Inspired by the documentary film of the 1972 recording session at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles featuring the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, Jonathan reflects on our current state of affairs.
Father Jonathan gives us a fascinating way to consider the trinity; not as a baffling theological concept; not as a box that has to be checked off in your belief system; but as a poetic, beautiful way to think about life. God, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, in a continuous outpouring of love, in a dance with hands extended for you to join in. A concept that could make not only athiests come to love God, but even Christians!
Everything in the church is purple, that means it's Lent. Next comes the Great Litany, and all those reminders of how things are supposed to be going. The process is simple: face the guilt and shame, admit the sins, be forgiven, release it all. Done.
Saint Paul (Our patron Saint) got a crystal-clear message from God as to what he should be doing with his life. The rest of us don't (usually) get it spelled out so clearly. Father Chuck explores the idea that it takes courage to be what God intends you to be.
Two servants are given a huge amount of money, they take risks, work hard and double the investment. The third servant also gets money to invest. He plays it safe, stashes his master's money, out of fear of losing it, and he is thoroughly chastised, stripped of his belongings, and "banished to the outer darkness". What's the message here?
Jesus' detractors try to trap him by setting up a false choice between heresy and sedition. (Either of which is a virtual death sentence in the Roman empire.) Jesus creates a brilliant metaphor that silences his detractors using a Roman coin to point out that we always straddle the sacred and the profane in our everyday lives, and we must deal with both.
Today's parable is about violence. Jesus tells a story of evil actions (multiple murders) that would arouse feelings of anger, retribution and violence in just about anyone. But, of course, once he finishes the story and has aroused these feelings in his listeners, he uses them to instruct and teach.
God's love took on a body and came to us in the form of Jesus Christ. God was here among us.
When we share the Eucharist, we speak metaphorically of body and blood, but remember that this sacrament is as close as we get to the REAL physical presence of God as Jesus solemnly reminds us "this is my body, this is my blood". We are also blessed with these bodies. Everything we do with them—our minds and hearts—can be to grow, serve, and expand into "the unspeakable sweetness of love".
It all starts with a Canaanite (gentile) woman confronting Jesus and his entourage. She is a mother determined to help her child—pleading for help. The disciples are annoyed. Indeed, Jesus appears annoyed and seems to dismiss her with a "not my job" remark.
Father Chuck recounts a near-death encounter with an Orlando timeshare marketing machine. He is torn between the prospect of an annual getaway to warmth and sunshine and higher, better uses of his money.
Today's sermon is from Reverend Lee Cunningham, who is a retired priest from a different faith tradition. But, more importantly, Lee is an active parishioner at St. Paul's, and he and his wife Charlene have contributed much to the life of our church. Reverend Cunningham is a student of parishes, congregations, church organization and their evolution. In this sermon he gives us a clever thought model to use for organizing ourselves and our missions: front end vs. back end. He pulls no punches, and gives us a "full length" sermon.
It is vital for us to hear his observations (critique) of St. Paul's. It is based on his many years in the ministry and his loving outsider's perspective.
The Holy Spirit is the most difficult concept for some of us to understand. It is sometimes referred to as "the sanctifier". What does that mean? If you are filled with the spirit what happens? Speaking in tongues? Going into a mystical trance? Maybe, but that's not the point. Father Chuck explains the Holy Spirit in very practical terms.
Many Christians regard the execution of Jesus as a tragedy and assign blame. If only he hadn't been killed, things would be different. This view is wrong; and thinking this way has caused much pain, prejudice, and violence over the centuries.
When you blame somebody for Jesus' crucifixion (maybe the Jews, the Romans, Satan, this evil world) you miss the point spectacularly. The crucifixion was followed by the resurrection. Jesus had to die.
Other than "walking on water" this is probably the most widely known of Jesus' miracles, (Although, "the Episcopal miracle" of turning water into wine, is right up there in my book...) and we've heard it a million times.
The danger in hearing these stories over and over is that you grow numb to their depth and meaning. We tend to make lists, categorize things, draw apt analogies, and completely miss the point.
He proposes that "original" (root) sin is fundamental and oh-so-very common: it is judging, condemning and excluding others. Our original sin is imagining that we can judge who is a sinner—who is interpreting the scriptures properly, who is following the rules, who is damned and who is not. You could say that original sin is presuming to know the mind of God.
Jesus and the disciples are passing through a "bad part of town". Jesus sends the disciples off to find food while he takes a break by the neighborhood well. (As usual, he gives no thought to his own safety.)
Peter, James, and John might have been questioning their decision to follow Jesus. The more they learned, the more outrageous his predictions and teachings seemed. Even John the Baptist was having doubts. (And trouble sure seemed to follow this guy around. The authorities were not in the least amused by Jesus.)
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. If you do, you will be perfect, even as God is perfect.
Father Jonathan reflects on the celebrations surrounding the Seahawk's crushing humiliation of the Denver Broncos in this year's Super Bowl. Some Seahawks fans had to reach all the way into religious concepts to express their joy: "I've waited my entire life for this to happen!", "It would be blasphemy not to attend the victory celebration".