Sunday, August 13, 2017

What Beautiful Feet!

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 13 Aug. 2017, Proper 14

Year A RCL: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33


When we hear today's Gospel, we tend to

focus on Peter's sinking in fear & 

Jesus asking, “...why did you doubt?”

Notice what else Peter does.

Peter is the only one among his fellow terrified disciples
to take the big step out of the boat
in that storm to be with Jesus.

He does walk on water,

however briefly.

 In his book, If You Want to Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat, John Ortberg sees Peter's “Getting out of the boat [& walking as] Peter's great gift to Jesus...[and] the experience of walking on water [as] Jesus' great gift to Peter.”1
While Peter keeps his eyes on Jesus, he walks on water. When he notices the strong wind, fear takes over. He starts sinking.
We have to keep our focus on Jesus.

When life's storms arise, we, like the disciples, may forget: Genesis 1 says: God moves in the beginning of creation, sending a wind over the waters of chaos; Exodus 15 says God sends wind to part the Red Sea & turn it into dry land.

We have to rely on the great gift God gives us:
the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us
through life's storms.
We may have to get our feet wet to do the work
God calls us/calls you to do.

Sometimes it takes time to find our new calling in life's changes. A long ago friend's new life after retirement comes to mind. After his success as owner of a restaurant & bar, he worked with Habitat for Humanity in Valdosta, GA. My husband & I were reminded of this in a newspaper tribute after his death in June.
[Tribute by The Valdosta Daily Times Executive Editor Dean Polling at
includes parts below adapted from the original:2]

Stuart Mullis was a big man in his positive impact on people & literally broad & over 6 feet tall. After selling his business, he volunteers at Habitat & is not initially impressed working in 100-degree summer heat pushing a wheelbarrow full of sod. Then he encounters a boy from the Habitat house next door & becomes a believer in Habitat's effectiveness.

The children & their mother come outside to play. Stuart cuts his hand. The little boy with 2 front teeth missing comes over, looks at his hand & asks what's happened. Stuart says he cut it & playfully asks the boy what happened to his teeth. He says, “My daddy knocked them out" & he wraps his arms around Stuart's legs & says, "Thanks to you for our house, he'll never do that again."3

Stuart hadn't worked on their house. This was his 1st Habitat experience. But the child knew Habitat helped him & his family have a home.4

That little boy walked on water to Stuart.

On that 1st project, Stuart learned Habitat needed a local executive director. He applied, was hired, & served well, being generous & firm with Habitat's required sweat equity as the way people pay for their homes.5

Stuart did a lot of walking on water.

A blind man wanted a house for his disabled wife. Stuart offered a creative opportunity for sweat equity: Habitat had received about "a million nuts & bolts”, which a store couldn't sell because they were mixed in damaged boxes.

Day by day in the cold winter, the blind man came to Habitat's storage facility & stood sorting nuts & bolts by hand to fulfill his sweat equity for the house he wanted because he loved his wife.6

That's walking on water.

Building houses is work.

Building relationships is work.

Building up the Body of Chris is work.

Work requires rest.

In our Gospel today notice: Jesus is alone with God, taking a rest after feeding the 5,000 & sending the disciples off in that boat. Early in the morning he comes to the disciples walking on the water.

Life's storms distract us.

May we have the grace to take time

to rest

&

take time

to walk on water.



Bibliography
The Four Translation New Testament. Minneapolis: World Wide Publications. New York: The Iversen Assocs. 1966.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. 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.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Ortberg, John. If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2001.
Polling, Dean. Executiv Executive Editor. The Valdosta Daily Times. “Stuart Mullis” http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/news/local_news/remembering-the-man-that-habitat-built/article_6677c42b-d285-5f31-8298-e16d616aa744.html Accessed: 30 June 2017.

1 Ortberg, John. If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. P. 78.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Reality Check

Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 6 Aug. 2017, Transfiguration
Year A, RCL: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:13-21; Luke 9:28-36

What's going on today?
We're in the church's green season,
yet we use our white hangings
like we do for All Saints, Christmas, Easter, weddings & funerals.

Today is Aug. 6, the day we focus on Jesus' Transfiguration. [It was last on Sunday in 2006.] We use white to remind us of the brightness of God's Love we see in Jesus, the Love & purity which shines so brightly in our Gospel & our 1st lesson, which tells us how people react when they see Moses' shining face after he encounters God & brings the covenant to the people. [The Jewish Study Bible calls the covenant the Pact 1.]

Our scriptures shine with God's glory. In our 2nd lesson, Peter reminds us of the Holy Spirit's work & his own first-hand experience we hear in our Gospel.2 Notice how our Gospel demonstrates life in community: Jesus takes disciples with him to do the work of prayer.

Jesus relies on us to work with him.

Our Gospel's focus on Jesus' transfiguration we also read in Mark 9 & Matthew 173. It shows us a range of activity & reactions:
  • The men go up the mountain with Jesus.
  • Jesus prays. His face changes. His clothes shine. [The Revised Standard Version says, his clothes become white as a flash of lightning.4
  • Moses & Elijah appear & talk with him about his departure, which sources call his exodus5.
  • The disciples feel tired.
  • A cloud comes over them.
  • They feel terror & hear God say Jesus is God's Son, listen to him.
What about the building project
Peter suggests?
How rash does he sound?

Offering to build dwellings for Jesus, Moses & Elijah shows Peter, who will be a leader of the church, “grasps the theological significance of the event...”6 from his experience as one who observes the feast of booths specified in Deut. 16:13.  
[You can read about the feast, with an interesting twist, in The Year of Living Bibilically by A.J. Jacobs7, which we will use as a monthly study starting in September.]

How do we respond when we encounter significant events?
What makes your face, your eyes shine?
How do we build & enhance community?
How would you handle yourself working in outer space & seeing 16 sunrises & 16 sunsets in each 24-hour period?

I learned about this reality reading about Astronaut Andrew Feustel, who will be commander on his 3rd mission to space, orbiting 6 months in the International Space Station with his team conducting “over 250 research investigations & technology demonstrations that can only be performed in...space.”8

Preparation with fellow astronauts, including a Russian cosmonaut, is spread over 2 years, including time in Russia, to enhance teamwork, and, the article notes, language is one challenge.

The commander says they really “are learning the language of spacecraft.” “With the amount of time the crew spends together . . . [before] their launch, a bond develops . . . they develop a blend of nonverbal communication, anticipation & trust.”9

How do we, how can we develop
& enhance verbal &
nonverbal communication,
anticipation & trust?

Think of the bond we have in worship. Like the reality Peter, John & James see on the mountain, our worship “fundamentally is about the definition of reality,” as John Ortberg says in If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat:10

[In] worship, at its heart,
we magnify God.”11

"In our daily life's distractions, we may tend to see God like looking through the wrong end of a telescope [very small & distant.]"12

In worship [we] declare...God is real...our perception of reality is changed, ... sharpened...[We] remember...reality is more than what [we] can see & touch.”13

Like the reality of seeing 16 sunrises

& 16 sunsets in 24-hours
[which most of us will never experience],

reality is more than we can see & touch.



Bibliography
Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Luke. Revised Edition. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. 1984.
DeMoss, Michael C., J.D. Bible Briefs of the Old and New Testaments: The Bible Made Easy. Minneapolis: Light & Life Publishing. 1999.
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.
Hughes, Robert Davis III. Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Live. New York: Continuum. 2008.
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.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Ortberg, John. If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2001.
Smith, Robert Lawrence. A Quaker Book of Wisdom: Life Lessons in Simplicity, Service, and Common Sense. New York: Harper. 1998.
Thompson, E. Scott II. “Commander Feustel prepares for third mission to space.” SigEp Journal. Summer 2017. Vol. 114. No. 2.


1 Jewish Study Bible. P. 191.
2 DeMoss, Michael C., J.D. Bible Briefs of the Old and New Testaments. P. 120.
3 Note: Aug. 6 is the day we commemorate Jesus' Transfiguration. It falls on a Sunday in an odd sequence of years. Internet search shows it was on Sunday in 1972, '78, '89, 2000, 2006 & now.
4 Scripture quoted by: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Luke.P. 123.
5 Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 1028. The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1109.
6 Hughes, Robert Davis III. Beloved Dust. P. 260.
7 Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically. Pp. 77-80.
8 Information from cover story by E. Scott Thompson II. SigEp Journal. Pp. 24-25. [My husband's fraternity.]
9 Ibid. P. 25.
10 Ortberg, John. If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. P. 201.
11 Ibid.
12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.