If you go to a party the second or third question is what do you do? We Americans are a hyperactive people taking our identity largely from what we do. When people learn our occupation they then know how to relate to us. If you’re a Doc, you get to hear the organ recital, “My arm hurts, my leg is swollen and I can’t find a decent doctor. If you are a lawyer, you get to hear a tired lawyer joke. I try never to wear a clergy collar on an airplane. If I do usually one of two things happens: the passenger next to me is intimidated and ignores me or worse they confess to me the entire trip.

• As Americans what we do defines who we are.

• As Christians what we do should grow from who we are.

• The message of the Gospel reading for today is that the taproot of Christian identity is relationship to God. Doing and being must be outward and inward expressions of our vital union with God. Nothing else will do.


The amount of time devoted to teaching certain subjects in school is inversely proportional to the frequency with which the children will make use of the subject when they grow up.

Adults in most working situations spend:

• 2 hours = talking

• 8 hours = listening

• 1 hour = reading

Yet in school enormous amount of time is spent teaching reading; a very small amount of time teaching how to speak and almost no time at all teaching how to listen: to be present and available to one another.In fact the less the real person is available the “more businesslike” a person becomes. As Garry Trudeau, the creator of Doonesbury, once put it: “I am trying to cultivate a life-style that does not require my presence.”

Orazio Gentileschi, 1563 – 1639 Mary & Martha

MARTHA IS PRESENT BUT UNAVAILABLE – In the Gospel reading we find the two sisters of Bethany, Martha and Mary. They are almost types for us as we look at selves in the mirror that scripture provides us. Martha is present but busy and unavailable. We are so like Martha.

Even in the household of faith we are busy about many things. As Hannah Whiteall Smith writes, “The ambition of most Christians is to have a vast number of things; and their energies are all wasted in the vain effort to get possession of these things:

• some strive to get possession of certain “experiences”
• some seek after “ecstatic feelings”;
• some try to make themselves rich in theological “views” and “dogmas”;
• some store up a long list of works done and results achieved;
• some seek to acquire “illuminations,” or to accumulate “gifts” or “graces.”

In short, all Christians, almost without exception, seek to possess a store of something or other, which they fancy will serve to recommend them, and make them worthy of His love and care.” Even our virtues have a shadow.

Our natural tendency is to try to earn our way into God’s favor BECAUSE WE DO NOT REALLY TRUST THE GIFT OF GOD’S GRACE!


We are called, like Mary, to be both present and available. This is particularly hard for us busy people who live as if the Kingdom of God will arrive only if we behave like it is a political campaign frantically working to make happen what only God can make happen.

Paul writing to the Christians in Colossae expresses his hope that they will continue steadfast in the faith in Christ Jesus. Steadfastness is a manifestation of God’s grace. It is not so much a matter of feelings but rather a putting one foot in front of the other and keeping on keeping on. The late Elton Trueblood used to say that it “was the mark of committed people that they did some things whether they felt like it or not.” A life of following Jesus is not like passive. It requires the “setting aside” of myself which requires discipline and practice. It is the keeping on keeping on part of the journey.

Episcopal Spiritual Life Renewal Process – This is the year of the Bible – Saint John’s Reads – The Bible through in a year. Ignorance of the Bible is no longer acceptable here. I ask you to join with me and do this thing. Then we are not just present but also available.

The Children’s Bible in a Nutshell

In the beginning, which occurred near the start, there was nothing but God, darkness, and some gas

The Bible says, ‘The Lord thy God is one,’ but I think He must be a lot older than that.

Anyway, God said, ‘Give me a light!’ and someone did. Then God made the world.

He split the Adam and made Eve. Adam and Eve were naked, but they weren’t embarrassed because mirrors hadn’t been invented yet.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating one bad apple, so they were driven from the Garden of Eden. Not Adam and Eve had a son, Cain, who hated his brother as long as he was Abel. Pretty soon all of the early people died off, except for Methuselah, who lived to be like a million or something.

One of the next important people was Noah, who was a good guy, but one of his kids was kind of a Ham. Noah built a large boat and put his family and some animals on it. He asked some other people to join him, but they said they would have to take a rain check. After Noah came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was more famous than his brother, Esau, because Esau sold Jacob his birthmark in exchange for some pot roast. Jacob had a son named Joseph who wore a really loud sports coat.

Another important Bible guy is Moses, whose real name was Charlton Heston.

Moses led the Israel Lights out of Egypt and away from the evil Pharaoh after God sent ten plagues on

Pharaoh’s people. These plagues included frogs, mice, lice, bowels, and no cable.

God fed the Israel Lights every day with manicotti. Then he gave them His Top Ten Commandments. These include: don’t lie, cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your neighbor’s stuff. Oh, yeah, I just thought of one more: Humor thy father and thy mother.

One of Moses’ best helpers was Joshua who was the first Bible guy to use spies. Joshua fought the battle of Geritol and the fence fell over on the town. After Joshua came David.. He got to be king by killing a giant with a slingshot. He had a son named Solomon who had about 300 wives and 500 porcupines. My teacher says he was wise, but that doesn’t sound very wise to me. After Solomon there were a bunch of major league prophets. One of these was Jonah, who was swallowed by a big whale and then barfed up on the shore. There were also some minor league prophets, but I guess we don’t have to worry about them.

After the Old Testament came the New Testament. Jesus is the star of The New Testament. He was born in Bethlehem in a barn.(I wish I had been born in a barn too, because my mom is always saying to me, ‘Close the door! Were you born in a barn?’ It would be nice to say, ‘As a matter of fact, I was.’) During His life, Jesus had many arguments with sinners like the Pharisees and the Republicans. Jesus also had twelve opossums. The worst one was Judas Asparagus. Judas was so evil that they named a terrible vegetable after him. Jesus was a great man. He healed many leopards and even preached to some Germans on the Mount. But the Republicans and all those guys put Jesus on trial before Pontius the Pilot. Pilot didn’t stick up for Jesus. He just washed his hands instead. Anyways, Jesus died for our sins, then came back to life again. He went up to Heaven but will be back at the end of the Aluminum. His return is foretold in the book of Revolution.

The reason we find humor in this child’s version of the Bible is because we know the stories.  If we do not know the stories then we lose almost all there is to the Gospel. That is why I say, “ignorance of the scriptures is no longer acceptable here at Saint John’s”

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

What is the Way Forward?

Authentic renewal can only occur by going back to the original sources of Christian inspiration — most notably, Scripture grounded in the Church’s Tradition as well as the Church Fathers–and then using this as a basis to think about the present. 

Henri, Cardinal de Lubac

Pilate Was a Man with a Future

pilate jesus

Sunday after Sunday in the Creed we say, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate.” 

Who was this man?

  • He was a member of the Pontii family
  • The Pontii were a second tier elite, equestrian order. 
  • The Equestians or Knights as we would call them – are largely military officers of the middle rather than general level.
  •  Pilate was a nickname meaning “pike man or one who throws a javelin.” 
  • Perhaps he was known as an jock,  
  • or it may have described his drive to succeed. 
  •  §  Pilate married well by marrying Claudia Procula, the granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus Caesar. 
  • §  He was politically well connected being the protégé of Sejanus,  the favorite of Emperor Tiberius.
  • §  When he appears in the Gospel he was in his early thirties.

 This young, ambitious, proud and hot tempered Roman Aristocrat arrived in Judea, accompanied by wife (which was most unusual) to become governor of Judea in 26 A.D.  He governed there for ten years.  

 Immediately his temper got him into trouble.  He brought the Imperial Standards into Jerusalem.  The standards had the image of the Emperor on them.  Jewish law forbade graven images so bringing them into the holy city provoked a riot. 

Then Pilate took money from the temple treasury to finance the building of an aqueduct to bring water into the city.  The temple authorities complained to the Emperor. 

*  Another complaint was made to the Emperor when some Galileans were killed with their sacrifices in the temple.

 §  These issues alone would not have been too much trouble

§  These missteps coupled with the fact that Sejanus had fallen from power and could no longer give him political cover. 

§  Pilate was in the precarious position being squeezed between Rome and the hostile population in Judea.

In April of 33AD, the eighth year of Pilate’s administration, he met a young man without much future.

Jesus did not have much family background. 

He was not wealthy.

§  He was from a poor part of a poor province. 

§  There were questions about his legitimacy and

§  He had no wife

§  No political connections

§  He had powerful enemies: the Pharisees, the priests and the Sadducees. 


Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God, healed the sick and cast out demons.  He said things like, “They who try to save their lives lose them and those who lose their life for my sake will find them.”  He entered Jerusalem before Passover amid the crowds proclaiming him Messiah, the anointed one.  There was a scene in the Temple where he publicly took the High Priest and his family to task for their corruption.  The police arrested him.  The supreme council, the Sanhedrin, tried him finding him guilty of blasphemy, a capital offense.  Only the Roman Governor could condemn someone to death. So off they hauled Jesus before Pilate.

 The young Roman with a future met the man from Galilee who had no future.

 As the examination proceeded Pilate realized that Jesus was no terrorist.  So he tried to do the right thing and free Jesus. But the rulers pressed him.  When he offered to let him go with a flogging they said no.  When he tried to let him go with the special Passover pardon, No, they wanted Barabbas, a terrorist released instead.   They wanted Jesus crucified.

 Claudia, his wife, sent a message to Pilate warning him, “Have nothing to do with that just man.” She had been troubled on his account in a dream.

 A later legend has it that the Pilate & Claudia had a son who was very ill and that when requested by Mrs. Pontius, Jesus healed the boy. (That is interesting but un-provable, although there are letters purported to be from Claudia Procula to a friend named Flavia dated some years after the Gospel accounts.

The authorities said, “If you do not crucify him, you are no friend of Caesar’s.”   Pilate was caught.  Jesus was innocent.  He had some sense of fair play.  But if Jesus was released another critical report would go the Emperor.  He had his future to think of.  He had to protect what he had worked so hard to gain.


Non-dual Thinking: 

§  The Cross is a sign of non-dual/paradox. 

§  A means of death has become a sign of blessing. 

§  Christians believe that the future is not based ultimately on anything we do. 

§  The future is based not on what we know but who we know!


That Good Friday morning two young men met and parted:

§  one to life and

§  the other to death. 

Jesus died on the Cross. 

Pilate continued his career only to be recalled to Rome in disgrace where

One version says he committed suicide.

Another source reports that he was exiled to Vienne in Gaul/France where he died.

We all have a future,






Pontius Pilate, Portraits of a Roman Governor (Interfaces Barbara Green, editor)

§  I was only doing my job

§  I was the wrong  person in the wrong  place at the wrong  time

§  I did the best I could

§  The priests made me do it

§  I did nothing wrong

Pilate did all this in defense of his future, not realizing that the future is NOW!

Our Future is NOW.

We are busy.  I am a descendent in the Sewell line from Henry Sewell who arrived in Virginia in the early 17th Century.  He is my grandfather 11 generations removed.

§  I believe that if Grandfather Henry were plopped down this morning with us that he would be psychotic within 36-48 hours, why, because he would simply be unable to deal with the amount of stimulation that we consider normal. 

§  I also believe that given all the demands this stimulation makes of us that if most of went to Hell it would be because we had been too busy to make other arrangements.

§  If I may borrow from Saint Paul, “Beloved such things ought not to be!”

I am determined to the degree that I have influence, that we take time to recover from the mild psychosis we call our schedules, take stock of our souls, and move to do what is needed to do the most important work that a Christian can do.

Episcopal Spiritual Life Renewal


Pilate had no idea that on that day in April 33, that what he did that day would format the very calendar for evermore.  I don’t know if he ever believed on Christ.  But what I do know is that we do know who Christ is and that the most important thing we can do this week is to come to this place to experience the love and acceptance of God.

If not now, WHEN

If not here, WHERE

Our very future depends on it.