Sunday, January 14, 2018

God is a Knitter

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 14 Jan., 2018, Epiphany 2
Year B RCL: 1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

“Come & see,” Philip says to Nathanael. Like Philip, we are called to invite our brothers & sisters in the human family to “Come & see.”

We come here & see each other & receive God's gifts of word & sacrament. Sometimes God's love & message are clear. Sometimes we respond like we hear in our Psalm:
How deep I find your thoughts, O God!”

This verse reflects ideas we hear in our scriptures today. Our Psalm says God “knit me together in my mother's womb”. 

What does it look like to see God knitting? How do you who knit or crochet feel hearing this word picture?
The Rev. Dr. Lauren Winner, Duke University professor & author of several books, led us clergy in exploring this metaphor & many biblical word pictures of God at a conference in 2014.1]

Our Psalm emphasizes: God sees us even in the darkest parts of life. The “life-sustaining darkness of the mother's womb” assures us of God's continuing compassion, “kindly protection & wise planning...”2 whether we understand it or not.

As followers of Jesus, you & I know: God's kindly protection & wise planning are in our lives, & God knows everything about us & loves us anyway!
Even in our darkest times & confusion & lack of understanding, God loves us.
God loves you.

We know God loves us because Jesus died for us, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, & the Holy Spirit guides us & knits us together as the Body of Christ.

Lately, our weather has kept some of us apart & some of us closely knit together since we couldn't get out of our homes! Our weather can be confining, confusing, dark so we can't always see clearly.

Paul helps the Corinthians see more clearly how to live into new life in Jesus so they can make a change for the better in their lives.

Knit together in God's love, they live in a bustling, urban, seaside city with 2 ports & temples to about a dozen gods & goddesses, some of which include services of temple prostitutes, who come to bathe at the public facility beside the synagogue where Paul speaks.3
These facts shine light for us on the difficulty for Christians in Corinth who receive Paul's letter.

We see difficulty in a new situation for Samuel in our first lesson. Samuel does not yet know God. This time in the life of God's people is dark: prophesy & visions are rare. The almost blind priest Eli literally can't see & it's night.4  Samuel stays close to where light literally shines in God's sanctuary.

We hear puzzled reactions by Samuel & Eli as God calls Samuel. Sam thinks it's Eli, who slowly realizes God is calling Sam. Eli's slow response reminds us:
in a new situation, our experience does not assure our quick understanding.

Notice the amazed reactions we hear as Jesus calls the disciples. Just before today's verses, 2 disciples of John the baptizer see Jesus going by & follow him. One is Andrew.

Jesus asks what they're looking for, & they ask where he is staying. Jesus says:
“Come & see.”

They do. Andrew repeats this invitation to Nathanael in today's Gospel.

Being with Jesus we can understand who Jesus is. We see this when Nathanael interacts with Jesus, whose knowledge of him astounds Nathanael & gives him deeper insight into Jesus.

Nathanael, who has gotten over the stumbling block of Jesus being from an obscure village5 asks: Where did you get to know me?

Jesus says: “I saw you under the fig tree...”
The fig tree is a symbol of the peace the Messiah will bring6; this gives Nathanael [whose name means “God has given”7] special insight & inspires him to declare Jesus is God's Son.8

Jesus says “You will see greater things than these...” And then something changes when Jesus says: ...[Y]ou will see heaven opened & the angels of God ascending & descending upon the Son of Man.

What changes are the verb & the subject, which change from singular to plural: y'all will see... This tells us more people than Nathanael will see this sight,9 which reminds us of angels descending & ascending on the ladder in Jacob's dream in Genesis 28.10

Our Gospel's main message to
“Come & see”
reminds us we are called into relationship with Jesus,
who calls us to share the Good News
of God's Love for humans.

How do we/you encounter Jesus?

When are you the connector by which someone encounters Jesus?

At this Holy Table:
“Come & see.”


Bibliography
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. 1984.
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. 2da Ed. Nueva York: Sociedad Bíblica Americana. 1983.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
Tenney, Merrill C. Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1965.
Winner, The Rev. Dr. Lauren. Diocese of GA Spring Clergy Conference. Honey Creek, GA. May 4-6, 2014. and https://divinity.duke.edu/faculty/lauren-winner Accessed: 13 Jan, 2018.

1 Diocese of GA Spring Clergy Conference. May 4-6, 2014. Winner, Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity School, is as vicar of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Louisburg, N.C. Her works included Girl Meets God and Mudhouse Sabbath.
2 Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 491.
3 Note: information from both personal experience touring Corinth & from sources listed here.
4 Jewish Study Bible. P. 567
5 Ibid. Harper’s Bible Commentary. P.1049.
6 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1139.
7 Tenney, Merrill C. Handy Dictionary of the Bible. P. 107.
8 Ibid. Harper’s. P.1059.
9 Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. Gospel of John. P. 95.

10 Ibid. Harper’s. P.1049.

Dios nos prepara cuidadosamente

Sermón por La Rev'da. Marcía McRae
La Parochia Episcopal de San Francisco, Goldsboro, NC, 14 enero 2018
Año B, Epifanía 2: 1 Samuel 3:1–10-20; Salmo 139:1–5, 12–17; 1 Corintios 6:12–20; San Juan 1:43–51

<<Ven y compruébalo>> dice Felipe a Natanael.

Como Felipe, nosotros debemos invitar a nuestros hermanos y nuestras hermanas en la familia humana:
<<Ven y compruébalo>>.

Venimos aquí y vemos unos a otros, y recebimos los dones de Dios – sus palabras y sacramentos. A veces, el amor y el mensaje de Dios son claros. Otras veces, son como oímos en nuestro Salmo: “¡Cuán profundos me son, oh Dios, tus pensamientos ¡Cuán inmensa es la suma de ellos!”

Este verso refleja ideas que oímos en las otras escrituras de hoy. Nuestro Salmo nos dice:
“Porque tú creaste mis entrañas;
me tejiste en el vientre de mi madre.
Te daré gracias, porque maravillosamente he sido formado;
admirables son tus obras, y bien lo sé.”

¿Cómo parece a Uds. ver a Dios tejar, y a oír la idea de que Dios prepara cuidadosamente, construye poco a poco para formar, para crear algo precioso?

¡Cuidasosamente Dios te construyó!
¡Que grande es el amor que Dios tiene
por ti!

¡Por ti!

El amor de Dios para nosotros, para cada uno de Uds. es más que podemos entender y comprender. Es un don.

Nuestro Salmo nos dice que Dios nos ve en las más oscuras partes de nuestras vidas. La oscuridad del vientre de la madre que sostiene la vida nos da la seguridad de que la compasión de Dios continua en amor y sabiduria1 sin importar nuestra capacidad de comprenderlo.

Porque somos hermanos y hermanas de Jesucristo, Uds. y yo sabemos que la providencia de Dios y su sabiduría que forma sus planes para nuestras vidas son partes integrales de nuestras vidas, y que Dios sabe todo de nosotros – todo de cada persona aquí presente.
Además, aunque El Señor sabe todo de nosotros, ¡El nos ama!

¡El nos ama!

Durante los tiempos mas oscuros de nuestras vidas y las partes de confusión profunda, cuando no sabemos ni entendemos nada, Dios nos ama. Dios te ama.

Sabemos que Dios nos ama porque para nosotros – para ti – Jesús murió en la cruz, resusitó, y por el Espíritu Santo, quien nos guía, conocemos este amor grandioso. Este amor del Espíritu Santo nos teje para que seamos el Cuerpo de Cristo aquí.

El tiempo y el clima nos encierra de vez en cuando [como la semana pasada y mañana], y nos separa unos de otros, y parece que nos une a otros seres queridos ¡porque no podremos salir de nuestras casas en el hielo y la nieve!

El tiempo y el clima puede encerrarnos en oscuridad confudiéndonos haciéndolo difícil ver bien y con claridad y sabiduría.

San Pablo ayada a los Corintinos a ver con mas claridad como vivir en su nueva vida en Jesucristo en hacer cambios positivos en sus vidas.

Tejidos en el amor de Dios, ellos viven en un lugar de muchas actividades, con dos puertos para barcas/naves, y templos para casi doce dioses y diosas, unos que incluyen los servicios de prostitutas del templo, quienes usan las facilidades públicas para bañarse – facilidades al lado de la sinagoga ¡a donde Pablo habla a la gente!2

Estos detalles nos da luz para comprender las dificultades para los Cristianos Corintios, quiens recibieron la carta de Pablo.

Vemos dificultades en la situación para Samuel, en nuestra primera lectura. Él aun no conoce a Dios. Este tiempo en la vida del Pueblo de Dios es un tiempo oscuro: profesía y visiones son raras. El sacerdote Elí, casi ciego, de veras no puede ver, y es la noche.3 Samuel se queda cerca de la luz del santuario de Dios.

Oimos reacciones confundidas de Samuel y Elí cuando Dios le llama a Samuel, quien piensa que Elí le llama. Despasio, Elí sabe que es Dios que llama a Samuel.

Su entendamiento despacio de Elí nos demuestra que en una situación nueva, nuestra experiencia no nos asegura que vamos a comprender inmediatamente.

Vemos como los discípulos respondan cuando Jesús les llama. Antes de este, dos dicípulos de Juan Bautista ven a Jesús y le sigan. Uno de ellos es Andrés.

Jesús les pregunta que buscan, y ellos preguntan a donde se queda.
Jesús les dice: <<Ven y compruébanlo.>>

Ellos lo hacen. Andrés repite esta invitación a Natanael hoy.

Estar con Jesús, podemos entender quien es. Y facilitar a encuentro con Jesús de nuestros hermanos y hermanas en la familia humana es un don y una responsabilidad que tenemos que hacer.

¿Cómo encontramos a Jesús?

¿Cómo seremos la manera para que alguien se incorpore al cuerpo de Cristo?

A esta sacrada mesa:

<<Ven y compruébanlo.>>


Bibliografía
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. 1984.
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. 2da Ed. Nueva York: Sociedad Bíblica Americana. 1983.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
Tenney, Merrill C. Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1965.
Winner, The Rev. Dr. Lauren. Diocese of GA Spring Clergy Conference. Honey Creek, GA. May 4-6, 2014. and https://divinity.duke.edu/faculty/lauren-winner Accessed: 13 Jan, 2018.

1 Idea de Harper’s Bible Commentary. Pg. 491.
2 Información personal en Corintino & de recursos que incluyo aquí.
3 Jewish Study Bible. Pg. 567.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beginnings Are Important * * *

***The following would have been presented today at St. Francis had not wisdom regarding severe winter weather dictated we remain sheltered at home.
We are thankful for the opportunity to have worshiped by phone conference call with
The Rev. Cassandra Burton, Rector, & the good people of Christ Church, Clinton, MD, & our colleague, The Rev. Mary Reese, & members of St. Andrew's, Goldsboro.

Unpreached Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 7 Jan., 2018, Epiphany 1, The Baptism of Our Lord
Year B RCL: Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11

Our Gospel shows us lots of action today,
as do our other brief scriptures.

In Genesis we hear: In the beginning...God said...and it was good. A wind from God [also translated God's Spirit] sweeps over the waters.1
In the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, the waters of baptism flow over him, & God's Spirit descends.
In the beginning as Christianity spreads, the waters of Baptism flow over believers in Ephesus, as Acts tells us, & God's Holy Spirit fills them so they can serve God more effectively, just as Apollos has learned to do in the previous chapter [Acts 18:24-28].

This information about Apollos & Paul & other details in our scriptures show us:
our work of sharing the Good News of Jesus & supporting each other as we grow in God's grace continues the work begun in the beginning of Christianity.

Beginnings are important. When we speak of “a good beginning,” we reflect the understanding in the Genesis account of beginnings.
The book we call Genesis is the Greek name for the Hebrew book known by its first word, which means “In the beginning,” as the Jewish Study Bible tells us2.

The people in the world of Genesis consider beginnings very important, reflecting both the origin & the purpose of what has begun.3

The beginning in Ephesus gives a deeper walk with Jesus for the Christians Paul encounters & who gain a new beginning of life as God's people.

Our lived relationship with God & God's people takes precedence over our abstract theology & intellectualism,4 as we change, grow & encounter new beginnings.

Today we encounter the waters of baptism & God's spirit in our scriptures. Mark tells us Jesus stands in solidarity with the people of Isreal5 who are re-dedicating their lives to God.

This Gospel tells us of Jesus' unique status6 when God's Spirit descends like a dove. God says clearly to Jesus: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” This is a lived relationship with God.

How does it feel when someone says something like this to you? “Great job!” “I admire how you handled that.” “You are special to me.”
I usually see a positive reaction in the lived relationship when a person hears such words.

As we leave Christmas behind & enter Epiphany, we focus more on God's reaching out to us Gentiles. We enter the world of beginnings:
     commissioning our new Vestry today,
     our new expectations for 2018,
     new challenges & insights as we grow in this changing world.

We gain insights in many ways, including our regular study groups:
Our fun, year-long journey with The Year of Living Biblically7  & our weekly study groups, which change regularly.

Our weekly January focus on embracing change [which we had to postpone last week because of drastic weather changes!] looks at Christianity's current changes, part of humanity's regular 500-year cycles of change,8 as author Phyllis Tickle discusses in her book & a 6-session study based on the book.

She speaks of “the Church's Next Rummage Sale” in our study of Embracing Emergence Christianity, based on her book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why.
She delves into differences between doctrine & practice [what we claim to believe & how we actually live]; differences between competition & cooperation as she reminds us of our Christian history which includes the Crusades & the Inquisition.9

New ideas, new cultural norms, new scientific facts may challenge our beliefs. We do not have to run from new ideas, new discoveries, new perspectives.
Jesus does not run from change. The Ephesians do not run from deeper understanding of faith.

Together we can stand firmly on holy ground & walk confidently into the future, knowing change is part of life.
Change can deepen our relationships with God & each other.


Bibliography
Barclay, William. The Acts of the Apostlesk. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press. 1962.
Barclay, William. The Gospel of Mark. Revised Ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2007.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
Tickle, Phyllis. With Tim Scorer. Embracing Emergence Christianity: Phyllis Tickle on the Church's Next Rummage Sale. Denver: Morehouse Education Rsources, a division of Church Publishing Inc. 2011.
Tickle, Phyllis. The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks. 2008.

1 Note: Examples include Jewish Study Bible. P. 12. Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. P. 1. The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 8.
2 Ibid. Jewish Study Bible. P. 8.
3 Ibid. Jewish Study Bible. P. 8.
4 Note: Adapted from Ibid. Jewish Study Bible.
5 Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 986.
6 Ibid.
7 Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically.
8 Tickle, Phyllis. The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why.
9 Ibid. Tickle. The Great Emergence. Pp. 58-59.