Journey Into The Heart of God

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Co-Rector, September 10, 2017, Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A, Matthew 18:15-20.

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Good morning.

About five times a year, I have the opportunity to travel around the diocese, for Diocesan Council, kind of like the Vestry for the Diocese. September is one of the months that Council meets. So yesterday, I found myself in downtown Grand Rapids on a beautiful *almost* fall day, seated around a table with other elected clergy and laity from throughout the diocese to tend to the business of our bigger common life, between conventions.

I went down Friday this time so that I could stay with some friends and not have to get up so early to make the trip. Rarely do I travel without the family and stay the night out of town… I missed them dearly, but it was quite a treat.

These friends I stayed with are really special friends of ours.
Our families have grown together and followed one another through the years, but over the past three, when we returned from Texas, it deepened, I suspect that’s because we both don’t have screaming babies every time we try to have dinner together.

They were curious about this “Council” meeting I was going to, so I had the opportunity to share with them a little bit about the work we do. We deliberate over budgets and policies, pastoral concerns of our sister parishes up and down the coast of Lake Michigan. But this month we had to approve the recommended budget that will be presented at Diocesan Convention in November.

Fun stuff.

But what strikes me, always, about these meetings, is that it is expected that we won’t always agree on things. It is also expected, however, that we will be kind and continue conversing until we are certain we are understood. We usually begin our meetings with reading a covenant that we all signed at the annual retreat. It is a way to frame the way we will be with one another in our work together.

And that is pretty rare these days, don’t you think?

The covenant is steeped in careful language that seeks to create a safe place for honest dialogue, disagreement, and mutual affection to happen. I’ve served on Diocesan Council for two years now and I still can’t believe we read that covenant each time we gather, and I’m absolutely convinced that it is necessary.

Because if we didn’t, we might be tempted to forget what it is we are called to do.

Because… our relationships with one another matter…. words matter, don’t they?

I’ve been fixated on words this past week, especially. Words that create healing and words that create hurt.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a deep well of grief and loss that has opened up for many folks.

Family members dying, friends losing homes, communities torn apart because of racism and hatred, whole towns being swallowed up in water or burned by wildfires.

I looked on this interactive map last night, thinking it might help me wrap my mind around the magnitude of national disasters happening right now and I was stunned.

To read the whole legend that explained what each icon meant I had to scroll down,
and down,
and down,
and down.

The whole of North America, or so it seemed, was either on fire or underwater or in the path of a hurricane or recovering from an earthquake or marching about DACA or marching about Charlottesville.

And people, peppered throughout those areas and beyond carry on with celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and getting married and having babies.

People have to bury loved ones and pay bills. Athletes need to train and doctor appointments kept.

Things are completely ordinary and completely chaotic, depending on where you live.

But language, through all of this,  matters.

Because we all are worthy of love and belonging, aren’t we?

But when I read the headlines and look at my Facebook feed, that does not seem to be what our national dialogue wants us to believe, is it?

These passages this morning are about relationship, remembering God’s mercy, always, and being a people of hope.

And “Relationship” is at the heart of the entire bible.

God’s relationship with us, our relationship with God and our relationship with the rest of creation, the trees and oceans as well as the humans we share this planet with.

All of Creation is filled with our neighbors.

And these past few weeks, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pretty weighed down with the cares and occupations of the world and our communities.

I’ve spent more hours combing the internet, talking with colleagues and friends, and praying.

And that practice, prayer, is really what brings me back.

When I used to feel this way… filled with anxiety and despair… my Spiritual Director would remind me to remember my practices, remember my Rule of Life.

Pray the Daily Office (at least Morning Prayer), go for a walk, create something beautiful, rinse, and repeat.

What those practices do for me, when I begin to feel overwhelmed, is to teach me about God’s mercy.

They bring me into the heart of God, where my soul can rest and be known.

They remind me that sometimes, all we can do, all we can really ever do, is the next…right…thing.

And I’ve found, that Daily Office prayers steep us in the words of our ancestors. Some of these prayers have been prayed for hundreds of years…that’s holy stuff.

But sometimes our grief is so deep, so raw, that we can’t even muster the energy to open our Prayer Book or say a prayer.

That’s ok.

Just sit. And hold something that has brought you peace in the past.

Maybe it’s a figurine that sits on your window, maybe it’s your prayer book given to you at your confirmation.

Maybe it’s your cat or your grandbaby.

Maybe it’s to make your bed.

Maybe it’s a cup of coffee.

Holding that which used to give you peace, will remind your body that this is your next… right… thing to do.

And then when you ask yourself the next day, “Lord, what joyful expectations do you have in store for me today?”

What you’re asking God for is to meet you where you are at and to show you a morsel of mercy.

I leave you here, with a section of an interview I listened to a while ago from On Being.

It’s from Irish theologian and author, Pádraig Ó Tuama, from his memoir, In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World.

He writes, “Neither I nor the poets I love found the keys to the kingdom of prayer and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit. But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway. So every morning I sit, I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, hoping that I’m being listened to. There, I greet God in my own disorder. I say hello to my chaos, my unmade decisions, my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble. I say hello to distraction and privilege, I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus. I

“Neither I nor the poets I love found the keys to the kingdom of prayer and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit. But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway. So every morning I sit, I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, hoping that I’m being listened to. There, I greet God in my own disorder. I say hello to my chaos, my unmade decisions, my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble. I say hello to distraction and privilege, I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus. I recognise and greet my burdens, my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story. I greet my untold stories, my unfolding story, my unloved body, my own love, my own body. I greet the things I think will happen and I say hello to everything I do not know about the day.

I greet my own small world and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.
I greet my story and hope that I can forget my story during the day, and hope that I can hear some stories, and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead. I greet God, and I greet the God who is more God than the God I greet. / Hello to you all, I say, as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast. / Hello.”

I don’t pretend that prayer will stop cancer or change the course of the hurricane or stop violence, but I do believe that prayer changes my heart and my response to my brothers and sisters. It creates space in my heart to imagine ways I can help make the world a little bit better.
That’s how, I believe, prayer works.

And so, St. Philip’s, I pray that this week, as we contemplate how to apply the words we hear and say today, to our daily lives, that we will learn to say hello to whatever and whomever we meet along our journey. That we will treat the fellow travelers with kindness and dignity and respect. Just for today… We’ll let the prayers of tomorrow handle tomorrow… one day at a time.

I pray that we will look with loving kindness upon ourselves and have the courage to “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Amen.

Christian Community: Binding and Loosing and Why It Matters

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Co-Rector, August 27, 2017, Pentecost 12, Proper 16, Year A, Matthew 16:13-20

 

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Good morning.

It is good to be back with you today. While I was away on vacation, I spent some time reflecting on our last year together. Partly because this month, we entered into our second year together, but partly because I needed to search my heart and soul and see if any of this has mattered in the last year.

The 50 or so times we gathered around this table to break bread and sip wine, the dozen or so times Vestry has met and deliberated the important matters that affect our common life, the recitation of the Nicene Creed and Lord’s Prayer, over and over again.

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Make Room In The Boat and Take A Nap

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, August 13, 2017, Pentecost 10, Proper 14, Year A, Matthew 14:22-33

“It is a ghost!”

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… Amen.

Today’s sermon is brought to you by the motion sickness medicine: Dramamine. Powerful, fast relief from motion sickness when you need it most.

Trust me… Dramamine will really knock you out. Makes you fall right to sleep. And now we know the rest of the story from Mark 4 when Jesus was sleeping in the front of the boat while the storm tossed the boat around… Only Dramamine could make a person rest so easily in the middle of a storm.

My first experience with Dramamine was back in 1997. My brother, Josh, and I had driven my Dodge Omni to Gulf Shores, Alabama, during Spring Break. There were many adventures to be told from that trip, but those are for another day.

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Transfiguration Sunday and God’s Dreams for Us

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Co-Rector, August 6, 2017, The Transfiguration, Year A, Luke 9:28-36

 

“Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.” In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Good morning St. Philip’s!

When I pulled up the readings for today there was something familiar, something oddly familiar about them. Liturgical Feast days tend to have the same readings each year, but this was more familiar than that.

I searched through my normal go tos and finally put my finger on it. Transfiguration Sunday in 2016 was our first Sunday together!

It’s also Fr. Lovett Sundae Sunday, and the anniversary of Deacon Marilou’s ordination, but it signifies, as a community, that we have navigated a complete trip around the sun, together.

The experience of going through change has the potential to transfigure us.
To noticeably alter the appearance of our community.
The experience of talking with God has the power to strengthen our resolve to live into who and what God is calling us, as his beloved children, to be, do, and change.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, fun, or fast…
even though sometimes it is…

But it does mean that it is an opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to use our situation to mold our hearts into one body.

To align our hearts and wills with God’s dreams for humanity and work more faithfully, today, toward revealing that dream to those in our circles of influence.

And one year ago, I stood before you to preach on this exact same text.

So it’s time to check-in. We’re coming out of the cloud of all the firsts, and now we get to look back at the last year and reflect on it.

How have you personally changed over this last year?

How have we, as a community, changed?
I can tell you that I have personally been changed over the past year… I see things differently… We know each other better.
I have learned a great deal from you.

I am aware that change is difficult.

Change has the potential to resurface loss and grief.

It reveals things about us that we didn’t know needed to be transfigured.

It opens wounds we thought had healed.

But choosing to lean into change and let the experience wash over us has, even more, gifts than it does obstacles.

There was a reason Moses had to go up the mountain to talk with God…a reason the experience of saying yes to God’s work changed his appearance…a reason it changed his people.

That tablet that Moses came down the mountain with, it was a covenant, a letter of agreement, as it were, that God made with the people.

God said, if you want to be my people, you have to love me and love each other.

You have to love yourself and your neighbor.
Be good to one another, let the spirit of God guide your hearts with how to speak from places of generosity and kindness.

That’s how others will know that you are my people.

There’s a reason Peter’s second letter is reminding the church that they have changed because of their encounter with Christ.

We are all getting out of this life the same way, aren’t we?

In that way, we are the same.

But we are all gifted differently and have different vocations to be agents of God’s love and mercy in the world.

We have different gifts and talents that God wants to use as instruments for good.

Different ideas and opinions that shape our collective experience of the Holy.

And that is what makes us the Body of Christ.

And we are all invited into a fellowship of justice and love.

Like the reading from 2nd Peter:

“So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all, you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

God is the one who changes people. Not humans.

God is the one who calls us into the covenant, into fellowship, to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. Not humans.

God is the one who pours out her spirit into our lives through scripture, and community, and sacraments. Not humans.

There’s a reason that Jesus took his friends up the mountain so he could talk with God.

And they stayed awake even though they were “weighed down with sleep.”

They stayed awake and got to see Christ’s glory.

So, yes.
St. Philip’s is changing….

There are a few cosmetic changes, but for the most part, the big changes are the changes inside…

God is changing us from the inside…

And we are moving into the next phase of mission and ministry for Benzie and the surrounding counties and our clothes are dazzling white.

We have been on the mountain, in the cloud with our Loving God who has declared that this place is filled with his beloved children.

We are staying awake to the possibilities of how we can live into God’s dreams for us as a community, as a people, who God called to walk in love.

So stay awake, St. Philip’s. God has more to do with us, as a community, with you and me as individuals. I’m excited to start our second year together and expect God to show up in new and powerful ways as we live into this mission, this ministry…together. Amen.

Let It Rot

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, July 16, 2017, Pentecost 6, Proper 10, Year A, Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom…”

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Good morning. I have always been fascinated by things that are rotting. When I was young, maybe 8, I remember taking a plastic wheelbarrow out to the tiny street we lived on.

I was so excited because I and my friend Sasha found a rabbit that had been killed by a car. I was sad and mesmerized.

I scooped it up and brought it to my mom to show her… I mostly did it because I was interested in rot… in things that were rotting.

I also started playing football at age 8… the same age as when I found that rabbit… I went to the same school for 13 years, K-12, in the same building… in Allendale.

The school had an old gravel track. It wasn’t good for much except for collecting puddles and letting football players run laps.

The track circled the football field and on the northern side of the track, there were woods.
It was the closest place for the janitors at school to discard the grass clippings for the school.

Every time I’d run around the north side of that track I would hold my breath and run as fast as I could because I hated the smell of rotting grass. But I was still fascinated by the rotting. Why did it smell so bad?

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Nobody Can Imagine What God Is Doing Through Jesus… Except For Infants.

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Co-Rector, July 9, 2017, Pentecost 5, Proper 9, Year A, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

 

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants…”

In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It is good to be back with you, friends. I’ve been absent the past two Sundays to take advantage of some of the continuing education and vacation time you offer me & Christian each year. It was good to read, rest, and rejuvenate.

It was good to spend time with my family in some of our favorite places, to reunite with friends we haven’t seen in too, too long, to read from authors I’ve neglected since before seminary…whose voices I’ve missed.

Like Rob Bell, for instance. As you may, or may not, know from our Parish Communications, the Education and Spiritual Formation For the Whole Parish Committee has invited the whole parish to join in reading Bell’s newest book, What Is the Bible? How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything.

We gathered at my house last Thursday for dinner and to begin discussing the book, together.

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Fishing Without Bait and Kingdom Hospitality

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, July 2, 2017, Pentecost 4, Proper 8, Year A, Matthew 10:40-42

“Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple– truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… Amen.

Good morning.

It is good to be back with you today. Were you able to make it last week for church? Did you get to hear Fr. Zachariah? Did you get a chance to speak with him and his family? What did he preach about? What did you learn about them and from them?

Pause…

Wonderful… What a blessing to have them… The bad side of having him fill-in for us when we are gone is that I never get to hear him preach or hear him say the Eucharistic prayer.

But I’ve known Zachariah for many years.

We worked together in the social work world about 10 years ago.
We worked with young men who were refugees and looking for safety from war and violence and oppression.

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Hospitality, Hope, Compassion, and Discipleship

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Co-Rector, June 18, 2017, Pentecost 2, Proper 6, Year A, Matthew 9:35-10:8-23

“As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

When Christian & I were first married, we lived in a small townhouse in Marquette for a while. It was long before we had little ones to occupy our days and nights, so often after work, we would stop by the movie rental store and pick out a show to watch after dinner.

I recall one night when we were done watching one of these movies, we went upstairs to go to bed when both of us heard a noise.

It was a noise that caused both of us to feel a sense of adrenaline flow through our veins. Our lizard brain indicators were lighting up and someone had to go investigate.

I guess I lost the coin toss because down the stairs I began. As I slowly descended I had one eye on the front door and one scanning the room below.

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Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2017: What Craigslist Can Teach Us About The Trinity?

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, June 11, 2017, Trinity Sunday, Year A, Matthew 28:16-20

“When they saw him,”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

Friday was the last day of school for most of the kids around here. It was the last day of school for my kids anyway… Last day to set our alarms to get up for school. Last day of making our lunches the night before… Last day of picking out our clothes beforehand… Last day… And because of that, our family was able to travel to the center of the state to get a chicken coop. It was all very exciting because when you buy something on Craigslist and make an agreement over the phone before you’ve seen the actual product, you never really know what you might find at the end of a long trip.  

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Day of Pentecost, June 4, 2017: Receive the Holy Spirit, Church

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Co-Rector, June 4, 2017, Day of Pentecost (Whitsunday), Year A, John 20:19-28

“When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

Yesterday we gathered, as a diocese, in this space, to welcome to the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement individuals from Muskegon to Petoskey who came to make their adult commitment to this communion.

We heard lessons that attempted to frame what Pentecost has meant and means for us, today. The bishop preached about the meaning of the word Yahweh-Breath/Spirit and that the Hebrew people believed that God’s name cannot be spoken, not because it’s forbidden, but because Yahweh is the very breath we breathe.

And the action we take together when we are here is the breathing in of that spirit. While the sending out into the world to love and serve is the exhale.

It was a beautiful service. It was an honor to host. And even though we didn’t have any confirmands from here, we had a bunch of people who helped pull it off, and the Bishop wishes to convey his gratitude for our hospitality. So, thank you, St. Philip’s, for being the kind of place that opens its doors not only to our local people but for our brothers & sisters from around the Diocese.

The people who gathered here yesterday were making a particular commitment to God, the Church, and the world. Our catechism teaches that Confirmation is a sacrament, an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace. It is the rite in which we express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop.

The Church teaches that what is required of those to be confirmed is that they have been baptized, are sufficiently instructed in the Christian Faith, are penitent for their sins, and are ready to affirm their confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t hear many people talk about that much these days. “Penitent”, “confession”, “laying on of hands”…even baptism. What do all these words mean? Why do we still do them, after all these years?

It’s one of the quirky parts of being an Episcopalian. We still practice these ancient rites that connect us to the Acts of the Apostles, the Teachings of Christ, the one holy and apostolic faith.

Apostolic Faith.

How many of you know what Apostolic means? Just a show of hands, don’t be shy.

Soon after I started coming to an Episcopal Church, I had to know what this word meant. I thought it had something to do with the Apostles, but that was the extent of my curiosity, up until this point.

Well, The Episcopal Church has a published document that comes out each year that is a directory of all of the ordained clergy in our communion. And the Bishops all have these numbers by their name, along with three other bishop’s names which are called their “consecrating bishops”, one of which is either the Presiding Bishop or another Bishop appointed by the Presiding Bishop.
Now, this is all important because it connects us to the ancient custom of passing down the faith.

Apostolic Faith means that we can trace each of our bishops in TEC all the way back to Peter. Through the laying on of hands by a bishop, the bishop they had hands laid upon by, etc. etc. we are able to trace our faith lineage all the way back to the Apostles. That’s why these Episcopate services are so special. It’s a relationship with our ancient, Catholic faith, which means universal across time and continent.

The Bishop likes to call confirmation, “lay-ordination.” It’s the marking of time and formal commitment to these vows that we claim shape who we are as a body of believers. That’s why you’ll often notice tears in the candidate’s eyes and the eyes of their sponsors and congregation.

They are holy tears, evidence of the Holy Spirit, breathing on her people…new life…new hope…resurrection!

These rituals we do, to mark time, they are meant to tap into our deep memory, a memory that pre-exists our physical life span…that day so long ago, of Pentecost, as told in Acts 2: 1-21 that we just heard, a few minutes ago.

That story of what it was like when the disciples were huddled in that tiny dark room waiting for this Advocate to come whom Jesus promised he would send.

It had been 10 days since they watched their Lord ascend into heaven before their very eyes before they saw Elijah and Moses with him.

So much had happened, and yet so much had still not changed.

The Romans, who killed Jesus, were still occupying their land. They still feared to even show their faces. Where was this promised Advocate?

And then it happened. There came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages.”

Because it was during a large festival, once again, people from all over were gathered and heard this noise and believed these disciples to be drunk. But Peter, being the “rock” he was, reassured the crowd that they couldn’t be drunk, for it was only 9 o’clock in the morning!

What a fantastic story we tell!

I was thankful to be witness to these folks, yesterday, have the experience of the ancient apostolic faith laying hands upon their head and shoulders, that they had the opportunity to feel the weight of the commitment they made, that they had the opportunity to experience the Holy Spirit breathing upon them to send them out into the world to love and serve!

I was thankful to hear these amazing new Episcopalians take in what the gift of the Holy Spirit means for us, today, as they had the bishop’s hands laid upon their head and recited the vows of our baptism before the cloud of witnesses in their own voice.

The Church is a gift, friends, a gift to help bring about God’s mission in the world; to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ, as she prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.

Know that if you haven’t been confirmed or received and think that you may want to…heck if you haven’t been baptized and think that you may want to…we’ll be holding another class this fall for the preparation of the All Saints’ Confirmation. So speak to Fr. Christian or me with your questions and wonderings, we’d be honored to explore this with you in community!

“When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Amen.