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St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bellingham – Advent 1A – November 27, 2022

Isaiah 2:1-5

The Rev. Rachel Endicott

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

This morning, as we start into the anticipatory, waiting time of Advent, we hear from the Prophet Isaiah. In his vision of the days to come, he shares that:

God “shall judge between the nations,

and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,

and their spears into pruning-hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war any more.”

The aspirational words jumped out at me. How I wish we had war no more. How I wish it was simply even swords and spears! And then we could easily melt them down! Some years ago, I was in the UK taking a tour of a castle – it may have been Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, I can’t quite remember now. What I do remember, though, is how the guide talked about the proliferation of and development of weapons of destruction. He showed how the markings on the walls went from low-down barely visible scratches of pikes and hand-held instruments to higher markings from rocks from trebuchets (those devices that sling projectiles up and over walls) to significant pitting all over the walls from cannonballs.

As I go back in history, even as someone who has not studied war, I think of how spears got turned from being used by the hunter-gatherers to kill animals to being turned upon one another. Spears, slingshots, and bows and arrows came to be used for maiming and killing enemies. And over the centuries, guns and cannons were invented and refined, so faster, quicker, more destructive weapons were devised. And the progression continued: purveyors of war developed mines, bombs, and missiles – even more recently drones. And on and on.

And at 5:30 am on July 16, 1945, “The world's first nuclear explosion occurred … when a plutonium implosion device was tested at a site located 210 miles south of Los Alamos, New Mexico, on the barren plains of the Alamogordo Bombing Range, known as the Jornada del Muerto. Inspired by the poetry of John Donne [ironically an Anglican priest and poet of the 17th Century], J. Robert Oppenheimer code-named the test "Trinity." Hoisted atop a 100-foot tower, the plutonium device, or "Gadget," detonated …over the New Mexico desert, releasing 18.6 kilotons of power, instantly vaporizing the tower and turning the surrounding asphalt and sand into green glass.”1

And on August 6th and 9th, “The United States detonated two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki…The two bombings killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians…[Possible targets for detonation of the atomic bombs had been] Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki. These targets were chosen because they were large urban areas that also held militarily significant facilities… Over the next two to four months, the effects of the atomic bombings killed between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000 and 80,000 people in Nagasaki; roughly half occurred on the first day. For months afterward, many people continued to die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. Though Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison, most of the dead were civilians…[There] is still much debate concerning the ethical and legal justification for the bombings. Supporters believe that the atomic bombings were necessary to bring a swift end to the war with minimal casualties; critics dispute how the Japanese government was brought to surrender, and highlight the moral and ethical implications of nuclear weapons and the deaths caused to civilians.”2

And yet, we yearn to live into the vision of Isaiah that “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

But we have indeed done an excellent job at learning war, haven’t we? “Citing growing nuclear risks and unchecked climate dangers, the Doomsday Clock has been moved to two minutes before midnight—its closest point symbolically to total catastrophe since the height of the Cold War.… The last time the iconic symbol stood at two minutes to midnight was 1953, after the United States and the Soviet Union successfully tested hydrogen bombs.”3 And aside from the Russian incursion into Ukraine, where the concern over nuclear devastation is real, we have a whole slew of other wars going on including: Afghanistan, Columbia, Iraq, Sudan and Syria to name a few. And we have posturing towards war elsewhere: North Korea towards its neighbors and China regarding Taiwan are the first couple that immediately come to mind.

As Christians, I would hope that we all yearn for a time when war will indeed cease and implements of war can be remade into life-giving implements. But meanwhile, Christians (and others) have wrestled with the nature of war. Some Christians have taken the tack of codifying what is “acceptable” in war, generally keeping the focus on military opponents and – as much as possible – keeping civilians safe. So, we have “just war” theory.

A number of Christians, especially Mennonites and other Anabaptist denominations like the Amish and Church of the Brethren along with the Quakers are known for their strongly-held pacifist beliefs, arguing that Jesus commanded his followers to love one another, even our enemies, and that these teachings – by definition – demand that we only use non-violent behavior because that is what Jesus models and advocates for.

The Anglican communion has repudiated war, specifically at the “Lambeth Conference [of] 1930 [at which] Resolution 25 declares that "The Conference affirms that war as a method of settling international disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ."… The 1948, 1958 and 1968 conferences re-ratified this position.”4

And to bring it closer to home, one of our saints in our Episcopal Church’s collection of saints was a staunch pacifist. Bishop Paul Jones was born in 1880 in Pennsylvania and died in 1941. After going to Yale and the Episcopal Divinity School, he accepted a call to serve in what was then the Missionary District of Utah. In 1914, Jones was elected Bishop, just as World War I was really beginning. In 1917, he expressed his belief that “war is unchristian” at a meeting of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Los Angeles.5 The reaction to the speech caused for a call for him to resign, although he argued that he had a right to object to war on grounds of faith and conscience. In 1918, under pressure he resigned as Bishop of Utah, though continued a ministry within the Church dedicated to peace and conscience until his death 23 years later. The Collect for his saint’s day reminds us that Christ is the Prince of Peace.

And yet, in the here and now, we still continue to hope and pray for an end to war, when we can beat swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. Recently I’ve heard more people acknowledge that the Russian-Ukranian war affects them personally. And indeed it does. The world is interconnected in so many ways. Our economies are intertwined. Our friendships span country boundaries. And most of all, the people of God are interconnected as children of God wherever they may be.

So, pray. Pray mightily. Pray consistently. Pray with fervor. Pray that hearts may be changed. Pray that those negotiating or working toward peace may be given sustenance and grace as they advocate for peace. Pray for civilians who are endangered simply by the location of their homes and work. Pray that they can be kept from harm. Pray that those who are aggressors will have a change of heart, that they can step back from the edge.

And although we might not individually be able to change the outcome of war being waged thousands of miles away, we can indeed do something on our own doorsteps. Peace starts at home. We can learn and teach non-violent ways of communicating with others. We can work in our families and local areas to resolve conflicts in constructive and non-violent ways.

And whatever else, we hold hope – as did Isaiah. We look forward – as did Isaiah. We prepare to go up to the Lord’s house where there will be peace. And always, always, we continue to pray for peace…






5 Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. New York, NY: Church Publishing, 2010, p. 560.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bellingham – Christ the King C – November 20, 2022

Jeremiah 23:1-6 and Canticle 16 (Luke 1:68-79)

The Rev. Rachel Endicott

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Most years when we get to this final day of our church cycle, the celebratory day of Christ the King, I’ve preached on – yes, as you probably suspected – Christ as King. I’ve explored with you and others various images of kingship, particularly how it relates to our Savior, the one we name as the Messiah and who died under an inscription that marked him as King, depending on which Gospel you read in one or even three languages.

But this year, something different struck me as we come to the end of Year C, so the final Sunday of our three-year liturgical cycle, the final lectionary readings before we start anew next Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent. What struck me this year was the twice used expression about being raised up. In Jeremiah, as we also find spoken by the Prophet Isaiah (4:2), the Lord says that better days are coming and that God will raise up for David a righteous Branch. Branch carries with it Messianic understandings; this is not simply a good shepherd, but also king. If you notice in our written text this morning, the word Branch is capitalized because it is understood by Christians as they look back into the writings of the prophets to refer to Christ, so thus capitalized.

And the image of being raised up doesn’t stop here with the Old Testament prophets. (8:30) In the paraphrase of The Song of Zechariah, hymn 444, that we just sang, the hymn writer transposes the direct reference in the Scriptural text which says that “God has raised up for us a mighty savior, born of the house of his servant David” to as Michael Perry puts it in verse 2: “He from the house of David a child of grace has given; a Savior comes among us to raise us up to heaven.” So Perry not only has Jesus raised up by God, but expands it in light of being raised to new life. (10:30) In Canticle 16, The Song of Zechariah, from the first chapter of Luke (Luke 1:68-79), our text says that God has “raised up for us a mighty savior, bon of the house of his servant David.” So from Adam, through David, we have the Savior coming as the righteous Branch.

And in spite of the references to kingship and Branch, I kept coming back to this turn of phrase, of being raised up. What might we glean from its earlier use? As importantly, what does it mean for us in the here and now?

Certainly, the use of the term being raised up in both today’s Old Testament and Canticle readings is important. It is good news, hopeful at its very core. It is anticipatory news about the Messiah. It heralds an intervention in the world by a God who loves God’s people. It ties God to continuing God’s work in the world. And it’s an active verb. In the Jeremiah passage, it is in the future, “when I will raise up…”. In the Canticle, Zechariah knows that this has already happened, that the God who has “come to his people and set them free” has also “raised up” for them a mighty savior.

And, for us in the here and now, we need to be aware that we are the body of Christ here on earth in the present time. We have and continue to be raised up to do the work of Christ in the world. We are raised up individually – our various vocations are part of this whether we’re lay people, deacons, priests, or bishops. And we are raised up to serve, to serve the poor, imprisoned, downcast, and so much more. We are raised up to spread the Good News; we share with joy that we know who the savior from David’s line is. We know of that gift given to us. Jesus.

One of our parishioners recently loaned me a copy of Lauren Winner’s book, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God. (Isn’t that a great title?!!!) In her chapter on smell as a way to meet God, she shares a story from Kimberly Jackson’s. Jackson writes: “A student of mine called me late one evening after worship. He was really excited on the other end, and I had to ask him to slow down. So, he says, “Mother Kim, this strange thing happened to me today. After worship tonight, I was riding the train back to my apartment, when this woman sat down next to me. I had my earbuds in, so I wasn’t really paying her any attention, but she tapped me to get my attention. She said, ‘Son, you smell like church. You smell like church.’”

Now the Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians that those who know Christ have a particular smell. When we come to know God—come to trust and believe in the power of God’s love, there’s an aroma, a fragrance that lingers in the room even after we leave. To borrow from the words of the woman on the train, when we encounter God, we begin to “smell like church.” Or to borrow from Paul, “We smell like Christ.”

… That evening on the phone with my student, I asked him what happened next. He said, “She started to cry. And she looked up at me and said, ‘Thank you. I haven’t been to church in a long time.’””1

With this in mind, I am convinced that we are raised up to help others to meet God, to encounter Christ, to find their way into the presence of the Holy Spirit. And it’s not only if we’ve been at church recently, perhaps even surrounded by clouds of incense. It’s our very essence that is nurtured, chosen, raised up to be all that we can be.

And sometimes, it’s a simple a minding our own business or just being there. And like with the example of the young student, sometimes we find ourselves in just the right place at the right time as we go about our lives. He provided a sensory reminder of the love of God and presence of “church” to the woman in the train. And it was powerful.

Sometimes we are raised up to more active ministry. I think of the stories of people who were raised up to serve those who were hurting – perhaps they become those who ministered to the lepers, the Mother Teresas who served the poor, and others. I think of prophets who were raised up to bring hopeful news to folks. I think about those who were raised up to travel, sometimes to the ends of the earth, to work for climate justice, to help underserved groups, or to simply be people of God.

And it’s not just individuals that I believe God raises up. Communities are raised up. This community, who names itself after Paul, has been raised up. Raised up over a hundred years ago, but more recently raised up again from the constraints of a world with pandemic, social upheaval, and – just to throw more in – a flood.

But we are to be thankful. Just as Zechariah proclaims, we are to remember that God has come to God’s people. God has even raised up a savior for us. And from that, we are raised up. Jesus’ light does shine on us and on all the people of God. As those who have been raised up, may our feet continue to be guided in the way of peace.


1 Kimberly Jackson (no additional citation) in Lauren F. Winner, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God. San Francisco: Harper One, 2015, p. 78.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bellingham

All Saints’ Sunday C – November 6, 2022

Luke 6:20-31

The Rev. Rachel Endicott

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

I was employed as a full-time priest when my kids were little, so they – along with many of their peers – want to day care during working hours. They ate, slept, learned to play, learned social skills, and did or learned many other things with their classmates. When my daughter was about two, she moved into a new room, changing the kids with whom she interacted. Not long after that, Megan came home with a clearly defined set of red, angry teeth marks on her arm and a note saying that she had been bitten by another child, the policy at the daycare being that the biter was not named. But I was pretty sure I knew who it was as there was a particular boy who had a reputation as a “biter”. Yet, she didn’t seem to be too disturbed about the bite and we continued on about our business as usual.

However, just a few days later, as I was walking down the hallway to her day care room to pick her up at the end of the day, I was handed a note. I assumed it was another note saying she’d be bitten again so I continued on. Yet as I was scooping her up from her class, I noticed that the reputed biter has a bite mark on his cheek. And, when I got home, I read the note – and guess what, Megan had indeed not been bitten, but had bitten someone! Although they didn’t say who it was, my mind flashed back to the bite mark on the boy’s cheek. I’m pretty sure that Megan – as a two-year-old – did not understand Jesus’ admonition to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Instead, she was living under the premise that the best way to behave was to “Do to others as they have done to you.”

…as they have done to you. I’m wondering if our sense of frontier “justice” is just that? I wonder if our sense of “saving face” is just that? I wonder if our “natural” instinct to return anger and wrong to others is just that?

But, Jesus calls us to do something else. We are told “Do to others as you would have them do to you” – whether or not others are kind, gentle, giving, compassionate and more, perhaps especially so if they are not those things. And Jesus acknowledges that it is not easy. The examples that he gives to people, presumed to be the victims, as opposed to the victimizers, are hard. We are to allow people to lash out to us a second time. We are to offer more to those who take from us. We are to give our money and gifts to those who ask.

For the hearers and readers of the Gospel of Luke, the whole Gospel is predicated on the premise that God ‘s word actually favors the poor, hungry, weeping and despised. Remember how – early in Luke, we find the Magnificat in which Mary points out that the way of God is NOT the way of the world. In God’s realm, which is to be made manifest through Jesus’ birth, she notes that the powerful will be brought down and the hungry will be filled with good things. So there is hope here even in as much as the world sometimes seems to be a hard place.

Later on in the Gospel, we find today’s reading. Luke recounts the sermon on the level place (versus in Matthew it is on the mountain). Luke’s version has four blessings and four woes, rather than nine blessings. He contrasts poor with rich, hungry with full, weeping with laughing, and rejected with accepted. For those who spend lots of time in the Old Testament, you might find yourselves hearing a slight echo of the use of blessings and curses from Deuteronomy (11:26-28a). There, God puts before God’s people the following, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today…” So we find a similarity in blessings and curses, but there is also a significant difference. In Deuteronomy, the blessings and curses are contingent on the behavior of the people of God. This is not true in Luke.

And, indeed, back to Luke. After the blessings and woes are stated, we come to the section about loving our enemies. Our enemies. Couldn’t we just be commanded to love the people that love us? Couldn’t we just love our family members that love us (‘cause of course some family members don’t love us or perhaps aren’t so loveable)? Couldn’t we just love those who share our same political views, stances, and goals? Couldn’t we just love those who are themselves loving by nature?

But Jesus says to love our enemies. Jesus says to do good to those who hate us. Jesus says to bless those who curse you. Jesus even has the audacity to say that we should pray for those who abuse us. And I need to digress here for a moment…if you are being abused, you should leave the abuser – you can pray from afar, not from within the reach of the abuser.

Now some years ago, I would have read this portion of Luke’s Gospel entirely from my own white, European orientation. But now I have some other perspectives to add, particularly from Black clergy and people of color as they – those who have been victimized time after time – wrestle with these words.

Howard Thurman, in his book Jesus and the Disinherited has a whole chapter about reacting to being continuously placed up against the wall, being disinherited within our society. He does not argue for fighting one’s way out. Rather, his final chapter is about love. In it he asserts that “The religion of Jesus makes the love-ethic central.”1 He goes on to talk about how making the love-ethic central was – and is – difficult. Jesus knew the words of the Shema which pair loving God with loving “thy neighbor as thyself”. But it isn’t just the neighbor who Jesus calls others to love…Thurman notes it is the tax collector (as we heard last week), the Samaritan, and even the most despised enemy, the Roman. Remember the centurion who pleads with Jesus for help with his ill daughter? I wonder how easy it would have been for Jesus to say no because you are my enemy, you have oppressed my people, and you are not wanted here. But he says yes, because yes is the word of loving response.

And for those of us who aren’t the victims, we wrestle with the question of whether we’ve been the victimizer, either intentionally or unintentionally. And – if we acknowledge that we are, we must do the hard work of asking forgiveness, having empathy and being in solidarity with those whom we have victimized, and lastly about always, always following Jesus as we “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

But that isn’t easy. Sometimes even just asking for forgiveness is hard. Debby Irving, author of Waking Up White, tells a story of what might seem like a simple slight, but it is more because it reflects the unequal playing field on which we “play”. People of color not only learn their own cultural milieu, but also learn to recognize and live in the predominant white culture. They learn how to discern faces that look like them as well as the nuances of white faces. They learn parallel sets of vocabularies. They learn the media and art of the dominant culture. And they learn much, much more.

Irving writes, “One Friday afternoon…I’d been enjoying a new friendship with Rebecca, a black woman whose daughter played field hockey with my daughter. We gravitated toward one another on the side-lines at games…After the last game of the season, as we were standing in the field house, I asked Rebecca if her daughter was planning to do a winter sport. Instead of using her daughter’s name, however, I used the name of the other black girl on the team...In the moment before [Rebecca] gently corrected me, a look flashed across Rebecca’s face that let me know I’d mixed up the names.”2

After this conversation, Irving drives home, feeling horrified and sick, knowing how much mistaken identity means to black people. And it is only after much wrestling and conversation with her husband, with her husband saying that it’s no big deal as he mixes up his daughter’s friends names all the time, that she finally can no longer tolerate the discomfort and calls Rebecca and apologizes, apologizes not only for the slight, but for the much deeper implications behind the slight.

And perhaps it is good when discomfort drives us to do the right thing, to “do to others as you would have them do to you.” What loving things are you called to do? Which enemies are you called to love? For what do you need to ask for forgiveness? With whom do you need to be in solidarity?

And never forget, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”


1 Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2022 edition, p. 79ff (Kindle Edition).

2 Debby Irving, Waking up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, Cambridge, MA: Elephant Room Press, 2014, p. 224-226.

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