what makes a true worshiper

2012-06-05 11.17.05Is there anything worse than sticking out in a group of people? Is there anything more humiliating than showing up for a party with an outfit that is far too formal or far too casual? Is there anything more uncomfortable than realizing that you don’t understand the jokes being told in a group, or that you can’t relate at all to the complaints and observations of daily life being made in conversation?

It is painful to be an outsider, to have that feeling in the pit of your stomach, knowing that you don’t belong. Like that Sesame Street feature: “One of these things is not like the others.” And yet, this is how Evelyn Underhill, the sister in faith whose example we remember today, spent most of her life. Continue reading

#Magnificat, #Ferguson, and the #Savior

“My soul magnifies the Lord.”  (Luke 1:46)

Jonathan Myrick Daniels (whose life and sacrifice are remembered on August 13 in the Episcopal Church’s calendar) jumped in front of a shotgun’s discharge to shield the life of another.

He was a seminarian, an educated white man from the Northeast, who got himself to Alabama to join others fighting for civil rights in 1965.  After being released from jail with four companions, he and another white man (a Roman Catholic priest) and two black women, were prevented from entering a store to buy soda on the hot August day (the 20th) by a man with a shotgun and pistol.  When the shotgun was leveled at one of the women, Jonathan pushed her out of the way, receiving the bullets himself.

Jonathan gave up his comfortable life with the luxuries of class and status, using those tools of his gender and skin tone to draw attention to those who were stuck in social, geographical, and economic swamps.

Jesus came to the poor, lowly, voiceless.  When Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus uses his status to pull her up out of the mire in which she’d been stuck.  She accepts the living water which Jesus offers, she finds new life in God’s redemption.  Jesus sees people in the shadows, people that others do not bother to notice, and he calls them into the light; Jesus gives up the riches, glory, position, and power of being the Son of God for the sake of being with us, loving us well, stepping in front of the bullets of Sin’s Death for each of us.

Part of what’s unsettling about Ferguson, I think, is that it lays bare our own situation.  Our lives are overcome with violence, chaos, disorder, fear.  The emotions and forces acting out on the streets of St. Louis mirror the condition of our own selves.

Ferguson, and all creation, wait in groaning and despair for their Savior.  As the Samaritan woman, we have met the Savior at the well; God washes us with the waters of life in Baptism, and nourishes us through his own body and blood in the Eucharist.

We are not the saviors of this age.  We are not able to do any more than to try to serve as a window, a reflection, a magnifier of God’s presence; a sign and signal of the Savior’s faithfulness.

Hear our cry, Lord; save us and heal us, for your mercy is great.

a version of a homily preached August 13th, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

The Woman at the Well – Sermon

“Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city.  She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!  He cannot be the Messiah, can he?'” (John 4:28-29)  “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony…  So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them…  And many more believed because of his word.” (John 4:39-41)

Last weekend, Jordan and I went to the mountains outside of Hendersonville; there’s a cabin up there that we love to stay in with our dog, Ben, and the land and air up there rejuvenate us.  The first time we went there was back when we lived in Durham, before we even got Ben.  We’d never been to Western North Carolina before, and for spring break decided to try something new; we visited St. John’s in the Wilderness in Flat Rock, and Connemara, Carl Sandburg’s mountain home, and what has become my favorite antique store in the world–Jane Asher Antiques.  I didn’t know that we’d ever go back–what a glorious realization last summer when we moved to Columbia that we were hardly two hours away from that dear place!  We were so excited to go back, and to bring our dog, Ben, to camp and hike and “see” the sights with us.

What are places, or people, or events in your life that you think of being eager to share with others?

I remember when we were planning our wedding, I thrilled at the thought of my friends from my Upstate New York internship meeting Jordan’s family from North Dakota.  My dear friend Dan, from high school, who I hadn’t seen in years, would drive up form South Carolina; my friends from summer camp in Ohio would be the ushers.  We were so excited to invite all these people from different moments in our lives to be together at the same time.

Are there any places in your life or memory that you love so much that you want to share them with others?  Are you a sort of evangelist for a particular resort or city or restaurant?  Is there somewhere that you’ve got to go to eat every time you visit Charleston, or New York?

The Samaritan woman in our Gospel lesson today had an experience like that when she met Jesus.  There at the well in the heat of the day, though she’d expected to be alone–that’s why she went when she did–there was someone else sitting there, and she joined him in conversation.  It didn’t take long for her to realize that he was not the standard-issue man-sitting-next-to-a-well.  Though it’s a long Gospel passage (John 4:5-42), theirs is a relatively short conversation, and yet it completely changed the course of this woman’s life.  After talking with Jesus, even though she didn’t quite understand everything he said–I don’t understand everything Jesus has said to us, either–she was so taken that she went back to her town and told everyone that they had to come and meet this guy.

She witnessed to them.  She had encountered Jesus, she had been changed by this personal encounter, and so she went and told others about it, about Jesus.  She wanted others to experience the same thing that she had–the freedom, the peace, the joy, the honesty that she knew through this God-man, she hoped for everyone to taste the same transforming water that had quenched her thirst.

Just like Jordan and I were eager for our dog Ben to experience the waterfalls, hiking, and beautiful nature of Western North Carolina, this woman knew that meeting Jesus would change each person’s life, and she didn’t want them to miss out on it.  Just like Jordan and I were excited to bring together all the wonderful people we knew from various parts of our lives to meet each other and enjoy each other at the wedding, this woman told others about this person, Jesus, whom she’d met, and brought them to him, so they could meet him themselves.

Jesus is here, my friends.  That is why we come here every Sunday.  If Jesus isn’t here, there’s no reason for you to come.  If God is not present and transforming in this place, there is no reason for you to show up.  But if God is here, if God reveals himself to you through your quiet prayer, or through the bread and wine, or through the music, or preaching, or teaching, or through each other, then why not tell someone about it?  If your life has been changed, transformed, made new and different by God in Jesus Christ, I challenge you, tell others to “Come and see.”  We are promised that the harvest is plentiful and that many more will believe because of God’s Word.