singing

How Do You Sing the Lord’s Song?

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Lamentations 1:1-6
Psalm 137
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

Funny enough – there ain’t a whole lot of communing going on in the scriptures provided for World Communion Sunday.

Exiled from the Promised Land, the people of Israel are inconsolable and vengeful. (Make sure you read that last line in Psalm 137. Read it again. You got it – they want somebody to enjoy bashing baby heads into rocks). Her streets empty of God’s people, Jerusalem also suffers, mourning and shedding tears (Lamentations). Separated from each other, holy people and place are incapable of singing the Lord’s Song.

Yet, World Communion Sunday sounds so nice. I have thoughts of happy people at church standing in a big circle holding hands, singing together, sharing Eucharist and a tasty potluck, earnestly wishing God’s peace and goodwill to fellow hand-holding, encircled singers around the globe. Read more

Amazing Grace

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 15: 1-10

About a year ago I buried one of our church’s founding members. Back in 1968, Archie McDonald and a handful of others started our congregation, in order to have a local church with membership policies that were not segregated. Archie was a professor and historian, ornery and rough-hewn, but he had a profound sense that it was only due to the grace of a loving God that he existed at all and only by God’s grace did our church exist. He knew what the dying priest knew in Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest, “It’s all grace.”

The very meaning of the word “grace” is “undeserved favor.” We do not deserve it. If it is deserved, then it is not grace and it is certainly not amazing.

Which is why Archie’s favorite hymn was “Amazing Grace.” As he said, “it is the one hymn most about me, especially the part about saving wretches and being found.” And he liked to call our congregation, the “Amazing Grace Baptist Church” because there was and continues to be a sense that we’re all lost yet we’ve been found by the loving Good Shepherd. Read more

Praying for the Nation’s Peace and Justice

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jeremiah 2:4-13

Last week, in our Episcopal church, the prayers of the people began with these two petitions:

Let us pray for the Church and for the world.

Grant, Almighty God, that who confess your name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world.

Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another and serve the common good.

(Followed by a short period of silence, and then: “Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.”)

How does praying as the church, the holy people of God, united as one, inform our ability to pray for justice and peace in the nation? Read more

Where in the World?

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17 (25-27)

One of my prized possessions is a cassette recording of Thomas Merton lecturing his fellow monks at their Kentucky monastery during Advent of 1964. He tells them that we must come to see that Christianity exists in history, and that we have to see Advent in terms of contemporary history. He details some then-current events: the shootings and killings in Mississippi, the war in Rhodesia. Then he says, “Pious meditations on how rough Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus had it are meaningless unless I have some response to the sufferings in the flesh today. Events are manifesting a reality which is present. We’re living in Advent. What’s happening around us is the Advent liturgy of 1964.”

Merton’s words shed light on every season of the church year. In this case, they raise the question of the difference between mere pious mediations on the early disciples gathered at the festival in Jerusalem and the events that indicate we are living in Pentecost. In seeking an answer, we do well to remember John Howard Yoder’s caution against reading “the surface of history,” that is, making simplistic connections between current news reports and the mysteries of what God is up to in the world. But with that due caution, what is the 2013 Pentecost liturgy? Each appointed Scripture text provides not only a lens through which to see the world but also a unique focus on the gift of the Spirit.

In Acts 2, the out-pouring of the Spirit is a dazzling convergence of Passover and Pentecost, signs and wonders that extend God’s message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations. The coming of the Spirit crosses countless barriers, and, in Augustine’s words, “gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages.” Where in the world is that happening? Read more

A Cheer for an Invisible Parade

Third Sunday of Lent
Isaiah 55:1-13
I Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

It is worse than you think it is and you are freer than you think you are. The powers are raging beyond your control and they are already overcome in Christ. The division is an uncrossable spiritual chasm and it’s been crossed.
– William Stringfellow

The Church in America is fragmented and in disarray, laments Fleming Rutledge. The impasse of different factions is symptomatic of “a perilous state of affairs” (And God Spoke to Abraham). Rutledge’s emergency room prescription? Six months of intensive preaching, teaching and small group study of Second Isaiah (chapters 40-55). This “unknown prophet of the exile” tells the whole glorious Story of God which alone can save the Church from itself.

It’s not hard to see why this portion of Scripture speaks to our day. The prophet writes out of exile, having lost even the filters that keep one from facing how urgent the situation really is,”Down here with the savages,in a world of freed Barabbases,/Where nuns carry guns to protect themselves from rape”(Pierce Pettis). Read more