesn’t seem as though he doesn’t want to follow Jesus or proclaim the Kingdom.

 

He doesn’t flat-out say no.

 

He simply says, not now.

 

In a sense, he is given the choice between the dead and dried bones of his father or the living Jesus who stands before him.

Jesus’ response, which may sound strange to our modern, Western ears, is actually a very clear statement to this man.

 

He is saying, in a sense: “You are attached to these bones.

 

Don’t worry about bones.

 

Break your attachment, follow me, proclaim the goodness and love of God and you will have life.

 

Follow me

 

TODAY.

 

NOW.

 

How many times have we been in the same place in our lives?

 

How many times have we looked for excuses to get out of following Jesus, at least right now?

 

We all have our own “bones” that we feel we must bury before we can go and proclaim the Kingdom of God in our midst by following Jesus.

 

We all have our own attachments that we simply cannot break so we can go forward unhindered to follow and to serve.

 

And they’re easy to find.

 

It’s easy to be led astray by attachments—to let these attachments fill our lives and give us a false sense of fulfillment.

 

It is easy for us to despair when the bad things of life happen to us.

 

Certainly, most of us here at St. Stephen’s have been feeling a bit of despair in these days following Friday’s decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

 

Now, I didn’t want to preach about this.

 

In fact, I used to pride myself on the fact that I never really had to preach about it.

 

I’m a man, after all.

 

And enough men have given their opinions about this.

 

But the fact is, there is no way I can’t talk about it.

 

Our hands have been forced.

 

And we are here now.

 

And like you, I am furious.

 

I am angry—righteously angry.

 

As most of you saw, I posted a few memes on Facebook on Friday, all of which garnered much conversation.

 

One of the posts I wrote, which I echoed in my letter to the parish was this:

 

Dear married gay friends, please go to a lawyer; get wills, power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney documents, because it's obvious who's next.

Also, for those not married, I'm more than willing to officiate weddings while we still can do them.

 

It's the truth.

 

But, let’s set the record straight on this.

 

First and foremost, I, like most of you no doubt, am NOT pro-abortion.

 

No one, I can imagine, is pro-abortion.

 

Abortion is an ugly, terrible thing—and an ugly, terrible thing that happens to good people.

 

In an ideal world, there would be no abortion.

 

But the fact is: abortion is a reality.

 

And it’s not going away.

 

The Supreme Court has not magically made abortion disappear, as some people are crowing about today.

 

Abortion has not ended.

 

Nothing is really solved.

 

All it does it complicate the issue.

 

Oh, and it also puts many, many women’s lives in jeopardy by making it very difficult for thousands and thousands of women to get adequate healthcare.

 

Let’s not sugar-coat it:

 

Women AND babies are going to die as a result of this decision by Supreme Court.

 

So, the rejoicing happening right now is not only empty in my opinion.

 

It’s hypocritical.

 

And we, for our own part, are in for a long haul.

 

But we can do it.

 

Our job is to continue to stand up and to speak out.

 

We must stand up.

 

We must speak out.

 

We might fight!

 

We must stop being complacent.

 

But, as discouraged as we might be, as frustrated as we might be, we need to realize, none of this is the end.  

 

Despite these bad things, we as Christians just need to remember: the kingdom of God still needs to be proclaimed.

 

Now.

 

And not later. Not after everything has been restored. Not when everything is good and right in the world.

 

Not after we have calmed down.

 

The Kingdom needs to be proclaimed NOW.

 

Now.

 

Even in the midst of chaos.  

 

Even when those crappy things happen, we still need to follow Jesus.

 

We proclaim the Kingdom of God by standing up and speaking out against those forces that seek to undermine basic human dignity.

 

We proclaim the Kingdom of God by living out our Baptismal Covenant in this world.

 

We proclaim the Kingdom of God by loving God and loving others—loving people enough to stand up for their rights, their health, their worth.

 

Let us remember that this is not some sweet, nice, gentle suggestion from Jesus.  

 

It is a command from him.

“Let the dead bury their own dead. But as for you, go, and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

We proclaim the kingdom, as we all know, by loving God and loving each other.

 

You can’t proclaim the kingdom—you can’t love—when you are busy obsessing about the dead, loveless things of your life.

 

You’re not proclaiming the Kingdom when you complain about things, but then don’t DO anything about them.

 

We who are following Jesus have all put our hands to the plow.

 

We put our hands to that plow when were baptized, when we set out on that path of following Jesus.

 

Now, with our hands on that plow, let us not look back.

 

Let us not be led astray by the attachments we have in this life that lead us wandering about aimlessly.

 

Let us not be led astray by our anger.

 

But, let us focus.

 

Let us look forward.  

 

Let us push on.

 

Let us proclaim by word and example the love we have for God and one another.  

 

And when we do, we are doing exactly what Jesus commands us to do.

 

Now is the time.  

 

Stand up.

 

Speak out.

 

Proclaim that Kingdom.

 

And make it a reality in our midst.

 

Now.

 

Let us pray.

 

Holy God, you are a God of justice; send your spirit as a fire into our hearts and into our mouths that we may speak out against injustice in this world. And in doing so, let us know that we are proclaiming your Kingdom. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Requiem Mass for Jonathan Gilbert

 


The Requiem Mass for

Jonathan Gilbert

March 29, 1978- April 12, 2022

June 25, 2022

+ Well, we gather today not really wanting to be here.

 

We really shouldn’t be here.

 Not for this reason.

 Not coming together to remember and bury the ashes of Jonathan.

 He was too young.

 It feels strange to come together to bury a 44 year old person.

 He still had many years ahead of him.

 He had more living to do this in world.

 And his passing from our midst was a surprise.

 It happened so suddenly.

 And in a twinkling of an eye, he was gone from us.

 But, as much as I don’t want to be here today, I am grateful.

 I am grateful for Jonathan and for all he was.

 I am grateful for his presence in my life.

 I am grateful for his presence among us here in this parish of St. Stephen’s.

 I am grateful for what he meant to you, those of who came today to remember Jonathan.

 And even though we are sad today, we also able to rejoice.

 We rejoice in Jonathan.

 We rejoice in all that was good and kind and gentle in Jonathan.

 Certainly, I rejoice that I was his priest.

 And I can say I was also his friend.

 And as we gather today, as we remember Jonathan, as think of who he was to each of us, please think about who he was and what makes you grateful for having known him.

 And as you do so, remember this.  

 Today is not the end of anything.

 Yes, we are saying goodbye.

 But we are not going to stop remembering him, or thinking of him.

 His presence will certainly stay with us as long after we have left here and go back to our own lives.

 Now, I have no doubt that Jonathan is with us here this afternoon, celebrating his life with us. 

 I am of the firm belief that what separates us who are alive and breathing here on earth from those who are now in the so-called “nearer presence of God” is actually a very thin division.

 So, yes, right now, I think we can feel that that separation between us here and those who have passed on is, in this moment, a very thin one.

 And because of that belief, I take a certain comfort in the fact Jonathan is close to us this afternoon. 

 He is here, in our midst, celebrating his life with us.

 And we should truly celebrate his life.

 I want to say that it was a good life.

 But I don’t think Jonathan would say it was all that good at times.

 It was a hard life.

 Jonathan suffered in this world.

 Truly suffered.

 Suffered in ways none of us will ever know.

 And the world itself did not treat him well at times.

 This world can be a mean, vicious place.

 And it can be particularly mean and vicious to someone like Jonathan.

 He often did not feel like he fit in this world.

 He often felt at odds, or on the fringe of this world.

 Which is why I am glad he came to this church.

 St. Stephen’s was one of the places in which he felt truly welcomed and truly included.

 Here, he was not judged.

 Here, he was not looked down on.

 We loved Jonathan and we genuinely cared for him.

 And here, he felt safe.

 If he hadn’t, I don’t think he would’ve asked to have his mother, Marilyn’s ashes buried here in our memorial garden.

 I am happy too that this is where Jonathan will rest, here in our memorial garden, right next to that mother he loved so dearly.

 All of us were touched by Jonathan in some way.

 And I can tell you that I will never forget that strong and gentle presence.

 And I can say that I am also grateful that Jonathan is freed from the pain he endured in this life.

 I am grateful that he has been freed from the boundaries of his very body.

 As I stood by his bedside as he passed from this world in April, I could there was an exhausted sense of relief when he finally shed that body.

 Where Jonathan is right now—in those loving, caring and able hands of his God—there is no pain or sorrow.

 There is no more being imprisoned by our physical bodies.

 There is no more mean, terrible world.

 There is no more exclusion or meanness.   

 Where Jonathan is now there is only life there. Eternal life.


 Where Jonathan is now, he is complete and whole.

 And he is happy.

 And he will never again shed another tear.

 Because we know that Jonathan and all our loved ones have been received into God’s arms of mercy, into the “blessed rest of everlasting peace.”

 This is what we cling to on a day like today.

 This is where we find our strength.

 This what gets us through this temporary—and I do stress that it is temporary—this temporary separation from Jonathan.

 We know that—despite the pain and the frustration, despite the sorrow we all feel—somehow, in the end, God is with us and Jonathan is with God and that makes all the difference.

 For Jonathan, sorrow and pain are no more.

Jonathan, in this holy moment, has gained life eternal.

 And that is what awaits us as well.

 We might not be able to say “Alleluia” with any real enthusiasm today.

 But we can find a glimmer of light in the darkness of this day.

 It is a glorious Light we find here.

 Even if it is just a glimmer, it is a bright and wonderful Light.

 And for that we can rejoice and be grateful.

And we can celebrate.   

May angels welcome you, Jonathan.

May all the saints come forward to greet you.

And may your rest today and always be one of unending joy.

 

A STATEMENT FROM FR. JAMIE REGARDING THE SUPREME COURTS’ DECISION TO REPEAL ROE V. WADE

 June 25, 2022

Dear St. Stephen’s family-

As you all know by now, yesterday the Supreme Court made its landmark decision to reverse Roe v. Wade, which will greatly limit healthcare for women in our country.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement (which I include at the end of this message), in which he said, “Today’s decision institutionalizes inequality because women with access to resources will be able to exercise their moral judgment in ways that women without the same resources will not.”

For many here at St. Stephen’s this decision by the Supreme Court is a painful, difficult and personal situation that affects us deeply on both collective and personal levels. Many of us have fought hard for many years for women’s rights and for full and protected healthcare for all. Some of us have suffered personally from the effects of a lack of healthcare for various reasons. This decision by SCOTUS seems to many (including myself) to be several steps backward in on the path of progress.  

In addition to the shock of that decision, the House of Bishops has received information “from federal authorities of credible security threats against clergy and churches…” and that “there is concern that clergy who have advised parishioners about abortion access and their reproductive rights may face threats or violence.

          As most of you know, I have been speaking out vocally on both my own social media accounts and on the St. Stephen’s Facebook page about this issue and so far, I have received overwhelming support. But, as we have experienced in the past when have stood up for LGBTQ+ rights in this Diocese and state, we are aware there are people who do not share our commitment and who are willing to lash out at those with different opinions. Please know that despite such threats, I will continue to speak out as I have. I will also be preaching on this issue tomorrow at Mass.

          I repeat what I have said on social media: I will continue to support full access to healthcare for all people and will do everything in my power as a Christian, as a priest and as a citizen to make sure such access is made available.

          I also mention, though I do not mean to unduly alarm anyone, that Justice Clarence Thomas made a comment yesterday regarding the possibility that SCOTUS may be eyeing future issues such as gay marriage. Considering those comments, I am advising all our married LGBTQ+ parishioners and friends to get wills, as well as power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney documents as soon as possible. If any of you need legal help or suggestions, please contact me.  

And for those not married, please know I am more than willing to officiate at any weddings while we can still legally do so.

Be assured that St. Stephen’s will remain a haven for all people, and we will continue to provide care, safety and protection for anyone who needs it. We renew our commitment to uphold the “worth and dignity” of all people now and always.  

The consequences of SCOTUS’ decision yesterday are long-ranging and will be affecting all of us for some time to come. With that in minds, please pray. Pray for our country during this divisive and contentious time. Please pray for women whose lives are now in jeopardy because of limited or non-existent healthcare. Pray for the leadership of this country during this time that strong leaders may stand up and speak out. And please, do so yourself. Stand up and speak out.

-peace,

Jamie+

Rector, St. Stephen’s

 

O great God,

mighty and awesome.

You show no partiality.

You defend the cause

of the fatherless, motherless, and the widow.

You love the stranger.

 

We believe and we feel overwhelmed—

sometimes it is hard to believe

that you actually care about

injustice and suffering.

When we don’t see your work.

When we sense the apathy

from the church and the world.

When we feel small and forget

that we were designed to be different

and to make things different.

When we feel overwhelmed

by the darkness in the world—
the violence, injustice, poverty, oppression, abuse.

Give us hope not to be overcome.
Give us eyes to see your goodness for our world.
Give us the strength to hold the pain of injustice in
our world and faith that it will end.
Give us courage to be honest with ourselves about
why and how we are doing justice.

 

We believe.  

Empower us to disrupt our broken
thinking by learning truth from diverse leaders.
Enable us to discover the beauty

of justice and inspire action in others.

Embolden us to display your
goodness in the world. Amen.

 

Adapted from a prayer from A Liturgy of Longing by Sandra Maria Van Opstal, found in Sarah Bessey’s A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal; Convergent Publishing, 2021.

 

 

Statement on Supreme Court Dobbs decision by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry 

June 24, 2022

Office of Public Affairs

 

Today the Supreme Court released its decision in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The court has overturned the constitutional right to abortion that was recognized in the seminal 1973 case Roe v. Wade.  

While I, like many, anticipated this decision, I am deeply grieved by it. I have been ordained more than 40 years, and I have served as a pastor in poor communities; I have witnessed firsthand the negative impact this decision will have.

We as a church have tried carefully to be responsive both to the moral value of women having the right to determine their healthcare choices as well as the moral value of all life. Today’s decision institutionalizes inequality because women with access to resources will be able to exercise their moral judgment in ways that women without the same resources will not.

This is a pivotal day for our nation, and I acknowledge the pain, fear, and hurt that so many feel right now. As a church, we stand with those who will feel the effects of this decision—and in the weeks, months, and years to come.  

The Episcopal Church maintains that access to equitable health care, including reproductive health care and reproductive procedures, is “an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being” (2018-D032). The church holds that “reproductive health procedures should be treated as all other medical procedures, and not singled out or omitted by or because of gender” (2018-D032). The Episcopal Church sustains its “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and to act upon them” (2018-D032). As stated in the 1994 Act of Convention, the church also opposes any “executive or judicial action to abridge the right of a woman to reach an informed decision…or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision” (1994-A054).   

The court’s decision eliminates federal protections for abortion and leaves the regulation of abortion to the states. The impact will be particularly acute for those who are impoverished or lack consistent access to health care services. As Episcopalians, we pray for those who may be harmed by this decision, especially for women and other people who need these reproductive services. We pray for the poor and vulnerable who may not have other options for access. We urge you to make your voice heard in the way you feel called but always to do so peacefully and with respect and love of neighbor.  

3 Pentecost

  June 26, 2022   1 Kings 19.15-16,19-21; Galatians 5.1,13-25; .Luke 9:51-62   + I don’t want to toot my own horn, but for any of y...