April 22, 2019

Jesus appears to the disciples

MATTHEW 28:9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” The Report of the Guard 11 While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 After the priests   had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.

The crowd that bribed the guards with, admittedly a “large sum” of money, are the very ones who plotted to kill Lazarus after Jesus raised him from the dead.   Why?  Today, the polls they run, focus groups they convene would tell them that the public’s mood was with Jesus.  That scared the bejeebers out of them because they assumed that Jesus would behave like they would if given the opportunity.

Jesus did ride into town according to ancient prophecy.  Having arrived and the crowd gathered, he did not launch into a stump speech, shamelessly pandering to the worse fears as well as hopes of his audience.  I shall resist the temptation to compare this with  Presidential politics, but you make your own inventory.

Now….. I’m waiting….. Ok – back to the meditation already in progress.


The political types, ordained or not, never understood what Jesus was about as it is simply counter-intuitive.  A kingdom where all are loved, cherished and cared for, simply does not compute.   Groucho Marx once said, “I never want to be in a club that would have me.”  The priests and such would never be a Kingdom, of God or other, where they were not high and lived up above the ordinary.

How about us?   I must admit it makes me uncomfortable sometimes.  How about you?

In hope, in spite of the facts.



For Better for Worse (you are not kidding)

Wedding by Beau Bartlett

Wedding by Beau Bartlett

What is it about life that makes us assume the living of it will meet the expectations we have of it?  Hold that thought, I’ll be back to it.  My stories do come to an end but the telling of them goes round in circles before getting there so please be patient.   I took some career testing about ten years ago and I tested out in the 98th percentile to do the very thing I do.  How cool is that? I love being a priest.  I love it more now than I did over thirty years ago when Bishop Stough laying his hands on my head pushed down hard symbolizing as he put it, “the weight of the tradition falling on my head.”

Marriage Feast at Cana – Paolo Veronese (c. 1528-88)

 I didn’t’ see stars then but have from time to time since.  However,  I confess that of all the tasks of the priesthood the one that has worn thin for me is weddings.  The unscientific poll I run with colleagues of all Christian stripes and even across lines of religion reveals a distinct cooling of the ardor of  clergy for the joining of the ardor of others.  It’s nigh universal. Why?  You clearly have never lived through the doing of one. Not that they are all bad because they are not, but odds being what they are, ever so often the ancient gods or some other infernal power decides it is time to afflict the House of Saint John with what my staff calls the “wedding from hell.”

Wedding from Hell

I’ve come to the conclusion that weddings should be produced like funerals:  planned quickly, executed carefully after which we move on. No such luck, wedding planning begins the day the baby girl is born.  If you can put your hands on a copy of Bride Magazine at the bride’s house you would find that the subscription began nine months before her birth. Even before we routinely learned the gender before birth, even then, hope sprung eternal.

Saint George’s Hall Windsor

Premarital counseling is required by Episcopal Canon Law.  It’s a good idea in theory. However,  it is almost impossible to get a message to people moving toward one another accelerated by the rock of ages from their families of origin.  No matter how hard you chase after them the message never catches up. It actually works better six months later.  A wedding really belong to the bride’s mother not the bride.  So long as everyone knows that nobody will get hurt.  I have a theory about that, the only original thought I’ve had,  namely that Eve, being made from Adam’s rib and all. never had a fancy wedding so she stole her daughter’s and the disruption has been displaced by one generation ever since.

So putting it lightly, a lot is riding on one day in the life of a couple, rather more than one 24 hour period was constructed to bear.   This weighty reality is such that the  marriage is almost a let down from the wedding.  Not only that but we think we are to live by the phrase (taken from fairy tales, for crying out loud), “they lived happily ever after!” Give me a break, if you please.  Nothing could be further from the truth and the makers of liturgical books have much lower and more realistic expectations. According to the  Book of Common Prayer what matters is what you are prepared to do. Will you love and cherish?  It never asks once whether you are in love such that the axis of the earth moves when you look into each others eyes.  Not only that but the covenant (contract in the State of Tennessee) is just until you are dead! There is no marriage or giving in marriage in Heaven.

Icon of Wedding at Cana

It strikes me given the fact that our Lord himself tried to avoid getting involved in a wedding crisis that time in Cana, we should be more careful ourselves. He would have gotten away with it too except his momma forced his hand in the matter. Perhaps that is when they gave up on the idea and banned weddings in heaven.  Now that I know there are no weddings to do in heaven, I’m even more interested in going there.

‘Angel’ priest visits Missouri accident scene

‘Angel’ priest visits Missouri accident scene.

Abraham meets the Three Angels – James Tissot


The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost


Good place to start to jump-start your soul!

A Lawyer got up to test Jesus.  It doesn’t say the attorney is hostile; perhaps it is simply playing to test his reflexes and wit against Jesus.

He begins with a discussion on salvation.  Who is saved and how do we get to be one of them?

What do I do to inherit eternal life?  What must I do to share in the resurrection of the righteous at the end of time? How can I be sure I am in the will among the beneficiaries?

Jesus as usual doesn’t answer the question but asks one.  What is written in the law? The Lawyer is quoted whenever Christians gather for Eucharist Rite I:  Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with  all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

“Bingo” said Jesus, “do this and you’ll inherit eternal life and live!”

The lawyer couldn’t leave well enough alone.   Wishing to justify himself,

Well, who is my neighbor?   The lawyer is looking for a definition of “neighbor” – to define is to as a way to limit – to define is to cut off.  He wanted something like:

A rebuttable presumption arises that a person (henceforth to be known as the party of the first part) is one’s neighbor (henceforth to be known as the party of the second part) when the purported party of the second part’s real property boundary is adjacent to or contiguous with the party of first part’s real property boundary, provided, however, the two interested parties 1) received respective ownership interests in the real property in question in accord with Judean Code Ann. § 66-5-103; and, 2) inhabit the respective parcels of real property as defined by the Court of the Sanhedrin  in  Samuel ben Hur v. Benjamin ben Abram  309 S.W.2d 403.

  • Traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho he would have gone through the Pass of Adummim,  [Hebrew, blood]
  • 2,600 feet about sea-level to 825 feet below sea-level over a twisting route 17 miles long,  rocky desert surrounded by caves and famous for robbers and terrorists long before the first century.
  • He is robbed, stripped, and beaten – left for dead or half-dead.   Having set this scene of desperate need with tragic consequences, Jesus now sets about rescuing the man.  Who will help?

As almost always in human stories there are three candidates (as always in human stories).  By chance (this is hopeful – help is just around the corner) and who comes into view?

  1. A PRIEST – God’s servant who ministers in Gods’ temple and represents the height of piety. His hearers are hopeful.  (I want to be hopeful for my profession, but have already read the punch-line so I hold my peace).

What will he do?  He sees the man and “passes by on the other side of the road” =  the word is “anti” – against or opposite – There is no help to found here!!!!

Why?  We don’t know but the point is not WHY he didn’t help but that he DIDN’T HELP.


Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861)

The New Decalogue

THOU shalt have one God only; who
Would be at the expense of two?
No graven images may be
Worshipped, except the currency.
Swear not at all; for thy curse
Thine enemy is none the worse.
At church on Sunday to attend
Will serve to keep the world thy friend.
Honor thy parents; that is, all
From whom advancement may befall.
Thou shalt not kill; but need’st not strive
Officiously to keep alive.
Do not adultery commit;
Advantage rarely comes of it.
Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat,
When it’s so lucrative to cheat.
Bear not false witness; let the lie
Have time on its own wings to fly.
Thou shalt not covet, but tradition

Approves all forms of competition.

 So the priest scooted on down the road.


A second religious leader – a Levite :  Choirmaster Organist as it were.  Likewise he passes in opposition to helping the victim on the shoulder of the road.

Again why is not important so much as the fact that now 2 religious leaders have flunked the test of their own faith.


And who comes into sight but a Samaritan.  Jews do not like Samaritans – Eating with them was the same as eating pork for observant Jews.  No one hearing this twist of the tale is not disturbed this despised outsider



  1. Comes up to him
  2. Binds his wounds
  3. Anoints the cuts with oil and wine – soothing & disinfecting
  4. Loads him on his own mule
  5. Takes him to an inn
  6. Provides care and comfort
  7. Pays for care and will cover any further costs.

Jesus, “Who was his neighbor?”  Notice how the lawyer replies, “The ONE (won’t even say Samaritan) that had mercy on him.

Go and do likewise!  One should not seek to narrowly define who is a neighbor so as to limit one’s responsibility. The object is not to see what can be avoided, but to render aid when it can be readily supplied.

That was them there and then. What about us here and now?

Thirty years ago the Episcopal Church’s standard on priestly formation was called  “Minimum competency” –  the least you could get by with.   It was a joke among us as it seems (is) contradictory to the Good News of God in Christ.  Shouldn’t our standards be a little higher than that.

Salvation is a gift!  However, salvation is a gift that must be accepted.   Finally, it is something you do.

Brian McLaren in his book, “Finding Our Way Again” tells the story of being asked, “Why do Books on Buddhism sell better than Christian ones?”

Why is that?  He asked the man, “Buddhism is a way of life while Christianity is a set of beliefs.”

What we need is not Orthodoxy (Right Belief) but Orthopraxy (Right Practice).  Episcopal Spiritual Life Renewal Process is about this very thing!   This fall begins the Year of the Bible Challenge here at Saint John’s.  We will read the Bible from Cover to Cover in a year. We will provide lots of resources to make this task possible.  It can be done.  I learned at my father’s funeral that he was half-way reading through the Bible for the 25th time when he died.

Bibles will be in the pews.  What we need from each other is the one thing nobody can do for us: the decision and discipline to do this very thing.

Ignorance of the Bible is no longer acceptable here.

Not minimum competency – maximum commitment, maximum practice, maximum self feeding – when we do this, grace is ours for the having.

Tomorrow marks 10 years for me as your rector.   Thank you for the multitude of your kindnesses to Marilyn and me these past 11 years.

As you know, I will be on vacation in August, and then on sabbatical from September 1st  until December 1st   The day after Labor Day, I plan to travel to Great Britain and stay in York and environs until mid-October.  I will keep a blog during this time.

I ask that you pray for me as I will for you as I take this time to reflect, travel, rest, and write.  In the New Year we will continue our adventure.  I couldn’t ask for better companions for the way.