Sunday, November 19, 2017

19 November 2017 ~ I want to walk as a child of the light





The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon
19 November 2017

“I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus.  In him there is, no darkness at all, the night and the day are both alike.”

When you walk around the side of the National Cathedral you come to stone stairs which lead down to the undercroft of the cathedral, where you can find some of the most beautiful chapels in that marvelous holy place.  As you descend the stairs, looking down to make sure that your feet do not slip, if you look up you see carved into the stone above the words, “A House of Prayer for All People.”  These words were carved there many decades ago, many decades before the Cathedral embarked on marketing plans, on catchy vision statements, visually arresting websites, and hundreds of marketing swag items sold in the cathedral bookshop.  “A House of Prayer for All People” is quite a remarkable statement of welcome for all of God’s people, not merely those who can recite the Ten Commandments, or the Nicene Creed, or the Episcopal Church’s Catechism printed in the back of our Book of Common Prayer.  

I have walked down those steps hundreds of times, and having lived on the Cathedral Close, I know many nooks and crannies of that building...I know a few places where you can sit and pray uninterrupted, where you can find a medieval monk’s bench where you can rest in the place where hundreds of monks have prayed.  For me, that “house of prayer” is, in so many ways, a home to me.  I used to attend the daily 7am Eucharist in the stunning Bethlehem Chapel where in the 90s only about 15 people attended the services, and my fellow worshipers included Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, and the celebrant at least weekly was Senator and Priest John Danforth.  There, even amidst such notable heroes, I found a home for my soul, and was at rest.

“All People” signals to me the deep sense that we are all Children of God, and that we are each loved by God, blessed by God and gifted by God.  Each of us is special.  As my friend and chaplain colleague used to preach, with the style only a life-long Baptist can do, “You are special….you are loved by God...Just like everyone else.”  Of course, each of us are blessed by God, but then we have to remember that so is our neighbor, so is our colleague, so is our seatmate in the pew, so is our fellow vestry member, so is our fellow committee member, so is our fellow volunteer at the nonprofit, so is our fellow citizen who sees things politically just as we do, and so is our fellow citizen whose views we abhor and detest!  If you go online and look up “Washington National Cathedral” and scan around for awhile, you will see the range of people who worshipped there: Martin Luther King, Jr., Ravi Shankar, Princess Diana, Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Noor of Jordan, Billy Graham, Thich Nhat Hanh, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ronald Reagan, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Woodrow Wilson, … Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists, Republicans, Democrats, Americans, Russians, Native Americans, ….and where Ronald Reagan, legendery baseball player Walter Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, “A House of Prayer for All People, indeed. “

This “House of Prayer” models for us the sense that our worship spaces are, at the same time, “houses of God” and also homes for us.  We are each the “children of the light” who come to these “houses of God” so that we might worship, that we might get “strength for the journey,” that we might experience some of the free-flowing gifts from God and from our neighbors.  

Here, in this house, this home, we receive blessing and love from God, and we strive to also give and receive love to each other.  No matter who we are, what number is at the bottom of our bank statements, no matter what color of skin, no matter our age numerically, our physical status, our mental state.  Here, this “house of prayer” just like the National Cathedral, becomes a home for us when we embrace the Great Commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  St. Mary’s is your church, your home, and also is the home for all those who enter our doors.  “A spiritual home for all people.”  

Here, we are reminded each week that we are all Children of God, and we are God’s beloved.  Because of this outpouring of love and compassion we are “children of the light,” here, I pray that we each receive the coziness of home.  Here, we experience a sense of home that we may not have always received in our own homes.  Here, we are God’s beloved, and we belong.  “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” perhaps should say, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You Home.”  We know that we cannot stay here in the cozy embrace forever, but we are empowered to be children of the light, and we are empowered to follow Jesus, and be the Church of Jesus Christ in the world.  We are given strength for the journey, in prayer, and song, and community, and sacrament, we are emboldened and given sustenance to face the world, and to not merely face the world, but transform the world.  

“I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus.  In him there is, no darkness at all, the night and the day are both alike.”

Sunday, October 29, 2017

29 October 2017 ~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey Sermon




The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon
29 October 2017

Listen to the audio track HERE

“increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity”

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”


Cut to the chase
At the end of the day
The bottom line is
The final score

I hear that there are people who like to read the final page of a book before they begin the book.  They want to know what happened, and want no surprises along the way.  They want to know “who-done-it” before the mystery begins and likely are the kind of folks who might ask you to “cut to the chase” when you speak with them.

I don’t think I have ever picked up a book and read the last page first, I would rather enjoy the book, and I am one who is interested in the process, interested in the narrative, character development and the descriptions so carefully presented by the author along the way.

However much I enjoy the story and the developing narrative or argument of a writer or speaker, there are times, when I appreciate having a clear “takeaway” from a talk, lecture, book or essay.  What about you, are you more of a “enjoy the narrative process” sort of person, or are you someone who want a message you can memorize or put on a notecard?  I think, no matter how much we love the story, at times, we are looking for a “lunchpail message” which we can reflect upon over our peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity”

Pour into us, increase in us, fill us with gifts.  There is a deep recognition that we are gifted with our very lives, with all that we are, and all that we have.  Here we ask God to build us up with faith, hope and love.  Where we may falter in faith, God will provide faith.  When we may falter and enter fearfulness and have hopelessness, God will increase our hope.  Where we may falter and fear, God will increase our love and charity - caritas.  Just as we have these gifts increased in us, we also steward and care for all the blessings that God has given us, and we offer these gifts to others.  We offer our time, our treasure and our talent back to God.  “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”


“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

Blessed.  Set aside.  Having a holy purpose - not unlike the frontal, the chalice, the paten.  You shall be holy.  Not merely here as crude matter, not merely as automotons, not merely as random beings in the world.  We are called, and empowered to be holy, to be set aside as blessed beings for God’s mission in the world.  We are empowered to be disciples, to follow God, to enter the Way of Jesus.


“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Cut to the chase.  Here, the lawyers, pharisees, sadducees are finally trying to trick Jesus again, but here the question is not unlike our own.  Fine, Jesus, many parables later, many healings, exorcisms, miracles and all that.  But, really, Jesus, what are we to do, what is the one most important commandment?  Here, Jesus breaks it down.  Here, Jesus cuts to the chase.  Here, Jesus gives us all the bottom line.  “Love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all our soul, and with all your mind - (and) You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

So get to it.  Go do it. Every single bit.  That’s it.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

22 October 2017 ~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey ~ Sermon at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Cathedral Road




The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon - 22 October 2017
“Give it back to God” ~ “Of thine own have we given thee”

Listen to the audio HERE

Earlier in the gospel of Matthew, which we heard just a few weeks ago, when Jesus was teaching in the Temple, Jewish officials questioned his authority to do “these things”.  Jesus declined to answer the question, for the answer could only be understood by those with faith.  Just before our gospel today, we find the parable of the Wedding Feast, which the Pharisees saw as an attack on them.

Now followers of the “Pharisees” and “Herodians”– who all wanted to get Jesus arrested  – speak to him. They appear to respect him, but speak with irony. And then the question, the subject of great debate in Jewish circles: should we pay the annual poll tax to Rome?

As with any good question, the possible responses varied:

If Jesus says yes, Zealots and other Jews hostile to Rome will turn against him; if he says no, he will risk arrest for inciting rebellion against Rome. We know his answer, as translated, but “Give” can be give back or repay.   

So he says, “Give back to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God, give back the things that are God’s.”

“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee”
2 Chronicles, chapter 29, verse 14

Pharisees try to entrap Jesus, and he uses some rhetorical brilliance to get out of a jam.
But is there more than that?
Is there more to say here.
Of course.
Look at the end.
Look to the very end, the part that Jesus adds to his answer to the Pharisees.
“And to God, render the things that is God’s”
And so, we should consider what is God’s, after all.
After all, you have made the time to be here in this glorious place.
God’s
Everything is God’s






The emperor - that’s fine...give him a bit…

Fees
Taxes
DMV
Electricity

But, to God, give to God what is God’s.  Jesus was not playing around with these petty entrapment kind of questions.  He knew the truth of God’s gift.  He knew what Thomas Merton later wrote:

If you want a spiritual life, you must unify your life. A life is either all spiritual or not at all.

And, what have we received from God, that we might give back to show our gratitude, our Thankfulness?  What might we “give back” to God?

Time
Love
God’s People
Money to the church
Time to the church
Effort
Good will
Intelligence
Good-nature
Loving-kindness
Shrewdness
Wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.
Intelligence
Creativity


But to God, render what is God’s.

“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”

And so, if we were thinking that this was merely a debate about a coin, whose head was on a coin...let’s remember that Jesus knew his Bible.  And his Bible was the Jewish Scriptures.  And he knew his prayer book.  And his prayer book were the Psalms.






In today’s psalms...ALL creation sings to the Lord.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *
let the field be joyful and all that is therein.
12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy
before the Lord when he comes, *
when he comes to judge the earth.

Of course it does.
Every instant
Every moment
Every love
Every pain
Every pleasure
Every suffering
Every fellowship
Every loneliness
Every cup of coffee
Every slice of bread
Every sip of wine
God is in it
It is God’s

And so, this is the state of mind of Jesus when he is asked about giving money to the Emperor, giving back the money which was minted by the Roman Empire.  Jesus says fine - give back to the Emperor.  BUT, give BACK to God the things which are God’s - which is all.  Jesus’s life was unified, and he was deep in Holy Week when he answers their question with this great truth.  


“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”