Monday, April 25, 2016

A New Command, A New Reality

Easter 5 Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbriydge, GA, 24 April 2016
RCL Year C: Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148; Revelation 21:1-6 ; John 13:31-35
At the last supper Judas goes out to betray Jesus,
& Jesus gives us the command, the essential ingredient to nourish life in here & beyond our red doors:
“Love one another.”
Beloved Brothers & Sisters, you & I know the love we share in this “happening community where we live God's love”. We subtly promote this love by wearing our distinctive T-shirt, as you see modeled here by one of my helpers.
Here's another red T-shirt with a different message. What does it tell you about the ideals of the wearer? [Someone who cares about God's creatures. Thank you, Humane Society & all animal support groups for the loving work you do for God's handiwork.] 
What do you think of seeing purple & gold with a cat's pawprintOf course Bainbridge High. Check the back! We see a different reality than our home team! Things aren't always as they look.
A Bearcat's pawprint looks like The University of the South's Sewanee Tiger pawprint. Both schools have the same colors. I wore this shirt when I taught at BHS & our son was at Sewanee.]
Thank you T-shirt models!

What does this shirt say about life? When life gets “Abby Normal” it's helpful to have a good laugh. [It's from a line in the Mel Brooks spoof "Young Frankenstein.]  Laughter is a good medicine, a gift of love from God that can bring peace – peace the world cannot give. Love is the stabilizing force God gives us to make peace possible.
In our Gospel today, Jesus knows life will destabilized quickly. He gives us the simple rule: “love one another”. How do we love when the chaos of change surrounds us? How do we respond in love when no T-shirt is funny enough to give us peace?
Remember: The Rev. Charles Hoskins of Savannah drilled this into us almost every time he preached here [say it with me if you remember]
“God is good all the time.  All the time God is good.
But God is never easy.”

It is not easy for Peter to swallow the invitation in his vision in our 1st lesson: eat what is unclean. Peter says nothing profane has entered his mouth. We know the profane words that came out of his mouth not long before this when he denied knowing Jesus. The very night Jesus gives this new command to love each other: Judas betrays Jesus
the disciples desert him
& Peter denies him.
Everything's in chaos!

Suddenly everything changes with Jesus' resurrection & the Holy Spirit's coming to live in the disciples.
Even we, the unclean Gentiles, receive the Holy Spirit & are welcomed into the community that loves. Suddenly people criticizing Peter see with new eyes & praise God, who makes all things new, who lives among us & wipes away tears even in chaos. God is good all the time. All the time God is good. But God is never easy.
Chaos is never easy, yet it is integral to positive transformation. It's like what Paul tells us & the Corinthians about the body: One body has many members, yet is one body. Each part is important & cannot say to another part, “I don't need you.”
Chaos is part of the wholeness of life. Chaos scientists see order in chaos. As Dr. Margaret Wheatley says in a keynote address1: “A system in chaos is defined as a system that, from moment to moment, is totally unpredictable. You cannot predict where it is going next. [Yet with]...three-dimensional space on high speed computers, scientists... plot the movement of a system in chaos. When plotted on a two-dimensional scale, it looked totally unpredictable... biserk ...converted into multidimensional space, you could track many variables at once. The system, from moment to moment, zoomed from one part of the screen to another. You couldn't predict what would happen next. But over time, you...realize...the system conformed to a boundary. It had an inherent shape that it did not violate. It would not move out of this boundary...
You cannot see the order in chaos if you are looking moment to moment...if you are managing individual behaviors. These strange attractors draw attention to one of the great paradoxes of chaos get order without predictability.”2

We like predictability. We associate it with peace. We have rules to help us have predictability at home, school, work,3 rules from our doctors, the city, the county, the Internal Revenue Service, rules to help secure peace for us. We know some rule enforcers wear distinctive uniforms to help keep the peace at home & abroad. We also see how often we break away from peace, from the love God intends for each of us & all of us.
How ready are we to live into the chaotic reality of new life with the risen Jesus,4 who welcomes us unclean, unpredictable Gentiles? To embrace God's “love that overcomes death in all its forms, we [must] be aware of [God's] power that enables us to love in a way that is active, not re-active,” as The Rev. David Somerville of our diocese says.
God's Love increases peace – the peace only God can give. Embrace peace. It's all around you even in chaos. It's in unexpected places....
You can see peace symbols hanging on a tree on Boxwood Drive.
How do we help enhance the peace that
only God can give?

Ted, please model this answer & sing Let There Be Peace on Earth4.


Butterworth, Susan. “By This Everyone Will Know That You Are My Disciples, Easter 5 (C) -2016”. . Accessed: 21 April 2016.

A New Commandment” Accessed: 22 April 2016.
Somerville, The Rev. David. “Childish Love, Human Love, Divine Love: A Reflection on the Gospel, John 13:31-35, The New Commandment to Love One Another for 24 April. The Fifth Sunday of Easter.”
Wheatley, Margaret, EdD. “Chaos and Complexity: What Can Science Teach?” Accessed 23 April 2016.

1 Wheatley, Margaret, EdD. “Chaos and Complexity: What Can Science Teach?” Accessed 23 April 2016.
2 Ibid.

4  "Let There Be Peace on Earth"     Jill and Sy Miller

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Our Way of Life

Easter 4 Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 17 April 2016
RCL Year C: Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30
Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice.
I know them, & they follow me.” Following Jesus is a way of life.1 It's our way of life.
Notice the great multitude of Jesus' sheep in Revelation, this great multitude of our Brothers & Sisters in Christ no one can count, wearing white, carrying palm branches, “symbols of joy & victory”2.
Jesus gives his sheep eternal life. He says they will never perish, & “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus says this not just about the great saints, not just about life after we die. Jesus' guarantee covers all his sheep, including you & me.3 
How do we live into this Good News – this unmatchable guarantee, as Sermons4Kids calls it,4 this great, assurance active now

This great guarantee reaches beyond the larger life we will have after our bodily deaths. You are safe in Jesus's care now. You/we can live in Resurrection joy on this side of life. As Brother Mark Brown of the Society of St. John the Evangelist says in his “Empty Tomb” sermon posted for the April 14 daily meditation,5
Jesus invites us, saying:
“'Join me in the Resurrection...Even now, even today – don’t wait 'til you’re dead.' Come out of the small, dark, confining places of life into the broad & bright places...”6

Our scriptures today are full of broad & bright places, full of descriptions of “our way of life” – the way of life with Jesus, our self-sacrificing shepherd.
  • Notice the way of life, the brightness that shines from Peter in our 1st reading when he responds immediately to a call for help.
  • Notice the way of life Tabitha/Dorcas shows devoted to good works of charity to brighten darkened lives. Like the light-footed gazelle which her name means, Dorcas holds material possessions lightly like Jesus does.7
  • Psalm 23 says this about our way of life: our Shepherd guides us along right pathways & comforts us.
  • Revelation reminds us the Lamb who shepherds us guides us to the water of life. We drink the water of life, God's grace that flows from Jesus, as the Catholic Bible notes.8

We share this flowing grace in many ways, including at Holy Communion, during which we mix a bit of water into our wine to remind us of the grace that flows from Jesus, his blood & water that flow from his side when he is pierced by a spear as he hangs on the cross, where he died so that we can live in the Light of God's Love now & always.

Jesus dies & the Holy Spirit comes to guide us in our way of life that trusts God's Love.
Even in the shadow of death, as Psalm 23 says, we do not fear. We walk in the Light of God's Love.

Notice the light we see in today's Gospel. Jesus' encounter is during the festival of the Dedication, that's Hanukkah9, the 8-day festival of lights that celebrates the temple's reconcecration & rededication of its altar in 164 B.C.10 Here's Jesus in Jerusalem for this December11 event, walking in the portico of Solomon, which faces east [from which comes morning light],
east toward Gethsemane.12
Our Gospel shines the Light of Jesus' Love for his sheep in a location that looks ahead, foreshadows a darker future event in Gethsemane.
Jesus faces this darker time & embraces it
so that you & I can walk in the Light of God's Love.

This is our Way of life. This is our calling: to shine the Light that shines in our hearts so our brothers & sisters living in darkness can see clearly & live in the Light, too.

We can enlighten them with the Good News: God Loves You. [And you, Beloved Brothers & Sisters know what to say, so say it with me:]
God Loves You.
No exceptions.
All are welcome.
God's Love, God's Light make you, make THIS a happening community where we live God's Love.

In the Jesus' good, strong, nail-scarred hands,
we sheep are safe & secure
no matter what life throws at us.
No matter what changes life brings,
nothing separates us from God's Love
that Jesus gives us.
What a gift!
It guides us now. It never fails.
It is ours now & always.

You have this gift of eternal life now. You know this!

What sheep do you know who needs to know
what you know?!
Who needs to hear you share the Good News of
new life Jesus offers?

Who needs to hear the assurance of this forever guarantee
that is available now & not just after death?

Forever guarantee:

Why wait until you're dead to start

living the Resurrection Life?

Who is the child of God you know
who needs to hear from you

– in word or by deed –

that they will never be lost
from God's Love?

Brown, Brother Mark. “The Message”. Accessed: 04/14/2016.
"Guaranteed Forever”. Accessed: 14 April 2016.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: Jams. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.

2 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1380.
3 "Guaranteed Forever”.
4 Ibid.
5 Brown, Brother Mark. “The Message”.
6 Ibid. Brown.
7 Ibid. New American. P. 1182.
8 Ibid. P. 1381.
9 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: Jams. L. Mays. P. 1063.
10 Ibid. New American. P. 1553.
11 Ibid. Harper's.
12 Ibid.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

What Kind of Love Do You Have for Jesus?

Easter 3 Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 10 April 2016
RCL Year C: Acts 9:1-6, (7-20); Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
Jesus says: Throw your net to the right side of the boat for fish.
Does he mean your right or my right?
I wonder if the disciples wonder, as my favorite children's sermon website suggests1 What difference does it make which side of the boat?2 If fish aren't in this area of water, we won't catch any.

On this 3rd Sunday of Easter we hear in John’s Gospel the 4th & final appearance of the risen Jesus that happens after the disciples have returned to their home town & the activities that shaped their lives before Jesus called them to be fishers of people, before all the recent difficulties, disaster & surprising reversal of death's power they have witnessed.
This morning we see them after a night of futile fishing. This stranger calls to them using a parent's endearing term: "Children, you have no fish?" They say, "No." Jesus gives a simple instruction. They do what he suggests & suddenly everything changes! This happens in our lives, too.

The futile fishing suddenly transforms into a bounty. The filled-to-overflowing nets are too heavy to heave on board. Although the significance of the 153-count of fish is unclear, my sources note, the abundant catch points to the abundance of God's love that draws ALL people into God's love, ALL people into the Body of Christ. God is drawing some of this bounty to this happening community where we live God’s Love.

Notice Jesus invites the disciples to sit on the beach, around the fire he has made, to share breakfast, to break bread together again. The last time the disciples shared a meal with Jesus was the last supper, after which Peter warmed himself by a fire & denied knowing Jesus. Warming by this new fire, they share “Breakfast on the Beach” as the sermons4kids calls it.3

After this shared meal by this warm fire, Jesus has a fireside chat & gives Peter the gift of a new start, a renewed relationship, a clean heart & mind. I wonder if this new start around a fire reminds Peter of his heritage as part of God’s people led by a pillar of fire in the wilderness, the fire of the covenant with Abraham, the fire Moses saw at the burning bush, & Peter's own experience of fire’s holy significance: fire of incense in worship, fire for burnt offerings.

I wonder if Peter remembers that fire purifies. Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to purify, to burn away the ugliness in his memory of his denying Jesus 3 times.

With its several words for love, Greek speaks more precisely in this scripture. In addition to “eros” for physical love, Greek has “philia” for family or brotherly love, & “agape” for God's overflowing, self-giving, unmerited love for us.4  What kind of love do you have for Jesus?
Jesus 1st says “agape”. Peter responds, “philia”: “Yes, I love you like a brother.”  Jesus says again: “agape” & Peter responds “philia”.
The 3rd time, Jesus graciously meets Peter where he is & says: “Peter, do you love me/do you 'philia'?” Peter responds not as I had hoped he would, saying “Yes, Lord, I agape you.” Peter again replies “philia”.
During our Holy Week Lunch that we co-hosted with 1st Christian, their Minister Mark Jones, spoke of this encounter5 in his meditation, noting the difference in the words Jesus & Peter use for love, not only giving me this new understanding of this encounter but also noting how Jesus changes his word choice on his 3rd question:
Jesus speaks to Peter at the level of love
to which Peter can commit.

Jesus meets us where we are &
walks with us so that we grow in his agape/love.
Agape is the starting point, the center &
 the context in which Jesus invites us to live &
to work as his disciples where we are.

What kind of love do you have for Jesus?

Agape/love transforms, goes beyond simple feelings to deep commitment like we see in Jesus' life among us, as he dies for us on the cross & as he rises to lift us from being mired in mere existence to live more & more fully in God's agape/love, which we can do with the Holy Spirit guiding us.

Today's Gospel shows us the last appearance of Jesus in John's Gospel, yet the Rev. Jason Cox says this about today's Gospel:
...this is not Jesus’ last appearance. Look with the eyes of faith, & we begin to see Jesus in the oddest places: on the seashore, in the garden, on the street corner. Sometimes Jesus is hungry & cold & asking us for money...other times he is inviting us to sit down for an unexpected meal. But always, always, Jesus is challenging us to live lives of kindness & compassion, of sharing & generosity, of justice-making & peace.”6

What kind of love do you have for Jesus?

Brother Mark Brown of the Society of St. John the Evangelist says in a recent daily meditation:
“The resurrection appearances continue in us — we’re the risen body of Christ. Each of us, in a sense, & in a very flawed way, is a resurrection appearance. The story continues — there is no ending to the gospel because resurrection continues in us.”

Breakfast on the Beach”. Accessed: 8 April 2016.
Brown, Brother Mark. “Body of Christ - Brother, Give Us A Word”. Daily Meditation: Society of Saint John the Evangelist.. Accessed: 8 April 2016.
Cox, The Rev. Jason. “Jesus Will Meet Us, Easter 3 (C) – 2016.” Accessed 8 April 2016.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: Jams. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.

1 “Breakfast on the Beach”. Accessed: 8 April 2016.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Note: From several sources in Bibliography.
5 Note: Jones showed the video of this Gospel encounter of God's amazing GRACE, titled “Grace” by You can see it at

6Ibid. Cox.