Palm Sunday Sermon - Who?
Since several people asked for it: here is a brief summary of Palm Sunday's sermon.
Many of you know I am a fan of the popular TV series Doctor Who. This science fiction adventure series recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary.
Recently Doctor Who has become incredibly popular, it seems every where I go, people are talking about the Doctor. For those of you who might not be familiar with the series: the show is about an alien called a Time Lord, who looks very human and travels through both time and space in a remarkable time machine. Every time the Doctor meets someone, he introduces himself by saying, "Hello, I'm the Doctor." and of coarse the person who is meeting him usually responds by asking, "Doctor Who?" Which is where the series gets its name.
In a recent episode, after someone asked the question, "Doctor Who?" the Doctor laughed and said, "I never get tired of that question!" Even though he has been asked that question over and over, the Doctor never really answers that question. At least not with words. Instead the Doctor invites people (characters from the series and those of us watching) on an adventure with him. It is by sharing his adventure that we get to see the answer to the question: who?
To some the Doctor is a hero, to others a friend, to others an enemy, for others he is a frustration. It all depends on how they experience him and to what degree people are willing to share his adventures with him. Obviously those of us watching are the ones who get to know him best.
Today, we heard that the Doctor isn't the only one who get's that question: who are you? Many times people asked Jesus Who?, such as in the reading from Matthew that was heard at the blessing of the palms. Palm Sunday and all of Holy Week are days rich in symbols. The symbol of the palm branch, for example, symbolized the hope of a king from the people of Israel that would amass an army that would fight the oppressive government (in this case Rome), and restore the People of Israel to power. By waving those palm branches, the people were saying that is who they hoped Jesus was.
However, they were quickly disappointed. As we will go into the church in a few minutes and hear that is not what happened. You know, not every episode of Doctor Who has a happy ending either, but those episodes are often the ones where we gain deeper insight as to who the Doctor is, and we keep tuning in to more episodes because the journey is not over.
The same is true with Jesus. Many people have a different way of answering the question Jesus who? To some he is a prophet, to others a healer, to others a teacher, to others a miracle worker. How you answer the question "who?" depends on how closely we travel with Jesus. Today the Church is issuing the same invitation the Doctor gives: to travel with him on the remarkable journey of Holy Week. It will be a journey that will include disappointment, heartbreak, and tragedy: things that often bring suffering. But we know that is not the end of the story, that there is more to come, and if we are willing to share this adventure, we might find ourselves living into the answer Jesus will give us as to Who he is on Easter, and we might find ourselves living into the Easter miracle.
The Invitation begins now, and I hope you will accept it.
St. Paul’s was truly blessed by a lovely start to the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday as many of you came to church to receive a cross of ashes on your forehead as the reminder of our mortality and that life is a precious gift from God. Thank you to everyone who helped make it such a lovely day.
In the past, there used to be a lot of energy around a person’s chosen Lenten Discipline. Usually discipline was about giving something up for Lent: desserts, chocolate, drinking alcohol, swearing, watching television, etc. Then it became trendy to take on something as a Lenten Discipline: reading the Bible every day, doing the Daily Office, taking 5 minutes for quiet meditation, one year I took on the Lenten Discipline of listening to the Bible for 20 minutes every day. I got through the entire Bible before Lent was over.
I don’t think any of these things are bad; they can all be good in more ways than one. I do wonder if we’ve forgotten the intention behind a Lenten Discipline; the intention is found in the word: discipline. I don’t think this word is as austere or severe as we often assume; I don’t believe this word means a form of punishment. The root word for the word discipline is the same as for the word disciple; and the root word means “to teach”. Remember Jesus’ disciples? They followed him not as a form of punishment, but as a way to learn from his teachings what God is like and to grow closer to God through Christ.
A Lenten Discipline, therefore, isn’t intended to be a form of punishment, or severe sacrifice, it is intended to be a way to learn about God through Christ. It can begin just as it began for Jesus’ disciples: by paying attention. If you read through the Gospels you might see that Jesus was not only telling parables and healing, he was teaching his disciples to pay attention to him, to what he was doing, to what it might mean. When his disciples were paying attention to things that were not examples of God in their midst (for example, when brothers would fight over who would get to sit at Jesus’ right or left hand, or when Peter tried to talk Jesus out of going to Jerusalem to die), Jesus would always re-direct their attention back to him and what he was really up to.
We might find ourselves relating to the disciples as Lent begins this year; it is so easy to get distracted with so many things. That is why we have the gift of the season of Lent, and the practice of Lenten Disciplines, so that we might learn to pay attention to Christ. I don’t know if you have decided on a Lenten Discipline for yourself or if you’ve given up doing that or if you have never tried a Lenten Discipline - but this year I invite you “to the observance of a Holy Lent”, by committing to practice the Lenten Discipline of paying attention. For the next 6 weeks just pay attention: to the moment you are in, to what people are saying and how they are saying it, pay attention to who you see, to what you read. And pay attention to what you pay attention to; are you only hearing the negative and missing the good around you? Or are you only paying attention to the fears and not the growth changes can bring? Spend a moment each day reflecting on what you pay attention to, and how you might pay attention to God each day. After 6 weeks of such a Lenten Discipline, you might just find you have learned more about yourself and God in time to celebrate the Resurrection. I wish you a Holy Lent, may it be a time to pay attention and learn.
Confirmation Transformation Living What We Believe from the Inside Out March 2 – May 17, 2014
Mother Deborah will teach 9 Confirmation classes that will meet in the PaulPit starting at 6:30pm Sunday evenings; and will last no later than an hour and a half. Part of Confirmation class will be the students deciding, planning, and executing a celebration when their Confirmation classes are over. Purpose: Confirmands will have freedom to explore how to transform their faith into practice in all aspects of their life. My goal and hope is that Confirmands will see the church as a resource they can turn to all their life whether they are going through challenges, celebrations, transitions, or whatever happens in life by exploring how the church is or can be a part of 8 different parts of the lives they are already living.
Parents: As your child approaches this important commitment in his/her faith, you can be a support to them by volunteering to come to one of the sessions and giving a brief (no longer than 5 minute) talk about your faith; especially how you live what you believe. That can be sharing your spiritual practice, how you engage worship, or explaining or telling about other ways you see God at work in your life. Studies are showing that children, especially teenagers, are deeply influenced by their parents’ actions and choices. I want to invite you to share your faith journey with the Confirmands of St. Paul’s as a way to show that confirmation is about beginning to take that mature step in faith.
Materials utilized: Book of Common Prayer (provided), Bible, and Journal (provided). St. Paul’s will give each Confirmand a Prayer Book and Journal that is theirs as a gift and to use throughout the program, with hope they will continue to use them after the program is finished.
Each session will include: check in/support for spiritual practice they choose, planning for Celebration Sunday, listening to parents share their faith story, instruction, and discussion. It is expected that each Confirmand will have work outside of class, participate in Holy Week worship (will be explained in class), and be part of celebration they help plan. In addition to the 9 weeks, there is the Celebration Sunday that allows the congregation to participate in celebrating with the confirmands.
Date of Confirmation is Saturday, May 17 at Christ Church, Dayton at 11:00 am
March 2 6:30pm Spirituality: Confirmands will explore options for enriching and enhancing their spiritual life and choose a spiritual practice for the 8 weeks.
March 9 6:30pm Stress Resiliency: Confirmands will explore how their faith can affect choices they make in real life situations that can help them “bounce back” from the inevitable stress life brings.
March 16 6:30pm Relationships: Confirmands will explore how all their relationships can be Christ centered, healthy, and life-giving.
March 23 6:30pm Balance: Confirmands will explore how our baptismal covenant helps them create a healthy balance with all the demands of life, work, relationships, etc.
March 30 6:30pm Handling Emotions: Confirmands will explore how our faith and spiritual practice to explore handling emotions in a Christ-centered way
April 6 6:30pm Organization: Confirmands will explore how the Episcopal Church is organized and how to learn from models of organization to apply those concepts to life, especially participating in the organization.
April 13 6:30pm School/Work: Confirmands will explore how their faith can enhance their productivity and engagement in school and work.
April 20 Easter Sunday: no meeting
April 27 6:30pm Care for self and others: Confirmands will explore what it means to respect self and others by how they care for their bodies, minds, and what our faith teaches about self care.
May 4 6:30pm final meeting, celebration
May 11: Mother’s Day: no meeting
May 17 11:00am Regional Confirmation; Christ Church, Dayton
May 18, Celebration Sunday Confirmands will help plan and participate in worship this day, including selecting music, writing prayers, and preaching.
Rector's Reflection: A Busy-free year?
On New Year’s Eve, Hailey asked me if I had a New Year’s Resolution. I told her I did not, because from what I see, New Year’s Resolutions are usually things people say they will do, and by the end of January have pretty much forgotten all about them. They might be excited about them on New Year’s Eve, but the interest doesn’t stay.
Instead of resolutions, I told Hailey, I reflect on the past year, and look for something I can let go of in order to be open for whatever the year is going to bring. In the past that something has been fear, worry, or trying to control the choices of others. Like cleaning the clutter from a room or home, deciding what to let go of can be a refreshing way to start a new year.
In 2014, what I am going to let go of is being busy.
Don’t get me wrong, I will still be doing plenty of things which I hope are productive. I am just not going to be busy.
The inspiration for this came from an article I read by Tyler Wardis called “Busy isn’t respectable anymore”. In this article he wrote about how overused the word “busy” is. How are you? Some will ask, or How you been? The most popular response is often the word: busy. Tyler wrote about how he liked using that word because it made him feel important, needed, valid, and valuable. In reality, he realized it was a way for him to avoid things that made him uncomfortable, or to avoid important relationships. He saw that being busy hurt not only his relationships with loved ones; they also hurt his profession relationships. When he would talk about how busy he was, he saw how that made others feel less important. He also realized busy-ness and productivity are not necessarily the same thing. This reminded me of something Christian writer and speaker Rob Bell said about busy-ness: that it has become an idol. Remember an idol is something we give ourselves to that isn’t God.
Tyler wrote about a friend of his who stopped using the word “busy” for an entire year and in that year found that he had to be more honest and authentic with his responses to the “How are you” question, which actually helped his business, and personal relationships grow and thrive.
To me, that growth of awareness and relationships is certainly worth the effort of removing the too easy to use word of “busy” from my vocabulary. So as we begin 2014, I am going to use words that better describe what I am doing, and pray that the façade of being busy can be stripped away from my personae so that more of my authentic self can be seen and I can be open to embrace the joys, challenges, disappointments, celebrations, and opportunities this new year will bring.
If you have made your New Year’s Resolution, I hope it doesn’t lose its appeal for you, that it leads you to growth and better health. If you are still looking for a way to approach the New Year in a way that opens your heart and mind to the knowledge and love of the Lord, I invite you to join in me make 2014 a year that is not busy, and with business out of the way creates space for growth and true productivity.
Happy and A Busy-Free New Year!
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