I had the opportunity to preach a homily on the feast of Gregory Of Nazianzus a few weeks back. I’ve been wanting to share it but haven’t really had the margin to do much other than finish seminary, which is done!!! I thought I would post this, I hope to post more in the days to come from my time at seminary; things I’ve learned, papers I’ve written, and ways I’ve grown in my faith.
Homily: The Feast of Greg Naz. I don’t preach often or very well from a manuscript (not my usual way) so if you listen and read, you’ll notice some differences.
Here’s the audio. It’s about 8 minutes.
I hope you enjoy!
Advent Week #3 | The Right Questions -R- Filled with Expectation
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
The First Song of Isaiah — Ecco Deus Isaiah 12:2-6
Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing *
from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say, *
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
Make his deeds known among the peoples; *
see that they remember that his Name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, *
and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, *
for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
And in case you want to watch. The Brilliance are always worth watching!
Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, which marks the culmination of the Easter season. It’s a pretty big Sunday on the church calendar because it’s the day that marks the birth of the church. That’s a pretty big Sunday! Here are a couple images and prayers to help you think about Pentecost and what God has done through His Holy Spirit. (And click the link above to read a bit more about Pentecost. CRI is a great resource.)
It is also the Sunday before Trinity Sunday, which is the first Sunday of Ordinary Time! So we’re getting close. Our journey is about to begin.
Ordinary Time, as you will learn if you haven’t already, is simply a counting of Sunday. We get the ordinary of Ordinary Time, not from the ordinary, boring, mundane nature of this time of year but we get it from the word ordinal. Which is a particular way of counting (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.). Ordinary Time is the way we count the Sundays from Pentecost to Advent. They are ordinary Sundays, not much special goes on during this time of year but the focus is really on growth and the learning of what it means to follow Jesus each and every day. If you’ve read the intro of the book you’ve picked this up already. If you haven’t, get a copy today and join the journey, you’ll probably even get it in time for the first Sunday of Ordinary Time.
And here are a couple prayers or Collects for your Pentecost week…
Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Today is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. A lot goes on here but the primary scripture i’ve been thinking about is John 13:1-15, the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet. Many churches will have a eucharist / communion service that will include a foot washing ceremony. When I was living in Nashville and attending Church of the Redeemer I was able to participate in a few Maundy Thursday service that included foot washing. It was uncomfortable! It was awkward! It was thought provoking. And when all was said and done it was beautiful and deeply moving.
We don’t wash peoples feet. We often don’t love people well. In our culture these things aren’t related but for Jesus he tied these 2 together. Wanting to profoundly love and serve his friends and show them how important it was going to be for them to receive that love and then go and do the same.
Pray As You Go engages this passage in John today and asked a few poignant questions…
“have ever known that kind of love?”
“Is there someone whose love you find difficult to accept at the moment?”
(image yourself in this story…) “What do you want to say to Jesus, and what does he want to say to you?”
They close with these two pieces…
“‘I have set you an example’ says Jesus, ‘that you also should do as I have done.’ Speak to Jesus about what this invitation means to you, and how it might become a reality in your life?”
“We adore you o’ Christ and we praise you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
The medition today from Pray As You Go struck me and I wanted to share it. Take 12 minutes today, listen and engage, you won’t regret.
I hope you’re abel to find a good Maundy Thursday service today. Let it prepare you tomorrow, Good Friday and the darkness that follows and the light that is right around the corner!
Lent has become my favorite liturgical season. Not because it’s fun and festive but because it has produced the most significant spiritual growth in my life. One of my proposals is that every liturgical season is a gift from God that enables a person to become fully human and experience spiritual growth in particular ways.
Lent is the space we are given that allows us to experience temptation, difficulty and dryness. We are reminded during Lent that God is not distant when God is quiet and that our difficulty isn’t necessarily because of a problem but rather it may be a preparation.
Either way, because you are human, because you are dust and to dust you will return, you will experience not only the good but the difficult and tempting parts of life.
Lent is God’s gift to us, creating space to experience this while affirming His love for us as He did in the life of Jesus.
So in all of this we share in His suffering and are prepared to participate in His resurrection.
There is a lot more to Lent but those are my thoughts for today. I wrote a little Lent devotional book if you want to read a bit more. Here is the intro to that book which will briefly introduce you, if you’re not familiar to some of the Lenten basics…
I also plan on blogging every Wednesday about Lent and my experience.
Lent is the time in the Christian year that leads us to Easter and our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. For most of my Christian life, I was aware of Lent but didn’t engage in the creative aspects Christians have participated in for hundreds of years. However, for the past several years, my engagement in Lenten exercises has provided water for my thirsty soul. Lent is usually a period marked by prayer, penitential activities, helping those in need and radical self-denial.
I have simplified those ideas in my own life focusing on three things. With the hope and expectation of participating in the resurrection, during Lent I will:
• add something,
• subtract something, and
• spend intentional time in self examination.
And here is a prayer to begin your Lenten season
(and I hope you will find a community to experience an Ash Wednesday service today. You won’t regret it.)
From the 1979 Book of Common Prayer
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Advent seemed to gain some traction this year! Guys like Louie Giglio and others spoke and wrote about Advent, even calling for people to “bring Advent back.” Which among some of my friends was a bit humors. Our thought is that Advent didn’t really go anywhere, you did. But regardless, it’s great that communities are embracing the rich resource that the church calendar offers us.
Let’s keep it going!
At the end my Advent book that was published 2 years ago I left the reader with this though on Epiphany as a springboard to continue their journey through the year with the church and her calendar.
The Season of Epiphany begins after the Twelve Days of Christmas and continues until Lent, 40 days before Easter. What exactly is it, and how do we observe it? Well, we’ve all had an “aha” moment when the lights go on and everything makes sense. That’s an epiphany. It can happen slowly, like when the lights are gradually turned up in a room, or suddenly, when everything goes from black to full color and light in a moment.
I’ve had epiphanies take place both ways but it’s always God who turns on the light! He reveals Himself and makes it clear that life will never be the same. This experience is different for every individual, but it’s all a revelation of God’s self.
Thus, Epiphany is the season in the church calendar when we watch and listen as God is quietly—or sometimes not so quietly—revealed before us once again. Sometimes, even when we try hard to do so, we just don’t see God in our everyday lives or in the events of our world. Epiphany gives us the time and resources to watch, wait, listen, look and be open to the revelation of God. Watching and waiting are practices we can intentionally carry over from our Advent journey because Epiphany is a season that reminds us God constantly wants to reveal Himself to us. He longs to turn on the lights, connect the dots and show us the way!
The Lectionary will guide us through three key Scriptures readings during Epiphany. We traditionally focus on the Magi, who literally had the bright light of a star turned on above them to reveal what God was doing in the world. We also consider the baptism of Jesus, which more fully reveals who Jesus is, the Son of God. The season concludes with pondering the story of the Transfiguration, the scene that gives us a glimpse at the pure radiance of Jesus, the light of the world, as He reveals Himself to some of the disciples. Epiphany is a season to really explore these aspects of Jesus’ story that reveal Him in new ways.
So there you go! I hope this could be a great springboard to guide you through this next season of the church!
If you want more reading for flection during Epiphany check out these resources. And keep an eye out toward the end of 2015 for a new resource I’m putting together. I can’t wait to share it! More on that coming soon.
A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God
(This is a great resource that follows the liturgical calendar. It includes explanations of the seasons, daily devotional liturgy with scriptures, prayers and reading for reflection. It’s a must have!)
Prayer is a constant learning curve in my life. I most times feel pretty inept at praying and despite my many hours of practicing over the past 10 – 20 years, I still pretty much feel like a novice. This is why I am often reading or at least flipping through some book on prayer, how to pray, or creative prayer practices. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of Ignatius inspired resources like these OR these OR this, uber helpful!
I picked up this very small book by Ronald Rolheiser on prayer a month or so ago. I finally starting reading it and wow! it’s really good! It’s pretty basic and accessible but really really good. It doesn’t dumb anything down or speak in juvenile language. I’m about halfway done and already think it will be the kind of book I get lots of copies of and hand out to people in my church some day. Rolheiser is a Catholic guy, a priest to be precise but so far in the book he is writing to a wide audience with very little Catholic specific verbiage. (His book Holy Longing is also really great and to say it’s worth the read would be an understatement!)
I wanted to share this little bit from his book. I often get the question, “why would you read other peoples prayers? Shouldn’t prayer just be from the heart? Simply you talking with God.” And of course that is part of prayer but I always try and speak to the experience of having a hard time praying and why there are times when having a prayer to read or a prayer book to guide you has really helped me to come to the father in ways that I often feel incapable of on my own. Rolheiser, in talking about Lauds (morning prayers) and Vespers (evenings prayers) says some real great things about these written prayers. I think they can have a wider reaching purpose then he suggests but they at least live into what Rolheiser is talking about, maybe more but not less. It’s very good! Here is a bit from this section, pick up the book to read the rest.
So, despite my disinterest in church I want to go. I know, that almost makes sense. Almost!
The thing is, I just want to find a community of people I can connect with, that I can serve, that I grow with, that I can simply share life with. The best place I know to find that kind of intentional community is at a church building that probably meets at some point on a Sunday. So I went to church today, twice!
Church #1. St. Bartholomew’s [ Episcopal / Anglican ] Church
I actually know some people that participate in this community and I have heard good thing so Andrea and I thought we would try it. I really did enjoy it, the homily was great and the service had such a great life to it. Not just your sing, announcements, sing a bit more, sermon, your dismissed deal. It actually had a life, a liturgy if you will. I really enjoyed that. BUT at the same time high church liturgy is so different that what I am accustomed to, I am definitely not completely comfortable with it. The question is, could I be? Hmmm… not sure. I just like the idea of coming as you are (which this church does. Lots of jeans here) but when the minister is in a robe there is a barrier put up I feel. I really like the idea of a pastor being just another dude or dude-et who happens to be leading the congregation in a spiritual journey. The robes throw me off I think.
Church #2. The Villiage Chapel [ Non-denominational / Calvary Chapel style ]
I went to this church often on Sunday nights when I live in Nashville before. I really enjoy it. The pastor is solid and preaches primarily verse by verse. I like that focus on the bible despite the fact I don’t think the bible is meant to be preached verse by verse all the time. The worship is laid back and not showy AT ALL. I really like that. The worship team actually sits off to the side, always sits and it’s kidna acoustic, singer / song writer style, pretty chill. BUT there is no life to the service. It’s just wam – bam – thank you God. Sing / announcement / sing / preach / goodbye. No real liturgy to be had.
So the bottom line is that I liked both churches. Something more about one and other things more about the other.
MY FREAR :: am I becoming a church shopper?
[ long pause — NOOOOOOOO!!! ]
But how do you find the right community if you don’t “shop a big? I have decided to go to a few churches, mostly one I have been recommended or heard about some way. We (my wife and i) will go and instead of shopping for a long period of time and then “feeling” it out our plan is to just pick up and plug in and poor ourselves out. So we have a few more we have either been invited to or want to try… we’ll see where we end up. I am praying we find a community that just fits! Not sure we have yet.