My grandmother, my mother’s mother, liked to be called Mimi. She was a very special woman. Part of her charm was that she was what you would call “old world.” Mimi was born in 1913, and was 40 years old when she gave birth to my mother, and therefore her memories, and my family’s collective memory, reached farther back than many of my friends’.
Part of that “collective memory” was antique furniture, which was all over both her apartment, and my childhood home. Talking with many senior members of St Andrew’s, they’ve told me that antiques have very much gone out of style these days. And I think that is largely true. And pretty soon as a kid I realized that Mimi’s antiques—both authentic and some cheap knock-offs—had become like albatrosses to my mother: precious “heirlooms” she could neither keep nor get rid of.
In my apartment—in my dining room—there is a massive pile of recycling. Paper grocery bags filled with cans and bottles, some flattened boxes, other delivery boxes, not broken down, stacked within each other, everything piled high. The pile is so big the cats often find their way into the empty boxes and make for themselves secret napping spots.
My wife and I have grown almost completely blind to this ridiculous, recurring mess. Once and a while I will see it for what it is, a fantastic lazy failure, and say to myself, “Yep, I better take that out.” Sometimes I do. But most often some other task overwhelms my attention—the baby is crying, the laundry needs changing, I’ve got a meeting for church, something needs to get done.
At this time we are offering “Reflections & Practices” in our digital evening prayer. Above is a casual reflection about the Hebrew word for “bones” and how it points us to the practice of paying attention to our bodies. We have knowledge in our minds about God and praise, that we “should” be believing, but our bodies have a different kind of “deep” knowledge that can help us find wholeness—both in our lives and in our lives of faith.
Today I would like to start my message with a prayer.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Gracious and Almighty God, you are the infinite source of all things, before the fire of the sun was lit you were there, before the sphere of the earth was formed, before our nation was a whisper on any man’s lips you were. Between us is the dragging gap of all eternity, and yet you crossed this impossible width to be with us, to show us your face in Jesus, to give your Son for us to follow. Keep us mindful of our size, that we are your creatures, and that we owe everything to your grace. Now, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
In these days of bitterness over policy and presidents, these days of remaining glued to the Cable News stations of our choice—I know you wish that Pastor Krey and I would keep all this out of church. And he and I, also, wish there was some kind of relief (we get that relief from football and we give thanks to God for that). More than ever before it has become obvious there will never be any seeing eye-to-eye about these things. Here in the United States we all live in alternate dimensions, where we each, and those with whom we agree, have private access to truth—our own personal handle on what is right, and what should be done.
Good morning, Bethlehem Baptist Church! Thank you again for this second invitation to be with you, to worship with you and share God’s Word here. I want to thank Pastor Quann of course for this warm welcome. And Pastor Phil Krey and myself, and all of us from St Andrew’s also want to thank The Reverend Tripline for sharing the Word up in Perkasie, PA today.
The connections the Holy Spirit is making between our communities are amazing. I especially want to thank BBC’s Social Justice Committee. Lead by such powerful and faithful leaders: Deacon Dean Parker, Minister Jarkeer Lasseter, Deacon Ron Bradley and Deaconess Michelle Taylor-Bradley, and all the others who have been faithfully meeting every other Monday with St Andrew’s own Advocacy Committee: Thank you.
What has come out of these meetings between BBC’s Social Justice Team and St Andrew’s Advocacy Committee, on top of all the powerful conversations about race, racism and how to heal our nation and community—what has come out for me is an intense spirituality. An awareness of God’s powerful love, a knowledge that Jesus is here, and a feeling that the Holy Spirit is between and among us, yearning to fill us and heal us. And that’s what led me to these two pieces of Scripture, from chapters 7 and 8 of the Gospel of Mark.
At this time we are offering “Reflections & Practices” in our digital evening prayer. Above is a casual reflection about baptism and the disturbing turn of events in our nation. Regardless of whatever afflictions life can throw at us, we can remember that our identity as God’s children has been made known in our baptism and it is always there for us to turn to.
Happy New Year! A happy and blessed 2021 to all of you gathered here today by the Holy Spirit via this livestream.
What a year 2020 has been, right? It has been a year of disruption, sure, but if nothing else it has been a year of surprises. I bet you didn’t think we could even survive as a church this way! Well, as Pastor Krey has mentioned, we are more than surviving. Through the generosity of your spiritual practices of giving, of worship and prayer, St Andrew’s begins 2021 not only with financial health, but in strong faith and hope as well. And we can only acknowledge these as gifts from God’s Holy Spirit.
As I’ve been reviewing this year, I have to admit, because everything is recorded now, I went back on Facebook and watched some of my old sermons. Like a coach has their team watch recordings of old games, I guess, to find weaknesses and strengths. And if you too have been paying attention to my sometimes-out-here sermons during this year of pandemic you might have noticed a common thread. A thread summed up by our readings this morning, on this Second Sunday after Christmas.
People, especially church people, like us, love to talk about the “true meaning” of Christmas. In the face of commercialism, I guess—just like melancholic old Charlie Brown and Linus in the famous Peanuts Christmas special—in the face of plastic trees and Santa Clauses, we raise our cry about the “true meaning” of Christmas.
“Keep Christ in Christmas,” shout the bumper stickers! In defense of this one “true meaning” people refuse to say “Happy Holidays” and put nativity scenes on their lawns like territorial flags planted into the scorched earth of our culture war. While others imply the other “true meaning” is simply charity and kindness. “Good will towards men,” they shout, as they write their checks to their charitable organizations to soothe their sin-sick consciences.
Well, here, in the midst of our COVID Christmas, I have to warn you: these flirtations with the “true meaning” of Christmas are dangerous.